Current testing methodology is v1.2
November 8, 2022
3.94 x 1.97 x 1.18 in
I’ve done a lot of reviews on KZ and CCA in-ear monitors (IEM) over the last 12 months. Most of the time, I was pretty impressed with what came across my desk, but there are certainly some that stood out more than the others.
The KZ PR1 got my budget IEM for the 2022 award, while the KZ ZES and KZ ZEX were both pretty impressive. These are a little bit more expensive than the CXS though, which comes in at a very low $20, or $19.99 if you want to count pennies over it.
CCA CXS in-ear monitors
Impressive build quality with decent sound but does the fit ruin it?
The CCA CXS are a really well-made little unit. The build quality is most impressive, and the soundstage is not half bad. The tuning let the mids come through and while the bottom end isn’t full, it is tight.
If it weren’t for the issues I had with fit and sizing these things would’ve scored significantly higher.
If you can get a good fit from the included silicone tips, then for $20, you’re on a winner. And if those don’t work but you can find some third-party tips that do, you’re still on a winner for $20.
- Pin Type: 0.75mm
- Cable Length: 120±5cm
- Plug type: 3.5mm
- Frequency: 20-40000Hz
- Impedance: 16Ω
- Sensitivity: 109dB±3dB
What’s in the Box?
- 1 x CCA CXS Wired IEM
- 1 x High Purity OFC Cable
- 2 x Pair Silicone Eartips
- 1 x User Manual
Stuff I like
- Tight bass and clear mids
- Excellent, build quality
- Amazing price
- Good soundstage and stereo imaging for the price
Stuff I like less
- Getting a good fit
My first impression of the CCA CXS was that it has solid metal housing with an attractive feng shui porthole and a semi-open back grill design. I mean, this thing had some real weight to it, plus a smooth and sleek finish given its really low price point.
For twenty bucks, I was expecting something that looks like printed or injected mold out of semi-resilient plastic, but these things have some real stance to them.
The unboxing experience is the same as pretty much any CCA or KZ that you’ve seen in the last 18 months or so.
It comes in a really tight, small, almost jewelry-sized box that has the IEMs, the cable, and some additional silicone ear tips for sizing, plus a basic manual and warranty card info.
I’ll leave my criticisms, or my main criticism, until the end of this post. So for a change, I’ll get straight into the sound signature and how well these stack up.
The sound stage on the CCA CXS in-ear monitors was better than expected. There’s quite a good stereo imaging between the two and a nice soundscape that the instruments travel across if they’ve been mixed to achieve that effect.
There’s a decent separation in the instrumentation and the overall experience is pretty good.
In fact, I’d say, if I was spending twenty bucks on a pair of budget IEMs, then these would be probably the first in line.
The bass is quite tight and natural, but not particularly big, deep, or soft. These are all good things, in my opinion, but I would’ve liked a little more impact down the lower bottom end.
There’s a reason that the bass for me, overall, didn’t perform though. That is all around the fit, which I’ll mention in a minute.
I think these have it there with the dynamic driver. Still, perhaps the design of the earbud itself limits that deep impact that you might get otherwise.
That’s partly because there isn’t a lot of air movement that occurs within the earbud itself with the O-shape design in it, and also partly because it has a semi-open grill on the back, which lets some of that bottom end fall out.
It’s tighter than I expected, though, and this is a good thing.
The tuning for these, in my opinion, means that the mids stand quite far forward and are very crisp and sharp. The vocals shine through, with guitar frequencies, keyboards, and similar range instruments coming through really strong.
It’s quite bright, not particularly harsh or sibilant, which makes these quite nice to listen to, especially if you want those vocals to be the hero of the overall listening experience.
Running through a few heavy tracks, like “Insubordinate” by Alt, some old rock classics like “Rearviewmirror” from Pearl Jam, in addition to some new Lewis Capaldi, and some Our Last Night and Taylor Swift, everything was pretty well carried by the CCA CXS.
The treble floats just well enough with the mids without it being overly screechy, but I feel like there is a little bit of leakage in those upper frequencies. This means that the treble doesn’t have the depth that you’d normally want.
They’re certainly not difficult to listen to, and they don’t take away from the overall sound signature in general.
They’re definitely there, and these are quite a bright budget in-ear monitor, so if you like a softer tone, then you may be better off hunting down some other units.
Fit and Comfort
Unfortunately, for me, the CCA CXS just could not be seated in my ear, regardless of what tips I used from the manufacturer.
These things are small, and while I would consider myself to have pretty typical, medium-sized ears, I just had difficulty getting any kind of solid seal in these units.
I have an enormous amount of in-ear monitors, both foam and silicone tips, and a lot from KZ and CCA, and all of them fit really well.
But for some reason, I just could not get these to sit in my ear in a way that allows for a good seal to let the bass come through.
Every time I rotated them where I felt like I had a really good seal and the world around me sounded a little bit distant, the bass still didn’t stand up strong.
If it was there, it only lasted for a while, and then the seating on the in-ear monitors seemed to just loosen themselves.
I wasn’t able to enjoy the bottom end for too long.
If you’ve got smaller ears or you want to try these with some foam tips, then I’d say you’ll be rewarded. But for me, I just couldn’t get them there.
In fact, I’ve had these for a few weeks now, and I keep trying them, hoping that they will suddenly surprise me with different sets of tips, but I just can’t make them work.
So, unfortunately, this will be one of my lower reviews for the CCA range. And that’s mostly because out of the box, they just don’t work for me.
I feel like it’s really important to say that the CCA CXS In-Ear Monitors do sound pretty amazing for twenty bucks.
If you can get the fit right by playing with different tips or your ears are just more suited to them, then you’ll be really happy with these IEMs.
Putting them up against the SE215s or any other KZ in-ear monitors under the $50 mark, I think these definitely are worth the price.
Had I been able to maintain the bottom end and a decent sound signature, then the CCA CXS would’ve been a lot better for all of us.
- Build quality, excellent.
- OFC cable, normal, but definitely good enough.
- Sound quality, great.
- Price, excellent.
- Fit, sadly, no.
If you’ve got any questions, just fire them 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 2022-12-11 / Some images from Amazon Product API & some links may be affiliate links which may earn us a commission from purchases.