Current testing methodology is v1.2
October 24, 2020
The QKZ CK5 is another successful entry in the CK product line.
With some of the brand’s other lineups, such as the AK line, it’s either a hit or a miss but so far, I haven’t tried a CK earphone that sounded bad.
Mediocre build, impressive sound.
The QKZ CK5 is a classic V-shaped IEM that has great technicalities.
The build quality isn’t the best especially if you compare it with other QKZ earphones and other budget earphones, so I would suggest taking good care of it.
Its tuning is pretty run-of-the-mill, but its good technical ability hoists it up into something above its weight class, which is something of a unicorn at this price point.
- Driver: 10mm Single Dynamic Driver
- Frequency response: 50Hz-20,000Hz
- Impedance: 16Ω
- Sensitivity: 96db/mw
What’s in the Box?
- QKZ CK5 earphones
- Detachable cable
- Cable clip
- 2 x pairs of ear tips
Stuff I like
- Good level of cohesion
- Groovy bass that’s non-intrusive
- Lively midrange and smooth treble
- Good instrument separation
- Sparkly details
Stuff I like less
- Needs more volume to counter midrange recession
The QKZ CK5 comes in standard QKZ packaging in black.
As one would expect from budget earphones, the unboxing experience is unremarkable. Inside the packaging are the earphones with the included accessories, which were all pretty basic.
The CK5 has the same look as other QKZ products – with a transparent plastic shell and the brand logo on the faceplate. It’s available in blue and red, and I got the red one.
Before proceeding to testing, I braced myself to not have any preconceived notions about the CK5 because it’d be doing the review a disservice if I already hated it before I even listened to it.
In the back of my mind, something was telling me that it has the same DNA as the CK8.
The first time I ever listened to the CK5, I was going into the kitchen to get a cookie but before I knew it, I was bopping my head to Eve’s Kaizin album.
The CK5 oddly had the same familiar V-shaped tuning I’d come to know through so many QKZ sets and yet it had a certain spark I couldn’t put my finger on. It was something that made the replay unapologetically fun and exhilarating.
It was hard to be analytical as I often just ended up enjoying the music. It makes me remember that despite everything we take into account, the enjoyment of music is the ultimate goal.
The QKZ CK5’s build is rather on the cheap side compared to other QKZ products.
Better sets are noticeably made of more durable plastic material. They tend to have a lower pitch when tapped lightly on the faceplate, which is an indication of better quality, while cheaper ones exhibit a higher pitch and sound a little more hollow.
For the price, there are definitely cheaper QKZ sets that have better build than the CK5. Still, the build isn’t that horrible to worry about.
It’s quite an inexpensive set so I find it acceptable.
The wire on the CK5 is a little more flexible than most QKZ earphones, which is good, considering they’re quite rigid and stubborn.
All in all, there’s nothing new or astronomical about the build.
I did try to squash the body with my hand and even though it’s hollow and it didn’t break. I even hurt my hand in the process so I’d say it’s durable enough.
There’s also no driver flex nor are any internal parts loose or unhinged, which is splendid.
Fit and Comfort
Without changing the QKZ CK5’s stock ear tips, they’re quite finicky and hard to get a seal on.
After replacing the ear tips with my BGVP AE07, the fit did stabilize better but I was still getting that awkward pressure build-up that creates some sort of a vacuum inside my ear.
This interferes with my listening as well as my comfort, and the only way that I could fix it is by moving the ear tips randomly until the pressure lessens.
The CK5 has great ergonomics and fits in your ears like it’s a cast-molded IEM but at the end of the day, the absence of vents makes for an inevitable build-up of pressure inside your ear, which is a shame.
All in all, when the CK5 settles in, they’re pretty light and comfortable to wear.
The CK5 is tuned to have a warm V-shaped sound.
The bass is boosted by a good amount, loading the low end with a decent quantity while somehow retaining control and finesse.
The midrange recession is apparent, but I just boost the volume to bring back the presence, which takes it to a level that almost makes it into a U-shaped signature.
I typically go from about 40% volume to 70% and that makes the lower mids sound fuller and closer to my sphere of hearing.
