CCA is a Chinese IEM manufacturer and is a sister brand of the earphone giant KZ (Knowledge Zenith). In this review, I’m taking a look at the CCA CA16 earphones. The CA16 has a massive total of 8 drivers per side (7BA+1DD) which is crazy for a $60 earphone. Still, we have learned over time that more drivers does not automatically mean better audio quality. Is the CCA CA16 all numbers hype or does it actually deliver? Let’s find out.
Disclaimer: 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.
CCA CA16 Review
Good overall resolution and tonal balance
Huge driver count for a budget IEM
Sound is somewhat laid back
Tame upper treble
Package and Accessories
The CA16 comes in the usual CCA/KZ white box which is small and minimalistic with a no-frills approach. Inside the box, you’ll find the earphones, a detachable QDC type 2-pin cable and 3 pairs of silicone eartips.
Build Quality and Design
The CCA CA16 has fairly low-key acrylic shells with a glossy black finish. On the faceplate there is a CCA logo and on the top side in small print it says: “16 Hybrid Technology”, referring to the 16 total drivers. There are also L and R markers on the top indicating the left and right sides respectively.
The nozzles are aluminium and are narrower than average which can make it a bit tricky if you want to use third-party eartips. The 2-pin connectors are the increasingly popular QDC type like the ones found on recent KZ and BLON models.
On the inner side of the shells are two small vents, one at the base of the nozzle and another in the antihelical fold canal. To accommodate the 8 drivers, the CA16 shells are a bit larger than average. Having said that, I find these very comfortable to wear, even after several hours of listening.
Noise isolation is slightly above average for an acrylic earphone due to the pseudo-custom fit and extra width of the shells.
Argh, ye old KZ brown cable rears its ugly head once again! It’s no secret I’m not a fan of this cable but in all honesty, it’s really not that bad. It’s a 4-core braided oxygen-free copper cable with a rubberized Y-split and right-angled 3.5mm plug.
At the top are the transparent plastic QDC 2-pin connector housings followed by pre-formed ear guides. The cable drapes well and has minimal microphonics but it is extremely prone to tangling.
So, how does the multitude of drivers sound? The CA16 has a light V-shaped signature with a warm but clean presentation. It has a slightly relaxed sound but one that has excellent clarity and a pleasing tonal balance. Any concerns I had about cohesion were unwarranted as the 8 drivers deliver a unified sound without any noticeable dips or peaks.
The bass is punchy and clean and hits with satisfying impact. Kick drums have a nice slam on the leading edge with medium-paced and natural decay. Most of the emphasis is on the mid-bass which is tastefully executed and sounds full-bodied without any boominess.
The sub-bass falls off subtly in relation to the mid-bass but still delivers a powerful and smooth rumble. In Rhythm & Sound’s “King In My Empire”, the CA16 surprised me with the ease it handled the massive deep bass notes.
With natural weight and tone, the CA16 delivers a midrange that’s warm and musical but still clear. It’s not the most forward midrange but it’s not what I would call recessed either. It’s has a somewhat laid back presentation and sounds quite lush. Because the bass is only a little north of neutral and the treble isn’t over the top, the midrange has room to come forward a bit.
In Jakob’s “Blind Them With Science”, the guitars have a decent amount of crunch and texture but they’re still very smooth and sit just behind the bass and lower treble. This is a track that (for me) can be fatiguing on more mid-centric IEMs (like the TRN VX) but it sounds great on the CA16.
The treble tuning on the CA16 reminds me a bit of the earlier CCA C10 model in the way it’s rendered so smoothly. However, I felt the C10 lacked lower treble energy and I don’t find that with the CA16. Yes, the CA16 treble is relatively safe in terms of its tuning but adds sufficient clarity and liveliness to the music.
After around 9kHz the treble falls off fairly rapidly which gives it a warmer and less aggressive tone but at the same time it limits the amount of airiness and resolution. I think it was a good tuning choice by CCA’s engineers as adding more upper treble energy could easily make it bright and shrill.
The soundstage dimensions are modest but evenly distributed in regards to width and depth. Despite its warmer tone, the CA16 has above average resolution and instrument separation. However, layering is only average with little distinction in terms of depth within the stage.
TRN VX ($72)
The TRN VX (review here) is just 1 driver short of the CA16 with 7 drivers per side (6BA+1DD). It has a brighter tonality and increased detail retrieval compared to the CA16. The VX has a similar bass response but then deviates heavily with a much more forward and elevated midrange.
In addition, the VX has a prominent treble peak at 7-8kHz and more upper treble energy which reveals a lot of micro-details and gives it a larger soundstage. At the same time, the TRN VX sounds much brighter, has less midrange body and can cause treble fatigue over time.
iBasso IT00 ($69)
The iBasso IT00 (review here) has a single dynamic driver. It has a warm tonality like the CA16 but there are significant differences between them. First of all, the IT00 leans more into its sub-bass with less mid-bass elevation.
The IT00’s midrange is more forward, highlighting vocals and bringing them to the forefront while the CA16 is more recessed. The iBasso dips slightly in the lower treble and is more lifted in the upper treble. This gives it an airier feel and adds more depth to its soundstage.
Well, the CCA CA16 is a great value earphone and I’m happy to say that it’s not just throwing big numbers (driver count) around. Punchy bass, silky smooth mids and a non-offensive treble all come together to deliver a laid back but articulate and resolving sound. It might not have the most exciting presentation but it’s perfect for long, casual listening sessions.