Audio Technica ATH-CKS55 review

If you crave bass at the expense of all else, then these are the buds for you Tested at £45

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

If big, big bass is your thing, then give these a try. If it isn’t, then you can do better for less money elsewhere


  • +

    Open, airy high frequencies

  • +

    warm, articulate midrange

  • +

    clear vocals


  • -

    Cloying low-frequency performance

  • -

    rhythms lack speed and agilityIf big, big bass is your thing, then give these a try. If it isn’t, then you can do better for less money elsewhere

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When Audio-Technica embosses the words “Solid bass” on a box, larger even than its own logo – and in silver – it’s pretty clear a stall has been set out.

Bass is what the Audio-Technica CKS55s promise, and on that score they certainly don’t disappoint. But more on that later – let’s start higher up the frequency range.

When it comes to openness and a feeling of space, these are some of the best we've heard. With a suitably lavish recording – we opted for Justin Adams and Juldeh Camara’s Kele Kele – at times it’s almost as if you’re listening to a pair of over-ear cans. No mean feat for a pair of earbuds.

Audio-Technica ATH-CKS55: Emotion and detail
The sweet treble and finessed midrange serve up all the emotion and detail you could hope for at this price, and complex rhythm work is handled with kid gloves; Manu Katché’s eye-crossingly elaborate cymbal work on Joe Satriani’s eponymous album, for instance, is explicit and accurate.

But again – and this looks to be an emerging theme with in-ear headphones around this price – there’s a veil of bass drawn down over the proceedings. Yes, there is a warning on the box, but also a promise of solidity – something the low frequencies here don’t have much of.

The saucer-shaped section on the back of the ear-tips, and the cylindrical construction behind that are both chambers designed to enhance and tune the bass performance, but they seem only to have accomplished the first part.

Audio-Technica ATH-CKS55: Need tighter bass
It’s a shame, because if the bottom end was tightened up, the whole performance would be among the best here.

As it is, though, it slows everything down and saps music of drama and immediacy. If your player has an EQ on board, it’s worth playing with it as this can help matters somewhat – but shouldn’t have to resort to that, to be honest.

Still, if you crave low-frequency heft at the expense of all else, then these are the buds for you.

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What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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