tl;dr: A good sounding CCA/KZ? Are my ears playing tricks on me?
- The box is even smaller than ZSN Pro X, but the compartments inside is a bit better
- The face plate of the IEM is very nice, but the shell is still the same hollow plastic with visible glue
- Similar cable to ZSN Pro X. Not the best but usable.
- Sensitivity: 99.8db/mW
- Impedance: 25Ω
I have just spent 24 hours with CRA, putting it through all usual use cases: public transport, long walks, office, “critical listening”. As I put these words down, it begins to dawn on me how these budget IEMs are going to make reviewing and recommending IEMs much harder.
Anyhow, I am ahead of myself. Let’s talk about CRA.
Tonality-wise, CRA has two surprises for me. The first surprise is that CRA sounds right, mostly. There are some key drawbacks that I will mention later, but from the first listen, it is apparent that CCA has done their homework, or gotten lucky this time. The midrange is well done. Ear-gain is proper. There is no unusual hump around 1.5k, thus there is no honkiness nor nasally tone.
The second surprise is that CRA has less forward-midrange than other Chi-Fi IEMs that strive to be “well-tuned”. When putting on a Bach’s violin partita, I was surprised: “how come the soundstage is not as closed-in as other mid-forward IEMs?”. It turns out CRA’s ear-gain peaks at a couple db less than its rival Moondrop Chu. This has two benefits: a bit less fatiguing and a bit more soundstage depth as the center image is pushed back a little. I like it!
However, KZ/CCA is not KZ/CCA without treble peaks. The nice tuning of CRA is marred by a peak at 5kHz and likely another one at 8kHz. They are not as harsh as the usual KZ IEMs, but you can feel them on certain tracks. For example, the 12-string guitar in Hotel California can feels like ice picks pecking at your ear drums. Cymbals can sound a bit unnatural. Trumpets’ tonality is a bit strange.
Another complain, personally, is that CRA lacks a bit of energy above 15kHz. As a result, room reverbs and decays are not as exaggerated as I would like in some classical recordings.
Bass-wise, CRA is good. Like really good. The bass hits deep, clean and decently fast. I don’t listen to genres with extremely fast bass, but CRA has not faltered when dealing with any of my songs. The bass texture is also good. I have no problem hearing the pitch and details of the bass line of bad guy.
Soundstage-wise, it’s wide and decently deep. As I mentioned, lower ear-gain contributes to the increased perception of depth. Strong bass also helps.
Technicality / resolving / resolution is surprisingly good. The background is pitch black, while notes pop out with clarity and sharpness. This sharp stereo imaging makes the soundstage more engaging. It’s also useful in gaming. For instance, in this CS:Go video, I can pin point direction and even distance of gunshot with ease.
I admit I bought CRA because it appears in the recommendation when buying Chu. However, it turns out to be a good IEM, not just “for the price”.
Yes, it can be further refined (e.g., reducing the peaks), but throwing money at more expensive IEMs would not automatically bring this refinement, as even kilobucks still have these peaky problems. And thus, my “job” as a reviewer is way harder because of these decent budget offerings. It’s hard to write entertaining reviews when everything is “pretty good”. And as the line is blurred between cheap and expensive stuffs, A/B tests take way more time and effort.