Review: Audio Technica CM5 earbuds
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blackreplica

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Hullo everyone, this is my first post in this forum(what better way than to start it by contributing a review eh?)

Preamble: I started browsing this forum recently to research on a new pair of earphones. Not long ago i picked up a spiffy mp3 player to go with my gym routine and i thought i'd put a little money into getting something i can enjoy while i work out. My requirements were that they were the earbud type because its something i'm used to and i didnt want to go overboard on my first forage into the world of phones. Among the earphones i shortlisted which met my requirements(which included the Audio Technica CM7, CM5, and the Sony E888) i ruled out the CM7 because it was difficult to justify the price of it as compared to the other 2. I also ruled out the E888 because it seems it has a pretty long burn in time and its a phone which people seem to either love or hate. The audio technica was something new and interesting and since there wasnt much talk about it here in this forum i thought i would give it a try and post my opinions here.

I should state from the onset that i am pretty new to this, so apologies if my little review seems a little simplistic. Up till now, i have been pretty much in the realm of car audio(if you're bored you can visit my website in my profile to know more about my experiences there) . Now here's the review!

Packaging: The packaging for the CM5 was pretty nice, and made the earphones look a lot more expensive than they really are. The full package includes the phones as well as an extension cable. I noticed that the earphone cables are a little too short(about 60cm long) and using the extension makes the cable a little too long, which is kinda strange. If you want to use the phones on something in your pocket, you'll be pretty much forced to use the extension cable, and then you'll have quite a bit of slack wire to deal with.

Looks & Comfort: I must say, the earphones look fantastic. The shaft is long and narrow and extends down quite a bit to the base of my earlobe which makes it look really cool. I suppose if one is geeky enough(like me) to admire how earphones look on people's ears, this one would surely catch some positive attention. My CM5 is the black one BTW. All in all, it looks really good, and even better than the pictures you see on the audio cubes website(which are already impressive).

Confort wise, i am similarly impressed. Up till now i have never used earbuds that cost more than about 30USD so i've come to accept that earbuds just dont feel nice in my ear. But this one changes everything. It fits really snugly into my ear without pushing against it(the typical thing which causes discomfort). For the first time ever, i can actually wear phones without using those foam thingies! It feels even more confortable than my previous Phillips earphones with the foamies on! Overall i am very impressed here as well. Comfort is further enhanced by the sheer lightness of the phones(they weigh probably half of my old phones)

Sound: Ok here's the main bit. Bearing in mind i had about 20 minutes over lunch to analyse these phones, here it goes.

The player i used to test the earphones(my mp3 player):
http://www.iriver.com/product/info.asp?p_name=iFP-390T

Treble: Compared to my previous earphone(dunno what the model number is, sorry, i just found it the best sounding earphone i could get my hands on for cheap, and its a couple of years old), the CM5 has quite a marked improvement in detail in the upper octaves. There are sounds from the midrange up that i could never pick up on the old phones. Very impressive here. On the downside though, from initial listening, i find it a bit harsh and unpolished though it isnt something one would notice except from very critical listening. The extra detail is certainly worth it. At this point i must say its the CM5's treble detail that really makes it sound so much better than my old phones. I couldnt detect any sibilance from these phones.

Midrange: The vocal region sounded very similar to my old earphones at first. I struggled to find a difference between them. A few minutes later some differences started to appear. Vocals are a little more forward and involving whilst remaing smooth, where my old earphones sounded warm, albeit a bit diffused or muddy. The difference is not much however. Perhaps my ears are playing tricks on me, but it sure seems like the midrange seems to be getting better and better the more i listen to it(i am listening to it now as i write this review).

Midbass & Bass: At this point in time, this is probably the CM5's greatest weakness. Bass from the CM5 is pretty thin, almost nonexistent when compared to my old phillips, which probably due to its better bass response, had a warm character to its sound. The thinnness of the bass of the Cm5 may be the contributing factor to my opinion that its a bit harsh because i tend to jack the volume up somemore to get some bass out of it.One redeeming factor i can say is, however, that after listening some more, what little bass there is, is a lot cleaner than the bass i was getting from the phillips, which was muddy in comparison. I actually dont believe in excessive bass but i can tell from listening that the bass from the CM5 is proportionately less than what one would expect from a tonally balanced phone.

