CCA CRA+ Universal In Ear Monitor

darmanastartes

500+ Head-Fier
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Pros: great technical performance across frequency response, fairly restrained tuning for a KZ IEM
Cons: driver flex, shallow fit, probably too much lower treble, mild timbre issues

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INTRODUCTION AND DISCLAIMER:​

The CCA CRA+ is an in-ear monitor (IEM) which uses a single 10mm dynamic driver per housing. HiFiGo sent me the CRA+ in exchange for my evaluation. The CRA+ retails for $33.

SOURCES:​

I used the CCA CRA+ with the following sources:
  • Qudelix 5K
  • Hidizs S9
  • Apple Dongle
I tested the CRA+ with local lossless audio files and Spotify Premium. Visit my last.fm page to get an idea of what I listen to:
XenosBroodLord’s Library | Last.fm

PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES:​

The CCA CRA+ comes in a small rectangular white box with a white slipcover. The slipcover pictures the CRA+ on the front and provides CCA’s contact information and technical specifications for the CRA+ on the back. Inside the box are the IEMs, a detachable .75mm 2-pin cable, 3 pairs of silicone eartips (S, M, L), and a user manual. The CRA+ does not come with a carry pouch or case.

BUILD QUALITY AND DESIGN:​

The CCA CRA+ has dark translucent acrylic housings with gold metal faceplates. The faceplates are fingerprint magnets. The housings have a pseudo-custom fit. There are two pinprick vents on the inner housing, one directly above the dynamic driver and one in line with the 2-pin connector. The acrylic nozzles have small lips for securing eartips.
The included 2-pin cable is typical of a KZ-type IEM. The cable uses QDC-style extruded connectors. “L” and “R” indicators are faintly embossed on the 2-pin connectors. The cable has chunky rubber hardware at the Y-split and 3.5mm jack, with substantial strain relief above the 3.5mm jack. The cable has pre-formed earguides without memory wire. There is no chin adjustment slider.

COMFORT, FIT, AND ISOLATION:​

The CCA CRA+ is worn cable-up. I found the CRA+ to be comfortable. Insertion depth is shallow and secureness of fit is tip-dependent. I had the most secure fit with Tennmak foam eartips. Most aftermarket silicone eartips I tried, including Moondrop Spring tips and Eartune Fidelity tips, did not feel secure even using the largest-sized eartips I had available. Spinfit CP100+ eartips were an exception. Isolation is above average. The CRA+ had moderate driver flex with most silicone eartips.

MEASUREMENTS:​

You can find measurements of the CCA CRA+ on my expanding squig.link database:
CCA CRA+ — Squiglink by Bedrock Reviews

SOUND:​

The CCA CRA+ has a V-shaped tuning.
The CRA+ has a fun and impactful level of bass. Sub-bass extension is excellent. Bass texture, articulation, and resolution are all great for the price point. There is more mid-bass than I prefer, but the CRA+ largely avoids mid-bass bleed.
The CRA+ has ample lower midrange body. Vocal intelligibility is very good for both male and female vocals. Male and female vocals are roughly equal in their emphasis, but female vocals have a hint of extra energy. The level of presence is appropriate given the overall upper midrange contour. Midrange clarity is adequate for the price point. There is a hint of plasticity and a moderate amount of compression to percussion.
There is a bit of extra sizzle in the lower treble, even with foam eartips. Still, the heightened treble emphasis is complementary to the engaging bass region. Detail retrieval is much better than I would expect from a $30 IEM, and trades blows with $80 IEMs like the Moondrop Aria and Dunu Titan S. Upper treble extension is stellar for an IEM of this price, and treble transient delivery is very crisp. Soundstage size is average, as are instrument separation and imaging.

SOURCE PAIRING:​

The CCA CRA+can be comfortably driven with nearly any dedicated source, including the Apple dongle. I did not notice hiss with any of my sources.

CLOSING WORDS:​

While I prefer the tuning of the Moondrop Chu in most areas, the CCA CRA+ offers tangible improvements to bass and treble technicalities for a modest price increase. The CRA+ is perhaps the best IEM to emerge from under the KZ umbrella and is one of the best IEMs at this price point from any manufacturer.
The CCA CRA+ can be purchased here:
CCA CRA+ Sports Game HiFi Noice Cancelling Metal In-ear Earphones — HiFiGo

SenyorC

100+ Head-Fier
The original was good, this is +
Pros: Price, SQ, tuning (depending on preferences)
Cons: May not be better than original depending on personal tastes
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The CCA CRA+ have been sent to me by Linsoul in exchange for the publication of this review. As usual, they have not requested anything specific but I will leave a non-affiliate link to the CCA CRA+ via their webstore on my blog.

This means that I will be as honest and unbiased as possible, as I always am, but it is always good to take into consideration that these IEMs have not cost me anything.

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Intro…

As you probably already know, CCA are a brand owned by KZ. I have not been paying any attention to KZ lately, since the whole “non working driver” fiasco. Not because I specifically have anything against them, it is just that there are so many IEMs available on the market that I have no need for drama. In fact, the last set of KZ IEMs I was sent were the DQ6s (which I did a very brief impression video of) and the ZES which I didn’t even review (you really didn’t miss much there).

However, not long ago I reviewed the CCA CRA, the predecessor of the model I have here today, and I said that “what if the best KZ IEMs are not KZ?”. So, when Linsoul asked if I wanted to try the CRA+, I was more than happy to give them a listen and I am actually quite glad I did.

According to the publicity, they are an upgraded model with completely new drivers and while I take this with a grain of salt, there are noticeable differences between the original and the plus.

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Presentation…

There is absolutely no difference in presentation between the original CRA and the CRA+, the same box, the same contents except for the cable ( in this case I have received the version with microphone) and generally the exact same everything. So, if you really want to know more about the white box, you can check my review of the original CRA.

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Build and aesthetics…

The publicity jargon also says luxury appearance, which I guess means they are gold coloured. The originals were available in Black (actually a dark grey metal colour) and White, whereas the new CRA+ are only available in Gold.

That is literally the only difference I have been able to spot between the two.

Personally, I am not a fan of gold but I am not going to complain about it, these IEMs come in at around 27€ (at the time of publishing this review) and aesthetics are not something I worry about too much at this price, although I will say that the original CRA comes in under 14€, so these cost almost double the older model.

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Sound…

So, we have established that so far there are very few (if any) differences between the two models, but in the sound category is where things start to stand out. Before I get into it, let me mention that my listening has been done almost exclusively with the Gryphon (with no EQ) and using both the stock cable and tips from the original CRA. My choice of tips and cable was to keep it consistent between the two, that doesn’t mean that different tips won’t react differently on each model, just that I haven’t tip rolled.

As a quick recap of the original, I said that they had a lot of bass, more than I would choose, but that it is very good quality bass and that although I wouldn’t use them all the time, that I liked them. In fact, they (the CRA) have actually been in my box of reference IEMs since then.

Well, the CRA+ seems to have kept the qualities of the original and changed the tuning slightly, making them more enjoyable (for me personally) than the originals.

Let’s take a quick look at the graph of the two:

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(all measurements can be seen and compared on achoreviews.squig.link)

So, starting off at the bottom, there is quite a difference in the subbass quantity of the two, with the newer model having much less. Putting them through my usual “Chameleon” test by Trentemoller, this makes itself quite apparent. However, I will say that I don’t find myself missing any subbass in this song with the CRA+. There is still plenty there and is still above what I would usually choose in this region, it is just not as spectacular in the ultra lows as the original CRA is.

The CRA also did a good job of controlling this low end and the CRA+ keeps things just as well defined as the original. I can’t say that it is the most defined and clean subbass I have heard but it is still quite a way above other options, especially in such a low price bracket.

Moving into the midbass, there is slightly more presence on paper with the Plus, hower, it is more of the fact that the focus is moved from the subbass of the original to the midbass on the newer version, putting more emphasis on this range and seeming like it is more present than it actually is.

In this range, the midbass punch is very impressive, even without factoring in cost, with notes presenting themselves with authority and definition. This can make songs that have plenty happening in the midbass region come across more impressively on this new set. Personally this is not something that I enjoy, I mean, I like a little boost in the midbass on certain genres (such as classic rock etc), but I feel that the CRA+ is a little overdone in this area. Again, that is just a personal preference and I feel that it is something that will be very impressive for those that enjoy it.

The mids are very similar between the two, however, on the Plus there is a little more presence in the 2k range and that peak at 5k, as we start to reach into the higher frequencies, has been tamed quite a bit. This is something that pleases me, as I am not a fan of the 5k being above everything around it, but at the same time I feel that a little more in the 3kHz zone (rather than just the 2kHz bump) would have worked better to bring vocals a little more forward and avoid a little of the darker smoothness that has resulted from the actual tuning.

I am actually nitpicking here, it is really not bad and I prefer the tuning to many other sets that are much more expensive, however, there is always room for improvement :wink:

As far as detail, this is still an impressive set for the money, sounding very well controlled and offering details that are usually not as apparent on IEMs with this kind of tuning. It is not detailed to a level that will be mind blowing but it is more than adequate for the price range that it sits in, in fact, it would embarrass some options that go for 3 or 4 times the price.

Soundstage comes across to me as being around average, much the same as the original CRA, with good image placement inside the space that it works with. You can easily identify images and while it may not have all the details that I am used to hearing, it is not something that I would point out as being bad, far from it.

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Conclusion…

I don’t think I can say that the CRA+ are not as good, or better, than the original CRA. When I first tried (and reviewed) the original CRA, I said that they were possibly the best KZ IEM to date, even if they are not officially KZ. In the case of the CRA+, I feel that most of my opinions regarding the originals can easily be referenced to these also.

Would I say that they are better than the originals, well it depends. For me personally, I prefer the higher mids of the CRA+, whereas I prefer the low end of the CRA, which takes a bit of emphasis away from the midbass and puts the focus on the subbass. Both of them are very good for the price and I think the preference will come down to the personal taste of each individual.

The new model is more expensive, but it is still way inside the bracket of what I would consider a cheap set of IEMs, therefore I don’t think that the price will be a deciding factor for the majority. The included accessories are also identical, so no points added or deducted there. I would say that, basically, it comes down to whether you prefer your slam to happen in the subbass or midbass regions.

(as usual, this review is available in Spanish both on www.achoreviews.com and on www.youtube.com/achoreviews)
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suicideup

New Head-Fier
CCA CRA+ Review!
Pros: - Improved the sound quality and removed the unnecessary sibilance from the CRA.
- Controlled yet lively sound signature.
- Punchy, controlled midbass.
- Mids are less recessed when compared to CRA .
- Extended yet non-harsh treble.
- Actually very good technical performance under 20USD.
- Sound quality scales with power.
- Decent isolation.
Cons: - Instances of slight peaks on very sibilant tracks present, almost has the same level compared to the KZ EDA Hi-Res.
- Will sound “generic” when underpowered.
- A cable winder would be a very good treat for everyone (my nitpick)
- Eartips included slightly degrade the sound.
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CCA CRA+ Review!

Good day! After a week of casual and critical listening, here’s my written review for the CCA CRA+. Pricier IEM characteristics, trickled!

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Disclaimer/s:
  • KZ sent this unit to me in an exchange for an honest, unbiased review. Rest assured that this review will try its best to devoid from any bias/es.
  • The following remarks and observations shall be made and owned only by me.
  • No monetary compensation is/was involved before, during, and after the period of creation of this review.
  • Your mileage may (and always, will) vary.

