First off, I’d like to thank the kind folks at Audio-Technica for providing a review sample of the CKS1000
Yes, this is it, the final and entry into the Solid Bass lineup, the most expensive and (hopefully) best sounding CKS earphone of them all. Retailing for $250, the CKS1000 is far beyond what many would consider “impulse buy” territory and entered the realm of a rather significant investment. It also runs against some significant competition at this price point so it will have to offer a competitively detailed quality of sound to be worth its price over its competitors.
So, does the CKS1000 have what it takes to stand out or is it destined to be lost in the crowd? Read on to find out.
Accessories: Inside the rather lavish packaging are four pairs of silicone eartips, a set of manuals a leather carrying case and two audio cables that, much like the WS99, attach just below the y-split. One is a standard audio-only cable and the other includes a built in remote and microphone with volume adjustment.
Design and Build Quality: The housings of the CKS1000 are plastic and similar to the CKS99 but feature a few nicer accents to differentiate it from the lower end models. Overall, the earphones seem nicely built with sturdy cables and black plastic housings with a soft touch feel and a rubberized ring around the edges where the housings come into contact with your outer ear.
Comfort: Like its siblings, the fit of the CKS1000 could be a point of contention for some but I was once again pleased with the fit of the CKS1000 as it was mostly unobtrusive for me over long periods. The driver sat in my outer ear nicely without exerting any unpleasant pressure.
Isolation: These isolate well for a vented dynamic IEM.
Microphonics: A tad unpleasant at times but nothing excessive.
Burn in: The CKS1000 was given upwards of 100 hours of burn in time prior to review. Minor changes were detected, particularly in the upper regions, which smoothed out slightly and the bass, which mellowed a bit.
The bottom end is, as should be expected by this point, forward and plentiful. As with the previous models, the midbass seems a tad more prominent than the sub bass, which reaches down low with good authority but doesn’t quite match up with the deep bass rumble of other bass centric IEMs like the Miles Davis Tributes or Wooduo 2 as it rolls off gradually past 60Hz or so. The CKS1000 does manage to impress overall with its dry and detailed low end that has the authority to demand notice and the tightness necessary to avoid occluding the lower mids…most of the time.
The midrange is a tiny bit recessed but retains the ability to put vocals at the center of the presentation like the CKS99 and like its sibling, the midrange is a tad grainy and veiled but still quite detailed and energetic. This is not a “lay back and relax” type of IEM, this is an earphone that makes sure you’re engaged at all times. In some ways, this can be a bit of a detriment as it makes the CKS1000 more prone to sibilance than I’d like. The treble, while a bit less emphasized compared to the rest of the sound signature, is rather peaky and doesn’t extend as far as I’d like but is clear and airy and has plenty of sparkle.
The overall presentation of the CKS1000 is drier than a good martini but as alluring as the smile on the sexy bartender who served it to you. The presentation is edgy and forward with a good sense of space and separation between vocalists and instruments and does a good job of presenting micro detail on the level of some of the other top tier IEMs I’ve heard. Like the other Solid Bass earphones, I can easily close my eyes and imagine I’m standing in a nice nightclub, dressed in a smart suit, a martini glass held loosely between my fingers. But unlike the CKS77 and CKS99, I’m not in the middle of the crowd, I’m looking out over it from the VIP section.
But I have to address the flaws I mentioned before once again and I’m sure this is going to sound like some apologist nonsense to some but hear me out. No one would be remiss in pointing out the peaky treble, veiled midrange or huge bass as valid criticisms, especially for a $200+ IEM but somehow, the flaws tend to melt away over extended periods. Sure, the CKS1000 does sound veiled next to the RE-400 but they have a very engaging, energetic quality that’s oddly alluring. And then, you look up and 20 minutes have gone by and you’re left wondering what you were complaining about before.
The Audio-Technica CKS1000 is available from various online retailers including Amazon for wildly varying prices. On Amazon I’ve seen them as low as $170 plus shipping from Japanese sellers and around $210 from US based sellers. On eBay, the price varies as well but finding one below $200 or so may be quite difficult. For the price, I think they’re a pretty good value for those looking for an exciting sounding IEM with huge bass.
The sound signature and presentation are undoubtedly polarizing in nature but I think it has what it takes to appeal to the masses and enough clarity and micro detail to not offend the seasoned audiophile. But, I can’t deny the harsh reality of the CKS1000 and all of the CKS earphones, really, that there are some perfectly valid reasons to despise these things. They’re not suitable for small ears, the bass dominates the presentation, the midrange is quite recessed and the treble can sometimes be rather unpleasantly strident. But I don’t despise the CKS1000, in fact, I quite like them. They’re so much darn fun that I can’t help but want to listen to them from time to time, in spite of their flaws. The CKS1000 truly is more than a sum of its parts.
While I fully expect that there are some users who won’t be able to get past the CKS1000’s particular type of V-shaped sonic reproduction, I see far more who will appreciate it for what it is. This is Audio-Technica’s house sound, uninhibited and turned up to eleven and you’re either on board or you’re not. But, if you are, I’ll see you in the VIP lounge.