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Audio Technica

Audio Technica are a well renowned Japanese high end audio manufacturer, that are surprisingly unknown by the masses. Today we will take a closer look at their IEM’s ATH-CK9 and ATH-CK10.

CK9 on the left and CK10 on the right, with accessories.

Upper left corner CK9 and lower right corner CK10.

Audio Technica ATH-CK9

Single balanced armature
Frequency range: 20 Hz – 15 KHz
Impedance: 30 Ohm
Sensitivity: 104dB/mW
RRP: £159

Build quality and accessories.
Build quality is absolute top class. The housing is made of plastic and the cable is 120cm/47in, with a straight jack. The cable is the best I have seen in a IEM, soft and flexible, not too thick nor too thin and very light, excellent work Audio Technica!
The included accessories are, three pairs of different sized silicone sleeves (S, M and L) and a semi-hard zippered case. Not too generous, but still everything needed for normal use.

Comfort and fit.
The CK9’s are quite large, but due to their design they do fit comfortably. They are to be worn with the cable running over the ear. Isolation from ambient noise is good and the excellent cable does not suffer from any microphonic noise.

Sound quality.
As a single balanced armature IEM the CK9’s could sound a little thin and flat, but they don’t. In fact they produce an impressive full bodied sound, and as an added bonus they respond very well to the use of EQ and DSP. The bass is tight and fast, very high in quality but quantity may not be enough for all tastes. The mids and highs are detailed and smooth at all times, and will please even the most demanding listeners. They have a very good level of detail and an airy soundstage that separates the instruments nicely. They never missed a beat during the different music styles I tried them with, but they do really shine with vocal and acoustic music.

To sum up.
The good: detailed and overall good sound quality, excellent build quality.
The bad: quite expensive, few accessories.

Verdict: they are pricey and they come with few accessories, but they do offer sound and build quality that few can match.

Audio Technica ATH-CK10

Dual balanced armature, one for low and one for mid/high frequencies
Frequency range: 20 Hz – 15 KHz
Impedance: 55 Ohm
Sensitivity: 107dB/mW
RRP: £279

Build quality and accessories.
Simply put, build quality and detailing is stunning. The housing itself is made of plastic, a very high quality plastic I may add, and has a metal back plate. The housing is infact made of stainless steel, with a rubber coating/cover, which is even better than I wrongly assumed. The cable is the same excellent one as the CK9’s, i.e. 120cm/47in, with a straight jack and the best quality I have seen in a IEM.
The included accessories are, just like with the CK9’s, three pairs of different sized silicone sleeves (S, M and L) and a semi-hard zippered case. Again, not that many accessories, but everything needed.

Comfort and fit.
The CK10’s are very small, light and comfortable. They are to be worn with the cable running over the ear. Isolation from ambient noise is good and the excellent cable does not suffer from any microphonic noise.

Sound quality.
The dual armatures produce a beefy and incredibly detailed sound, from the highly textured low end with its good depth and attack via the natural and buttery mids all the way up to the really sparkling and expansive high end. Natural, detailed and expansive, in the true meaning of the words, that is the best and most honest way of describing the CK10’s.
It’s like I am listening to, or rather, hearing my favourite music for the first time, they present me with so much detail that I have never noticed before. Hotel California and Comfortably Numb sound excellent, stunning and brilliant all at once, if I close my eyes I can almost imagine myself in the studio alongside the guys. The CK10’s make any music, I tried them with everything from classical to rap, sound extraordinary. The accurate and detailed sound make them well suited for critical monitoring and their relatively high impedance and low sensitivity means they do not suffer from any background hiss. They respond well to the use of EQ and DSP, if anyone would deem that necessary. Now if you’ll excuse me I will continue to explore my music library and enjoy the fantastic sound of the CK10’s.

To sum up.
The good: they have a fantastic sound quality and a build quality that trounces any IEM I have seen before, they are light, very small and comfortable, did I mention the stunningly detailed sound already?
The bad: main drawback is of course the price, and being picky, the bass may not be enough for bassheads, they don’t have many accessories included.

What can I say? The CK10’s are pricey and they come with few accessories, but they sound stunning and they define the meaning of build quality. These are a serious contender for the best universal IEM for sound quality, build quality and comfort. Is that recommendation enough?

CK9 above and CK10 below.


Crossroads Quattro

The MylarOne Quattro by CrossRoads is brand new and set to take on the IEM market.
The thing that separates the Quattro’s from the masses is the use of tuning plates, they are small plates that go on the back of the earpiece and changes the sound signature, more about this later on. The RRP is set to $88 or around £55-60, they can only be bought online for now. There are three different colour choices, burgundy, black and red.

Build quality is very good.
The housing itself is made of metal, which gives a nice solid feel to it. The lightweight cable is 120cm/47in, and has a 45 degree angle on the jack, it also has a clip to secure the cable to your clothing. There are several pieces of accessories included, S/M/L/XL and biflange silicone sleeves to help you find a perfect seal, three pairs of tuning plates for the different sound signatures, a zippered soft case and an airlane adapter. All in all a generous amount of accessories, even if there are no foam sleeves or cleaning tool provided.

The Quattro’s are very comfortable.
The first thing that strikes you when you see them is how small they are. They can be worn either with the cable running straight down or over the ear. The size and the choice of how to wear them combined with the many different included sleeves makes the Quattro’s exceptionally comfortable to wear, you simply forget they are in your ears. Isolation from ambient noise is quite good, the cable suffers from some microphonic noise but this can be minimised with the clip or wearing them over the ear.

How do they sound?
The Quattro’s use a 7mm dynamic driver coupled with a bassport and the tuning plate already mentioned. As with all dynamic driver IEM’s, they need time to burn in or settle, allow them at least 20-30 hours for this. The tuning plates provide different amounts of warmth to the sound, from the bassy number 1, via the more neutral number 2, to the more analytical sounding number 3, or without a plate (just be careful not to get water inside the housing), which makes them sound like high end open back full size headphones with prominent bass and very bid soundstage.
The different sound signatures provide for different listeners as well as they suit every sort of music, they can produce the full spectrum from hard hitting drums to very expansive and natural sounding guitars and vocals and all the way up to sparkling highs of cymbals.
Hotel California and Comfortably Numb sound simply stunning, the dynamics of the recording really comes alive and I can nearly feel the music as well as hear it, the clarity these can maintain while punching deep bass at you is simply breathtaking. They may not be the most accurate or best suited for critical monitoring or provide the best absolute sound quality out there, but they are really, really good and so involving to listen to. After all, does one go to a concert to dissect and analyse the sound, or to have fun and get involved in the music?

To sum up.
The sound they produce is nothing short of stunning plus it can be tailored to fit the listeners preferences with the tuning plates, they have a generous accessory pack included, while design is subjective these really look nice, build quality and the metal housing deserves both thumbs up, they are light and very small and for my ears one of the most comfortable IEM’s I have ever tried.
The main drawback is the lack of availability in local shops, and a cleaning tool would have been handy to include.

As you probably have guessed already, I do sincerely recommend the Quattro’s, they have nothing to be ashamed of when comparing them to IEM’s that are much more expensive and higher profiled, at the asking price they are a real bargain.