Burn-in time: 5-10 hours per day, 5 days.


Source/s used:
  • Hidizs AP80
  • Not-By-VE Avani Realtek Dongle
  • BaseUs USB DAC
  • Zishan U1 USB DAC (AKM Variant)
  • Cyberdrive Feather DAC
  • Non-HiFi smartphone (realme 5i, Samsung Galaxy On7)
  • Local Files via Foobar and Roon, YouTube Music, Deezer, and Qobuz with UAPP.

IEM and configuration: Stock medium eartips, stock cable, any form of EQ or MSEB off, 40-60% volume, both high and low gain.

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Sound signature:
  • U-shaped slightly leaning bright sound signature. Punchy, controlled bass, warm, smooth mids, extended bright highs.
Lows:
  • Lows are elevated and are a great improvement when compared to the CRA. The bass is much more textured and/or detailed when compared to the CRA. The midbass is also much more punchier when compared to its older sibling. The midbass is a bit dominant over the subbass, which also results in more controlled lows with fast decay. Overall, the CRA+ can cater and will deliver punchy, elevated lows that will satisfy the majority of the genres, even those genres that require “earth-shaking” bass. The CRA is a bit bassier though, but I would sacrifice bass quantity for bass texture and detail.

Mids:
  • The mids are slightly recessed and it makes the mids of its older sibling sounds like it has a gaping hole in the mids. There is a bit of midbass bleed but it is only enough for the lower mids to have some weight and thickness to it. Lower vocals are placed “correct” and not too distant nor too forward. Upper mids are elevated with good enough air, clarity and extension. There is a peak on very sibilant tracks or with tracks with poor or compressed recording but is far from being intolerable for most people like its sibling. As a result, the mids on the CRA+ is where I hear the drastic improvement the most. Its mids became more mature while keeping the necessary fun when the track needs it. Its mids became more open, forwarded a bit, and became more smoother by removing the unnecessary sibilance. The mids will improve further with the help of eartip rolling and proper source pairing as this scales with a bit of extra juice of power and pairing.

Highs:
  • The highs on the CRA+ are bright but not as elevated when compared to its lows. It is also well extended and is a bit controlled when compared to the CRA. It does not suffer any thinness to some tracks when compared to its older sibling as well. However, it is also not as airy when compared to it. Detail retrieval is also average with decent presentation of nuances on most tracks, particularly those tracks with excellent mastering and recording (Ex. Rose-Colored Boy by Paramore).

Soundstage, Imaging, and separation:
  • The soundstage of the CRA+ is average for its price and also exhibits an average expansion. The soundstage also widens a bit depending on the pairing or eartips paired with it. Separation does not suffer any serious congestion when compared to its sibling and will only suffer congestion when the track is intended to sound very busy. Imaging is precise and does present vocal and instrument position fairly accurately.
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Comparisons!

Vs the Audiosense AQ0 (100 USD)

  • The CCA CRA+ and Audiosense AQ0 nearly share the same sound signature: They both have an elevated bass response. However, the AQ0 has a bit more amount in the subbass while keeping it controlled and clean. As for the mids, both these IEMs has good amount of presence with the AQ0 a bit more refined and smooth in the upper mids. As a result, it does not have the upper mids peak compared to the CCA CRA+. As for the treble extension, the CCA CRA+ is a brighter and much more extended compared to the AQ0, while the AQ0 is a bit better on detail retrieval. Soundstage is also wider on the AQ0, separation is also better on the AQ0 by a bit, and the imaging are nearly the same.

Vs the BQEYZ Autumn, normal filter (200 USD)
  • These two IEMs now are completely different in their sound signature. The CRA+ is noticeably bassier when compared to the Autumn, while the Autumn strives for a more textured, clean and natural bass response. The mids on the Autumn is noticeably more forward when compared to the CRA+ while keeping things free from peaks. Both of these IEMs have open mids, it’s just that the Autumn is more open when compared. The treble on the CRA+ is also more elevated when compared to the Autumn and has both good amount of extension. Detail retrieval is where the Autumn excels the most as its detail retrieval is excellent for a single DD under 200 USD. The soundstage is also much wider to the Autumn, separation is also cleaner, imaging is also much more precise when compared. However, they do share the same characteristic which is scaling as they scale with proper power and pairing.

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Pros:
  • Improved the sound quality and removed the unnecessary sibilance from the CRA.
  • Controlled yet lively sound signature.
  • Punchy, controlled midbass.
  • Mids are less recessed when compared to CRA .
  • Extended yet non-harsh treble.
  • Actually very good technical performance under 20USD.
  • Sound quality scales with power.
  • Decent isolation.
Cons:
  • Instances of slight peaks on very sibilant tracks present, almost has the same level compared to the KZ EDA Hi-Res.
  • Will sound “generic” when underpowered.
  • A cable winder would be a very good treat for everyone (my nitpick)
  • Eartips included slightly degrade the sound.
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Verdict

The CCA CRA+ is a great departure to its sibling, the CRA, in terms of sound signature and quality. The CRA+ tries to sound more mature and controlled while keeping a bit of fun in its house sound. They improved the mids by a huge margin when compared to its sibling which made me literally smile the first time I used it out of the box. I was also surprised that this has the capability of scaling which you don’t usually see in this price segment. It does scale and improve its sound quality depending on the source and eartips you pair with it which is an appeal for the tinkerers and scientists of the hobby as they can mix and match this IEM to their liking. My only complaint this time is still the accessories they include to this IEM, because it does not give justice to the CRA+’s full potential.


Pairing recommendation/s:
  • Source: A dongle will do such as the JCally JM10 as an example since this IEM scales with power.
  • KBEar 07 eartips would be my top recommendation for this one to lessen the peaks while improving the width of the stage. Sony EP-EX11 eartips will also lessen the peaks but will also make the mids a bit more distant.
  • As for the cable, I do not have any specific cable that I can recommend but I do suggest changing it if needed because the ear guides on the stock cable makes it hard for me to fit it properly.
Thank you for reading!

Additional Photos:
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XerusKun

Head-Fier
CCA CRA+ “Compulsive Organically Smooth Performer”
Pros: Lush and well-weighted vocals
Organic and smooth sounding
Great bass slam, texture and tightness
Very good for relaxed listening
Midrange to lower treble excellently tuned
Sounds amazeballs with EQ (check the EQ section)
Cons: Boosted upper treble (makes the cymbals too forward at times.)
Sounds bloated out of the box
Eartips dependent sound
So-so accessories
Not a CRA upgrade!
Before you read this review:
CCA CRA+ is sensitive to source and eartips, the best synergy I achieved so far that makes it organic sounding while retaining its technicalities is with the Sony EPEX-11 and Avani Dongle. Stock configuration or out of the box sound is somehow bloated and glassy like the OG CRA, so if you are planning to buy them, I suggest considering the eartips above. Also this review is highly biased with my playlist, coped statements are unavoidable, and your mileage will always vary~

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Summary
Sound signature follows the Harman Target 2019 (U-Shaped) with boosted upper treble and significant hump around 250 Hz that makes the bass presentation full of slam and punch rather than having a significant sub-bass rumble like the OG CRA has. Midrange is excellently tuned, both male and female vocals are quite forward on the soundscape and has proper weight and lushness. The overall signature tilts toward an analog-ish presentation (just like the BL-03) that pairs well with rock and indies track. Female vocals specially in JPOP tracks, may lack the sparkle and energy while male vocals sound full and articulated. Lower treble is also tuned excellently avoiding any harshness or sibilance like the OG CRA. Guitars and violins however, aren’t that sharp or clean compared to their recent IEM (EDA). Upper treble is boosted which contributes to better sense of detail retrieval making instruments overtones well audible. However, the boost at the upper treble also makes cymbals overtone too unnatural or forward at times it’s like the drummer is right beside you in some tracks. Soundstage is intimate, staging is more accurate than the OG CRA, speed and dynamics are almost the same with the OG CRA, with the OG CRA being more analytical due to the bright tint of the overall sound.

Disclaimer
  • Take my review with a large scoop of salt and always cross reference.
  • I like to thank papa KZ for providing me a review unit of the CCA CRA+.
  • I will analyze the CCA CRA+ with references to the its older brother CRA, the EDA Balanced and the most expensive set that I’ve tried so far (Yume Midnight)
  • As always, since our ears have different shapes and resonances, your mileage may always vary.

Preliminary
  • I’ve used the CCA CRA+ for over 1 month with different sources and tips, played different tracks ranging from pop to bossa nova (except Metal).
  • I also tested the CRA+ with stock cable and Avani, and with Sony EP-EX11 as the source.

I mostly listen to this artists/group of artists, arranged from frequently to least played:
Nagi Yanagi, ShibayanRecords, Mitsukiyo, Yorushika, Kenshi Yonezu, Yoasobi, Ito Kashitaro, Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran, Sawano Hiroyuki, ChouCho, Weaver, Turnover, The Script and Hoyo-Mix.
I also love to listen to symphonic tracks or tracks with relaxing/magical/nostalgic vibe to it.
My preferred sound signature is Asterhythmist as shown in the graph below, while Aster Hypocrisy is what sounds neutral/flat to me. Generally, I don’t like IEMs that does not exhibit downward sloping upper treble (e.g CRA) as it makes the overall soundscape artificial sounding and also forces harmonics even if I don’t want it. Congestion, bass bloat, glassiness and muddiness are a big no for me.

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Equipment
  • CX-31993
  • Avani (ALC-5686) “Main Source”
  • Abigail (CX-31993)
  • LG V20
  • Xiaomi Mi 4
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Thy Frequency Spectrum
This is one of the sets that makes me love my old Ito Kashitaro tracks due to how smooth, safe and organic it sounds (it’s a nostalgic listen really). Currently, most of my recent IEMs has some sort of bite to it which adds some energy and dynamics to most of my tracks (basically making the sound more analytical). CRA+ is an excellent palette cleanser for those analytical/technical listening sessions. Like, I feel like CRA+ is targeting peeps out there that want a smooth listen while still retaining the detail retrieval that OG CRA has (KZ already did this organic replay with the DQ6S, however they revamped and improve it a bit with the CRA+).

Bass: 7.5/10
Bass response is focused more with the slam and punch rather than the sub-bass rumble which the OG CRA boast. CRA+ bass has this meaty presentation that makes the overall sound heavy and organic (just think of BL-03 bass but tighter, has bigger presence and more textured). Drums, bass guitars and lower pitched vocals highly benefits with the midbass response since it gives this dense note weight that makes those instruments highly articulated on the soundscape. The midbass also gives this fun factor that makes the overall listen have this dynamism and energy. Moreover, the significant midbass quantity is also there to counter the upper midrange and upper treble that makes the overall sound lean toward a warm and smooth signature. The only thing that I don’t like with the bass is it isn’t clean and textured like the EDA, the midbass quantity is also just too much for some of my tracks (e.g Toho Bossa Nova) and the overall sound sometimes come off as fuzzy and veiled. This is evident especially when you came from a neutral or bright IEM.