Overall, i would say that this is quite a good earphone, but whether it is 2.5 times better than my old earphones is something i am not quite sure about. theres no doubt that from the midrange and up, i am very very pleased. What worries me however, is the bass response. I would characterise this earphone as being detailed and forward sounding, with a medium-to-low bass response(this hopefully, will change as i listen to it more). Its not as fun as my phillips, but definitely a lot more 'hi-fi' in its delivery. Since i was after a phone that was 'fun' for gym use, i dont think i got what i wanted with this phone. If the sound doesnt improve over the next hours of listening time from burn in, then chances are i will relegate these phones to the 'listen in bed' role rather than gym role because i appreciate them so much more when i listen critically to these phones.

The only thing i am hoping is that this poor bass is the case simply because the earphones just havent been run in yet. Maybe after a few days listening to this phone the bass response will start to emerge. If the bass of the CM5 can even match my old phones(hopefully it surpasses it though!) then i'll definitely say its money well spent by far. If it doesnt change, then i'd have to say that although it is better than my 30 dollar earphones, it wasnt worth the upgrade.

Hope this review helps. Part of the reason i wrote it was because this forum didnt have a full review of the Cm5(something i tried to find but couldnt). Now that this thing is stuck in the archives i guess things will be a little different i hope!

Any comments are welcome!
 
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fguo79

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I just got my CM5 this morning form Audiocubes. The looks is really good, though I have to burn it in for several days before I can make some comments on its sound.
 
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kent1146

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Very nice review.

Correct me if I am wrong, but aren't the drivers on the CM5 the same as the drivers on the Bang and Olufsen A8s?
 
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Quote:

Originally posted by kent1146
Very nice review.

Correct me if I am wrong, but aren't the drivers on the CM5 the same as the drivers on the Bang and Olufsen A8s?


Interesting.. where did you hear that?
 
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was ist los?

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I thought the only relation to the A8 was the styling.
 
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kent1146

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Off of the Audio Cubes product description page:

Audio-Technica's 2003 Bang and Olufsen (A8) style stick earphones made with fashionable brushed Aluminum alloy for ultra light weight, rigidity, and portability .

Plus, the review sounds like a review for B&O A8s.... nice highs, poor lows.
 
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blackreplica

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hi everyone!

Thanks for the comments. Yeah, these earphones are pretty much nice highs, no lows. Its a shame cos this thing would be really really good if the bass was a little stronger. Does anyone here think theres a fair chance the bass will emerge after burn in though? I'm not really familiar with burning in for phones, but how long before i can say for sure that the earphones are fully burned in?
 
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Bolt San

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I don't think those drivers would need that much...
maybe even just 24 hours at a relatively high volume w/ bass-heavy music.
Tell us how it goes.
 
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kyrie

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From what I've heard (it's second-hand, mind you), the bass on the CM5 remains weak even after burn-in and is its primary weakness.
In fact, a lot of Audio-technica's portables, including clip-ons as well, are known to have weak bass...
 
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Quote:

Originally posted by kyrie
From what I've heard (it's second-hand, mind you), the bass on the CM5 remains weak even after burn-in and is its primary weakness.
In fact, a lot of Audio-technica's portables, including clip-ons as well, are known to have weak bass...


That is what I have also noticed with my EM7. After 24hrs at extremely high volumes, the bass did not improve much. The EM9 from what I understand is a much more balanced set of cans so I can only assume that of the CM7. Does anyone here have experience with them?
 
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Quote:

Originally posted by kyrie
From what I've heard (it's second-hand, mind you), the bass on the CM5 remains weak even after burn-in and is its primary weakness.
In fact, a lot of Audio-technica's portables, including clip-ons as well, are known to have weak bass...


Actually CM5 isn't really an Audio-Technica product. A Korean company named Cresyn released it well before OEM'ing to Audio-Technica just like iRiver used to do with Rio.
 
