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Audio Technica ATH-CKM99 Review

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  1. takoyaki7
       My purchase of the CKM-99 came during a visit to Bic Camera in Nagoya, where I was intending to pick up the CK90Pro's. With a great demo area, I was able to try out a bunch of different brands, and stumbled across the CKM99. I was first drawn to their aesthetics. Their finely polished titanium shells look great and reminded me of the triple BA CK100.
        To be honest, I hadn't remembered reading much about the CKM-99, although there was a helpful flier claiming they had just been released in February (although looking it up later I believe they were originally released last October). Well anyways, despite my goal to get the CK90Pro's, the CKM99 drew me in with their very smooth sound. They also happened to be selling for 15,900yen, about $50 less than the CK90Pro's.
       So I went ahead and made the impulse purchase. I was planning to post my immediate impressions, but decided to wait a couple weeks to make sure I could give a comprehensive opinion.
       One thing is for sure, my impression of these haven't changed in the 2 weeks I've had them, which is to say they sound fantastic!
    From what little information I have been able to read online, it seems the CKM line isn't the best regarded, as it is considered more "consumer" oriented. Well, I'm not sure about the rest of the line, but as Audio Technica's most expensive dynamic, they compare quite favorably to my 2 best dynamic earphones, my Miles Davis Tributes and IE8s.
    They come in a nice enough cardboard box which contains a nice (though thick) leatherette pouch with 3 sets of eartips, a cleaning cloth, and an extension cable with L-jack. The cable on the phones itself is wonderful, with excellent strain reliefs, and best of all, SHORT! (.6m) If you like putting your ipod in your shirt pocket, you will really appreciate this! And even if you don't, the extension gives you the best of both worlds.
       The finish of the CKM-99 is also excellent, with solid titanium shells that look and feel great, and are very light. Isolation and fit is also excellent, the best of any dynamic phone I have ever owned. The earbud-like shells contain small vents that tuck neatly into the ear and isolate surprisingly well on my subway commute. The lack of a chin-slider is unfortunate though.
       As for the sound? Contrary to the "consumer" label, the CKM-99 are NOT bass monsters, being more balanced then either the Tributes or IE8. The mids are slightly-recessed, but the signature is overall pretty straight across the spectrum. Bass is fantastic, possibly the most suitable to my listening preferences of any earphones. Bass is present when necessary, but not overbearing. More importantly, they lack the thick sub-bass of the Tributes, which I find quite distracting.
       While not a mid-dominant earphone, mids are present and the curve is definitely not v-shaped. Mids are liquid-smooth, but laid back, reminding me a lot of the IE8s in this regard.
      Highs show a little bit of typical Audio Technica brightness, but by comparison to the CK90Pro or CK10 are way, way, way smoother and less fatiguing. Extension is good for a dynamic but lacks a bit of extension and sparkle.
       Overall, I find the CKM-99 an exceeding smooth and pleasurable earphone. They are an excellent counterpart to my SE425s, which have a similar smoothness and more clarity, but lack the warmth and bass presence.  


    SMOOTH signature with no major flaws.
    Clean and detailed sound for a dynamic earphone.
    Fantastic build quality.
    Good accessories.
    Excellent fit and isolation for a dynamic.
    Slight brightness and sibiliance.
    No chin slider.
    [​IMG] Newly developed hybrid metal structure and acoustic damper design deliver pure & clear audio
    [​IMG] High-quality canal earphones in a titanium and stainless housing
    [​IMG] Comfortable, ideal-fit earpieces provide maximum noise isolation and prevent sound leakage
    [​IMG] Gold-plated mini-plug for exceptional corrosion resistance, superb conductivity and low noise



    Headphones Type Dynamic
    Driver Diameter 14 mm
    Frequency Response 5 - 28,000 Hz
    Maximum Input Power 200 mW
    Sensitivity 104 dB/mW
    Impedance 16 ohms
    Cable 0.6 m Y-type
    Connector 3.5 mm (1/8") mini-stereo, gold-plated
    Weight 10 g / 0.35 oz

    RIMG0846.jpg RIMG0850.jpg RIMG0854.jpg RIMG0852.jpg
  2. a_recording
    Thanks for the awesome review!
    I'm glad you took a plunge on these - I must admit I've been a little curious, but been put off by what little I could gather from garbled translations. I worried that the shells would be quite heavy, and also that there would be some degree of sibilance. If you say that they have less sibilance than the 90Pro's, in my mind that is a pretty good compromise.
    Is there anything else you would compare them to - ie say the DDM's?
  3. Haonan
    Thanks for the detailed review takoyaki7! It's nice to be able to get a proper english review of this pair of phones that's currently the latest flagship for their dynamic-based models across their CKM series, and the housing shell design certainly reminds me much of my beloved CK100 for sure. (Titanium love!)

    Since you mentioned their mids are slightly-recessed, I would suspect in terms of sound signature they may be drastically different from the CK100, which are considered very mid-centric phones by many people, including me. In terms of bass response, would you be able to comment if they have more bass quantity, when compared to phones like CK90pro or the CK100? (according to my own experience, CK9/CK10 actually are considered having quite lean amount of bass quantity through-out Audio-technica's lineup of phones, so it would be interesting IMO to hear how the CKM99 stacks up against higher end phones like CK90pro/CK100, in terms of bass quantity/impact.