Midrange 8.5/10 (+1 for the nostalgic factor)
A bit recessed and lean. Midrange lacks refinement; instrument fundamentals does not have enough micro-nuances that the EDA Balanced is offering, and sometimes is veiled by the midbass. Female vocals are very lush but lacks the energy and sparkle (it isn’t that well suited for Japanese Music). Male vocals on the other hand are lusher than the EDA Balanced and a tinny bit leaner than the DQ6S or ZES. Deep male vocals highly benefit with the midrange of the CRA+ as it’s replayed with weight and lushness, while higher pitched male vocals are somehow thin and wispy. Additionally, in some tracks there is some hint of metallic-ness to the vocals and it isn’t that natural sounding like per say BL03. Overall, I think peeps like me who like cleaner midrange will not like the CRA+ that much, however, with all this issues that I have with the midrange, there is a niche that I quite enjoyed with the midrange of CRA+ and that is how it played my old nonproperly mastered music smoothly and harsh free, I might be cheesy saying this but the midrange of CRA+ takes me back to the old times, where I didn’t care that much about the technical and details in my music, it let me appreciate my old Ito Kashitaro tracks, which is quiet buried in my playlist recently.

Treble 5.5/10
Well extended and safely tuned, an all-rounder treble response which is quite far cry from their old releases (e.g ZEX Pro). Lower treble is excellently tuned and I can’t detect any harshness or peaks on the said treble area. I can also listen to the CRA+ for a long period of time due to the treble response. The only gripe I have is the boosted upper treble, which is I think too much in some tracks, most people are not sensitive to this area so this might not apply to you, but the upper treble sometimes distracts my focus on the midrange, like its making me focus on the details of the cymbals instead even if I don’t want to, it’s not intense like the OG CRA, but I don’t like when my IEM forces me to hear something, I just want my details flowing naturally on the soundscape nothing more nothing less. I think CRA+ would somehow be perfect for me if KZ decided to trim the upper treble down… yes it makes some details pop out specially with cymbals, but it makes the instrument harmonics unnaturally forward on the soundscape making the sound artificial (it’s like a DSP is applied to the treble region. tbf).

Technicalities

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  • Driver quality and speed is the same as the OG CRA, detail retrieval is a bit better with the OG CRA due to the subdued midbass. The speed is also quite commendable as the driver can handle the bass with tightness and control. However, even with the Harman like pinna gain, the sound doesn’t have the organic feel that some driver types (e.g CNT/LCP) are exhibiting, the attack of notes are moderate in speed but the decay is a bit too fast, making the sound somehow unnatural.
  • Soundstage is average and a bit wider compared to DQ6S or ZEX. Staging is quite on point but some tracks (tracks with a lot of cymbals) may make the drum kits too forward, or in your face.
  • Separation is average due to the midbass response, lower pitched instruments have enough 3D feel on the soundstage but it isn’t that physical/real like the EDA. What surprises me is the staging of the CRA+ is more accurate than the BL03 (imaging is quite skewed with BL03 but it has this airier soundscape.
  • Microdetails, dynamics are a bit subdued compared to OG CRA, but timbre, coherency and tonality is an upgrade over the OG CRA.
Music Analysis
There will be some coped statements in this section, so proceed with caution.

1. Hamu Test “Multiple tracks arranged by Hamu” (Played in HibyMusic)
The tracks in this section, will test the IEM ability to naturally replay and stage musical instruments like piano, guitar, violin and drums. This section will also test imaging, detail retrieval and separation. Most of the tracks here also hates V-shaped IEMs.
Most of the tracks in this section sounds very coherent, correct and lush. All instruments have an accurate timbre and has a convincing physicality on the soundstage. An example is when track サクラモチ plays, the instruments are spread out 360 degrees within my headspace and the overall soundscape feels like I’m in a studio with the artists. (It is quite different with EDA; the presentation of that IEM with this track makes me feel like I’m on the sidewalk of a certain shopping street). Guitars, drums, piano and the maracas feels quite real and notes are properly weighted throughout the track, macrodynamics throughout the track is quite excellent and I can follow how the notes changes up and down with the rhythm. However, with the said lushness in the fundamentals, micro-nuances aren’t that well audible (02:27, there should be an echo effect in the drums sticking as the track changes rhythm) . Moreover, there is some occasions where I can’t pick that much details like at 03:20, the midbass quantity is just masking some microdetails like the little sparkles at the said timestamp.

Replay Rating: Above Average

2. Betelgeuse by Go-qualia (Played in HibyMusic)
[Female Vocals, Driver Resolvability, Soundstage, Midrange Nuances, Separation]
This track sounds amazing with EDA Balanced, and quite meh with the CRA+. Like the sense of space aren’t that open with the CRA+, background voices are also not that articulated in the whole soundscape, feels like one-noted. The main voice at THE foreground is well weighted and tonally correct but it does not have the mesmerizing factor like the EDA Balanced (with EDA you can hear the echo on the voices, yes, all voices, even the background voices.). Moreover, microdetails starting at 01:22, the music box playing at the background aren’t that well audible and is almost drowned by the instruments and vocals on the foreground. As Nagi takes the stage at 04:09, it sounds flat and I didn’t feel anything at all, like “that’s it?”, to be honest that part is quite powerful and super detailed with EDA Balanced and ESX….

Replay Rating: Average

3. How Would You Feel by Ed Sheeran (Played in HibyMusic)
[Guitars, Male Vocals, Soundstage, Separation, Staging]
Yeap, yeap, yeap…this is where the CRA+ shines, tracks like this. The soundscape feels so real, it feels like I’m in the studio with Ed Sheeran, no instruments sound too sharpened or artificial, everything is just well weighted and laid out 360 degrees within my headspace. Plus, the guitars and drums are quite articulated throughout the whole stage, I’m somehow exaggerating but there’s some sort of physicality to the instruments that makes me correlate it with a band jamming in a bar….Moreover at 02:57, the electric guitar solo…is just….just…sounds so real...no need to make me go wow CRA+, here’s a superb rating..

Replay Rating: Superb

4. Deep Blue by Ito Kashitaro (Played in HibyMusic)
[Male Vocals, Midrange Resolvability, Guitars, Separation]
Lezugoo, another track where the CRA+ shines, yeap this is it pancit, jamming with my head right now (this track is sad, why am I jamming)…The drums, bass guitars, electric guitars and piano have this physicality on the soundstage, they are well separated and quite articulated too. I love the replay of Ito Kashitaro’s voice with this IEM it’s just so raspy and lush, no IEM in my collection play Ito Kashitaro like this to be honest. Moreover most of my IEMs makes Ito Kashitaro’s voice shouty, and CRA+ magically does not exhibit that?..what sorcery is this..yeah no contest, CRA+ deserves a Beautiful rating with this track…Ahh, good old Kashi-san songs, the artist that made me enthusiastic with Japanese music, I didn’t expect that CRA+ will make me enjoy Ito Kashitaro tracks again, thank you KZ.

Replay Rating: Beautiful

Comparison
This comparative analysis is highly biased on my library, so please don’t take this as a unified guide on what should you buy or not. 😊

CRA+ vs CRA
OG CRA has more details, has a wow factor due to the treble extension, has a satisfying bass rumble, sounds more lovable with Japanese Pop/KPOP, has wider soundstage, however those pros are just shadowed by the glassy treble and overall artificial sound, it sounds overly airy and causes fatigue the longer you listen. CRA+ on the other hand is the total opposite of that, like legit they do not sound the same at all, CRA+ sounds more smooth, natural, organic, weighted, intimate, like KZ just removed the things that makes the CRA famous for regular consumers and replaces it with things that sound enthusiast like to hear. So yeap since I myself is a sound enthusiast, I’ll take the CRA+ anytime. CRA+ wins

CRA+ vs Oppoty (BL-03)
Oppoty has a more accurate timbre, airier soundstage, and a correct upper treble. However, I think CRA+ still wins due to its better bass control, better vocals rendition (for my tracks atleast, oppoty sounds boxy with some of my female tracks), treble extension and imaging. Oppoty also sounds too muddy to me like that bass is just not good for my bossa nova, like everytime I listen to Toho Bossa Nova with the oppoty, my face can’t just contain the yuck face, like the mud bruh, the super slow bass, it’s unreal. CRA+ though, handles it pretty well, not that amazing like the EDA Balanced but still. CRA+ wins

CRA+ vs EDA Balanced
EDA Balanced has better microdetails, sounds more realistic, has better soundstage presentation, has faster bass response, has better treble extension, has better female vocals rendition, sounds more linear. Yeah nope, EDA Balanced wins this round. However, CRA+ still my go to IEM whenever I want to listen to Ito Kashitaro. EDA Balanced wins

CRA+ vs ESX

Right, let’s not compare these two… ESX wins

CRA+ vs EDX Ultra

EDX Ultra’s bass is tighter, has better detail retrieval, soundstage is also wider and taller, vocal position is more accurate, has better treble extension…but you know what? That upper treble of the EDXU is just killing it for me, why…did KZ do that..it sounds so artificial and sounds like a HSQ filter is applied to that IEM, no no no no, stop, it is much worse than the OG CRA, what the. Yeah nope. CRA+ wins

CRA+ vs Tanya Max (Using Avani)

Tanya sounds more correct with the vocals, more linear and has taller soundstage. They are both targeting the same peeps out there, however I think Tanya did it better, but to make Tanya comparable you need specific tips and source otherwise it will sound more bloated and muddier than the CRA+. Tanya may sound congested if compared to CRA+ but the niche thing here is that Tanya sounds more natural on the decay and attack of notes. So yeah, Tanya is much better for my library, but you know, that non-removable cable is quite a bummer, so if you want a Tanya alternative then go CRA+. Tanya Max wins


Mods

CCA CRA+ is somehow sensitive with tips so please tip roll first to appreciate its sound.
1. Kbear KB07
Yes! Recommended (please always include these tips in your KZ purchase cause this IEM makes wonders on their recent IEMs), widens the soundstage and improves imaging. Also adds more texture to the bass, and make the midrange cleaner than stock tips.

2. Stock Starline Tips
Passable, but recommended to change immediately. Upper treble is peakier with these tips, and midrange is just veiled by the midbass. If you want to appreciate CRA+ just buy the Kbear 07.

3. Radius Deep Mounts
Nope, makes the upper treble more forward, overtones are more artificial sounding and the whole sound signature became darker with weirdly boosted upper treble.

4. Spinfits CP145
Semi-recommended! Will make the CRA+ more v-shaped and will remove a bit of that midbass veil. Treble is quite passable too.

5. Sony EP-EX11 Tips
Anti-thesis of Kbear 07, if you think that CRA+ is already open sounding, these tips will remove the upper treble resonance and will make CRA+ more organic sounding and pleasing to the ears, will also make instrument overtones less forward, however the caveat is it is not that transparent and clean compared to Kbear 07, the dynamics are also subdued with these tips. Recommended if you want to make the CRA+ as you relaxing beater set.

5. Foam Tips
Recommended! Just like the Kbear07 but less open sounding.

Equalization
This section is added to make the CRA+ more suited for my library and to somehow improve technicalities and tonal balance, so if you bought the CRA+ already and you feel EQ-ing them, here is my suggested EQ.
CRA+ Optimized EQ, will fix the bloat (reduced 200Hz, somehow it still slams), will make female vocals sparkly and energetic, trimmed down the upper treble by a lot (to improve separation and imaging). Added a very little bump around 1kHz to add a sense of speed to the sound.

EQ Files: CRA +

EQ.png

Bass is based on Harman 2016 : Midrange to Treble on Aster Hypocrisy target.

Compared to my favorite set: Better tonal balance with CRA+ EQ compared to EDA Balanced, however EDA Balanced still wins when it comes to detail retrieval and that midrange nuances.


