You only need one glance at the CCA CXS to see it has a unique design. Crafted from aluminium, the shells have a smooth matte finish that feels every bit as good as it looks. Holding the CXS in my hand, it’s hard to believe you can get this kind of build quality for such a low price.
The shells have 4 vents on the faceplate, giving them a semi-open back feel. But don’t expect an earbuds type of open experience – they still feel mostly like a closed IEM. You’ll also notice the large hole going through the body. I think it looks brilliant but your mileage may vary. Either way, there’s no denying that you’re getting a lot for your money here, at least in physical build and materials.
The CXS is comfortable too. The shells fit naturally to the shape of my ear and I can wear them for hours at a time without any discomfort. Despite the ‘open-back’ shells, the passive noise isolation is comparable to other IEMs with a similar shape.
The included oxygen-free copper (OFC) cable isn’t exactly what I’d call pretty but it handles well and feels sturdy. However, it doesn’t have a chin slider, which is unfortunate.
The CCA CXS IEMs are like a light salad with a tangy dressing. They have a crisp and refreshing sound that doesn’t weigh you down, but they also don’t fill you up with bass. The bass is tight and controlled, but it doesn’t have a great deal of impact. It’s best suited for acoustic music or jazz, but it can also work with hip-hop or rock. It should be satisfying enough for most people but bona fide bassheads should consider alternatives.
The lower midrange is thin and airy, which makes male voices sound less robust. Female voices fare better, as they are clear and expressive, but they can also sound sibilant or harsh at times. The upper midrange has some bite and sparkle, but it can also be edgy on some recordings. One thing you’ll notice is how spacious and open the midrange sounds which is going to appeal to many listeners.
The CXS delivered a clear and balanced sound that highlighted the contrast between the dark timbre of the English horn solo (representing the swan) and the lush harmonies of the orchestra (representing Tuonela) in Jean Sibelius’ “The Swan of Tuonela”. However, I felt that some warmth and depth were missing from the string section, especially in the lower register. The strings could have used more vibrato and bow pressure to create a richer sound that matched the intensity of the composition.
The treble has a reasonably natural tone that doesn’t sound too bright or dull, but some cymbals can sound metallic or splashy. In addition, some instruments like the upper register of pianos have a sharpness to them that can be fatiguing.
The treble has a lot of clarity, but it also lacks some body and warmth. It can make the music sound lively and energetic, but it can also be sizzling on some recordings. For the most part, however, the treble is well-controlled and has good extension.
Soundstage and Technical Performance
The CCA CXS IEMs are good at revealing fine details and resolving subtle nuances in the music. They can separate instruments well for their price range and don’t sound congested, even during complex passages. The sound is snappy and fast, which makes the music lively and energetic. The soundstage is spacious in both directions, and the positioning of sounds is fairly precise. You can tell where the sounds are coming from, but not exactly how far or how close they are.
The CCA CXS offers a crisp and refreshing sound with a spacious and open midrange. It has a tight and controlled bass that works well with acoustic music or jazz but may not satisfy bass lovers or those who prefer a warmer sound.
It has a clear and natural treble that can be lively and energetic, but also a tad sharp on some tracks. It has good detail retrieval and separation, but it also lacks some warmth and depth in the lower register. The CCA CXS IEMs are for those who enjoy a light and airy sound with some bite.