CCA CA16

General Information

New multi driver hybrid by KZ's sister company, CCA.
Not to be mistaken for the CCA C16, and earlier model which is purely a multi BA setup.

Specifications:
Driver type: 1 Dynamic Driver (7mm) + 7 Balanced Armatures
Impedance: 24Ω
Earphone sensitivity: 102dB/mW
Frequency range: 20 - 40000Hz
Cable Type: 2 pin 0.75mm

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Latest reviews

Pros: Powerful and clean bass with good resolution
Open and transparent mids with excellent layering and separation
Smooth treble with good extension and detail
Large soundstage
Very light and comfortable
Cons: Same old KZ/CCA cable: tangly.
Underwhelming accessories and packaging
Build quality not commensurate with a premium model
Introduction

The CA16 is the latest model from KZ’s sister company CCA (Clear Concept Audio) and is their first product for about 9 months. It is a hybrid design featuring eight drivers per side (1DD + 7BA). The dynamic driver is a new design with a 7mm diaphragm and dual Neodymium magnet and covers the bass region. The midrange is handled by two sets of the new dual BA type 50024 (four BAs in total). Whether these are the same as the DWEK units in the previous C12 model is not clear, though published illustrations of the two units are very similar. Three 30095 BAs are used for the treble frequencies in a configuration previously seen in two other recent multi-driver hybrids, TRN's VX (1DD + 6BA) and the CVJ CSN (1DD + 5BA) but was actually first used in the all-BA TRN BA5. There are no BA drivers placed within the nozzle as in previous designs.

Description

The earphones come in a sturdy white box with a linen finish, somewhat more substantial than the traditional CCA/KZ packaging we are used to. Opening the box the earphones are presented in a cardboard cut-out below a small envelope containing the documentation. Below this is another small box in which there are the spare eartips and the 2-pin cable. There are some specifications printed on the back. At this price this was a little disappointing, considering that the CVJ CSA at $17 comes in a wooden box and includes a better cable and a carrying pouch.

The earpieces are formed from a glossy black plastic material and bear a prominent CCA logo. They are light in weight and do seem a little cheaply made compared to those of the C12 and C16 which feature metal faceplates. Considering that the CA16 is their flagship model, I would have expected a more substantial construction. The nozzle is gold-coloured with a silver mesh and there is a small pinhole vent at the base and another similar vent in the centre of the rear of the earpiece. The words "16 hybrid technology" are written on the side along with discreet channel identification. The shape is quite complex, resembling KZ's ZS4, and they are a little bulky but surprisingly comfortable to wear, not protruding very much from the ears. The supplied eartips are made of a white translucent silicone and have a fairly wide bore and parallel sides. The medium size is pre-fitted to the earpieces and I also found these very comfortable.

The supplied cable is the usual 4-core braided type seen on various CCA and KZ models. There is a long run from the chunky Y-split to the QDC connectors and no chin slider and it tangles very easily. It is terminated in a right angle 3.5mm plug. The ear guides are quite tightly curved but fit snugly round the ear.

The earphones were auditioned using a variety of sources, across a wide selection of musical genres, primarily my Xduoo X20 but also a Sony NWZ-A15, a Huawei smartphone and a CD player. The supplied cable and tips were used and a burn-in period of 100 hours was carried out. The CA16 proved slightly power-hungry, with my Huawei smartphone needing to be at 100% volume for an acceptable level and my Xduoo X20 DAP volume at around 50% compared to an average of 33%. The C16 scales well and benefits from using an improved cable (preferably balanced) which brought out extra detail and improved the staging as well as providing an enhanced volume level. Adding amplification (I used a Fiio A5) tightened the bass and improved impact and transient attack.

First Impressions

Initial impressions were very positive. It was clear that with the CA16, CCA had a more neutral or "audiophile" tuning in mind. Bass was firm, well-extended and possessed good resolution and texture. Midrange was free from bass bleed, open, expressive and clear and not noticeably recessed. Treble was sweet with good detail and extension, sounding airy and clean. The soundstage was expansive with precise imaging.

