To many audiophiles, Audio Technica is a company most would tend to overlook. However, they do have quite a history, providing professional equipment for the World Cup and Olympics. On the other hand, they also offer relatively affordable consumer products, like its latest dual balanced armature buds, the Audio Technica ATH-CK10.
The ATH-CK10s are reference standard canal phones but are by no means cheap. What makes the CK10s stand out though is the rare presence of dual drivers that allocate one armature unit for bass and another for higher frequencies that greatly widens its frequency range. Its compact cylindrical design also distinguishes it from the elongated enclosures of its competitors.
While the sound is balanced and lively, the headphones tend to fatigue when subjected to long usage. This unfortunately is unavoidable due to the direct dynamics that canal phones have with our eardrums. CK10's cord is also a tad shorter than that we are used to, which makes placing it behind a neck, difficult, if not impossible.
If you are acquainted with balanced armature type headphones, you'll expect a certain standard from the CK10s and we are glad to report that they did not let us down. After a short burn-in period of 8 hours, the ear buds gave us a lively and well grounded performance with its apparent ace in the hole - the bass. On the Beatles track Eleanor Rigby; the cellos in the background were more distinctly articulated than single armature units, with the lead male vocals sounding more substantial as a result. The track, a 256kbps AAC file, has nice neutrality to begin with though. With more recently mastered tracks, the bass sounded a tad heavier than we were used to. Obviously, if you prefer a more natural sound you can tweak the equalization.
For its seemingly petite size, the bass output of these little wonders is fantastic. Treble and mid-ranged frequencies are well articulated as well with treble extension adding more realism to the cymbals in our rock tracks. Take the song Chase the Light by Jimmy Eat World, which has a consistent bass line that isn't too heavy, a clear high hat presence in the chorus and subtly harmonized vocals that managed to remain pleasantly cohesive despite the frequent overlapping of all three elements.
So is this the perfect pair of dual balanced armature ear buds? To be fair, while the audio reproduction was excellent for its size, it is tiring to keep them on for extended periods of time. Furthermore, with its premium S$480 price tag, it's not exactly for most budgets. But if you have the spare cash lying around, an excellent Audio Technica audio experience awaits you.