Technical Aspects


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Tested Synergies
1. Back to the Nostalgic Days
(CRA+, Sony EP-EX11 Tips, Avani)

Smoothest synergy, Avani will remove the sharp treble transients of the CRA+ and will make the midrange pop out, improving the sense of space in the process, the tips on the other hand will significantly reduce the upper treble quantity of the CRA+ making the sound more analog and smoother sounding. Midbass quantity is greatest in this synergy but still has the tightness and punch, the mild bleed is just there to give some warmth and density to the midrange. Very good set for relaxed and fatigue free listening.

2. A Fun Clean Set
(CRA+, Kbear 07, CX-31993)

The set that makes the CRA+ cleaner and more transparent sounding, upper treble isn’t that subdued like the first synergy, but the sense of space is more immersive and physicality of instruments are more obvious. CX-31993 will make sure that the treble transients are still in tact and isn’t resonating compared to low powered sources, upper treble may be too forward in some tracks due to how Kbear07 tips open the whole soundscape, but midbass is significantly reduced in this synergy, making the midrange nuances more audible than the set above. Recommended if you think that CRA+ lacks the brightness, the synergy that makes the CRA+ somehow passable with recent Japanese Music.

Recommend Tracks/Genres
  • Most Rock Genres
  • Indie Pop
  • RnB
  • Trance / EDM
  • Hip-hop
  • Rap
“Not that good” Tracks:
  • Bossa Nova
  • Jazz
  • Orchestra
Shop Links:
Official KZ Store

Overall Rating:
A (Quite High on the List Due to the Nostalgic Factor)
Recommended’nt’nt
(A good relaxing beater set, but you know there are more enticing KZ options out there, ehem, its definitely not the ESX and EDA Balanced though…hehe )
My Ranking Listo!

Finally, thanks for reaching this part! Hope you enjoy the read, even if it is pretty long. 😊
Last edited:

Ceeluh7

500+ Head-Fier
CCA CRA+ "The Successor"
Pros: -Fun but balanced tuning

-Price

-Tonality through much of the mix

-Easy to drive
Cons: -High expectations and big hype

-Sub-par accessories (I know, I know…these are $30)

-Not the most polished treble

-Slight metallic tizz on some vocals

-Honestly, no serious cons at this price, just enjoy
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The full review can be found at:
https://www.mobileaudiophile.com/cca-cra/

CCA CRA+ ($30-36)
Everyone say hello to one of the newer KZ / CCA iems to come out within the last month or so… the CCA CRA+. I’m sure if you have paid even slight attention to the Chi-fi scene than you know… in the budget space, the CRA+ do come with intrigue. The CRA+ follows the tremendous success of its predecessor… the CCA CRA. Both iems are in the ultra budget sector of the crazy iem world. In my opinion both iems replay much better than the price would indicate.

However, this isn’t a comparison review (CRA vs. CRA+) but a review of the CRA+. In fact I don’t even have the original CRA for a comparison as I gave them away some time back. Later in the review I do compare similar iems within the $15-35 price point.

Here in the States, we normally receive to market any Chi-Fi related items much later than the actual respective release dates. In this case I was fortunate enough to get my hands on the CRA+ from Amazon US for $36. In most cases it involves waiting for what seems to be an eternity for your iems to arrive. By which time the novelty of receiving the “new hot thing” has vanished. Not really an issue but…I count it a win to actually get an iem within the first month of its release.

I do want to preface this entire review by stating that everytime I use a word like, “fantastic” or “great” or…just pick a descriptive adjective. I look through a budget lens when using such words describing the CRA+. In no way am I equating the greatness of a plus $100+ iem to the under $50 crowd. Also, I am just as joyful of a $15 success as I am with a $200 success and maybe even more so. I love an underdog, or something that supersedes the stigma that the world seems to naturally categorize things with. I know I am preaching to the Choir though, why else would you be reading this.

Thank you for spending your precious time reading my thoughts about the CCA CRA+, I really do hope it may help in a purchasing decision.
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GEAR USED
Ifi Go Blu
Shanling UA2
Ibasso DX240 w/ Amp8 MK2
Fiio Utws5
Zooaux Dongle Dac (For use as a lower powered source)
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Left to Right: Fiio UTWS5 / Ifi Go Blu / Zooaux Dongle Dac / Shanling UA2 / Ibasso DX240


Packaging

This will be short. The CRA+ comes in the same little white box that many KZs’ budget iems come in. Very simple and straightforward. Nothing wrong with that. You will receive #3 Pairs of Eartips. Not the best ear tips I should add. Not the worst either. These are white KZ Starline tips but seem not as firm as the black old school Starlines. If I were you, I would expect to tip roll. Also within the box you will get the cable. I believe it is a #4 core, Silver Plated Copper cable. The cable is the same as most other KZ iems with the QDC style 2-pin sockets. That’s about it. Not that I need more.
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Build

Ihave no issues whatsoever with the build of the CRA+. They used Zinc Alloy on the faceplates adorned with a shiny gold-plated appearance. An absolute fingerprint magnet. Plastic was the material of choice on the housing. They are sturdy enough and are feather light in the ear. The build feels solid and durable with nicely rounded contoured edges. Nothing rough or pain inducing, at least for me. Thumbs up on the look as well. I like the simple but handsome look of the CRA+. These are fashion forward, sleek enough, solid enough and not embarrassing while listening in public.
The CRA+ houses a single Dynamic Driver, 10mm Polymer Composite Diaphragm touted as having very low distortion rates due to the “Ultra-Thin” makeup. Supposedly a step up from the first iteration of the CRA line. Listed with a 23.5-ohm impedance, and a sensitivity of 111 DB.

The cable also feels durable. I didn’t catch any microphonics that took away from the overall experience. The cable is pliable and soft enough to the touch. Truthfully, the cable isn’t anything to get excited about. Again, like all other KZ in ears, the cable provided ends in the 2 pin QDC style connectors. Much the same as with any other KZ iems in the price range. Really the cable is perfectly fine. I saw no sonic benefit to switching cables with the exception of using a balanced cable when needed for my balanced sources.
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Sound Impressions

The first thing that I did after unboxing was hook these bad boys up to a device and burn them in for about 20 hours. I normally burn-in for much longer, but at 20 hours these sounded good. Truthfully, I have no idea if this helped or not, just figure I should get it out of the way. It never hurts. Except the waiting…that hurts a little bit. Also, I did some Tip-Rolling throughout this entire review by switching to the Kbear 07 Eartips. I feel the sound does become a bit crisper and tightens up a bit. I should note that the included Ear tips aren’t bad at all, just my preference.

Anyone reading this likely already has an idea of what these sound like. The question though is how well does the CRA+ pull off what we all expect. Well to break it down in a quick way; the CRA+ do carry a V-shaped to almost a Harman type tuning with a little emphasis in the low end and the upper mids. The CRA+ carry a more balanced sound across the spectrum. A very fun approach to a balanced display if you will. You get a steady thump in the lower regions and good air in the higher areas of the frequencies. I will go into more detail further in the review.
“CRA+ is a better upgrade on the classic, tuning, mold, and sound quality have been improved to a high level. Compared to CRA, CRA+ adjust the speaker structure from new molding, to achieve the better improvement & extraordinary hearing experience from the F1 (first formant frequency). From CRA+ tuning, bring you stronger bass, wider frequency response, and shocking soundstage to treble extension. Benefit from the 10mm drive with tuning upgrade, CRA+ with better soundstage, enjoy the HiFi music easily.”
CCA PROMOTIONAL
The CRA+ are in a competitive price bracket. The competition is getting better by the day it seems. Back in the day this tuning would cost you quite a bit more. We are spoiled nowadays with well-tuned budget gems that blur the line between budget and premium. Speaking purely about the tuning that is. Obviously better parts and pieces more often than not correlate to better fidelity and a better experience so… I’d advise to limit your expectations a bit.
All in all, the CRA+ has an upbeat, energetic & fun sound. Thankfully void of any nasty peaks and good for longer listening times. Leaning just a bit warm of neutral yet with an airy feeling to my music.
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Bass

These are not bass-head bangers. The CRA+ do however have decently controlled bass. Again, remember to keep in perspective any glowing thoughts that I give. These are budget descriptions here. However even for a budget iem the CRA+ tries to jump price tiers with a melodic bass line and deep enough bass drops. All things considered the Bass is the highlight of this set…in my meager opinion.

You will not hear anything out of control at all. Unless many bass lines are going at once. Nothing crosses the Midrange line to add bloat. What we have is pretty good bass. For me anyways. I need bass, require it actually. Leaving out a substantial low end is like a tree without leaves. With the CRA+ the low end feels like an anchor to the rest of the mix. Pretty good for $30 bucks.

Again the con here lies in songs with multiple basslines as it’s possible to hear some blending going on. For instance, in a track like “Blue Laces 2” by Nipsey Hussle, the CRA+ shows a bit of weakness as two separate bass parts converge at times which displays a bit of confusion. The bass is pretty good but can show some rough spots. Obviously this issue is few and far in between and can easily come and go without you realizing. Also, this is not the most refined low end I’ve ever heard. Not exactly hollow but not completely dense either. Just shy of pillow actually. This is $30 Chris! Oh, oh ya.

The low end has plenty of rumble, though that rumble is not the deepest I’ve heard. Still it also doesn’t have to be. Bass drums have impact, Baritones have body and synth bass has a tangible thrumming feedback.

I honestly can’t find any really horrible faults here… for the price. Unless of course you are allergic to decent bass on a budget. However, those people likely would never turn to KZ to fix their “Audiophile” habits. Some people just don’t need this type of tuning, as all is subjective in this hobby. Hence why we have reviews. To hopefully steer a person in the right direction and clue them in on what a device sounds like.

The Sub-bass has a decent extension into the lowest regions of the spectrum. The Sub-bass is pretty clean as a whole. You won’t get the same haptic response as a bass head adjusted iem, but you also won’t be lacking with the CRA+. I do like the approach CCA took here as there is a Sub-bass roll-off, but it isn’t drastic. Unlike the first iteration of the CRA, the company decided to bring the CRA+ down a few DBs across the low end with a quicker roll-off of the Sub-bass. Whether this is good or bad goes back to subjectivity. All I can really do is tell you whether these perform well in what they were tuned to do.

The Mid-bass has a bit more volume and energy, but not by much. It is pretty punchy, has a good enough slam for me and has okay speed. In a track like “Marmalade” by Macklemore I hear a very clean boom when the bass drops. Plenty of rumbles. During soloed out basslines there is a clean leading edge with a solid attack and even a smooth decay.

From the Mid-bass to the Midrange there is some bleed over, which I think is a good thing. This does help to give body to the lower midrange. A hint of bodied warmth perhaps. More on that next.

Midrange

The lower Mids have good energy. They aren’t too far in the background and still have good presence. You could almost say that the CRA+ has more forward Mids as a whole than similarly tuned iems in this price bracket. The Lower Mids have good note weight, important for an emotional enough vocal performance.

Listening to a song like “Simple Things” by Teddy Swims, his voice sounds very breathy, but also bold. His vocals are forward, not coming across too thin. I do hear a slight bit of fuzziness as notes begin to decay but it all ties together nicely. Yet in a track like “First Place I Go” by Avi Kaplan, with his Baritone guttural resonance, his voice comes across very true and captivating. Granted Avi’s vocals are clean and deep on any iem but even more so on the CRA+ as the Mid-bass slightly dives into the mids giving warmth and round heft to that area.

