One year after Audio-Technica announced its first somewhat underwhelming pairs of true wireless earbuds, the company is back with two fresh attempts: the ATH-CKS5TW and ATH-CKS3TW. This time around, battery life has been improved, both pairs now charge over USB-C, and they’re also a lot cheaper. The ATH-CKS5TW cost $149 (or £149 in the UK), while the ATH-CKS3TW are $99 (£99).
Although both pairs of earbuds now have IPX2 splash resistance and better background noise reduction, there are a couple of differences between the two that justify the price disparity:
- Battery life is better with the ATH-CKS5TWs: 15 hours from the earbuds themselves, plus 30 more from the case. With the cheaper ATH-CKS3TWs, you get just six hours from the earbuds and 24 from the charging case.
- The more expensive earbuds have physical button controls, compared to touch controls on the cheaper earbuds. We found the touch controls on Audio-Technica’s previous earbuds to be “clumsy and slow,” so hopefully these have seen some improvement.
- Both pairs of earbuds support AptX and SBC audio codecs, but only the more expensive ATH-CKS5TW support AAC.
- Surprisingly, only the cheaper ATH-CKS3TW support voice assistants like Siri and Google Assistant. Audio-Technica gave us a couple of different reasons for this. The main one is that it thought voice control would “detract” from the headphones’ battery life and sound quality, which it said were its priorities with its more expensive earbuds. The company also said that including a voice assistant would have taken up one of the earbuds’ button commands, which it wanted to leave free as a power button to allow people to use these earbuds without a case.
- Finally, there’s likely to be a difference in sound between the two earbuds, but this is a little harder to quantify on paper. The ATH-CKS5TW have larger 10mm drivers compared to 5.8mm in the ATH-CKS3TW, but we’ll have to listen to the earbuds ourselves to know how this translates to sound quality.
We’ll have to try out both headphones for ourselves before we know whether Audio-Technica has been able to address the problems its first two pairs of true wireless earbuds had. These included poor sound quality and a bulky design for the ATH-CKR7TW and Bluetooth dropouts for the ATH-SPORT7TW. We also found that both earbuds exhibited major lag when we tried to watch videos.
The ATH-CKS5TW will go on sale in September, while the cheaper ATH-CKS3TW will follow in November.