Just when you thought the Chi-Fi market was saturated, we see another new brand appearing from the mist. Today we’re looking at the CCA C10, a budget hybrid earphone with 4 balanced armature drivers and 1 dynamic driver per side, for a total of 10 drivers.
CCA or Clear Concept Audio appears to be related to the Chinese IEM giant KZ (Knowledge Zenith) though exactly how I do not know. The C10 clearly shares some of the same components found in KZ products, such as the cable and balanced armature drivers. Will CCA bring something new or is it just KZ in different clothing? Let’s find out.
Great build quality
Good noise isolation
Value for money
Cable is prone to tangling
Aggressive treble roll off
Frequency range: 7-40000Hz
Cable Length: 120±5cm
This sample was provided for the purpose of an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own based on my experience with the product.
Package and Accessories
The CCA C10 packaging is simple and professional. In fact, I think it’s already more attractive than the KZ boxes. On the front is a clear image of the earphones with the brand and model names. Over on the back is some information about the company and C10 specifications.
Inside the box, the earpieces are displayed in a cardboard-covered foam insert and underneath this insert is the accessories. Here’s what you get in the box:
CCA C10 earphones
Detachable 2-pin cable
3 pairs of silicone eartips (S, M, L)
The eartips provided are actually the KZ Starline tips which a lot of people like but they are too small for my ears. Overall it’s a basic bundle but believe me, you do get your money’s worth. You will see why as we continue with the review.
Build Quality and Design
I got quite a surprise when I picked up the C10 for the first time. In pictures, the faceplates look like plastic but they are in fact aluminium. The housings have some heft to them and feel really good in the hand for such an affordable earphone.
The faceplates have a kind of layered ripple design on them, along with CCA branding and some text regarding the driver count. This text is a bit misleading as it implies there are 10 drivers per side when there are in fact only 5.
A smoky, translucent resin makes up the C10’s shells and you can clearly see the internals within. There is a single bass port on the inner shell to feed air to the driver or relieve air pressure – or both. If these housings look familiar well that’s because they are identical to the KZ ZSN – the only difference is in the faceplate and the internals.
The angled nozzles are a good length but sadly don’t have a ridge to keep eartips held securely. This won’t be an issue when using the Starline tips but some third-party eartips will fall off easily. A metal mesh covers the end of the nozzle and prevents ear wax and other debris from penetrating the housings.
The cable body itself is identical to the one we saw on several of the KZ earphones albeit with some slight changes. Starting at the top, the 2-pin connectors have very nice aluminium housings with knurling – these look and feel far more premium than the plastic ones on the KZ variants. Each connector has a colour-coded ring for easy identification; blue for the left and red for the right.
Next are the pre-formed ear guides that, thankfully seem to have replaced the horrible old memory wire that KZ was using for so long. These work great and are very comfortable as well.
The Y-splitter is similar to the recent KZ one but is less chunky and has better strain relief. Unfortunately, it’s placed about halfway down the cable and there is no cable cinch so be prepared to spend a lot of time untangling.
Comfort and Noise Isolation
If you have tried the KZ ZSN before then you will know exactly how comfortable the C10 is. For those who don’t have the ZSN, rest assured the C10 is a very comfortable IEM that I can happily wear for hours on end.
All the edges are smooth and rounded, the shells fit snugly and fill the conchae and the pre-formed ear guides are flexible but offer a secure fit.
Noise isolation is above average for a hybrid IEM so the C10 is perfect for use in transit and noisy environments. Noise leak is minimal too, so you don’t need to worry about disturbing others with your terrible taste in music.
Gear used for testing includes the FiiO M6 and Shanling M0 DAPs for on the go listening. At home on the desktop, I used my PC with the MusicBee player feeding FLAC files to the FiiO K3 DAC. The C10 is an easy to drive IEM and works fine with any source, including my Android phone.