Male vocals have good density with a passable timbre. Granted the midrange doesn’t have the cleanest and resolution focused sound, but the tonality is there. This shows up in the male vocals especially in my opinion. While the balance of the whole spectrum is nice and not much was sacrificed, I do think there is a slight loss in clarity. Very slight. This sounds like a big “con”, but truth be told…the CRA+ does the midrange just fine. In my opinion they stack up against many budget V-shaped to Harman tuned iems in the price point.

As we move on, going from the Lower Mids to the Upper Midrange everything is drawn even closer. Female vocals for instance, they seem more highlighted. A little more on display. This is common with this type of tuning. Again, tonality is fine. Resolution is bumped up a notch in this area as well as a bit more energy and feeling can be heard.

CCA did a nice job with the female vocals and that is certainly not what this iem specializes in. The Upper Mids stray from anything shouty, which is great for me. Much unlike the original from what I can remember. Female vocals are pretty smooth and with good control. In “Everything I Didn’t Say” by Ella Henderson I hear a very emotional and forward vocal. Any further back and these would not have done her vocals justice.

In a nutshell the Midrange sounds appropriate to the music. There is good enough depth to the midrange as well as presence and feeling. I love the fact that nothing is so recessed to take away from my library. This is a nice touch for a low cost option in the Chi-fi iem world.

If anything I do notice a very faint fuzz to some Male vocals but you would have to listen with a discerning ear. If I were to nitpick, and for the price I really shouldn’t, I would mention that there is very slight sibilance that is just audibly there. It really only shows up on tracks which are prone to such a thing. I also do hear the faintest metallic edge to the outro of vocals. This should not dissuade anyone from purchasing this set and for the price I questioned even mentioning it here. Tonality is key at this price and as far as tonality is concerned… the CRA+ tuned this set with passable pitch and tone.

Treble

The Treble is pretty nice. I like the extension here. I hear a nice and smooth replay without rough edges. Nothing shouty or piercing at all in my experience. Just an easy enough listen. There is a good and cohesive walk from the Upper-Mids to the Lower Treble. Smooth and controlled. The same goes for the rest of the Highs. Cohesive, as a Dynamic Driver should be.

There is enough air to outline perceived instruments and each comes through pretty distinctly from one another. I do like how the Treble balances with the Mids and the Bass to not overshadow or take center stage. Still there is enough air to add levity to most songs. The extension and clarity does aid my music with some okay details coming through. This may not be the most refined Treble however.

For a budget set I’d say that the CRA+ does just an okay job with the Treble area. I don’t hear anything too aggressive or Grainy. Maybe a bit more shimmer would help but that is me being picky.

The bonus is that the air the CRA+ does have helps alot with the overall warmth of the CRA+ by ushering in some coolness to the replay. You will not hear anything fatiguing with this set in the Treble range. Even with an ear piercing song such as “In Bloom” by Nirvana, the CRA+ keeps that often shrill and piercing electric guitar in check, for the most part.

The Timbre is not bad with instruments in the lower treble area, but moving closer to the Upper Treble there is a slight tizz or splash to things like cymbals etc. Truthfully, I don’t have anything bad to say with the CRA+ in the Highest parts of the mix. After all these come in at $30. I have to keep this in mind as I write this. However, everything considered I do believe that the treble area is the weakest area of the CRA+ but also it is also far from being considered bad.

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CCA CRA+


Soundstage / Imaging

I hear an average width with the CRA+. Just outside my head. Nothing sounds closed in at all. I wouldn’t expect some super wide stage. The depth is the same…average. Nothing which detracts from the overall sound of this set. The height…you guessed it…average. In truth I like the stage size. If I don’t have to think about it, that’s a good thing.

Imaging is on par with its price point. Personally I feel these just make average. I do find everything to have its place on the stage. Maybe clarity isn’t the CRA+’s strong suit, but the stereo image is still good enough. I will say it again, nothing detracts from my music in such a way that it bothers me at all. I can sit back and enjoy the tunes which I love and that is the standard by which a budget iem should be judged. Do they sound good casually listening to your music? Anything better than that is icing on the cake.

Drivability

The CRA+ is a very easy to drive iem. You don’t need any special high-powered amp. This is created and tuned for the masses. Using a Dongle Dac such as the Shanling Ua2 or something similar will be way more than enough to power this set. Using the underpowered & budget friendly Zooaux Dongle Dac was more than enough as well. In fact, I really enjoyed the synergy with that pairing.

For mobile purposes I also used the IFi Go Blu and the Fiio Utws5. I really love both of these options. Obviously, the Go Blu opens the CRA+ up a titch more, but the mobility with the awesome sounding utws5 is fantastic. Either option is fine. I did also put them on the KZ AZ09 Pro Bluetooth Adapters and again… these are so easy to drive that I had no issue. Everything came across clean and dynamic with any of these audio devices.

Bumping up to the Ibasso Dx240 with Amp8 Mk2 is another step up in fidelity. Not a game changing difference but an expected difference, nonetheless. Obviously, a better source will always help. Synergy mustn’t be forgotten either. That said, I didn’t have an issue with synergy on anything I used.

So when all is said and done… whatever you have will likely be okay to push this set. Maybe I’d recommend at the very least a budget Dongle Dac. Like I said, even using my Zooaux Dongle presented everything very well.

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Left to Right: KZ EDX Pro / CCA CRA+ / KZ ZEX / Blon BL-03


Comparisons

KZ Zex ($25)

KZ chose to use a Dynamic Driver as well as an Electret Driver on the Zex. The Zex has more of a U-shaped tuning. In my opinion it is one of the better tuned budget iems that KZ has made.

Between the two of these sets the CRA+ has a bit more low end, especially in the deepest parts of the mix. The Zex does have a roll-off in the Sub-bass area but there is still plenty thump. To me these two are close to a draw in this category. Bass on both sets can replay many genres just fine. Both are tight enough as well. The CRA+ just has more to offer while remaining just as clean, if not a bit more resolute.

Male vocals are more forward on the Zex and sound better to me than on the CRA+. On the flipside the Upper Mids of the CRA+ sound better and more emotional and more forward. There is an audible dip in the Upper Midrange on the Zex, pulling female vocals back a bit. They don’t sound bad at all but the vocals just don’t have the same feeling to them as the CRA+ have.

The Treble area the CRA+ also is a bit better extended. However I wouldn’t say they are better. I think the Zex sound more natural in the Lower Treble on-out. The CRA+ almost have a bit too much and almost take away from other areas of the mix whereas the Zex are tuned very nicely and have a relaxing and easy tuning up top.

Both sets are fine on longer sessions while the CRA+ may be a bit more fun for certain genres. The soundstage is more open on the CRA+, imaging is a draw, and details go to the CRA+. Both hold up well against the under $40 competition.

KZ EDX Pro ($15-$25)

The KZ EDX Pro is another very good option from the company. Priced at about half what the CRA+ sells for, however it is definently debatable if the CRA+ is any better. The EDX Pro handles my library pretty darn well and has a very dynamic presentation. A more fun and toe tapping, BANGER of a set. It looks pretty sweet too.

The EDX Pro is a single Dynamic Driver that also confuses the lines of what a budget iem should sound like. The EDX Pro came on the heels of a comeback from KZ/CCA at the time. They came right in the middle of the KZ surge which hasn’t really stopped. When many had lost faith in the Company and their ability to properly tune their iems, KZ flipped the script with a very long streak of well-tuned and good-looking budget to mid-tier sets. Truthfully KZ has been running with a head full of steam ever since.

The differences to me between these two come down to preference again. The EDX Pro being a more fun and more V-shaped hitter compared to the closer to Harman tuned CRA+. Of course there are differences with how well the drivers handle certain passages of music but the differences there are minimal. Nothing truly stands out as better to me. Maybe I prefer one over the other but better is something different.

Bass is bigger and more authoritative in the EDX Pro while the CRA+ low end is tighter allowing different areas to breathe a bit better.

Male vocals come across more forward on the EDX Pro as well. Not only more forward but a bit more resolute as well. I also hear a slight metallic edge to the CRA+ which doesn’t exist on the EDX Pro.

The CRA+ replays a warmer sound and much easier to listen to over long periods. Also the EDX Pro can be peaky in certain songs whereas the CRA+ cruises right through them. Perhaps I hear a bit better placement of Instruments with the CRA+ as well but that is debatable.

To be perfectly honest I don’t think one is better than the other. I don’t know if the price increase is justified unless of course the V-shape just isn’t your bag with the EDX Pro. In which case there is a plethora of very good budget iems below the $36 asking price of the CRA+, so there is plenty to choose from.

Blon BL-03 ($30-$35)

Priced roughly the same I had no choice but to add the Blon 03. We all know this budget king by now. Single DD, odd fit, Yada Yada Yada. So many have owned or tried the Blon 03 in the past and it’s one of those sets where… you either like it or you hate it. They fit or they don’t. I do think everyone should at least check them out at some point.

I have to say between the two the Blon just sound more natural throughout. Instruments and vocals do not have that metallic ‘zzz’ sound either. The Blon 03 is renowned for the natural and organic tuning which the CRA+ just can’t duplicate.

Note weight I find has a bit more thickness with the 03 in the bass area as well as the Lower Midrange. Though the Bass comes across cleaner on the CRA+. Heading into the Upper Mids through the highest areas, these two switch. Things like details may be a bit more easy to perceive on the CRA+. Better extension as well.

As far as timbre and tonality are concerned, the 03 just cruises past the CRA+ with that bonkers good tonality and natural display. I say that while thinking that the CRA+ do lean toward natural. The Blon is just another level. Soundstage feels vaster and airier on the 03. Yet not necessarily a lot wider. The 03 simply have a more open display of sound.

Depending on fit and whatever tips you choose to use, the Blon 03 Bass is a bit bigger. Not necessarily better. I can’t say that. I’d actually choose the CRA+’s low end if I could. Like I said before, the CRA+ has a cleaner and tighter Bass. Both offer good enough slam and rumble. The CRA+ just have more clean edges to Bass notes. The CRA+ aren’t as intrusive covering the Midrange with their bass. Some have said that the 03 can be boomy as well. I don’t hear that, but you get the point.

Lower mids are weightier on the 03 while having just as good if not better presence to vocals. As we climb the spectrum ladder to the higher frequencies, I can say that the CRA+ is better extended. Female vocals come across more intimate and emotional as well.
20220608_180520.jpg
CCA CRA+ attached to the Shanling UA2


Conclusion

In the $30-40 club the CRA+ does well against the competition. Of course, everything in this hobby comes down to what any sole person enjoys. If I am speaking on the quality of the sound which comes from this single DD, then I’d have to say that CCA get passing marks. If you are in the market for a budget iem with a closer to Harman sound and some Blingy pizazz, then I’d say this is the one for you.

I have enjoyed where KZ has been going over the last year or so. They have been banging out many hits and few misses. The CRA+ to me is a definite bulls eye. It isn’t perfect, far from it actually. Yet in a sea of iems that are stuffed into an already overcrowded market the CRA+ is a bright spot. If you take tonality over technicality I’d say you can get just that and all for the price of McDonald’s for a family of 3.

Thank you for reading, I do hope this helps even a little bit. Remember these are simply my thoughts from what I hear with my gear. I take a lot of time to complete these reviews and I really hope you know my thoughts come from an authentic place. Personal audio is a passion of mine which takes up a lot of my head space and thoughts. We all have different experiences and takes on these audio devices and I implore you to read other’s reviews and opinions before purchasing. Get to know different reviewer’s and their preferences and libraries of music. It’ll certainly help make your buying decision easier. Thank you again and take good care everyone.