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blackreplica, can you tell us what music you listen to and how you the cm5s are holding up? i own both the cm5s and cm7s. i listen to mp3 files encoded from 160kb/s to 320kb/s. i stopped using the cm5s after a couple of weeks because i found them so harsh in the mid ranges - where you find that they shine - that i had to take them off. but i do think there is a possibility that i just got a bad pair or that my musical preferences have an impact - probably both. the cm7s are better imo (they have a better kick on stan getz' cafe del mar), but i am now coming around to the opinion that a certain harshness actually characterizes the cm7s as well. neither model can really handle montserrat caballe hitting that high note in "casta diva," (i can hear crackling, which i don't hear using shure e5s), but that could be because i have a difficult time getting a perfect fit and turn up the sound more. neil young, on the other hand, is okay, though not terrific, on both the cm5 and cm7. where i really notice harshness on both models is on frank sinatra recordings! kind of surprising, because even in his later years, he is mr. smooth. i even re-ripped my sinatra cds to 320kb/s to try to "fix" the problem. didn't work. i think you would really help out a couple of people i have noticed expressing an interest in the cm5s if you could expand your review a bit more about the music you listen to.
 
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blackreplica

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I'd be glad to help!

Sorry i didnt mention my music earlier(cant believe i forgot that).

for testing, i listened to a mix of assorted dance/trance tracks along with some slow rock from French band Kyo, as well as your general mainstream music(The Corrs, Sarah Brightman, etc)

The music was pretty varied and i usually used some of those tracks(in CD form) to test out mid to high frequency harshness, which was something i just didnt pick up from the CM5s. Everything was very articulate, and nothing sounded harsh at all. Perhaps one step short of being harsh, if one was being picky, but in a good way.

Recently i also tried it on my housemate's portable cd player. My opinions more or less remain unchanged with cd audio as opposed to mp3.

Maybe i am a little more forgiving when it comes to harshness but i dont think so(sibilance is one of the thigs i hate the most, thankfully there was none of it. I am similarly picky about other sounds in the upper spectrum in that sense too). Perhaps you got a bad set? Wish i could help you more.

The mp3s i listened to were encoded at 192kbits. Its hard for me to specify exactly what i thought was right or wrong with the tracks i listened to from the abovementioned singers but i can say for sure i didnt think anything was wrong from the midrange and up. The only thing that was glaringly obvious was the lack of bass
 
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blackreplica

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Hi everyone,

Some of you will be surprised to see this thread suddenly come up. The last post in it was about 6 months ago.

My reason for posting here is because i've had months of experience with the phones and after i read my initial impressions i had to add on to it now that its been run in and everything.

I'll try to keep it short: Prolonged run in of these phones result in HUGE differences. The bass response on the phones have really REALLY opened up, and now these phones easily beat my Phillips phones in the bass department, not so much in outright SPL(they are about equal), but in the cleanness and punchiness of it. I'm shocked that something that doesnt go into your ear canal can produce bass like this.

Also, the midrange has cleaned itself up and any harshness i used to hear is pretty much gone except maybe on really badly recorded tracks. The crispness of guitar plucks, and the involved vocals with the lively treble are the things that stand out most and make me love the ATs so much now.

The character of the sound, owing to the improved bass over time, has changed quite a bit. The new overall balance and warmth has counteracted the old thinness and the result is very, very good. When i first got these phones, i would have difficulty telling the AT and Phillips apart(initial bass differences aside) except in the most quiet surroundings. Now, even when i walk to uni with immense backgrond noise and traffic with the ATs, the difference from the Phillips i used before is blatantly obvious.

Final conclusion? These are phones which dont make a good first impression, and take a long time to burn in, but when they do, they are excellent for the money. I'm posting this after 6 months, but it didnt take this long to run the phones in LOL, i started noticing the differences after about a month of fairly heavy use(i used the ATs on my PC originally as a 'relegation' for what i thought was a mediocre earphone. When the sound improved i started using it with my mp3 player and then after comparison with my phillips realised the AT really kicks ass. Now the AT is on my mp3 player). Having said that, of course these phones are not perfect, and although i can't offer comparisons with audiphile phones(cos i dont have any), if i had to give you a weakness of this phone, is that it has a tendency to sound 'noisy' and 'harsh' when someone bangs on an electric guitar in the song a little too much. Or maybe its just the music?


There is absolutely nothing that the Phillips can do better than the AT. As before, the strength in the midrange upwards is where the difference is most marked, but even in the bass region, the performance is very very good and noticably better than the phillips.

Anyway, a few days ago my trusty phillips earphones have gone kaput...which means the AT will now go the PC and i will be getting myself a shure e2c for my mp3 player...does this mean i am now officially a phones nut?
 
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