Bass

The new 7mm bass driver delivered an excellent performance with depth, resolution and texture all first class. The emphasis was well-judged, being set somewhere between the sub- and mid-bass and delivered both sub-bass rumble and mid-bass punch in equal measure. The integration with the other drivers was seamless.

In Richard Burmer's "A story from the Rain" the powerful drum strikes following the calm introduction hit hard with an impressive attack and decay while the percussive and woodwind elements remained clearly audible. The agility, speed and clarity in the fast paced sub-bass riff in "Siren's Song" from Mark Dwane's "Archives 2" was astounding with each note possessing depth and slam and being precisely defined while supporting wordless female vocals and incisive rhythmic elements. Everything was presented in perfect balance. A wonderful performance.

The beautiful recording of Symphony No. 3 by Saint-Saens with the CBSO conducted by Louis Fremaux and Christopher Robinson at the keyboard was another good example. In the second movement the organ returns to accompany the main melody after the bridge. At the 6:40 mark the organ is at its deepest with the 32’ pedal notes firm and powerful, superbly reproduced with depth, weight and wonderful timbre and forming a perfect foundation for the smooth string accompaniment.

David Essex's "Rock On" features double-tracked bass guitar and drums in a complex production by Jeff Wayne. Drums had good impact and speed whilst the bass guitar displayed impressive "growl" and texture even on the lowest notes.

Midrange

Openness and transparency were the keywords here with layering, imaging and separation clear and precise. The timbre was very natural. Andy Dragazis's "Figure Ground" from his album "Afterimages" presents solo cello against imaginative electronic and acoustic backgrounds. The timbre of the solo instrument was very natural with the accompaniment clear and delicately detailed and the choral effects at the conclusion soaring above the instrumentation to great effect.

Benny Andersson's "Piano" is an album of solo piano pieces. "En skrift I snoen" has a lovely plaintive melody and the CA16's natural timbre portrayed Benny Andersson's Fazioli instrument accurately and with great musicality, depicting the subtle harmonics which defined the character of the instrument through attack, decay, sustain and release. The atmosphere and ambience of Linn Fajal's superb recording was captured perfectly.

Lee Holdridge's "Elegy for Harp and Strings", performed by the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra proceeded serenely on its way with the solo cello and harp clearly defined and presenting the lovely melody with sensitivity and feeling. The string counterpoint in an ascending and descending major scale was very effectively portrayed.

Treble

The treble was clean, extended and detailed. Slightly brighter than neutral but not tending to harshness or sibilance, it remained smooth and open. The decision not to place drivers in the nozzle has certainly paid off.

Sarah Chang's performance of Vaughan Williams's "The Lark Ascending" with the LPO under Bernard Haitink displayed this admirably, with the solo instrument clearly positioned in the stereo image with its timbre realistically depicted and every detail of the bowing authentically realised. The balance between the violin and orchestra was perfect.

Isao Tomita's "Electronic Realisation" of Grieg's "Solveig's Song" from his "Kosmos" album was exciting and powerful with the minor key swirling string figurations supporting the central melody to great effect and imparting an unsettling sense of foreboding. The dynamic range in this piece was thrilling, swelling to an impressive climax.

Supertramp's "Know who you Are" features acoustic guitars throughout with instruments placed left and right and the clear and distinctive vocals of Roger Hodgson in the centre. Each note of the guitars was well defined with the plectrum sounds easy to discern, even during the conclusion with a full string orchestral accompaniment. Once again the balance was perfectly judged.

Soundstage

The CA16's soundstage was impressive with excellent width and height, and the superb transparency of the midrange producing an unusually good depiction of depth. A good example of this was in Mychael Danna's "Sky 10" from his "Skys" album, a collection of electronic pieces inspired by Canadian skyscapes. The various layers of this densely scored synthesiser piece were laid bare and their layering and positioning within the image was very apparent. During the climaxes all the disparate elements retained focus.