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koyawmohabal

New Head-Fier
HOW LONG CAN THIS GOLD SHINE?
Pros: -improved stage from OG CRA
-clean sounding mids
-good treble sparkle, air and reverb
-tho, midbass focused, has quick decay
Cons: -twice as expensive as OG CRA
-average detail retrieval
-may sound digitalish at times
-cymbals may sound thin on cymbal heavy tracks
‼️
DISCLAIMER:
Usual stuff. Consider this review as my diary on my listening impressions of the CRA+. And since it is a diary, then it is a personal assessment, and my findings might not be similar to yours. I want to thank Sir Tyvan from KZ Official Store for sending me a unit. Although I will be posting some links on where to purchase them, they are not affiliate links. They offered before, but I declined because you know, "conflict of interest".


⚜️
PACKAGING and ACCESSORIES
- Same KZ stuff. A box, 3 pairs of eartips, white cable and the IEM


⚜️
DESIGN
Well… uhmmm. It looks like CRA? But with gold instead of silver?
😅



⚜️
COMFORT
-I may not have mentioned it before but, CRA+ is wiggly on my ears especially with the stock cable. Same issue I had with OG CRA. If they might fit just right for you, then great!


⚜️
SETUP:
Honestly, I didn’t like everything stock on CRA+. Tips don’t seal well. Cables? Probably placebo but they sounded veiled and doesn’t hook my ears well. So I changed to a **** 8 core for comfort and running it on 4.4 balanced.
-Shanling M3x using stock music player, UAPP and HIBY
-CRA+ on final e tips/jvc spiral dots++
-yinyo 8 core 4.4 balanced and kz upgrade cable
-Volume measured and listened at 75-78 dbs.


⏯️
MY LIBRARY:
I grew up listening to 90’s music. Alternative, punk-rock, screamo, rap, Philippine OPM, Anime songs, JPOP, KPOP, metal, reggae and a lot more.
The artists I regularly listen to are:
⭐
Rock-Alternative-Metal
Incubus, 311, BMTH, Matchbox 20, The Goo Goo Dolls, Paramore, Polyphia, The Calling,, Babymetal, Metallica, Slipknot, Bon Jovi, Coheed and Cambria, Deftones, Red Hot, Green day,
⭐
OPM(Original Pinoy Music):
E-heads, Slapshock, Parokya, Urbanddub, Up Dharma Down, Bamboo, IV of spade, Kamikazee, Rivermaya
⭐
POP:
IU, Yoasobi, Yorushika, Milet, Reona, Maroon 5, Coldplay, Bruno Mars, Ed Sheeran, Taylor, Dua Lipa, Oliva Rodrigo, Billie Eilish
⭐
OTHERS:
Carpenters, Micheal Learns to Rock, Celine Dion, Bob Marley, Sitti, Daft Punk, Pink Floyed, Earth wind and fire, Amber rubarth, Sia, Yosi Horikawa
I listen to more, but I can’t just list them all here.haha. Just giving you an idea on what I listen.


⚜️
SOUND PROFILE:
286814697_718688442677098_2025275271677301182_n.jpg

Bright U shaped with a bit of emphasis on midbass. Stage is intimate and sometimes I feel like I am at the place of the drummer because cymbals sound near. Room size is not that big. But this is definitely more balanced sounding than OG CRA.
For the bass, it is focused on midbass with lots of punch. It does not really bleed much because they are quick and have short decays. They should be enough for fundamentals and bass notes, but at times they can sound dry and hollow.
Mids are a bit recessed because of the overemphasized harmonic air at the high treble (12-13k). However, vocals are fairly placed upfront. So what does this mean? Well, recessed mids does not always mean recessed sounding vocals. In this case, vocals are devoid of emotions from reverse masking. So yeah, the timbre is kinda lean, soft and digitalish.
For the treble, although the OG CRA has more of it, the CRA+ still has that DNA trait of brittleness to it. Again, it overemphasizes harmonics and air, making some songs veiled in a fog-like blanket of noise. Yes they sound clean, but almost sterile.


⚜️
TECHNICALITIES
As for the technicalities, I think they are an upgrade to the OG CRA in terms of the roundness of soundstage. This time, the CRA+ has proper depth and layering, but not much to talk about because some other sets do this at the same price point.
Also something to note about is that, its imaging is a bit strange. The position of instruments are atypical. Cymbals sound fairly near, vocals are intimate while other instruments sound distant ( not in volume but in perceived spacing). It actually took me a bit of time to understand its imaging, so it isn’t really a question of accuracy for me, but a question of preference.
So basically, the + really is an upgrade to the OG CRA. Midbass has better impact for me. Tamed down a bit of that brightness on the treble, and better technicalities when it comes roundness of soundstage, depth and imaging. I would say it is about 70-80% similar sounding to the OG CRA. So technically, they share most of the pros and cons that I have with OG CRA, but I won’t be writing that. I will just write some new nuances I found.


⚜️
ALSO:
286025419_560789945445215_9174017840803969936_n.jpg

this cra+ is soo picky on everything!!.. finally found proper pairings for my own comfort,fit and preferences
first off.. the nozzle filters are different from OG CRA.. right is OG CRA..
as u can see, the filter on cra+ is more open.. which makes this set very sensitive to eartips and insertion depth..
second is.. I had to find a source that opens up the stage.... in my case, bal out of m3x does it..
so now, i have physically moved that 12-13k peak a bit closer thru insertion depth.. its not as congested as the first time i listened to it.
so im getting correct imaging and perceived space..


❤️
PROS
✅
clean sounding mids on the track “inuman na” by Parokya ni edgar. Vocals and instruments on that track were clearly heard like you share the same room with them

✅
good air and reverb on vocal tracks from female singers like Celine, Olivia and Taylor

✅
improved stage and layering. I could hear instruments properly having their own space, which the OG CRA lacked.

✅
good snare snap on the intro of the track "Ehu girl" by Kolohe kai

✅
somehow, in the track "Saucy" by polyphia, I really liked how instruments sounded especially on the guitars. Since the track isn’t really cymbal heavy, it seemed to have better transparency.

✅
basslines are so much better and packs some nice accent in “wish you were here” by Incubus.

✅
although midbass focused, the quick decay makes up for it making them sound cleaner with minimal bleed.

✅
good treble sparkle on tracks with bar chimes. Just hear it.
😊
"kcnwkxnalxinwkxnskshw shhhhring"
😅




💢
CONS

❌
again, the cymbals sound near and thin on cymbal heavy tracks. They are not aggressive in nature, but somehow I find it distracting.

❌
I find it digitalish sounding especially on male vocals. I am very particular on timbre and i really find this pair to be a little bit off.

❌
average detail retrieval. Matchbox twenty's "unwell", three drum stick counts at 0:33-0:35

❌
dry and soft timbre on some female vocals. Well they sound fine and clean at times. But when a track calls for emotions, CRA+ struggles a bit in delivering that.

❌
it doesn’t give me that realism in my library. The timbre and instrument spacing, its just a bit off for me. Maybe some would find it natural. But perceived realism is a really subjective topic, even for musicians.


⚜️
COMPARISONS


⏯️
T3+
Hmmm. Although they share a similar tuning to some extent, but I find the t3+ to be more resolving. So the price is justified on that. So, CRA+ might be a cheaper alternative.

⏯️
ARIA
If you find the Aria lacking in treble sparkle, then this might be a good and cheap alternative. But Aria is smoother overall.

⏯️
Acoustune RS one
Nope, lets not touch there. I am supposed to praise CRA+
😅


⏯️
IE600
Well. This isn’t a fair comparison but I really find the grittiness of the treble to be similar. When I tried the ie600, it really reminded me of the OG CRA. Of course the techs on ie600 is miles miles miles ahead, but I am just giving you an idea on how the treble might be perceived. And since the CRA+ shares the same DNA of CRA, I can’t help but include ie600 in this comparison. But don’t take my word for buying CRA+ because it sounds like ie600, never.

⏯️
EDA
Uhmmm. Unfortunately, I don’t have one.

⏯️
EDX ULTRA
I like this ultra better. More details soon..
🙂



SUMMARY:
286279812_1047661422797408_1169377422407898955_n.jpg

It is gonna be a hard time for CRA+, or KZ for that matter. Yes they are good sounding for sure, no doubt. But the x2 increase in price relative to the OG CRA? It really depends on the user preference if it is justified.
This could have been a bang for the buck if they are priced as the OG CRA. Also, chu is a cheaper set. Well yeah, they are tuned quite differently, but moondrop has set the bar too high on a tuning with very few inaccuracies.
Since KZ can tune quite well now, next step should be making a smoother one.
this gold is shining now,
but for how long?


WHERE TO BUY:non-affiliate

https://aliexpress.ru/item/1005004206620828.html
Aliexpress:
CCA Official Store
https://a.aliexpress.com/_mqHFLxA
Lazada:
Shop online with CCA headphone shop now! Visit CCA headphone shop on Lazada. | https://s.lazada.com.ph/s.ViOPq
Shopee:
https://shopee.ph/gkearphones.ph?smtt=0.0.9
website:https://www.kztws.com
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nxnje

500+ Head-Fier
CCA CRA+: upgrading a classic or offering something different?
Pros: - Warm and fun V-shaped signature with surprising overall coherence and equilibrium between frequencies
- Midrange is recessed but manages to sound rich enough to be enjoyed with no excessive bleed
- Stage has more depth than the original CRA and is more tri-dimensional (even though it's still average for the price)
- Very comfortable
- Easy to drive
Cons: - Treble is ok for most users but treble-sensitive ones should look elsewhere (the original CRA is way more aggressive)
- Since the price is higher than the original CRA and the technical performance is practically comparable, a slightly better cable should have been included
- The stock eartips are too soft and replacing them is highly suggested
- Hard competition since when EDX Ultra and EDA Balanced (which I do not own) have been released

Introduction​

The “Plus” version is out.
After the success of the CCA CRA (which are still praised by many even though it seems like the hype train have started slowing down), KZ is back with a newer version which is supposed to be an upgrade over the original CRA; or at least, this is what a “+” in front of the name should represent, and this would be also confirmed by the fact that the price has almost doubled.
Take into account that the two earphones are practically identical in terms of look, so many parts of this review will just be identical to my old CRA review.
Will the CRA+ really be an upgrade over the previous version?

Disclaimer: the sample was provided by KZ for free in order to write an honest review. I do not represent them in any way and this is not promotional content.
At the time of the review, the CCA CRA+ were sold for around €32 on KZ Earphones Franchised Store.