The C10 sound is best described as being very laid-back and smooth with a fairly balanced sound signature. It has a warm tonality with a meaty bass, smooth midrange and relaxed treble presentation.
The C10 bass is weighted and has an impactful slam. It’s a dense and thick bass that has authority but it can feel a bit slow at times and only has average texture. Control is good; it doesn’t display any unwanted resonance and doesn’t have any significant bleed into the midrange.
Sub-bass hits hard when called upon, similar to the KZ ZSN, with a slow but well-controlled rumble. The transition from sub-bass to mid-bass is fairly linear and gives the overall tonality lots of warmth and body. The C10 has plenty of power on tap in the low frequencies and on tracks like Infected Mushroom’s “Groove Attack” will give your ears a solid battering.
Midrange notes are a little recessed but are clear with good articulation. Clarity is only average due to the dip around 6kHz-8kHz but is definitely not something I would be overly critical of for a budget IEM like this.
With its thick midrange notes there’s some evident smoothing in the sound which makes the C10 forgiving to poorly mastered recordings. At the same time though it sacrifices tonal accuracy and presence in favour of smoothness.
Treble notes are smooth and subdued, lending to the overall warmth and laid back nature of the CCA C10. Detail retrieval is average and the treble rolls off early but the upside to this is that there is no harshness or stridency present.
CCA has gone for a safe treble tuning and it pays dividends. This is definitely a great earphone for long, relaxing listening sessions, even if they’re not the most exciting.
The stage presented by the C10 is well-rounded with average width and depth. It creates an intimate space but has good instrument separation which prevents congestion. Imaging is a little vague but perfectly acceptable for a budget IEM.
KZ ZSN ($22 USD)
This is a really interesting comparison, especially considering that both of these IEMs share the exact same shells! Although the ZSN (review here) is around $10 cheaper, keep in mind that the C10 has 6 more drivers in total (5 per side compared to the ZSN’s 2 per side).
Of course, more drivers do not always amount to better sound but I digress. The ZSN has a very similar bass, particularly sub-bass and there’s very little separating the 2 earphones there. The ZSN mid-bass has a more defined leading edge and better texture.
KZ’s contestant in this round surprisingly has a less recessed midrange, making instruments and vocals pop a bit more. Its upper midrange is more pronounced too, which gives the ZSN more clarity and presence but at the same time is more prone to harshness.
We see a similar situation in the treble, with the ZSN being a bit more forward and energetic. This gives it a larger soundstage and better detail retrieval than the C10 but again, it sacrifices smoothness in the process.
Personally, I still think the ZSN provides better value and a more engaging sound but many will prefer the buttery smoothness and easygoing nature of the C10.
Yinyoo EP1 ($33 USD)
The EP1 (review here) has a very linear bass, something rarely seen in the ultra budget segment. It’s loaded with texture and it snaps compared to the C10’s thud.
In the midrange, the EP1 is much more forward than the C10, making vocals and guitars stand out vividly. Transients are sharper but so are notes in the 5kHz-10kHz, meaning the EP1 can be prone to sibilance; something that the C10 avoids entirely.
Treble on the EP1 is sharper and more solid, giving it plenty of energy but once again brings a risk of stridency. Although it creates a much more expansive soundstage, the EP1 is not for the treble-sensitive. The C10, on the other hand, is smooth as chocolate and doesn’t show any signs or harshness.
It looks like the onslaught of emerging Chi-Fi brands is not coming to an end anytime soon. That is great news for consumers, especially when the new brands are producing quality products like the CCA C10.
The C10 is a really nicely built earphone with a fun, full-bodied sound that will appeal to a lot of people. It puts CCA firmly among other prominent budget brands showing a lot of promise going forward.
This IEM fills an underrepresented space in the $30-$40 segment. It has impressed me enough that it will be joining other esteemed products on our Best Universal IEMs list. If you’re looking for something in this price range then look no further – this is the one you’re after.
The CCA C10 is available from the Better Audio storefront on Amazon here.