Review: Audio Technica SonicFuel ATH-CKX5iS
These earbuds are the runner’s perfect companion. At first those odd (tail-like?) protrusions, called C-tips, might just seem like a weird gimmick, but combined with the 360° rotating eartips, there’s no way these things are coming out unless you want them out. Of course, plenty of earbuds have innovative means of battling this all too common problem for active headphone users, but not many do it comfortably (think Ear Clip headphones). Thankfully, with three sets of C-tips and three sets of earpieces, you can customize the fit and practically forget they’re in your ears.
Sound quality is good and relatively balanced. Low end is present but not overbearing (read: if you like Beats, look elsewhere). At times, things can sound a bit muddy but nothing to really gripe about unless you’ve got very picky ears and the cash to please ’em. However, don’t get too ambitious with the volume; at loud levels the high end can be more than a little piercing. Overall though, sound quality is on par for sub-$50 headphones, if not a step up from others.
Design and Aesthetic ★★★★
Admittedly, these earbuds are a bit flashy for me. I have the red ones pictured above, but they come in five colorways including a classic black or, if you’re looking for even more pop, a lime green.
Personal preference aside, there’s several small, often overlooked design decisions that really make theses earbuds shine. It has an angled plug to discourage cable degeneration. The in-line volume and playback control is perhaps the best I’ve ever used. Typical designs have three buttons on the front leaving the user fumbling around for the correct button, a problem exacerbated when active. Audio Technica opted for one button on the front for playback and call control and a slider on the side to control volume. While this slider doesn’t actually adjust the volume of your device, it is certainly easier to use than those that do.
The only thing I really miss on these earbuds is a cable cinch to help control tangling. Even when placed in the included pouch, I still have to spend an extra minute or two untangling. Also, as they have to accommodate the C-tips and the rotating eartips, the earpieces themselves are quite large and cumbersome in a pocket.
To be fair, I haven’t used these long enough to give a definite opinion on durability, but the cable is reinforced at all connections and the angled plugged I mentioned makes me confident that they’ll last a good while. Beware though, these earbuds are not sweat resistant, but I’ve had no problems so far.
$50 (or as low as $24 if you look in the right places) is definitely a fair price for a pair of earbuds as versatile as these. The added carrying pouch and customizable fits make it a great value, especially for the runner tired of constantly adjust his headphones.
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