DSC00057.JPG

Technical Specifications​

  • Configuration → 1DD
  • Sensitivity → 111dB
  • Impedance → 23.5 Ohm
  • Frequency Response → 20 Hz – 40000 Hz
  • Cable → 1,25m copper cable with 0,75mm PINs, my sample has a built-in microphone
  • Connector type → L-type gold plated 3,5mm jack connector

Packaging​

Very simple and basic CCA package containing:

  • The CCA CRA
  • The cable
  • 3 pairs of silicone tips (which are a sort of new softer version of the starline tips, characterized by a shorter and tighter nozzle tube)
  • User manual
DSC00050.JPGDSC00053.JPG

Design and Build Quality​

The CRA have a metal faceplate (which is a fingerprint magnet) but the whole shell is made of plastic. The CRA+ comes in gold instead of silver (which was the color of the original CRA). The overall assembly is good and they do not feel cheap or poorly built. There are two pressure vents in the inner part of the shell in order to regulate pressure when wearing them.
I want to specify that looking at the shell the driver seems different from the one used in the original CRA, and I gotta say I'm surprised as usually brands use the same drivers and they just re-tune the IEM when releasing a “Pro” or “Plus” version.
PXL_20220523_180926701 (1).jpgPXL_20220523_180852798 (1).jpg

Cable​

The included cable is different from the one provided with the original CRA. I don’t know if it is different because it has a built-in microphone (the previous version was shipped to me without a microphone, so they included a slightly different cable).
DSC00055.JPG

Comfort and Isolation​

The CCA CRA are very comfortable to wear as there are no protruding edges along the inner side of the shell. Isolation is only average.
Stock tips have the classic "starlin" texture on top, but they are softer and have a shorter nozzle tube. I did not like them on the CRA+ in terms of overall fit as they aren't stiff enough for my taste, so I will be switching to other tips after the review. Then, I will maybe try these tips on other IEMs to see if I can find other stuff that combines well with them.
DSC00056.JPGPXL_20220523_180812596 (1).jpgPXL_20220523_180801189 (1).jpg

Sound​

How do these sound?
This is the real reason you’re reading this review (I guess).
[Personal preference: I listen to almost every genre, even though my main preference goes to EDM subgenres. I always like a bit more energy on the bass and on the highs, leading to a personal preference for Y-shaped sound signatures, but if I have to choose, I’d prefer having many different IEMs with various signatures, in order to choose a particular one of them when I want to listen to a specific genre. I love switching between my IEMs so it’s even better if they’re very different from each other.]
TEST GEAR

  • DAC: Topping E30
  • AMP: Topping L30
  • Mobile phones: Poco F2 Pro, Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
  • Dongle: Apple Type-C dongle
  • Portable DAPs: Benjie S8/AGPTEK M30B
  • Other sources: Presonus AudioBox iONE
Do they need an amp?
The CCA CRA+ don’t need an amplifier and I can’t hear noticeable improvements when amplified (just like with the original CRA).

Sound signature
The CCA CRA are a V-shaped set with an emphasized low-end, recessed midrange and emphasized treble. It seems like this time CCA opted for a more Harman-ish tuning and this is not necessarily a bad thing.

Lows: starting from the sub-bass, I gotta say the CRA+ do pretty well: the extension is good and sub-bass is relatively clean, even though there is a roll-off somewhere near 30/35Hz that tames the visceral rumble that I usually search for in V-shaped IEMs. I don't think it is a real lack, it's more of a personal preference in this case. If you like a cleaner sub-bass approach, these are right for you, whereas if you search for an ear-shaking rumble these may not be enough.
Regarding the bass, it’s punchy, moderately fast but not overpowering or excessively fat. This is the right measure of bass for those who want a good bass slam without compromising the rest of the signature, but if you like a leaner bass response then you should look for products which have a less emphasized low-end.
The bleed in the midrange is not disturbing, instead it gives the right warmth to the midrange and I don't dislike it.

Mids: midrange is recessed with emphasis on the upper-midrange region. This leads to very intimate and energetic female vocals, and even though there are some episodes of sibilance, I'd say the overall enjoyment is guaranteed in this sense. Sure, it can be a tad "hot" sometimes in the upper midrange, but the CRA+ are not shouty. Male vocals have the right warmth and are well rendered as well but I think female ones just have more enjoyment to offer on this set. Instruments take a step back but it's not the classic V-shaped set where, apart from bass and treble, everything else is muted: they are present, and thanks both to the solid note weight granted by the emphasized low-end and the emphasis on the upper treble, they are distinguishable with no difficulties.

Highs: treble is where the CRA+ change more from their predecessors. Details are pretty good while keeping everything listenable and there isn't the usual focus on the lower treble region (it seems like the 5K peak isn't there anymore). Instead, there's some added air and sparkle in the upper-treble, which gives the CRA+ a more open sound overall and helps to avoid congestion. Just to be honest, this is not the kind of treble tuning that will appeal the most sensitive ears: it's still a pretty bright set on top but having more emphasis on the upper treble instead of having it on the lower treble definitely leads to a less aggressive sound. Also, think that an emphasis on lower treble + an emphasis on the upper midrange would have led to a hugely forward sound (which is not pleasant most of the times). I still think those who search for completely fatigue-free sets should look elsewhere.

Soundstage is average, with more width than depth and average height. Imaging and instrument separation are average in their price range so definitely decent considering nowadays' level.

The included microphone is “usable” for calls and discord chat, nothing to be amazed by.

Some comparisons:
CCA CRA+ vs CCA CRA

This is the comparison that many have been waiting for.
The CRA+ are tonally different as this time CCA opted for an Harman-ish tuning, which I didn’t expect.
The CRA+ have more low-end weight, with slightly more punch in the bass and a touch less sub-bass. The overall low-end is also perceived thicker than on the original CRA, mostly because of the fact that the CRA+ are warmer along the spectrum.
Midrange is on the same level I’d say, even though the CRA+ have warmer male vocals and less aggressive female vocals.
The original CRA are sharper and more fatiguing, while the CRA+ find instead their good equilibrium with a less aggressive upper-midrange/lower-treble region and a slight boost in the upper treble, which is well counterbalanced by the thicker low-end.
Soundstage is improved and has a bit more depth now, while being less wide and with average height. Imaging is on par.
In general, the CRA+ are warmer, thicker, easier to keep in your ears for long listening sessions and generally more mature, while the original CRA are a touch more detailed and go a bit deeper in sub-bass frequencies (so, slightly better extension).
Build quality and isolation are identical.
Price is gonna be the deciding factor here, I’ll explain it better in the final part of the review.

CCA CRA+ vs Moondrop Chu
These two are very different. The CRA+ have a warm approach and are characterized by a V-Shaped signature, whereas the Chu follow a neutral-bright signature. The CRA+ have more sub-bass and bass, with a punchier, warmer, thicker and more textured low end; the Chu, instead, tend to be drier and leaner in lower registers, even though the bass is slightly faster. Midrange is more recessed on CRA+, while the Chu have a more forward midrange. Vocals are slightly more engaging on the CRA+, maybe thanks to their warmer approach; Chu instead tend to have just some added presence to female vocals but miss the dynamics of the CRA+ and the warmth that CRA+ give to male vocals. The upper registers aren't of very different levels, but the Chu manage to sound more open and transparent with a better sense of space. Soundstage is wider and slightly deeper on the Chu, while height is very close between the two. Imaging is on par more or less.
Chu are for those who want a more neutral presentation while the CRA+ are more suited for people that want more fun and punch from their tracks.
Chu’s shells are smaller than the CRA+’s shells, and seem to be sturdier, but they are also heavier, and the fact that the cable is non-detachable on the Chu will maybe make them less attractive for some people, even though I think they are fine.

Final Thoughts​

This is one of the few cases where the “+” in front of the product name really means something considering that I can hear some improvements here and there. The CRA already performed above the expectations considering its price, and the CRA+ take another step forward in maturity and overall coherence, but even though we can compare these in terms of technicalities, they sound very different.
Overall, the CRA+ are solid: you should save 10$ and get the original CRA if you search for something brighter with slightly more detail, or just buy the CRA+ go for these if you want a warmer and more mature set.
Last edited:

Bosk

1000+ Head-Fier
CCA CRA+ Why spend more?
Pros: + Balanced frequency response
+ Reasonable technicalities
+ Terrific single-driver coherency
+ Good isolation & ergonomics
+ Priced under USD $30
Cons: - Sonically underwhelming stock cable
- Plastic housing
- Difficulty justifying more expensive IEMs
CCA1.jpg


Welcome To My Shamelessly Exhaustive CCA CRA+ Earphone Review

First, a confession. I must've been living under a rock because to my shame I never tried the original CCA CRA which has generated so much hype until just last week.

When CCA decided to release a followup I knew it was time to take the plunge - on both the CRA+ and original CRA to compare it with, and with both having sufficiently burned-in this week it's now time to test their mettle against the rest of my collection. Now a disclaimer to give this review context, I'm a confessed "single-DD aficionado" having owned the Dunu Luna & OG Dita Dream in the past. That may encourage me to unapolagetically look upon the CRA+ more positively than someone with a pronounced fetish for all-BA earphones for instance.

As to my music collection of nearly 2000 albums, it spans the gamut of genres but is focused around pop, vintage rock, 90s-00s EDM & movie soundtracks especially. So in terms of IEMs it's impossible for me to have a niche sonic preference that only performs optimally with string instruments or male vocals for instance. After saying that I'd label myself a detail freak who craves single-driver coherency, and am only a shade away from considering deep sub-bass a requirement - so right off the bat the CRA+ is a pretty good fit.




IEM-Box.jpg


What's In The Box?

Given its' price tag under USD $30, CCA can perhaps be forgiven for shipping the CRA+ in a cheap cardboard box, the sort most of us have experienced before with brands like KZ & other entry level Chi-fi offerings. I'd rather more of my money go towards the things stuffed in my ears, so no complaint there.

The included eartips come in three standard sizes and are surprisingly not terrible. The stock 3.5mm cable on the other hand, though not the worst I've owned, is far from ideal. I'll compare both eartips & cable with third party alternatives later in the review, the skinny is the cable sucks but the tips don't.




CCA2.jpg


Ergonomics & Build Quality

Since human ear geometries vary considerably, ergonomics are quite subjective. Assuming the CRA+ do fit your ears well you'll probably find their isolation to be excellent, though of course this is also partially tip-dependent.

I find them to be extremely comfortable. The plastic housings are smooth, light and rounded, they're by no means the smallest single-DD IEMs around and if anything are on the slightly larger side of things, but that only improves isolation. The 2 pin connectors lie outside the shells which is not my preference but not a deal-breaker.

As far as finish goes I've no complaints for the price, in fact no complaint with their construction at all other than concern for how durable these plastic shells prove to be. For the asking price it wouldn't be a bad idea to buy a second pair just in case the first falls apart, and their feathery weight is certainly appreciated during long listening sessions. Metal shells may have changed the acoustics appreciably, impacted comfort negatively & made them considerably more expensive, so yes I don't have an issue with the choice of plastic but it will be interesting to see how they hold up.

As for the cable as briefly mentioned in the previous section, it's about what you'd expect at this price point in terms of sonic performance. Ergonomically it's fine, just don't expect to get the most out of the CRA+'s by using it.




CCA3.jpg


So... How Do they Sound?

Better than they have any right to.

Or perhaps their performance isn't unexpected by those who've owned the original CRA for some time. This IEM successfully builds on the pedigree of the previous model, which is probably what many of you reading this review yearn to hear. That said, some of you may prefer the original... but I suspect you'd be in the minority.

What makes the CRA+ great? It isn't the price tag - that merely amplifies their greatness. No, this is something else.

Having been a card-carrying audiophile for more than twenty years, my mental process of evaluating audio gear is as hard-wired as it is simplistic - I listen for anything a piece of gear does that sounds deficient to the internal reference sound that exists only in my head. This reference is probably an unconscious amalgam of the deepest sub-bass I've ever heard, the sweetest female vocals, the broadest soundstage and so forth.

The nice thing about evaluating budget gear is its' usually a fairly simple process because the flaws jump right out at you. The tragedy comes when a piece of gear truly shines except for that one deficiency you can't bring yourself to ignore. More commonly, entry-level gear is deficient in many or even most areas but decent in a few others, so reviewers anxious to please will usually focus their attention on those.

