Revisiting The CCA CRA: still worth it halfway through 2022?
Hi all, and welcome back to The Neighborhood! It’s Your Friendly Neighborhood Reviewer with InToit Reviews. I wanted to do a follow up of sorts by taking another look at the CCA-CRA. I’ve been reviewing some pretty impressive sub-$35-dollar IEMs in the form of the HZSound Waist Drum, Astrotec Vesna, and the Moondrop Chu, so I wanted to take a fresh perspective on the CRA, actually get around to make a video about it, and see if it still holds up at $15 dollars in comparison. So, let’s… get InToit!
The build of the CRA is a plastic shelled IEM from CCA. It’s not the bulkiest IEM or the thinnest either, but it fits comfortably in the ear and is extremely light weight due to its plastic design. Inside the shell is a 10mm, single dynamic with an ultra-thin diaphragm. The included tips are a transparent clear silicone and nothing write home about. The connection at the base of the IEM employs a c-pin connector, and the included cable terminates in a right-angled 3.5mm jack and claims to be a silver-plated copper; but is a copper color underneath its straight, unwoven, plastic sheath.
In terms of the sound, is the CRA a giant-killer as some channels have suggested? Well, no, not really, but I do appreciate what CCA has achieved with this set for its $15 dollar price. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it is a fine example of what “budget” can do. Having said that, I want to point out that CRA isn’t exactly going to keep up with newer offerings such as the Moondrop Chu, Astrotec Vesna, or HZSound Waist Drum. Especially with regard to its resolution, and technical ability. But hey, if the price has to be $15 dollars… or less, the CRA is still a viable option. For that price, there’s really isn’t much to complain about.
Nevertheless, in my original, written review of the CRA, I compared it to the CCZ Melody, KBEAR KS1, and the CCA Coffee Bean, and from a technical performance standpoint the CRA is more in line with the performance of those IEMs, even if I might take the CRA between them. I’ll place a link to that write up at www.intoitreviews.com in the description below.
Sound-staging of the CRA is similarly intimate, and image distinctiveness and separation of sonics are fine for the price, but not the best in terms of pure performance. With the CRA, this was particularly apparent on busier tracks, but when the soundscape was not overly complex, it performed just fine. Nevertheless, variable, track-dependent diffuseness in the CRA’s low-end, may have contributed to this blurring of sound on occasion, as sonics tended to blur the more the low-end was engaged on this set. Furthermore, there was some looseness in general to the low-end presentation of the CRA that was unique to the presentation overall; which was relatively tight and well controlled otherwise.
Vocals on the CRA are significantly pushed forward for both male and female vocalists, but never in an aggressive or harsh manner. The midrange takes a decided step back behind the vocals in most situations, but sonics were still clear and present enough under most circumstances. Suggesting somewhat of a u-shaped presentation rather than V-shaped one. In any case, I can see this being a budget offering, which vocal lovers will likely gravitate to. Nevertheless, the CRA isn’t going to surpass the Chu in terms of its vocal performance.
The treble and upper mids of the CRA also has some mild forwardness to it as well, but I didn’t ever find it to be too peaky in any particular spot; and I really enjoyed the extension of the treble here overall. These sound like they extend rather evenly out into the later treble- possessing enough air for enjoyment without ever venturing into the land of artificiality.
Another area where the CRA shines is with its peripheral detailing and clarity in the periphery. Peripherals were consistently vibrant, and pushed somewhat forward like its vocals, giving the music an additional sense of energy during playback. Timbre is also not a problem for the CCA CRA, as instrumentation generally appears accurately reproduced in terms of tonality, transients, and texture. Still, timbre here is slightly warm in the case of the CRA, and significantly less accurate in comparison when one brings the Astrotec Vesna to mind.
So, for $15 to the CCA CRA has very few flaws despite its tiny price. It doesn’t have the largest stage in the world, and its low-end presentation can become somewhat diffuse at times- leading to confusion in the sound profile on occasion; but it is still a well-tuned, mostly tight, and well controlled single-dynamic otherwise. In fact, I’d venture so far as to say that it is still one of the best IEM under $15 dollars right now, but if you spend a few more bucks, you can certainly do better these days, as the CRA does struggle with sonic separation and distinctiveness on occasion, especially on busier tracks. Nevertheless, vocal nuts are sure to flock to this one still for another cheaper beater set. In summation, the CRA, as an entry-level, single dynamic, is a solid technical performer from CCA at a bargain-basement price.
*Thanks to KZ for sending me the CCA CRA for review:
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