In this article, I’m reviewing the new CCA CRA IEM. The CRA is an ultra-budget earphone equipped with a single dynamic driver. It retails for $14. This one is making waves already. Let’s find out why.
Disclaimer: This sample was provided by CCA for the purpose of an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own based on my experience with the product.
FrequencyResponse Range: 20 – 40000Hz
Packaging and Accessories
CRA’s package is the standard CCA small, plain white box. Inside is the usual bundle too:
Detachable 2-pin SPC cable
3x pairs of silicone eartips
With its mix of polished aluminium and resin aesthetic, the CCA CRA looks pretty sweet for a budget IEM. The main body of the shells is transparent resin, giving you a clear view of the single 10mm composite polymer dynamic driver within.
As usual for current CCA IEMs, we find a hooded Type-B 2-pin connector socket. Sadly, CCA and KZ are continuing to use narrow diameter nozzles which aren’t as widely compatible with standard third-party eartips.
The included cable is the new flat silver-plated copper one we saw on the KZ EDC albeit this time it’s detachable and therefore easy to replace or upgrade. For an ultra-budget IEM, the cable is okay, even if it is a bit stiff. It’s an improvement over the old tangle-prone braided cables CCA was using for so long.
The CRA has a natural, clear and balanced sound signature. It’s not the kind of sound that I’d expect from an ultra-budget IEM; it’s dynamic, detailed has a pleasing tonal balance and decent technicalities to boot. A touch of warmth spiced with clarity gives the CRA its distinctive character.
It’s easy to drive too: plug it straight into a phone or dongle DAC and you’re good to go. But as always, a better quality source and Hi-Res music files will yield better results.
The bass is tight, punchy and doesn’t bleed into the midrange. Sub-bass notes have good extension and deliver a visceral but tidy rumble. A proper fit and seal is vital to get the best bass response from the CRA so if you feel there’s something missing in the lows, try some different eartips and cables if you have any available.
CRA’s midrange has good clarity, articulate vocals and a natural tone. It’s slightly on the warmer side of neutral – just enough to sound natural without colouration. Male and female vocals sound clear and detailed with neither getting preference over the other. Voices sound detailed, accurate and have good density that creates a stable centre image.
Treble notes are slightly rounded and smooth but crisp. Detail retrieval is above average but CRA achieves this without overt brightness or exaggerated peaks. Hi-hats and cymbals have a nice sheen and natural decay. Overall, the treble sounds spacious and airy with no signs of sibilance.
Soundstage and Technicalities
The soundstage is average in dimensions and has roughly equal amounts of width and depth. There isn’t a lot of height on the stage but it doesn’t feel cramped in the least. Having said that, the CCA CRA is no slouch here and it does particularly well with instrument separation and resolution. Imaging is a little vague but you’ll barely notice while enjoying the tonal balance and timbre of this budget gem.
The BLON BL03 has long been regarded as one of the top IEMs in its price range. It doesn’t differ too much from the CRA in terms of its frequency response (they both adhere fairly closely to the Harman target response).
BL03 falls off more in the sub-bass but is slightly fuller in the mid-bass and lower midrange. BL03 has some added texture in its bass but is fairly similar overall. The upper mids are a tad more lifted on the BL03 which in conjunction with less upper treble brings vocals a bit more forward compared to the CRA.
The added emphasis on the upper mids and less treble energy results in the BL03’s smaller and narrower soundstage. In addition, the CRA has superior instrument separation and overall resolution. Both are fantastic budget IEMs but the BL03 is known to be more finicky in terms of fit, potentially making the CRA a safer option.
There’s no doubt that the CCA CRA is a game-changer. This will be the new benchmark for sub $20 IEMs going forward and it also gives more expensive earphones a run for their money. At such a low price, it’s hard to find fault with this little banger. The CRA comes highly favoured, easily earning a place on my best IEMs list and our recommended award.