CCA is a Chinese IEM manufacturer with a history of good and affordable earphones. In this review, I’m looking at the new CCA NRA, priced at $23. The NRA is a dual-driver hybrid earphone with 1x dynamic driver and 1x electret electrostatic driver.
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.
- Clarity and detail retrieval
- Tonal balance
- Rich vocals and forward midrange
- Slightly uneven treble
- Impedance: 25Ω±10%
- Earphone sensitivity: 103db±3db
- Frequency response range:20Hz-40KHz
- Plug Type: 3.5mm straight
- Cable Length: 1.2m
- Earphone connector: 2pin connector
- Driver unit: 1 Electrostatic drive units+ 1 3*Magnetic Dynamic unit
Packaging & Accessories
CCA has stuck with its standard packaging for the NRA i.e. a plain white box with minimal accessories. Inside the box, you just get the IEMs, a detachable cable and 3 pairs of silicone eartips. I think they really ought to at least add a wider variety of eartips as even the largest ones are more like everyone else’s medium size. It’s only going to hurt them later on if people are buying the IEMs but can’t get a decent seal.
The CCA NRA has a transparent acrylic shell with an aluminium faceplate. The faceplate has a smooth matte finish and a CCA logo etched into it. A single vent is found in a more uncommon position at the bottom point of the faceplate.
For some reason, the nozzle diameter is smaller than average. I don’t know if there’s a technical reason for having a narrower nozzle but it’s a little frustrating because many of my go-to eartips fit loosely on them. There is, however, a solid lip on the nozzle and the obligatory mesh cover.
Internally, the NRA boasts a 10mm 3-magnet dynamic driver and a 6.8mm electret electrostatic driver. This is quite an unusual configuration and as far as I know, it’s the first-ever sub $100 IEM with an electret driver.
Comfort-wise, the NRA is good and similar to several IEM from CCA and KZ with the same type of shell. I can wear these in my ears all day long without needing a break or even readjusting them. Noise isolation is about average, making them suitable for most normal everyday environments.
The included cable has been switched up from the old tangle monster we’re used to seeing. This one has a smooth transparent sheath and it handles much better. The components are all plastic but the cable feels strong and is comfortable to use, although the pre-formed ear guides are too stiff for my preference.
Gear used for testing includes:
- TOPPING D10 Balanced -> Burson Funk
- Shanling M5s
- iPhone -> HIBY FC3
It’s pretty exciting to think that we’re now seeing an electret driver in a budget earphone. And in terms of audio performance: Spoiler alert – it sounds really nice. NRA has a balanced but dynamic sound signature, characterized by its forward midrange and detail retrieval. The level of clarity is excellent, the bass is punchy and this IEM sounds way better than I could have expected for something under $25.
It’s easy to drive too: with its 25Ω impedance and 103dB sensitivity, you can easily power this IEM straight from a smartphone, dongle DAC or DAP.
NRA has a healthy bass boost with a nice punchy mid-bass. Attack and decay speeds strike a good balance between weight and control and there isn’t any bloat or looseness. The sub-bass has slightly less emphasis but still produces a solid visceral rumble.
The bass is full-bodied but never overpowering and is balanced well with the midrange and treble. It’s not boosted to basshead levels but it has enough emphasis to please bass lovers in general and is suitable for all music genres. In Kaya Project’s “Zheng ’21-Hibernation’s Glitch Jazz Remix” the double bass has a nice body resonance without lingering too long and the kick drum has a satisfying impact.
The NRA’s midrange really took me by surprise when I first started listening. It’s a relatively forward midrange which is a little unusual for a budget IEM: at least in the sense of being forward and good at the same time. When you get a budget earphone with solid bass and treble like this has, the mids are usually either recessed or forward but veiled. NRA doesn’t fall into either of those categories.
NRA’s mids are lush and smooth yet clear and detailed. This is largely aided by fast transients and good instrument separation which aids in overall resolution. Vocals sound rich but also have excellent clarity and note weight. There’s enough warmth to sound natural without any overt colouration or thickness. Listening to Lion Shepherd’s “Lights Out” with the NRA, I like the weight of the male vocals and the way they are separated from the bass. The acoustic guitar could use a little less body and more strings but I’m not going to be pedantic over a $23 earphone.
The treble on the NRA is, for the most part, excellent. It’s relatively smooth and produces a high level of detail retrieval. It’s crisp, energetic and has good extension. Not only that but the treble extension is good and decay speed seems pretty spot-on as well.
The only real criticism I have with the NRA treble is that it’s a bit uneven. So, while the timbre and overall quality are good, it does have a fairly pronounced 8kHz peak that occasionally rears its ugly head. One example is Sza’s “Love Galore”, where the hi-hat sounds quite jarring and distracting. But this only happens on certain tracks and doesn’t pose any real problems.
The soundstage dimensions and in particular the stage width are above average for a budget IEM. That’s especially true for one that’s slightly on the warmer side of neutral in tonality like the NRA. The well-defined treble, clarity and instrument separation all play a part in making the NRA’s soundstage stand out compared to its peers. Instrument positions are easy to identify and there’s good layering throughout.
KZ DQ6 ($27)
The KZ DQ6 is a triple-driver IEM with 3x dynamic drivers per side. Both have very similar shells which isn’t unusual considering they’re both made in the same factory. The DQ6 and NRA have a similar tonality but the DQ6 has more sub-bass quantity and slightly thinner lower midrange.
DQ6 has more sub-bass authority but isn’t quite as punchy in the mid-bass. DQ6 bass decay is slightly faster but at the same time, has less body and mid-bass impact. It’s (DQ6) a little bit leaner in the midrange but like the NRA has forward vocals and good overall tonal balance.
The treble on the DQ6 is pretty close to the NRA too. It’s clear, crisp and has a good tone but also has a couple of peaks that distract from time to time. The DQ6 instrument separation and layering are not quite as strong and the soundstage is a bit narrower compared to the NRA.
KBEAR KS2 ($24)
The KBEAR KS2 is a dual-driver IEM with 1x dynamic driver and 1x balanced armature. It is more V-shaped than the NRA with emphasis on the bass and treble with a recessed midrange. KS2 has significantly more sub-bass, almost basshead level, in fact. The KS2’s beefier bass is counterbalanced by a more recessed midrange so mids and vocal lovers are likely to prefer the NRA’s more upfront midrange.
KS2 has a similar 8kHz treble peak that is sometimes a little jarring but provides similarly good detail. However, the NRA’s superior instrument separation, resolution and tonal balance put it out ahead in overall audio quality (unless you’re a basshead).
The CCA NRA marks a new era for budget Chi-Fi IEMs. From this point on, we can expect to see electret electromagnetic drivers appearing in more budget models simply because the NRA proves it’s a totally viable proposition.
The fit and build are good and the new cable type is a welcome change too. But it’s the quality of the sound that really makes the NRA an exciting earphone. It might not tick every box on some audio snobs’ checklist. But for $23 this is an absolute beast and highly recommended.