Audio-Technica has a long history with headphones and currently offers a wide range in most styles. Among in-ear models, the ATH-CK10 is the current top dog.
Technical information on it seems surprisingly modest – for instance, the brochure quotes a frequency response only up to 15kHz and unusually low power handling, both of which we reckon are either back-covering understatements or simple error.
The transducer uses 'dual balanced armature drivers', dividing the frequency range almost (but not quite) like a two-way loudspeaker and is enclosed in a notably small housing which can take three different sizes of soft rubber earpiece. Impedance is higher than most in-ear 'phones, placing less load on whatever drives it but slightly reducing effective sensitivity in most applications.
We were delighted to find that this model seems relatively unfussy about earpieces, although there was still some mileage in swapping around. Having found the optimum, we were rewarded with a big, slightly bass-rich sound which seems to have a less bright treble than many earphones.
At first, it can make the sound seem lacking in detail, but in fact the reverse is true: this model is capable of revealing a great deal of detail right across the frequency range. It has good attack and immediacy and imaging is clear and not too 'in-the-head'.
We were particularly impressed with dynamics, which have the large, effortless and, at the same time, subtle range that live music always offers, but recordings often struggle to recreate.
Listening over a longer period, we found our admiration for this model only grew: it is possibly not the easiest to like immediately, but is well worth persevering with.