I was asked to review a set of earbud type headphones by Audio Technica. The Sonic Fuel Earbuds in silver. These are listed as model ATH-CKX9iS and are noted to be specifically made for smart phones. Ok, looking at the box I was a little skeptical and with the history I have had with ear buds; its quite understandable. For most of my life, when I used earbuds; the experience has been lacking at best. Only when I used professional musician earbuds, the same type that are used to replace stage monitors have I felt that earbuds could have good sound quality. Mind you, those stage earbuds can and usually do cost over a thousand dollars, so for that price tag I should be getting good quality sound. Thousand dollar earbuds are not really a viable option for everyday use, unless of course you happen to be rich, but most of us are not rolling in the dough. Still I decided to give these earbuds a try with an open mind.
To say I was surprised on initial listen is an understatement. My history with bad earbuds led me to the belief that this pair would be lacking in punch and clarity. I thought the sound would get drowned out by overhyped bass and all the high frequencies would get muddled to the point of being non existent within the playback.
Oh how wrong I was, every frequency came out clear as a bell. On top of that it sounded as though each area of the frequency spectrum, i.e. bass, mids, highs, all sat neatly on top of one another. The bass frequency still had punch but not so much that it drowned out the other frequencies. Vocals were clear and crisp, but nestled nicely within the song. I could pick out sounds from the high frequencies within the song that normally with other earbuds would have been drowned out by the dullness of the buds themselves.
Audio-Technica was able to provide their earbuds with a clarity of sound that is usually only found with expensive full over the ear headphones. Audio quality wise I felt as though I was wearing the pair of monitor earbuds as stated above. Even the fit was comfortable as I could wear these for long periods of time. These earbuds do fit into your ear thanks to what is called c-tip’s which sit snuggly against the middle portion of your earlobe. A lot of earbuds use this type of c-tip design but Audio-Technica took it one step further in having the c-tips made out of soft and flexible silicon. Other earbuds I have used that use the c-tip design just use plastic, as shown in the photograph above.
In other designed earbuds, as you continue to listen to your music, the c-tips continuously dig and move around in your ear, due to the plastic being inflexible. After awhile the portion of your ear in contact with the plastic c-tip becomes uncomfortable and many times sore due to the earbuds. With a c-tip made from silicon, as in the Audio-Technica design, the buds contour to your ears, stay in place easier, and are more comfortable for longer listening. See and here you thought silicon was only good for those high priced Hollywood surgery’s.
Audio-Technica does include more than one size c-tip, just as they include more then one size earpiece to fit in your ear. The earpieces I found that suited me the best were the premium earphone tips that are included within the package. These earpieces are made from memory foam. So unlike the silicon ones, these earpieces actually flex to the ear more. Not only that the memory foam earpieces are also designed to block noise more then they’re silicon counter parts. I found the best comfort and sound quality came from using these memory foam earpieces included in the box.
Another drawback I found from using earbuds was from the cord becoming tangled in my pocket when I wasn’t using them. Now tangle free isn’t just for shampoos anymore, Audio-Technica includes a storage case for your earbuds. This is a nice added item since even a pair of hundred dollar wireless earbuds I have don’t include a case. I had to supply my own for that pair.
A lot of headphones, and earbud type headphones specifically are being made with built in microphones. This pair is no different, I tested these earbuds with several calls I made/received. The audio from the person you are talking to is clear and the microphone picks up what you are saying without a problem. I even made a call to my boss and as far as I know she still doesn’t know that I was using these headphones the entire time. (She probably will now) I also used this pair as my earbuds for my Playstation 4 (PS4). I am not a big fan of the earbud that comes packaged with the PS4. (yes single not plural, you only get one actual earpiece in the headphones from Sony with the PS4) The Audio-Technica earbuds when used with the PS4 worked out awesome, I could focus on whatever game I was playing using only one earpiece. When I wished to place my attention on the person with whom I was chatting, I can do that by using both earbuds. Another option that I used, I just sent all the sound from the PS4 through the game controller and into these headphones. Even that worked without a single problem, I could focus playing my PS4 without being a bother to anyone else in the same location. With the built in volume knob in the headphones I was able to control the volume of the audio from my PS4 instantly.
Another issue I had with other earbud headphones is that every time I would remove one of the earpieces, the earpiece would wind up on the ground or stuck in my ear. When you read the Audio-Technica directions on how to change the earpieces, the directions notify you that it will be difficult to change the earpieces in order to make them more secure. The difficulty is a purposefully added feature to avoid the earpieces from accidentally popping off. Considering the trouble with earpieces I have gone through in the past, I felt this was a nice feature to these headphones. Note that initially the difficulty in changing the earpieces did exist, but upon getting used to the headphones, changing the earpieces became a breeze.
These headphones are awesome but some additions would have been nice. Mainly it would have been nice to have the extra c-tips and earpieces packaged differently. Once I opened the box, it would have been nice to have seen the extra ear pieces mentioned above labeled as small, medium, and large.
As I also mentioned above, I have a pair of wireless earbuds. These would have been great as a wireless pair as well. Instead of having to fumble with wires to get them to fit in the case, I could just turn them off then close them up in a case.
Believe me, these are awesome earbuds. As I said, these literally surprised me as far as comfort and sound quality goes. Audio-Technica is well known for their pro audio equipment such as microphones. Now, when I think of headphones, Audio-Technica will be a company I will think of first.
To see any specs on this product or the many other headphones within the Sonic Fuel product line check out Audio-Technica on the web at: www.audio-technica.com.
Disclaimer: Company provided YBLTV complimentary product for review.