CCA CRA wired IEM review
The CCA CRA is the latest single dynamic driver IEM from KZ’s sister brand. The CRA is the company’s entry-level model, starting at just $15. The combination of price and CCA’s reputation for producing high-value products has resulted in a substantial buzz around this affordable IEM. We just had to get a unit in to see what all the fuss is about.
Design and comfort
The CRA have a pretty standard design for CCA/KZ products, with a chunky design molded to the shape of the ear. The chunky shape makes it very easy to hold and place the earbuds inside your ears compared to some of the daintier competition. Despite this, the earbuds aren’t that big and don’t stick out too much from the side of your head.
The CCA have a clear resin shell with a piece of zinc alloy stuck on the outside. The little bit of metal has a super polished finish and looks great. The rest of the earbuds also look quite nice with the clear plastic providing a great view of the single-driver unit inside.
The bundled cable is of reasonable quality for the price. It is a bit thick but doesn’t kink and has no audible microphonics. The cable plugs into the earbuds with a QDC connector found on other KZ and CCA earbuds. In fact, this cable is found on several other KZ and CCA products. It’s a decent cable and even has ear hooks built-in, unlike the mediocre fixed cable on the recently reviewed Moondrop Chu.
The cable comes with a microphone built-in and there’s no option without a microphone as far as I can tell. You can always just replace the cable if the device you are connecting to does not support a TRRS cable.
The overall build quality of the CRA is remarkable for the price. Without any advance knowledge, it would be impossible to guess that these retail for just $15, with overall material quality exceeding that of products 3-4x the cost.
The CRA are also very comfortable. The shape molded quite well to my ears and the bundled silicone ear tips were comfortable. I was able to wear them for hours without any fatigue.
The CCA CRA feature a single 10mm dynamic driver on either side. The CRA are tuned to have a v-shaped sound, which isn’t unusual for CCA/KZ products but this is one of the most subtle and refined tonalities I’ve come across from the two brands.
The bass on the CRA is forward but not overwhelmingly so. The mid-bass has bit of added warmth that rarely gets obtrusive or overlaps significantly with the low-mids. The low-bass performance is impressive, with a good amount of rumble and thump but without going overboard.
The bass on the CRA is more pronounced than that on the KZ ZEX Pro (aka the CRN), particularly in the upper-bass region. The ZEX Pro, as a result, sounds cleaner and the CRA has ever so slightly more bloat. The similarly priced Moondrop Chu is by far the leanest with a borderline neutral bass presentation.
The mid-range on the CRA has good tonality and timbral characteristics but is slightly pulled back in the mix. This is most noticeable when listening at low volumes and the vocals, for example, are just not as involving or present in the mix.
The mid-range performance is a definite improvement over the other CCA and KZ products (except the ZEX Pro). The CRA is not as dramatically v-shaped as its stablemates, which makes for a more balanced sound signature.
The treble performance is also quite decent. There is a hint of sibilance and sharpness in certain notes at upper frequencies but the sound never gets harsh or fatiguing.
The overall tonality of the CCA CRA is very pleasing and one of the best I’ve heard in this price range. The ZEX Pro is overall the better tuned of the two and the Chu is still the one to go for if you prefer a neutral sound, but the CRA is just fun to listen to, and in some instances actually has better, more natural timber than the ZEX Pro.
In terms of technical performance, the CRA does fairly well. There is a good level of detail and resolution in the sound, something the ZEX Pro is not particularly good at and also a sore point for some other popular budget IEMs like the BLON BL-03. Imaging and soundstaging are mediocre, as is usually the case for most IEMs.
Overall, the CRA sound really impressive for the price. It’s almost unfathomable that you can now get sound this good at this price. And it goes without saying but even though these cost just $15, they easily outperform even the most expensive wired earbuds on the market. But anyone who’s into wired audio already knew that.
At just $15, the CCA CRA are exceptional value IEMs and an even better deal than the $20 Moondrop Chu. The Chu have a great neutral sound for the price but the CRA have a more fun tuning without being bass or treble cannons like some of the other models in this price. The CRA also have a much nicer cable and design, and just feel better built overall despite the lower price. They are a no-brainer purchase and highly recommended for anyone looking for a pair of entry-level IEMs.
Thanks to Headphone Zone for providing the review unit.