Back to the future Friday, a monthly column where Headfonia shines light on the awesome past.
#7 Audio Technica’s CK10
Back when headfi was discovering the CK10 through AudioDwebe’s now-famous thread, I was burning in my second pair. (I say burning in to sound cool; I give not a hell that a headphone is, or is not, ‘burned in’.) I picked up my first pair in 2008, just after spending an unsuccessful year trying to convince the city of Rumoi (Hokkaido, Japan), that I was good enough at English to say cat over and over again in front of six year-olds.
That’s how OG I am.
The CK10 is no longer on market, but you can find unused pairs here and there, and which largely go for their original market price. I’ve never seen a mass market earphone hold value as well. In fact, I bought mine for about 160$ in 2008. Then, when I was sure I wanted something else, I sold it for about 250$ in 2009. Then I wanted it again, and on a trip back to Japan, picked up my second pair for 160$. That was in 2010. That pair eventually bit it after a protracted stint under a moving bicycle tyre.
My current pair was a gift from, James444, one of Headfi’s biggest philanthropists. He was clearing inventory, and he knew that I was a CK10 sucker. After reading some of the heated comments in the CK10 thread, I reckon I’m one of the more urbane CK10 supporters. Thanks James.
Here’s what rocks about it:
So what if the cables don’t detach, or the glue that holds the faceplates to the earphones eventually loses its tackiness; the CK10 will outlast your other earphones. Its body is made of thick, slightly malleable plastic. It is covered in soft-touch rubber. It’s got steel on the front. The sound tube is double thicker than that of most earphones. The integrated cable sheath is pliable and the cable virtually indestructible.
You can’t sweat through a pair, that’s for sure.
Originally, some noobs expressed dismay that the ‘stress relief’ sheath didn’t form fit to the cable, or that the I-shaped plug stresses out more than does a good L-shaped one (originally, I was one of those), but those noobs probably still have their first pair. They probably use the CK10 to fasten their canoe to their car. They’ve probably gone through three pair of Westone W4r.
Ease of use
Because the CK10 is so damn small, it will fit any sized ear out there. Even my wife, whose ears reject anything not a Grado GR8, gets on fine with the CK10. It is tiny, and its cable makes no noise, and it simply disappears in the ear.
Better yet, because it is so robust, you can toss it in a bag, or in a pocket and not worry about what’s going to happen to it. You’d not do that with too many other earphones.
While you may or may not agree with me here, let’s get one thing straight: what Audio Technica attempted to do with the CK10, was done well. The CK10’s dual TWFK balanced armatures aren’t going to blow your bass brains out, nor are they going to make up super-smooth mids. They excel at contrast within the entire range, and simulate a good, somewhat-smooth high midrange, but their focus is on the upper mids and lower treble. Sibilance isn’t a big issue, but if you’re sensitive to highs, you might find them tweaky. They’re like training wheels for Etymotic’s ER4. And given the right tips, you can coax a lot of bass from the CK10, but at the expense of detail and clarity in the other frequencies.
More on the next page!