Details: mid-level Audio-Technica model with a form factor similar to the CKM99
MSRP: $79.99 (manufacturer’s page); $99.99 for ATH-CKM500i with mic & 3-button remote (manufacturer’s page); $99 for ATH-CKM500is with mic, remote, and analog volume control (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: $75 from amazon.com for CKM500; $75 for CKM500i; $60 for CKM-500is
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 16Ω | Sens: 105 dB | Freq: 5-25k Hz | Cable: 2′ I-plug + 2’ L-plug extension
Nozzle Size: 5.5mm | Preferred tips: standard single-flanges, short bi-flanges
Wear Style: Straight down
Accessories (3/5) – Single-flange silicone tips (4 sizes), carrying pouch, and 2’ extension cable
Build Quality (4/5) – Plastic housings combine with sturdy cables and flexible strain reliefs to provide very solid construction. The stereo version boats a modular cable while the CKM500i headset has a 1-piece cord
Isolation (3/5) – Average due to shallow-fit design
Microphonics (3.5/5) – Cable noise can be bothersome and is difficult to eliminate as these must be worn cable-down and lack a cable cinch
Comfort (4.5/5) – The housings are not small, but are lightweight and ergonomically designed. Like the pricier CKM99, the CKM500 uses a half in-ear design with no sharp edges to provide a comfortable and secure fit.
Sound (8/10) – Like the far more expensive CKM99 I reviewed a while back, the Audio-Technica ATH-CKM500 is a slightly v-shaped earphone with powerful bass and a wide presentation. The most noticeable quality is the strong mid-bass response – there is more mid-bass impact than, for example, with the VSonic GR02 Bass Edition or the rather bass-heavy HiSound Wooduo2. Deep bass is present as well but less prominent in comparison, resulting in sets like the Sony MH1C and Wooduo 2 appearing to have cleaner, more prominent sub-bass. The strong mid-bass response does take away from the overall finesse of the earphone but will undoubtedly find its fans.
Though the sound of the CKM500 is heavy on the bass, apparent midrange recession is mild and confined to the lower midrange, with the upper mids coming across strong and clear in typical Audio-Technica fashion. The v-shape is noticeable mostly because of the intrusive, somewhat bloated mid-bass. Note thickness is good, which is not the case with the mids of certain other v-shaped earphones, and the clarity is surprisingly great considering the bass quantity of the earphones. The CKM500 is not as clear as the thinner-sounding, more balanced VSonic VC02 but easily beats the more veiled-sounding Brianwavz M5 and most other bass-heavy dynamics in its price range.
The top end is where Audio-Technica earphones can sometimes be overly energetic but the CKM500 does pretty well. There is a good amount of treble energy and some very mild grain but nothing too harsh at reasonable volumes. The treble is not too sparkly and extension is good. The VSonic GR02 Bass Edition, while a little more crisp and clean at the top, is also more sibilant. Soundstage width is also good, as is the case with the pricier CKM99, but the midbass bloat hurts the overall presentation, causing some congestion. Despite the good width and overall sense of space, there’s not a ton of depth to the sound, though the CKM500 still performs well enough to draw comparisons with pricier sets.
Value (9/10) – The Audio-Technica ATH-CKM500 is yet another solid offering from one of Japan’s best-known headphone manufacturers. The earphone impresses with its strong bass, good midrange clarity, and spacious presentation, all wrapped up in a comfortable angled-nozzle housing with a strong cable and good strain reliefs. The CKM500 strikes me as the perfect upgrade to the newly-popular TDK MT-300 and an alternative to other mid-level heavy-hitters such as the VSonic GR06 and Shure SE215.
Pros: Good overall sound quality with strong bass; comfortable and lightweight
Cons: Bass bloated at times; modular cable in 2’+2’ configuration may be an issue for some