Current testing methodology is v1.2
The AK series is a popular product lineup by QKZ. Even though there are some issues here and there, most of the IEMs in this series are pretty decent given their low prices.
The CK series isn’t as popular but that doesn’t mean that you should dismiss it altogether which brings us to this review.
I frequently see the QKZ CK8 online whenever I’m searching for new earphones and I quite frankly just never pulled the trigger on it. Since it keeps on popping up, I decided maybe it was time I gave it a shot.
A very cohesive set for under $5.
The QKZ CK8 is a single dynamic driver in-ear monitor from QKZ Audio.
A lot of lineups aren’t that popular, and people are often quick to stop after seeing the AK6 line, which is fair, but the CK line is actually very capable.
The most notable aspect of the CK line is its shape. They come in different shapes and designs but I was drawn to the CK8 because the back of its shell looks like two golden speaker tweeters.
The sound of the CK8 is pretty enjoyable. There’s a good amount of control in the bass, good midrange performance, and good detail retrieval relative to its price – which is insane because you can get it for as low as $2.
- Driver: 10mm Single Dynamic Driver
- Frequency response: 60Hz – 20,000Hz
- Impedance: 32Ω
- Sensitivity: 100db/mw
What’s in the Box?
- QKZ CK8 earphones
- 2 x Stock tips
- Silicone ear hooks
Stuff I like
- Clear midrange and good timbre
- Bass is well-controlled with sufficient depth and good slam
- Kickdrum feel is especially good
- Good separation
- No upper mid glare and good treble details
Stuff I like less
- Not ideal for those who like open and transparent sound
- Not the speediest driver
- Short nozzle will affect fit and comfort
- Occasional bass fatigue
The QKZ CK8 may be from a different product line but it comes with the typical QKZ packaging you’ve already seen with AK IEMs.
Out of the box, these IEMs have a different look and design, which I thought was quite nice. The accessories that came with it though were pretty basic.
Maybe it was the design that grabbed me, but I was happy to see that it was true to its online renders.
The sound at the start was coarse and I quickly noticed that the seal on it wasn’t good – so I held them with my fingers as I listened and the sound changed drastically. Who would’ve thought that a simple seal could change how it sounded?
The bass was more present, the vocals were intimate and clear, and the small treble details were now more audible.
My notes on this would be to always try different ear tips and try to insert them at the right depth before forming concrete opinions.
This helped me make a lot of honest statements about how earphones sound and I found that now to be imperative in giving a fair assessment of audio gear.
Everyone knows the QKZ staple, yes – it’s still mainly made of plastic. Due to the shape and size of the QKZ CK8 though, it feels compact and nice to the touch.
It still sports that same cable that you’d get with almost every other budget QKZ earphone but much is to be expected considering the price point.
Overall, I like the build of the CK8 as it’s light and easy to carry and wear. For the price, it feels like a substantial product.
Fit and Comfort
This is an area where the QKZ CK8 struggles a bit.
Due to their unique shape and nozzle length, there might be some discomfort in wearing them and it can be challenging to get good seals off of them. Swapping the ear tips can remedy this and will flat-out solve the fit issue.
The shape is a little trickier as it will either fit properly or won’t. I guess it’s a hit or miss with this and it will determine how long you can wear the CK8.
I’ve found it to be quite tolerable but I do notice the discomfort a little and this slightly gets in the way of listening to my music. It’s a small con but it’s still a con.
The QKZ CK8 is tuned with a warm sound signature and a V-shape tuning. It’s boosted on both ends and is slightly recessed in the midrange.
Now people would confuse this as the midrange sounding scooped, but it’s not the case. The midrange has a good presence but sounds just a little farther.
There’s good bass performance here, the sub-bass isn’t super deep but it’s not underwhelming either. There are good slam dynamics from the mid-bass and does well on rendering kickdrums.
The treble has good tonality and manages to pull off good details.
The stage isn’t super wide but it extends vertically with good height. The sound separation is also good and never seems to suffer from congestion, even on busy tracks.
The level of cohesion that the QKZ CK8 can produce is mind-boggling, especially for a set that’s so affordable. Paint me impressed.
As I mentioned, the bass doesn’t go too deep but it doesn’t feel lacking at all.
It’s a little tricky to describe but it’s like a good balance between heft and texture, and it manages to perform alongside the mid-bass which has good slam and fairly good speed. The bass, with all its quantity, never seems to muddy the sound, but it does color it.
Those who favor frequency range clarity and transparency might find it to be overly warm.
The midrange of the QKZ CK8 has a good presence but that doesn’t actually say anything. However, along with that, it has good tonality and timbre, which is an indication of how good it sounds.
There’s also good sound separation and it does wonders when listening to songs that have a lot of vocal layering.
The lower midrange has sufficient energy to be engaging but not too much that it comes off as too energetic. The upper midrange is the one that has a lot more energy but it isn’t boosted to have any glare.
So rest easy because you’re not going to be wincing at any sibilance.
Overall, it sounds sufficiently engaging and yet relaxed just enough to be enjoyable for a very long period. It’s a win in my books.
The treble region isn’t the airiest but has a good atmosphere.
Tracks with a lot of reverb get to enjoy a very lush and expansive presentation. The detail retrieval is good especially when you always factor in the price and the CK8 was able to capture more minute details in a track.
The transient response has good performance in areas such as timbre and splash. Cymbals and high hats sound crispy without any over-sharpening.
Sibilance or listening fatigue is non-existent which is a major win for anyone who loves listening to music for extended periods.
These are some tracks for reference, many of which highlight the strengths of the QKZ CK8.
- That’s What I Like by Bruno Mars (Funk/Pop) – This was a unique listen and I was surprised to hear the bass more pronounced than anything I’ve heard on any occasion listening to this song. It wasn’t unlikeable, to say the least as it seemed like I was listening to the same song but a jazzy rendition of it. The bass had good texture and presence without overshadowing the vocals. The vocals were still the guiding force of the song and did pretty well when extra voices and layers started coming in.
- There’s Nothing Holding Me Back by Shawn Mendes (Pop) – The vocals on this song were very intimate while the bass maintained good engagement by giving out a groovy energy that pushed you to listen more. Stringed instruments had good timbre and texture and added to the overall enjoyment. The layering on this song was good and attested to the consistency of the QKZ CK8 in this aspect. Small details like maracas playing in the background were very easy to pick up on. All in all, there was a good level of cohesion with how this song is replayed.
After extensive listening and testing, I can say that the QKZ CK8 is officially a solid contender and rival to the AK6 lineup.
I could vouch that it tops some models in the lineup, but it’s fair to note that each of them has characteristics unique to them.
The CK8 has a good tuning that ties in with a nice cohesiveness in replaying songs. There’s some wearing fatigue and irritation but it remains as a case-to-case thing depending on ear shape and size.
All in all, I was blown away by how the CK8 manages to do this for its price. But then again, a lot of QKZ in-ear monitors rose to fame due to the excellent price-to-performance ratio. Still, that doesn’t take away from the CK8’s success in its sound quality.
The QKZ CK8 has good performance from the bass up to the treble frequencies and never seems to have any tinge of imbalance.
It’s far from being the smoothest signature, but it’s a natural and fun-sounding set and at the end of the day, the music enjoyment is what matters.
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 2023-12-03 / Some images from Amazon Product API & some links may be affiliate links which may earn us a commission from purchases.