The ChiFi world is a crazy place. How would you feel if I said you can get a 7-driver hybrid model with zinc alloy shells for $69? Well, that’s what I’m about to do because today I’m checking out the CCA CKX earphones.
The CCA CKX has 1x 10mm dynamic driver and 6x BA (Balanced Armature) drivers wrapped in an ergonomic zinc alloy housing. In the context of the entry-level price that’s an exciting proposition. But of course, it all means nothing if the IEMs don’t sound good. So how do they perform? Let’s get into it.
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.
There’s not much to write about when it comes to the packaging. The CKX comes in CCA’s standard minimalist KZ/TRN style box with the bare essential accessories. It doesn’t make for a very exciting unboxing but it does help keep costs down which in the end benefits the customers. In the box you’ll find the earphones, a detachable Type-C 2-pin cable and 3 pairs of silicone eartips.
CNC-crafted zinc alloy shells house the 7 drivers on each side of the CKX. The earphones are available in 2 colours: black and silver. Apart from some subtle styling on the faceplates, CKX has a pretty simple design but it’s one that oozes class.
The finish looks and feels great and is created via hand-grinding, polishing and sand-blasting processes. There are 2 vents on the inner side of the shells, one near the top and the other near the base of the nozzle.
The nozzles have a good lip on them and hold eartips firmly in place. They’ve also got a protective metal grill to keep out any earwax. Once again, we see Type-C 2-pin connectors which I’ll admit I’m becoming quite fond of.
When it comes to comfort, CKX is really good. The shells are small and smooth all over with rounded edges. You’ll barely notice they’re there at all. Noise isolation is slightly above average too, despite the 2 vents. Overall, the CKX has excellent build quality and a striking design.
The included cable is a 4-core braided Silver Plated Copper (SPC) one identical to the current KZ cables. It has shrouded Type-C 2-pin connectors with transparent plastic housings. The Y-split is made from a softer cloudy plastic as is the right-angled 3.5mm termination.
Although the cable doesn’t suffer from microphonics, it gets tangled very easily because of the low position of the Y-split and the thinness of the top part combined with the ear hooks.
The CCA CKX has a buttery smooth presentation with a boosted bass and relaxed treble. CKX has a warm tone with fairly neutral mids and laid-back treble. It’s a cruisy kind of sound that you can listen to for hours at a time without feeling fatigue.
The bass lays the foundation for CKX’s warm presentation with its bass. It’s a boosted bass though not quite basshead level. As a result of its linearity from sub to upper bass CKX’s low end is full-bodied and meaty. Speaking of the sub-bass, CKX can get a solid rumble going.
Leading edges are slightly blunted, a consequence of the softened treble. This not only gives bass notes a thicker sound but increases their impact as well. The benefit of this tuning is a bass that doesn’t detract attention from the mids too much but at the same time, it lacks some definition.
CKX’s midrange is clear but slightly romanticised. With the underlying warmth of the bass and the subdued treble, the midrange flows like a warm current of melted chocolate. Resolution and instrument separation is quite good but detail retrieval is somewhat mediocre.
Male vocals are a little smoothed over and blend in a bit with the upper bass. Female vocals are also somewhat sultry with the upside of never sounding shrill.
The treble is fairly relaxed and has an inoffensive character. There is a lift in the uppermost treble so there’s actually a sense of airiness there but no real sparkle. It’s a softened, warmish treble that would be perfect for treble-sensitive listeners. You could listen to the CKX all day long without feeling fatigue from the highs.
The soundstage has average dimensions and slightly more depth than width. Good instrument separation keeps the stage from feeling cluttered but it is still a fairly intimate space. Imaging is decent and about average for something in this price range.
CCA CA16 ($59)
The CCA CA16 is an 8-driver hybrid IEM (1DD+7BA). It has plastic shells compared to the CKX’s metal shells. Both of these IEMs share a similar sound signature but there are a couple of key differences. First of all, the CA16 has more sub-bass roll off which subsequently gives it a mid-bass hump, compared to the more linear CKX sub to mid-bass transition.
This affects a couple of areas. First of all, the CA16 sub-bass doesn’t have the same level of impact and authority as the CKX. At the same time, it makes midrange notes slightly leaner and more upfront during bass-heavy music. CA16 puts more emphasis on the lower treble compared to CKX which lifts the upper midrange and presence region more.
CA16 has more lower treble energy which adds definition to kick drums and cleaner transients in general. The CKX, in comparison, has more upper treble presence which gives it airiness but without as much energy.
CA16 has a larger soundstage and better overall resolution while CKX has more deep bass rumble and an even smoother top end. Both have great shells, comfort and build. One thing in particular I dislike about CA16 is its narrow nozzle which make tip rolling more of a challenge.
Kinera BD005 Pro ($49)
The Kinera BD005 Pro only has a dual-driver config (1DD+1BA) but has a similar sound signature to the CKX. Both are smooth with an elevated bass and softened treble. The Kinera has acrylic shells compared to the CKX’s metal housings.
Both of these IEMs have a very similar frequency response all the way throughout the sub-bass to the upper midrange. BD005 Pro has less upper midrange boost which doesn’t lift vocals as much as CKX. But the Kinera has more lower treble energy which adds definition to percussion and some extra bite to things like electric guitars etc.
The BD005 Pro has less upper treble presence so it doesn’t sound as airy as CKX but it’s lower treble is more forward and lively in comparison. These are both great IEMs that have a similar sound. The biggest differences are in build materials (plastic vs metal) and price (the Kinera costs approx. $20 less).
I have been a fan of CCA since their early days and the CKX only reinforces my appreciation. The CCA CKX has a gorgeous build, is very comfortable and has a signature buttery smooth CCA type of presentation. If you’re looking for something that is forward, energetic and bright then this isn’t the IEM for you. However, if you want something resolving that you can listen to for hours at a time without experiencing treble fatigue, the CCA CKX is a perfect candidate.