The Audio Technica ATH-CKR10 turned heads when it came out as the first in-ear headphone with a push-pull driver. This was way back in 2014. So, with little over a year having passed, have these headphones lived up to the hype and how do they compare to other models in their price range? Yes and yes.
Audio Technica ATH-CKR10 Review
The CKR10 comes in a jewel-like package with lots of foam and cardboard. There are four different pairs of silicon ear tips and a small leatherette wallet-like pouch. The cables on these headphones are non-removable. This last trait was almost a deal breaker, but I still gave them a shot and now I’m glad I did.
Because the cable doesn’t feel weak or likely to split. Instead, it’s long and thick and durable, and the earphones themselves also feel very solid. They are revolutionary in being the first earphones to ever offer a push-pull driver mechanism – different than a dynamic or armature. The consensus seems to be that this design would lower harmonic distortion while offering a more powerful listening experience on par with the best dynamics.
And holy hell if that isn’t the case, because these CKR10’s may just be the best thing I’ve ever put in my ear. There’s an overwhelming sense of clarity and separation that I rarely find in headphones at this price – almost as thought vocals are dragged to the front of every recording. Not only can I hear every syllable when I play a song by Chance the Rapper, but I can dig up some rubbish MP3 from Blink 182 and get the same effect. Moving on to some classical tunes, you really start to see the level of detail in that 5-40,000 hertz frequency range. There’s a deep, full bass and such high end-detail that I thought the recording had changed somehow. That’s the level of subtlety these earphones can pick up on.
To be honest, the mid range might be recessed somewhat…perhaps the tiniest bit. I had a little trouble picking apart backing instruments in some classic rock songs. It wasn’t that I missed them completely, but they sounded just a little less clear.
In terms of competition, this earphone is unchallenged. Westone offers harsher alternatives that give you more dynamism and volume at the expense of less clarity and more distortion. Sennheiser’s IE80 can’t compete either. Unless you’re just dying to have a removable cable, and then sure, go with Second Best. Even the Klipsch X20i might be outclassed by the CKR10 – and we’re talking about a $150 price increase in favor of the Klipsch here!
It’s not everyday you come across a headphone of this caliber, that can offer some of the best separation available, while doing it with this wide of a frequency range (that also actually delivers on the promise of a vast soundstage and mesmerizing details).
Our advice? If you’re even thinking about this headphone, buy it. It’s got bass, it’s got treble, and it’s dragging every drop of the vocals to the foreground, resulting in a sonic tour-de-force the likes of which no other brand can even begin to offer you. About the only reason we might have for not recommending this model would be the non-removable cord. But how likely are you to break it, really? Especially when you’re standing there in a musically-induced coma?