The Audio- Technica ATH-CKM500iS In-ear headphones bring are a set of full featured, premium in-ear headphones that provide a premium sound for a premium price. With a $100 dollar asking price (full retail, Amazon price tends to hover around the $70 dollar mark), the CKM500iS's are a serious set of earbuds for mobile listeners that demand a full sized headphone sound in a portable package.
The ATH-CKM500iS's utilize large 12.5mm dynamic (as opposed to balanced armature) driver units. With an electrical impedance rating of 16 ohms and a 105 dB/mW sensitivity rating, these earbuds have no trouble being sufficiently powered by a mobile device. The CKM500iS's come in a variety of colors, including black, white, and red. The CKM500iS's follow Audio- Technicas design philosophy of looking relatively understated but sleek, without being gaudy or overly showy in their colors or design. The CKM500iS's include an inline volume remote a mic combo, with a start/ stop and skip track button. Included in the box are the earbuds themselves, four additional silicon ear tips, a velvet carrying pouch, and an L-shaped adapter (more on the adapter later).
The ATH-CKM500iS's are entirely plastic and rubber in their construction, and are adequately built. The cable is sufficiently protected at all connection points by rubber strain reliefs. The cable itself is rather thin however, and is a particularly springy/ rubbery, in an apparent attempt to reduce cable tangle. The earbuds or driver housings themselves feel sturdy enough, they are also built from plastic. All in all, the build quality of the CKM500iS's is sufficient enough, however, it didn't blow me away. One unfortunate side note was that the L-shaped adapter included with my particular set did not work. When plugged in, the music sounded distant, harsh and strange. Without it plugged in, the sound returned to a normal state. Obviously a rare manufacturing defect was present with my particular adapter. After reading several reviews, this does not appear to be a commonplace issue.
The CMK900iS's inline cable/ mic is one of the strangest I have ever encountered. A single button is responsible for play/ pause (single press) and skip a track (double press). The volume control is strange, as Audio- Technica chose to use a wheel as opposed to a rocker button. While, in theory, this approach is preferable, this particular implementation fell a bit flat. I found it difficult to select the exact volume that I wanted as the volume control wheel is far too sensitive. Moving it just the slightest amount either increases or decreases the volume far too fast. Finding a happy medium was often difficult. I usually prefer to use the volume control on my iPhone itself anyway, so this was pretty much a non-issue for me, but for those who prefer to use inline volume control functionality with earbuds, this particular model may disappoint. As for the microphone quality, Audio- Technica did not disappoint. Having a great deal of experience with microphone innovation, manufacturing, and technology, its not surprising that the CKM500iS's provided far better than average microphone quality.
In terms of sound quality, the CKM500iS's outstrip similar competitive headphones in its class, such as the Klipsch Image S4 and the Beats by Dre UrBeats. The Audio- Technica ATH-CKM500iS's strike a perfect balance between bass, midrange and treble presence. Bass is eventuated slightly, as is the midrange giving the CKM500iS's much more warmth than other earbuds I have reviewed. Obviously, these are not super accurate, analytical IEM's, but warmth is a sound characteristic that I tend to enjoy. It adds a more dynamic and "fun" characteristic to music without the need for equalization. The treble is crisp, but is much more rolled back in comparison to other Audio- Technica headphones/ earbuds, such as the CK9iS's. The CKM500iS's work particularly well for modern pop, hip-hop and electronic and even rock music. They do however, fall flat when listening to classical, treble dependent tracks, on account of the rolled back treble. All in all, I found the ATH-CKM500iS's quite enjoyable. Listeners who do not prefer a darker, warmer sound signature should look elsewhere, however.
For listeners looking for a premium audio experience in a super portable package, the ATH-CKM500iS's from Audio- Technica deliver on all points.
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