True wireless earbuds (also known as truly wireless) have been around for a while now but it wasn't until the launch of the Apple AirPods that both consumers and manufacturers got serious about the small form factor earphones.
Now, everyone is releasing a pair and we saw a number of established manufacturers enter the fray at IFA 2018 - one of those was Audio-Technica with its ATH-CKR7TW range and its sportier ATH-SPORT7TW.
They join the likes of Jabra, Onkyo, Sony and Sennheiser in offering cable-free 'phones that come complete with charging cases and a number of smarts.
- Best true wireless earbuds: the best truly wireless AirPod alternatives around
Design and features
Audio-Technica has unveiled two true wireless ranges. This hands on focuses on the more premium Audio-Technica ATH-CKR7TW. But if you are into sports, then check out what the sportier ATH-SPORT7TW range has to offer.
The ATH-CKR7TW come in gray and black and are a nice shape, with the smart-looking Audio-Technica logo stamped on each side. This is circled by a trim that seems to be rose gold on the gray pair.
Given the size of them, there's a surprising amount of audio goodness within. Audio-Technica has managed to pack specially tuned 11mm drivers (that has a carbon coated diaphragm, pure iron yoke and brass stabilizer) as well as a DAC and amplifier components into the devices.
This is all housed in a really smart chassis, that's got a bit of chunk to it but you don't notice this when they are in the ear. The chassis offer up touch controls, too. Tap to play and pause the song you are on, as well as some swiping to change between tracks and to control the volume.
They come with a charging case, which is great to use. A magnet clicks the earphones into place when you put them in the case (it's very satisfying) and, when fully charged, this will offer nine hours of juice.
As for the earphones, they have up to 6 hours of charge which is better than many that are on the market at the moment.
The ATH-CKR7TWs fit well in the ear and it was surprising that there wasn't much fiddling to get them to sit properly - something that usually happens when we try out true wireless earbuds. These earphones are light and even with quite a bit of head movement, there wasn't any point where we felt they were going to fall out.
The sound was, as you would expect with 11mm drivers, nice and expansive. We listened to a number of tracks off of The Chemical Brothers' Born In The Echoes album and the audio was rich, the bass deep and there was a nice clarity through everything we heard. There's no noice cancelling here but the seal blocked most of the outside sound for us.
The earbuds make use of Bluetooth 5.0 wireless technology and include support for the likes of aptX and AAC, and this was noticeable in the music we heard, which was crisp and clear.
Even surrounded by thousands of other devices trying to hook up to Bluetooth, there wasn't any noticeable droupout in the connectivity either.
The touch controls were responsive but it did take a little bit of time to get used to them. We recommend you read the manual if you do buy a pair as there are a number of finger taps and gestures that do a variety of things. Once we were told what to do, though, it all felt intuitive.
Taking them out of the ears and putting them into their carry case was also easy and, as we mentioned before, you get that nice feeling of them clicking into place when you put them in. Closing the case starts the charge. You can hold down the button in the middle of the case to see how much charge there is left.
Audio-Technica has taken its time to get into the true wireless market - but it's a company that seems to wait to make sure everything is right before dipping its toes and refining things later down the line.
Because of this, the Audio-Technica ATH-CKR7TW don't feel like a first-gen product. With decent battery life, touch controls that work and a sound, from our initial listen, that's big and expansive there's a lot to like here.
Price-wise, however, these are at the higher end of the true wireless market at - £229 / $249 (Aus pricing TBC). For this we would have expected a little more smarts, including Google Assistant compatibility (something rival true wireless setups already have), but you are paying for decent audio innards here.
- IFA 2018 is Europe's biggest tech show. The TechRadar team is in Berlin to bring you all the breaking news and hands-on first impressions of new phones, watches and other tech as they're announced.