Current testing methodology is v1.2
December 15, 2021
3.7 x 2.87 x 1.3 in
Oh, no. It’s another budget IEM that I’m having difficulty critiquing as they have impressed me unexpectedly. Thanks to KZ for sending me these to listen to.
To be honest, I’ve been trying for a long time to get a pair of budget IEMs that I could criticize and give a poor review. For the last few that I’ve received, however, they have been quite outstanding for the price, the KZ ZEX being an example.
Now, with the CCA CRA+, I find myself again, quite impressed with what CCA has been able to achieve at an under $25 set of budget IEMs. But let me not wax lyrical too soon, let’s take a walk through all of the features and dive a little deeper into where these in-ear monitors shine.
CCA CRA+ in-Ear Monitor
A dynamic driver that provides a unique sound signature and smooth bass
The CCA CRA+ continue to show that the Chinese budget audio scene is alive and well. For less than $25 these things punch above their weight.
I tried to not like them but in the end they impressed me with the deep warm bass and impressive soundstage. They’re not great for all genres though.
- Connectivity Technology: Wired
- Fit Type: In-Ear
- Audio Sensitivity: 105 dB
- Special Feature: Microphone, Lightweight
- Headphones Jack: 3.5mm Jack
What’s in the Box?
- CCA CRA in-Ear Monitor Earphone
- Set of small and large ear tips
Stuff I like
- Great cable quality for the price
- Excellent overall sound quality
- Buttery smooth bass
- Decent soundstage
Stuff I like less
- Overwhelming bass with heavier beat tracks over longer listening
- Vocals can sound a little compressed at times
- Treble isn’t particularly sharp
My first impressions of the hardware were a little subpar. The machining is excellent. The quality of the twinned OFC cable was certainly a surprise at this price point, but each in-ear monitor bud had certain transparency that made me feel like these were going to be budget for sure.
I didn’t expect a lot from them.
When you’re used to seeing a lot of balanced armature drivers crammed into a shell casing, when you get a dynamic driver that is only a dynamic driver, it can sometimes look a little underwhelming.
When I first tried them on and tried to seat them, I had a little difficulty with the left ear. These come with three sets of tips, small, medium, and large, and the ones that they usually come fitted with are the medium.
I tried these, but for some reason, they were a little bit smaller than I’m used to with budget IEMs medium-size silicone tips. Perhaps it was cold and my ears were smaller?
So overall, first impressions from the build and fit weren’t exactly overwhelming. However, that’s where all my negativity stopped on the first impressions.
As soon as I put them in and pressed play, I was pleasantly surprised at what was coming through. These are a 10-millimeter drivers, which CCA boasts to have an ultra-thin diaphragm.
This certainly seems to give the in-ear monitors, the ability to move air quite effortlessly, creating an impressive soundstage and good bottom end. They’re a 34-ohm resistance in-ear monitor, which is perfectly fine for any portable digital audio player, iPhone, or smartphone that you want to use with them.
The boosted frequency range is 20 hertz to 40 hertz with a sensitivity of 105dB. They have a 2-pin cable, which is gold tip and OFC. It’s a typical 0.75-millimeter, 2-pin OFC cable.
Well, my initial impressions of these were average, the build quality is in fact as good as any that CCA put out. It’s incredibly well-machined and the cable quality is really impressive for this price point.
As you’ll see from the photos, I have the gold pair. And on closer inspection of all the corners and all the points, and all of the angles on the in-ear monitor, it really is well put together and nicely molded.
The gold to me feels a little bit over the top for my style, but some people will certainly love these if you’d like to make even a mild statement highly reflective, so they’ll catch the light nicely.
There are also a couple of small indentations on the outside, which look quite good. It’s a very transparent housing, which allows you to see the driver casing quite clearly.
Overall, the sound quality of these, as I say, is impressive from the word go. Under 25 bucks, you’re getting something that punches way above its price point.
The bass can only be described as buttery smooth, it’s so creamy. That’s the only way I can think to describe it.
You do need to ensure that you have a really good seal with each in-ear monitor bud in your ears. And once this is achieved, there is just so much enjoyment, listening to the bottom end on any tracks you put on.