The introduction to "Become Ocean" by John Luther Adams, performed by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, features a deep sub-bass drone accompanied by delicate arpeggiated figuring and higher frequency drones forming a choral effect. It was redolent of rising from the depths, and the expansive nature of the soundstaging filled my head with sound.

Pink Floyd's "High Hopes" from "The Division Bell" begins with piano chords, tolling bells and nature sounds filling every available space in the image and the CA16 rose to the occasion admirably with all the various sounds occupying their allotted places and producing the intended spacious effect. David Gilmour's vocals stood out clearly from the background with the reverb on his vocal track very well-rendered.

Conclusion

With the CA16, CCA have delivered a well-balanced IEM with audiophile pretensions and fine musicality. It avoids the bright upper mid/lower treble emphasis of the C12, instead exhibiting a smooth transition between the drivers. The CA16 reminds us what this hobby is all about: the music. There is very little to criticise here and the choice between other competing models in the same price range will largely be a matter of personal preference. The KZ ZSX has a warm/neutral presentation with powerful bass and more reserved upper frequencies, but loses out to the CA16 in terms of detail and resolution. CVJ's CSN has a similar sound profile but is more neutral and is cooler in tonality, has superior build quality and a better cable. The TRN VX also has a quality alloy construction and is, according to recent reviews, more V-shaped with a bright treble, majoring on detail (I have one on the way!). The CA16 treads a middle path between these extremes, with an accurate timbre, a slightly warm tonality, excellent detail retrieval and expansive staging. It is without doubt, sonically, the best CCA design to date and is highly recommended.

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Last edited:
Thx1326
Thx1326
You were pretty much spot on with my assessment of the CA16. Although I must say that while I appreciate your choice of music, I chose to listen to music more on the high energy rock genre and also focused on instrumentals and vocals. This IEM really does seem to meet the needs of the classical lovers, the so called audiophiles as well as us rockers. It portrays an accurate and most importantly a very musical and listenable (with no fatigue) rendition of whatever you feed it. Like you said, hard to find a real fault with this unit other than the cable.

BTW... I'm kind of glad they went without the metal faceplate. The plastic and/or resin is well suited for these IEM's and I don't really need my kids reminding that I look like I have Borg implants when I wear them.

Thanks for the review.... Enjoy the music!
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Nimweth
Nimweth
Thank you for your comments. Enjoying the music is what it's all about!
harry501501
harry501501
Great review as always Nimweth. I think once I've had the bqeyz kb100 for a while i'll be buying the ca16 next.
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Comments

@xxAMAROKxx CCA is just a subsidiary of KZ, but this is KZ/CCA's first wired release in like almost 6 months. They were digging down the TWS rabbithole prior to this with admittedly mixed reviews. Reviews on the CCA CA16 should be coming out soon by the others, so just wait a few weeks or so to decide.
 
I'm probably paranoid, but dual dynamic driver means phase alignment issues almost every time. Waiting for reviews.
 
It is a single dynamic driver with dual magnet and not dual driver. There should be no phase problems
 
The ca16 a bit hard to drive unit, I'm comparing the result from driving with Samsung note 9 direct stock wire vs the KZ HD BT module, the bt module win hands down. With phone wire connection the ca16 sound too soft although set to 100% volume also the sound outcome not showing any significant sweet and beauty within. But with the bt module it sound great with 67%-80% volume and if you really want to feel the groovy of the subbass and bass just set to 100% volume and it's rock!

Then regarding the ear fitting it's more comfortable compare with cca c10 that's all I have to compare, the ca16 also extreme light in weight. So far this would be my most preferred iem all time.

Sound quality:
Bass - superb
Mid - human voice seem loud enough for me
High - confirmed no over discomfort sizzling sound
Clarity - nice and perfect
 
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