    @a_recording: the housing shells of CK100/CKM99 definitely isn't heavy by any standards, I have already read before through some online japanese reviews about the CKM99, it's clad in titanium akin to CK100 and usually according to industry research titanium and aluminium alloys are usually considered much lighter in weight than materials like stainless steel alloy (i.e: Final Audio Design FI-BA-SS comes to mind)

  4. Inks
    Nice review, I've been intrigued as well but didn't take the plunge for the same reasons as a_recording. 
    I'm surprised you report good isolation, ime shells like those don't fare that well in terms of isolation. Is the isolation really better than the MDs,HJEs?
  5. wind016
    A high end mid-recessed Audio Technica headphone? I haven't tried their IEMs but their high end full sized headphones are usually mid-forward. Strange they would go that route. Thanks for the review. It was very informative

  6. tomscy2000
    Why does everyone immediately think that they're mid-recessed? Takoyaki never said that... he just said that they're more laid back, and he compared it to the IE8... most people regard the IE8 as 'mid-recessed' because of the mid-bass hump that overwhelms the mids... I can't imagine the CKM99 to be any less present in the mids than the lower model CKM77 or even the CKM55. Both of these IEMs aren't exactly mid-forward, but they're definitely not as everyone has been describing as 'mid-recessed'. When I heard the CKM77, it was fairly flat in the mids, not forward, nor recessed. From the impressions Takoyaki gives and from my own memory, it seems like the CKM99 are like the CKM77, except smoother in every way.
  7. Inks
    Perhaps but it can also be that the bass and treble is more accentuated than the CKM77 which results in that V-shaped sound. The graph of these kind of shows that. 
  8. jant71


    Actually he did. "The mids are slightly-recessed, but the signature is overall pretty straight across the spectrum."
    I've been keeping track of the price over here in the US. Mostly at Electronics-Expo. Regardless of current price, they want $170 for them. From $220 down to $179 but with promo code the price has always come out to $170.09 never below. A good deal if they "compare favorably" to phones such as the IE8 and the MDT. They are good lookers. Very shiny!
  9. Inks
    I too like the design, but they aren't made in Japan like the other models unfortunately. It's actually made in China. 
  10. takoyaki7
    Ok, yes I did say the mids are "slightly recessed" but the emphasis is on "slightly." They are definitely more mid-forward than say my UE10 for example, and I wouldn't call them V-shaped, just that the mids are a bit laid back, like the IE8s, but without the mid-bass hump. So the overall signature is very balanced, but the non-forward mids make the CKM99 sound very laid back and smooth, and don't draw attention to any particular area.  The bass is also quite solid and present, perhaps on par with the CKPro90 from my brief audition, and definitely less than the Tributes/IE8. But for me the bass is perfect, very vibrant when needed (such as in Hip Hop, R&B) but surprisngly lean at other times.
    And the titanium shells are NOT heavy at all! I believe 10g total, which is half the weight of my FI-BA-SS. They are very, very comfortable.
  11. takoyaki7
    And I am surprised at the isolation, but they are doing an excellent job for me on the subway, which I could never say about the IE8s or Radius DDMs. There is a tiny vent near the earpiece, and due to the earbud-like design I didn't expect good isolation, so it's a pretty nice surprise! They also fit perfect and insert quite deeply into my ear and very secure, whereas the IE8 and DDM drove me nuts in this regard. For the total package, I think they compare very favorably in their price bracket if you are looking for a smooth, clean dynamic.
  12. wind016
    Oh, these aspects are very important for me. I have Monster Turbine Pro Golds and the fit is absolutely killing me. They can not go in deeply even with the new super tips combo I bought from Monster. I have to force my ear canal to form in the shape of the tips.
    The best fit I've got was from the Sony EX 50s because they were angled in the right shape, but boy the mids and treble are awful.
    How good would you say the isolation is? I take BART subway in the bay area and the tracks are incredibly loud. So loud that I can not take the train without bring my IEMs along.
    Do you have experience with anything else that has deep secure fit and isolates well?
  13. takoyaki7
    For me the isolation with the CKM99 is even better than my MD Tributes, so that might be good for you too. They are also better than my A151 which I picked up recently. I have heard/owned a lot of IEMs, and the only ones that can beat the CKM99 for isolation would be Shure SE530/SE425 and Westone UM3x, and maybe some similar over-the-ear BA models with foam tips. The one issue with the CKM99 is that they aren't particularly sensitive, so you may have to raise the volume a bit if you are on a really noisy subway. But other than some of the over-the-ear BA earphones I mentioned above, these are my new favorite commuting phones, and the subway is pretty noisy here in Japan!!
    At least for me, part of it is fit too. One of the reasons I picked these up was that they fit just perfectly when I was demoing them, with the medium stock silicone tips. Fit really is an underrated component. I WANTED to love my IE8s so bad, for example, but could never get over the fit. Same for the DDM. So they are both gone now. The MD Tributes are passable on fit so they are staying. The CKM-99 don't have a lot of thump down low or sparkle in the highs, but they are exceedingly pleasant and polite, and warm and musical without being "boring".
  14. Yggdrassilious
    Negatron here: great design and great housing material on their own, but when you put them together they appear, from the pictures, so very KIRFy. They just look like generic IEMs in you find all over China. If soundmagic or brainwavz alpha ever used metal housing, I imagine it'd look exactly like THAT. Although appearance in reality may differ. 
    May give them a try though..
  15. wind016
    I know what you mean. But if it has the general house sound of Audio Technica woodie full sized headphones or even the ES7/10 sound, then I'll probably like them. I'm almost positive I'll order a new IEM since I can't stand the Monster Turbine Pro Gold's fit much longer.
    Thanks a lot for the response. May I ask how the CKM 99s compare to the CK100 and CK10? Also, any other headphones with the shape of the CMK99s? It seems the Sony EX600/1000 series headphones are on my list too but they don't seem to isolate well from impressions I've read
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