CCA CRA Review | Change the Game

CCA CRA review featured
CCA CRA Review | Change the Game
Verdict
The CCA CRA is the new king of ultra-budget IEMs. Balanced, dynamic and clear sound at a fantastic price.
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Pros
Tonal balance
Clarity
Detail retrieval
Tight bass
Detachable cable
Cons
Not for bassheads
4.8
Our Score
WHERE TO BUY

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.

CCA CRA

Specifications
  • Resistance: 32Ω
  • Sensitivity: 123dBdB
  • Frequency Response Range: 20 – 40000Hz
  • Price: $14

Packaging and Accessories

unboxing the CRA

CRA’s package is the standard CCA small, plain white box. Inside is the usual bundle too:

  • CCA Earphones
  • Detachable 2-pin SPC cable
  • 3x pairs of silicone eartips

Design

CRA shells

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.

Sound

Gear used for testing includes Cozoy TAKT C, Shanling M5s, Topping DX7 Pro.

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.

CCA CRA frequency response graph
CCA CRA frequency response.
Bass

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.

Midrange

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

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.

Comparisons

BLON BL03
CRA vs BL03
CCA CRA (red) vs BLON BL03 (grey).

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.

CCA CRA front and back

Verdict

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.

Recommended award


Founder of Prime Audio
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NewAudioPlayer
NewAudioPlayer
4 months ago

Can you draw some comparisons between CCA CRA and Moondrop Chu?

Phantomsmasher
Phantomsmasher
4 months ago

I got these after reading this review and… treble sucks so bad that there’s no way to redeem themselves after that. Sibilant, harsh, grainy, unnatural, it’s like something has gone seriously wrong with tuning them. Problems seem to start from 2K actually and the more peaky response becomes with rising frequencies, the more awful the result. Any recording that’s got a lot of air around 10K sounds downright painful. Any case of a hi hat being hit open comes across as an assault. And then the “extended” treble suddenly becomes non-existent. It’s not bad compared to 100-euro headsets, it’s so problematic it’s not even worth the 15 euros I paid for. I’d be ashamed to give them away in this state. I don’t know what you were on when you wrote of high frequencies “without overt brightness or exaggerated peaks” but I’d sure like some of it.

Phantomsmasher
Phantomsmasher
4 months ago
Reply to  David Becker

Seal is alright, since bass is as audible as expected by the frequency response shown on the graph. It is indeed deep and without bloated low-mids to give the impression of bass presence, as many manufacturers do and end up spoiling the midrange in the process. Actually after listening to these and thinking I can’t possibly be the only one experiencing this treble issue, I looked for testimonials and ended at head-fi dot org. Unsurprisingly, almost everybody mentions this, talking about sibilant treble, unnatural, plasticky cymbals etc. At this price range I expect a frequency response that is far from neutral and having to eq the result to get closer to that is not something I mind. But this is unfixable. Any cymbal that leaves a large tail and has considerable presence around 10K makes a fluctuating, distorted sound. You can’t eq this out. The best I can describe this is it sounds as if you’re listening to ultra-low bitrate MP3s marred by compression artifacts. In any case, you’re talking about “stunning tonal balance and clarity”. I didn’t expect miracles but come on, I have had 15-20 dollar earbuds that sounded utterly mediocre in every aspect, never with such a catastrophic problem. Otherwise I would have had the same reaction towards anybody raving about them.

Last edited 4 months ago by Phantomsmasher
ORLANDO GORDON
ORLANDO GORDON
6 months ago

This vs ccz coffee beans for punchy bass

Ramon
Ramon
9 months ago

what do you recommend for fps gaming like PUBG that need soundstage and imaging? (budget) … sorry for inglish

Zan
Zan
9 months ago

How does it compare to KZ DQ6 ? is this better for basshead like me ?

Manickavasagam
Manickavasagam
9 months ago

Blon 03 ,cca cra, tripowin lea which is best for soundstage, which I select

Eric
Eric
10 months ago

How does it compare to Kbear KS2?

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