Audio-Technica is no stranger to the true wireless game, and at IFA this week, the company debuted two new models. For me, the $99 ATH-CK3TW is the more compelling of the two, mostly because it's great to see one of the audio giants introduce a set that won't break the bank. Audio-Technica's other new model, the ATH-CKS5TW, is also affordable at $149. However, I was most curious to see what the company could accomplish for under $100. As it turns out, the ATH-CK3TW is a really great-sounding pair that I can't wait to spend more time with.
I immediately noticed the small size of the ATH-CK3TW buds themselves. These things are pretty tiny, which means the included charging case is also quite compact. Even with the smaller size, Audio-Technica didn't leave out on-board controls. There are touch options on each side that allow you control volume, skip tracks and take calls. This model also gives you hands-free access to Google Assistant and Siri should you need to summon them. The ATH-CK3TW leverages Qualcomm's True Wireless Stereo Plus for low latency to help improve the stability of that all-important Bluetooth connection.
Despite the tiny earbuds and the low price, Audio-Technica still offers six hours of battery life on a charge with 24 more hours in the case itself. That's a lot of listening time for a manageable investment. And the best part of all of it is these things sound amazing. The ATH-CK3TW offered crisp and clear audio through a range of genres as I hopped around Spotify on my phone. There's plenty of bass, but not too much, and instruments are able to all come through individually. I was also impressed with how quickly the ATH-CK3TW paired with my phone in the chaos of the IFA show floor and its millions of wireless devices.
The only downside is you'll have to wait until November to get your hands on these. But when you can, the $99 ATH-CK3TW may be one of the best options under $100 you can buy. I'm certainly looking forward to finding out for sure when I'm able to do a full review.
I was also able to briefly test Audio-Technica's other new model, the ATH-CKS5TW. At $149, these are another solid option for someone on a budget with sound quality that's better than a lot of more expensive true wireless earbuds. The company has a knack for fine-tuning headphones that gives lows, mids and highs their proper attention, and Audio-Technica's headphones have always had great clarity to me. That's all true of the ATH-CKS5TW.
I did notice about halfway through my demo that the device I was connected to was playing FLAC files, so I'm not quite ready to give any concrete impressions just yet. That lossless file format isn't what a lot of people will listen to on a daily basis, so I'll wait for the review unit before any lasting judgement. However, I will say that the ATH-CKS5TW made a nice first impression sound-wise. Audio-Technica says these will support aptX, SBC and AAC "for the best-possible wireless audio quality." So if higher resolution and lossless is your thing, the ATH-CKS5TW should be able to handle them.
Battery life is also very good at 15 hours. And with the charging case, you'll get 30 more hours before you'll need to search for a plug. There are physical buttons on the ATH-CKS5TW for controlling music, adjusting volume and taking calls. The company has also built the Audio-Technica Connect mobile app that will help you adjust settings and, perhaps more importantly, located a lost earbud. The ATH-CKS5TW is set to go on sale this month, so if you can't wait for the $99 model, at least you'll have an option from the same company.