The treble is smooth and as far as my ears can tell, it has good extension due to the splash and air audible in the higher octaves.
At the end of the day, the CK5 has the same lovable V-shaped everyone is crazy for and the sound will just about hit right home.
The bass is pretty shy most of the time. I say this because, on a lot of songs, the bass just melds in with the other sonics while providing that deep groovy rumble.
The sub-bass isn’t the type to overwhelm and subjugate you. So far, the only song that the sub-bass sprung out from under was Odoriko by Vaundy, which naturally had a ton of bass, to begin with.
I’m sure there are a lot more instances where the sub-bass will step up and become surprisingly big. It’s safe to say that the sub-bass is going to be track-dependent.
The sub-bass has decent dynamics and speed but doesn’t nail the timbre.
All in all, your mileage may vary as our library might not be the same but just remember that more bass in means more bass out. Pretty simple.
The midrange is recessed by a lot.
I counter this by raising the volume to about a minimum of 40%. This brings the vocals and instruments back in, making it easier to mouth out the lyrics.
The lower midrange has good note weight from the bass coloration but surprisingly doesn’t suffer congestion from bleed. It does lessen the perception of transparency but you’re generally not going to get a transparent neutral signature from a V-shaped anyway.
The upper midrange has good energy and drives the upper register to sound more captivating while avoiding sibilance.
A lot of vocal octave layering is done really well with the CK5’s upper midrange, in tandem with its good sound separation.
Overall, the midrange of the QKZ CK5 is full-bodied and engaging.
The treble sounds smooth throughout without any sudden peaks or dips. It’s well-extended giving a lot of room for transients and staging to play around the soundscape.
The highs are airy and articulate, making female voices as well as high-pitched strings sound natural and life-like in their tonality.
All in all, the treble comes off as refined and sweet, with good brilliance and airiness to its quality.
The dynamic performance of the QKZ CK5 is great.
The attack and decay are on point and have good, natural speed. The staging remains to be intimate but makes the music feel alive and able to move in an extended soundscape that flows inward.
The imaging is relatively good and it positions instruments roughly on the spread. The sound separation is very good as it lets all the instruments do their own thing in their own space.
The sound threshold is easily discernible, and you can differentiate each instrument from the other.
The transient response is great with a very good distinctiveness to it while nailing the timbre and tonality needed to sound natural and satisfying.
All in all, for a set that costs less than $10, these technicalities are a bargain.
The QKZ CK5 can be paired with generally any genre.
Vocal-centric tracks won’t have any problems even with the recessed lower midrange as volume control is the only factor you need to change to fix it.
As for specific genres, on the top of my head, the CK5 can do rock, alternative indie, pop, J-pop, EDM, and classical music well.
Of course, this doesn’t encompass every genre the CK5 may do well but take note of the signature and take a wild gander if it’ll bite and you’ll probably be right at the end of the day.
The QKZ CK5 is an ordinary V-shaped set of earphones with good technicalities for its price.
Many people will tell you that it’s the cheapest you can get but given my mileage with QKZ earphones, this is simply not true.
Can it compete with other offerings from QKZ? Yes, it can.
For a V-shaped sounding earphone, I didn’t think it sounded dirty or overly bloated. Its bass is a little tricky as it’s track dependent but generally, I thought that it was pretty mature.
The midrange has good note weight and albeit may sound too distant may be reconciled with more audio gain.
The treble is smooth and sweet sounding and its extension contributes to the various technical parameters that come together to make the CK5 a really enjoyable IEM.
In terms of music enjoyment, a V-shape is labeled fun because of its no-brainer emphasis on the bass and treble but it often comes with limited technicalities.
The QKZ CK5 doesn’t need to make any compromises as it sounds cohesive and fun while still putting value on its technical side.
Gavin is a college student who has a lot going on. From collecting IEMs and modding mechanical keyboards, to different hobbies like digital drawing, music mastering and cooking. It is safe to say he is a complete multi-faceted geek (and he's kinda cool too)
This post was last updated on 2023-11-29 / Some images from Amazon Product API & some links may be affiliate links which may earn us a commission from purchases.