Current testing methodology is v1.2
December 18, 2020
The CCA CKX verdict is in.
There are days I wonder if the teams at KZ and CCA have product delivery targets requiring them to push out multiple driver IEM units under $100 every year.
Personally, I’m up for it. I love listening to new IEMs and it’s always interesting to see what the engineers have done with the new units and how they have played with the tuning.
CCA CKX in-ear Monitor
Another good performer for an affordable price. CCA hasn’t broken the mould with this unit but as a new model, it is a good choice with the excellent build quality and a cable that is (worth) easy to replace.
- Drivers: 3 x 30017 & 3 x 30095 balanced armatures | 1 x 10mm coaxial composite dynamic driver
- Sensitivity: 115dB
- Frequency response: 20Hz – 40 kHz
- Cable: 2 PIN (.75mm) OFC Cable (1.2m length) – Braided
- Plug: 3.5mm gold plated
- Impedance: 22 ohms
- Inline Mic/Controls: 2 cable options (with and without Mic)
What’s in the Box?
- CCA CKX IEMs
- 1 braided 0.75mm 2-pin standard 100-core silver-plated detachable OFC cable
- 4 pairs (total) of white silicone ear tips (S, 2 M, L)
- Instruction and information pamphlet
Stuff I like
- Well made, especially for the price
- Sound good, best suited to audio listening
- Sound isolation is good
Stuff I like less
- Basic accessories, but that’s OK
- Not best for live use
The CCA CKX is probably the closest new competitor to the KZ Zax. Both are hybrid driver IEMs in the IEMs under the $100 price range and both are retailed by Linsoul, Shenzhen Audio, and others. The CCA C12 has made some of our lists before as a great allrounder, but is the CKX better?
So, what is worth commenting on with this new 7-driver hybrid IEM from CCA?
First, let’s get through the tech specs of the CKX:
Sound Signature. How do they sound?
So, already you can see there are 6 x BA drivers focused on different frequency deliveries. The 30095 focus on the high end and the 30017 focus on mids and mid-high frequencies. The dynamic driver aims to fill in the bottom and any remaining lacking mid frequencies.
I feel like perhaps I might have preferred a 1 x 3 x 2 x 1 configuration. Where there was a BA driver helping out with the bass and mid-bass to round it out a little better. Even as a slightly sculpted V shape, I find I want a little more bottom end.
I’d also like to push the mids out a bit more also. There are parts where it feels like there is a compression filter or noise gate just holding the raw sound back a little, holding in some of the frequencies that I’d like to let out. Especially on electric guitar tracks. The vocals stand out well and sound nice but again, a little help back at times.
That all sounded a little negative but it would be easy too easy to just say ‘they sound good’. They do, but if you’re releasing this many IEMs I expect some feedback never goes amiss.
Overall, there is nothing to complain about here. They sound good.
I played some NF, seeing if the bass was really punchy enough and deep enough to make me feel it. Experimented with some Too Close to Touch for guitars. Kodaline for middle-of-the-road stuff in addition to some X-Ambassadors. Dermot Kennedy for some vocals and a little pop background.
Perhaps my adrenaline was a little low but while I really enjoyed listening to the CKX I didn’t get the ‘feels’. As regular readers will know from me, I believe you have to feel the music to make it worth it.
There is a genre that will feel right with these, I just didn’t discover it for me personally. That doesn’t mean you won’t or that these are not a good choice. I think they truly sound great but I really like some more mids. These are clean which a lot of people are really going to like.
They are clean like a movie soundtrack at the movies. Tidy and enjoyable but not ‘ messy and alive’.
The overall soundstage is really nice. The instrumentation separation is good and placement in the listening experience is really quite impressive at this price. I hate to say it but for a moment or two, I could have been led to believe I was listening to an open back set of headphones it was that good at times.
The retail box is fine. It’s a box so who really cares, right? There is no case so that keeps the cost down. I haven’t found any other sets of ear tips either yet, seems odd so I’ll return the box to explore if I missed something.
The build of the earbuds was a real surprise to me, and I’m rarely surprised. The earbuds are small, like…really small for a 6 BA + 1 Dynamic hybrid IEM. If you have small ears you should find these quite refreshing. I have always found the SE215 from Shure a good small ear IEM but these are probably even better.
They are solid, and refined, and feel as weighty and expensive as a set of Sennheiser IE800s IMO.
The cable is…the most ‘affordable’ element of the kit. It’s a little too stiff but the length is perfect for audio listening (not stage work or live monitoring) and the braiding is nice enough.
The main thing about the cable is that it can be replaced with another 2-Pin cable easily enough.
So, the main part of this experience is the earbud/IEM itself and that gets a big tick from me.
These are good enough. I felt like I had to push the tips in a little harder than I wanted to but once they were seated they were fine.
My biggest complaint with these affordable IEMs is that the cable doesn’t come with a tensioner on it. This allows you to run the cable down your back (where it’s meant to go with IEMs) and tighten up the cables going to ear earbud.
This helps secure the earbuds or IEM themselves in your ear and makes for much better comfort.
At times I’ll use a rubber band that I loop over and over and then use that to tighten the cable behind my head/base of my neck.
They are so small it’s weird having an IEM that doesn’t settle into the concha of your ear but, you’ll get used to it.
So – the usual things seem to apply here, as they do to so many sub $100 IEMs from CCA/KZ and anything sold from Linsoul or Shenzhen Audio.
- Are affordable
- Are well made, especially for the price
- Sound good
- Have basic accessories, but that’s OK
- Make for good listening but live use would be a second thought – these are best suited to audio listening first and foremost
- Sound isolation is good
- Are comfortable
My use of the word good is to give anyone who is considering a purchase the confidence that it would not be wasted money. Even if the V tuning and clean presentation aren’t the most exciting, you’ll still enjoy them.
If these are your first foray into the affordable IEM market then you’ll have little to compare to and will still sound better than most other ‘bundled’ earphones you’ve owned.
Questions? Me too. I wonder how to afford an early retirement in Thailand…oh…but if you have questions about the CCA CKX then fire away in the comments below and I’d love to get into it with you.
Endless hours of experimentation, professional work, and personal investment in Home Theatre, Hi-Fi, Smart Home Automation and Headphones have come to this.
Former owner of Headphones Canada, a high-end headphone specialty retailer.
This post was last updated on 2022-12-11 / Some images from Amazon Product API & some links may be affiliate links which may earn us a commission from purchases.