July 31, 2015

Shrikant Pendharkar

Shrikant Pendharkar was kind enough to share with us his opinions on the Audio-Technica ATH-CKX9iS Sonic Fuel In-Ear Earphones.

Design & Build

Just one word Excellent. Design is unique C tips. The box contents are generous. Silicon earpieces, Comfy foam earpieces (Real treat) and C tips of various sizes, Remote control with microphone on 1.2m Y type flat cord and 3.5 MM gold plated stereo 4 pin L shaped mini plug along with a nice carrying case. The care taken by the manufacturer is evident from the moment you start unboxing. Overall build quality is very good. The box contents are as complete as one can get. Full marks. It's lightweight and very comfortable to wear. My only complaint is missing of attaching pin for garment. This for me is important omission as the headphone are dangling from your ear and due to gravity and motion, entire the weight invariable falls on earpieces when used while walking or any activity. As a result within an year or two, one of the wires from earphone invariably gets detached. I have to through away one Bose, one Monster and many other earphones when one of the wire at the ear got loosened. But this my first earphone with flat cord, so only time can tell. But I strongly feel that for in ear headphones, a cloth attaching pin is very important for longevity.

Sound & Performance
I am not an sound expert or possibly call myself audiophile. So I won't be using the jargon. Another fact is I don't go for high end headphones either. My range is <10 k. I am keen music enthusiast with a good ear. I listen to Indian Classical both vocal and instrumental, semi- classical (ghazal / thumari) and film music. I listen to Punjabi Sufi (solo / quawwali), Bangla (Nazrulgeeti & Ragpradhan), apart from of course Urdu, Hindi & Marathi. My earphones must enhance and bring to life with clarity all the subtle sound variations, aroha-avroha, tankari, accompanying tanpura, harmonium, sitar & individuality of singer. everything. The earphone should not "process" the sound and "color" it.

In this regard I will rate Audio-Technica ATH-CKX9iS Sonic Fuel as the BEST earphones that I have purchased till date and equal to, if not better than, my Shure 215.

When I listened to Raag Megh by Supratik Das and Sikkil Gurucharan the sound clarity was amazing. Listening to Supratik Das Bangla song "Muche Dav Ayu" was awesome. Similarly Nusrat Fateh Ali khan quawwali "Tere Nahi Khayal Bhulde" or "Man Atkiya Beparva De Naal" bought out so many sounds hitherto hidden. Be it traditional ghazal of Iqbal Bano or Mitwa by Shafaqat Amanat Ali or be it "Ye Honsala Kaise Zuke" or "Noor E Khuda", or listening to "Breathless" by Shankar Mahadevan to really appreciate the crystal clarity of the sound where every word is distinct, clear. ATH-CKX9iS Sonic Fuel handles all the lows, mids or high with equal aplomb. It neither bass nor treble heavy. The earphones are in a true sense, Balanced. I am fully satisfied.

Accessories & Complementary Gear

I primarily listen music from my BlackBerry Z10 which has excellent audio and Cowon C2 which has probably best sound processing engine. I also own FiiO X1 HR audio DAP & FiiO Kilimanjaro 2 E11K amp. Frankly I did not find any significant gain or enhancement by using FiiO Kilimanjaro 2 amp along with Sonic Fuel or directly with Z10 or Cowon C2. I also have Audio-Technica ATH-M20X Over the Ear headphones. It's the wonderful, warm sound of these headphone which biased me towards Sonic Fuel.

Final Verdict
The product gives amazing Value For Money for enthusiasts like me who want best quality within low budget. It's great buy and probably the best under the Rs. 6,000 range and can be used with any music source and not made for any particular brand. I have no hesitation in recommending them.

Lastly I wish to specially appreciate Headphone Zone Team for their prompt inputs when I was confused on which headphone to select. It is proof of their involvement and professionalism that they responded to a small buyer like me enthusiastically.

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If you liked this article, you may also like: "The Hifiman RE-400 are a pair of audiophile quality earphones to beat!": Rajib Nath Reviews The HiFiman Re-400.



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