Pop music sounds fantastic. Drum kits on rock music sound close and authentic. The deep bass on “Move a Mountain” by Dan Lancaster, the drum kit on “The Stages of Grief” by Awaken I Am, and the electronic kit on “Operate” by Vesperteen, all sound really good.
It’s deep, it’s warm, it’s enjoyable, it’s not inflated, it’s not overwhelming, and it’s perfectly balanced.
The only time I did find the bass was a little overwhelming was on tracks that not only had a heavy beat but also had a heavy layer of deep keys sitting under the overall soundstage. An example of this would be “Mansion” by NF and Fleurie.
The mids are not in any way challenged by the bottom end. The sound of vocals, guitar, and anything in the midrange stands out sufficiently on its own but doesn’t sit either too forward or too back in the overall soundstage.
One thing that I find budget IEMs sometimes struggle with is that midrange, especially around the kind of frequency that a snare drum will give, but these hold up really well.
And so, if you add the bass and the mids together, already that soundstage is sounding really well-balanced and quite spacious. So, if you’re a bass head that likes bottom end as well as vocals, then these are starting to look good for you.
The treble completes the picture really well. It’s certainly not too sharp or overwhelming. There’s a touch of semblance from time to time, but I don’t mind that myself. It gives a nice top edge to vocals and instrumentation.
Of the total frequency response spectrum, the higher end is definitely there but probably doesn’t sound quite as natural or impressive as the mids and bass. But that isn’t to say that it’s disappointing, it’s just not as natural and enjoyable.
Overall, the full frequency response is really nice to listen to, and I can imagine listening to these for quite long periods without significant fatigue.
The soundstage on these is particularly excellent with tracks that leave space and are mixed for a real left-right experience.
Some music genres like rock or hard rock with a lot of guitars can sometimes sound a little bit too unified, for lack of a better word. It kind of all hits you at once. And it’s not as easy to separate what’s happening where.
As soon as there’s a breakdown, or if you’re listening to pop music that has a great mix to it, or acoustic, or any other tracks where there’s some space in the instrumentation, the soundstage is more than impressive.
Listening to “Lost” by Dermot Kennedy, well, his vocals sound slightly compressed, and the soundstage between him, his harmonies, and the other instrumentation is really enjoyable. “Beautiful People” with Ed Sheeran and Khalid, sounds really good.
Again, the vocals stand clear in their own space, but still, sound slightly compressed.
Overall, there’s a nice separation in the instrumentation. And this is pretty true for everything as I say, except for those tracks like rock music where all the guitars are going full-bore all the time, it can get a little bit mono.
In terms of accessories, there’s really nothing. It’s the in-ear monitors that come fitted with the medium ear tips, and there is a set of small and large ear tips included in the box, plus some instructions and some general warranty information.
I wouldn’t expect anything more at this price and it’s everything that you’re going to need. I wouldn’t be in a hurry to even change out the tube and cable on these, I think it’s more than sufficient.
And probably, no need to add any other intermediary devices when listening to this such as a headphone amp or DAC. I think the sound straight from a smartphone or a digital audio player is probably about as good and as efficient as you need from these, at this price.
Who would these suit?
These would really suit anybody who’s looking for budget in-ear monitors for under 25 bucks.
I wouldn’t have any hesitation in recommending these to anybody in the budget market who only has about that much money to spend. They will be more than satisfied with anything that you wanna throw at them.
And as your ears adjust to them, and as you get used to playing with them, if you wanted to tweak the EQ, you would certainly continue to end up with an outcome that is well above its price range.
In summary, this is a great unit.
The bass is particularly buttery and impressive. Mids are good, but vocals can sound a little compressed at times. And the treble is certainly there and isn’t particularly sharp.
The overall soundstage sits well together, and the soundstage is great at separating out instrumentation and vocals, depending on the tracks that you throw at it. I wouldn’t hurry into these if you are exclusively listening to hardcore hard rock music, but anything else would certainly come out sounding great.
Definitely, one to add to the best budget IEMs list, and definitely one worth getting if your budget matches this price range. Any questions, let me know in the comments below.
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 2023-12-03 / Some images from Amazon Product API & some links may be affiliate links which may earn us a commission from purchases.