Well the annoying thing about the CRA+'s is there's very little they're bad at and quite a lot of things they do particularly well. Nothing really jumps out as a candidate for "oh these are great BUT", because there's no obvious BUT to be found. Perhaps the closest is their lean towards aggressiveness along with the DD drivers' lack of speed compared with higher-priced offerings, but neither cruels my enjoyment. Essentially the CRA+ are fantastic, even before taking price into account.




IEM-Comparison.jpg


Comparing The CRA+ To Other IEMs

I'll now compare the CRA+ with four other sets of budget IEMs in my collection, followed by the mid-range Tanchjim Oxygens & kilobuck Andromeda 2020s.

All comparisons were done on my iBasso DX240 with a wide range of FLAC & DSD tracks, using duplicate tips & cables on compared sets of IEMs where possible.


CCA CRA+ (USD $29) vs CCA CRA (USD $15)

The obvious comparison to make and the one many of you will be most interested in. I run my DX240 on High-Gain exclusively (even for the Andromedas) and volume-matched a setting of 20 for the CRA+ and 22 for the CRA, suggesting they're both similarly easy to drive. Running both on an Apple dongle later confirmed this.

Ergonomically they are identical. The CRA has a more hollow sound, with a narrower soundstage, but more mid bass than the CRA+ and perhaps more bass quantity in general. The CRA+ has tighter, higher quality bass, sub bass especially. The CRA+ is also slightly darker sounding, with a marginally more relaxed presentation, but less midrange presence than the CRA. Guitars in particular sound fantastically detailed on the CRA, but overall I would label the CRA+ as being easily the better balanced earphone and distinctly my preference of the two. There's also enough of a difference between them to warrant owning both.

Essentially the CRA feels more V-shaped with a more "fun" tuning, but the CRA+ is a better all-rounder with a more mature tuning. The cost difference between them feels negligible compared with the CRA+'s improvement in performance, making it my clear recommendation if you're forced to decide between them.


CCA CRA+ (USD $29) vs Blon BL-03 (USD $27)

The venerable BL-03 is one of those seminal IEMs everyone in the hobby should own or at least experience. To this day I can listen to it for hours at a stretch without fatigue, and without feeling that anything absolutely crucial to my musical enjoyment is missing. Obviously it isn't the last word in technical performance, that's not what the BL-03 has ever been about.

I volume matched the BL-03 to 26 on the DX240 vs 20 for the CRA+. Despite being less fatiguing than the CRA+, the BL-03 is not as well-balanced with a somewhat thinner midrange, more mid bass, but less sub bass. It does have a slightly more open soundstage, which may partly be the result of it's form factor which makes obtaining a tight seal more difficult. The IEM itself also has less mass with which to block outside noise, allowing the BL-03 to feel more "open" which could be a pro or a con depending on how & where you use it.

If anything the BL-03 feels more similar to the original CRA, and the two match up well against each other. I do prefer the BL-03 over the CRA as the soundstage feels more open and the BL-03 is better balanced across the frequency spectrum. Compared with the CRA+ however, the BL-03 is a major step down for me.


CCA CRA+ (USD $29) vs Blon BL01 (USD $23)

Ironic to think the BL01 is a successor to the BL-03 but can be had cheaper these days despite initially being touted as a better product. Sonically I've always preferred the original BL-03 without question, though the BL01 is ergonomically the most comfortable IEM in my collection. The BL01 has less midrange presence than the BL-03, and is smoother but also less detailed. I find it lacks the fun factor that makes the BL-03 so special.

I volume matched the BL01 to 25 on the DX240 vs 20 for the CRA+. Though the BL01 sounds smoother and perhaps has a more open soundstage, compared with the CRA+ there is less overall bass quantity, less midrange clarity, and a certain hollowness of tone the CRA+ lacks. It probably is less fatiguing, but in general is a big step down in almost every department.


CCA CRA+ (USD $29) vs Tripowin TC-01 (USD $49)

It's hard to believe which is the more expensive IEM in this comparison after listening to them. To be honest I've never been a fan of the Tripowin TC-01 and my set even has a slight channel imbalance.

The TC-01 is reminiscent of the Blon BL-03 in that it has a fairly open soundstage but sounds a tad hollow. Perhaps there is too much upper midrange emphasis at the expense of the lower midrange or not enough mid bass. In any event I prefer the CRA+ in virtually every department, there really isn't much more to say than that.


CCA CRA+ (USD $29) vs Tanchjim Oxygen (USD $270)

The Oxygen is a superbly well-balanced IEM that's hard to find fault with. However it is on the polite side, and can be a little boring because of it. Definitely an IEM that allows you to listen for hours without a hint of fatigue, without feeling you're missing anything vital.

I volume matched the Oxygen to 30 on the DX240 vs 20 for the CRA+, meaning it is significantly harder to drive. The Oxygen's notes tend to be more rounded than those of the CRA+, though it does this without necessarily sacrificing detail. It has less bass quantity in general than the CRA+, sub bass especially, indeed I have always found the Oxygen's bass performance to be fairly disappointing.

The Oxygen is much more relaxed than the CRA+ so vocals take a noticeable step backwards which helps the soundstage expand laterally, helping you notice small instrument details in the wings on either side much more, perhaps because the central image shouts less for attention. Switching to the CRA+ feels like a subwoofer was just added to your system, and there is more perception of detail though that could be because it is thrust towards you more forcibly.

Despite both being single DD's these two IEMs are very different, and which you prefer will largely come down to your chosen sonic preference. What the Oxygen does, it does extremely well. However I prefer more excitement these days, so even before the CRA+ arrived it was getting very little ear-time. Now it will get even less.


CCA CRA+ (USD $29) vs Campfire Andromeda 2020 (USD $1100)

Probably not a fair comparison, and I don't mean on a price basis but rather comparing a single-DD IEM to one with 5 BA's leads to an obvious mismatch of strengths & weaknesses. Still, why not? The Andromeda 2020's are reasonable all-rounders, doing quite well on genres not drastically reliant on sub bass. They excel on technicalities, but feature all the shortcomings BA-based IEMs bring to the table.

I volume matched the Andromedas to 9 on the DX240 vs 20 for the CRA+, so they're insanely easy to drive but will deliver background hiss on all but the most silent of sources. The Andromedas have more mid bass than the CRA+, a pronounced upper-midrange emphasis, a complete absence of sub bass below a certain frequency so you'll never feel the deepest drum hits, and thanks to that midrange emphasis tend to be even more upfront and in-your-face than the CRA+.

The Andromedas have a wider, very well-organised 3D soundstage and far better imaging. This is the first time I've mentioned imaging, which probably tells you both how good the Andromedas are at it and how similarly all the other IEMs compared stack up in that department. However instrument & voice timbre is particularly poor on the Andromedas, a consequence of using BA drivers of course. I also find they deliver a sort of "everything at once" effect, which presents itself as an abundance of detail that somehow leads to a feeling of congestion. This further increases their level of fatigue, which is higher than the CRA+.

The CRA+ have a cohesion you can only get from single driver transducers. They deliver sub bass & dynamics the Andromedas can only dream of, and timbre is vastly improved. However the CRA+ driver itself is rather slow, unlike the lightning-fast BAs of the Andromedas. Clearly it isn't a like-for-like comparison, the Andromedas are superb at showing off what your system can do but I do find them disappointingly fatiguing. The CRA+ are every bit as good for musical enjoyment and then some.




IEM-Sources.jpg


Comparing The CRA+ With Different Sources

Currently I have three main sources on hand and tested the CRA+ with each.


Apple Lightning Dongle (iPhone & Spotify)

Really only used to test how easy the CRA+ are to drive. I've found they're easy enough to the point where it can be comfortably stated running them directly from a phone won't sacrifice much at all in the way of drivability, though fidelity may be another story.

Indeed it was obvious the dongle was a large step down from both DAPs. It sounded congested with a collapsed soundstage, sub-bass seemed artificially boosted & bloated (not sure if Spotify caused this), and overall felt flat with poor dynamics, a lack of texture & articulation and very little decay of notes evident.


Astell & Kern SR25

The SR25 delivers a pleasant CRA+ experience. The midrange is slightly dry and overall the presentation is fairly relaxed compared with the DX240. Notes feels somewhat softer leading to a flatter sound with less dynamics, with the decay of notes being harder to discern.


DX240 with Modded AMP1MK3 (read about that here)

My new reference player with modded amp card drives the CRA+ with absolute authority. Compared with the SR25 everything is more dynamic with deeper sub-bass, a more forward (and consequently more fatiguing) midrange, and overall the presentation has more impact, detail & definition with better instrument separation.

However unsurprisingly, the difference between both DAPs was substantially less than the difference between most of the IEMs tested. The CRA+ certainly yielded much improvement via the DX240 but it was not a night & day difference.




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Comparing The CRA+ With Different Cables

Currently I have six IEM cables on hand, two of which are MMCX so a Linsoul adapter was used to convert them to 2pin.


CRA+ Stock Cable, 2pin 3.5mm

Ergonomically I've no complaints, but sonically this cable makes the CRA+ sound mushy with poor dynamics, with less-impactful bass but a reasonable midrange.


**** 4 Core, 4 core silver-plated copper 2pin 2.5mm (USD $30)

Being a fairly skinny 4 wire cable the soundstage is narrow as you'd expect, but it delivers a nice sonic balance with a midrange emphasis.


NiceHCK LitzPS-Pro, 8 core silver 2pin 2.5mm (USD $70)

Somewhat boomy with noticeably enhanced mid bass, a midrange that sounds slightly hollow yet a little shouty, with a very broad soundstage.


Thieaudio EST, 4 core silver 2pin 2.5mm (USD $70)

One of the most detailed cables of the bunch with a fairly narrow soundstage. Something appeared off abut its' match with the CRA+, delivering a wonky timbre.


ALO Audio Reference 8, 8 core copper & silver MMCX 2.5mm (USD $300)

Delivered a very good soundstage with enhanced midrange presence, but more mid bass than sub bass emphasis.


Penon Audio Leo Plus, 8 core palladium-plated silver MMCX 2.5mm (USD $280)

Terrific frequency balance delivering a smooth yet detailed presentation across a large soundstage.




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Comparing The CRA+ With Different Eartips

I compared CRA+ performance with 7 different types of eartips including those that came bundled stock.


Stock CRA+ Eartips

These were surprisingly close to the Sedna tips which became my preferred reference. Good enough that you've no need to feel bad if not replacing them.


Azla SednaEarfit

Delivered deeper sub bass and slightly more top end sparkle, so I suppose a more v-shaped presentation. My favourite tips for the CRA+.


JVC Spiral Dot

These opened up the soundstage but attenuated mid bass to some extent, leaving me feeling a little less excited & involved in the presentation.


Final Audio Type E

They seemed to emphasise vocals, giving them a somewhat dry throatiness.


Spinfit CP100

Delivered a boomy mid bass emphasis that was a little too much at times.


Azla Xelastec

Terrific isolation, potentially delivering slightly higher resolution because of it. However I'm not a fan of their "sticky" texture.


Symbio W

Like the Xelastec they delivered a fantastic seal, and also a more forward midrange presence. I do find them uncomfortable however.




Conclusion

Are we at the end of the review already? That's a joke.

So how do I feel about the CRA+ and are they worth buying? Yes, yes they are. For so little money I'm struggling to quibble about them and this comes from someone with a lifetime of quibbling - I'm an audiophile so it comes with the territory.

My main gripe is the CRA+ tend to be somewhat aggressive and in-your-face, which of course can create fatigue over time. Their soundstage could be a little broader (couldn't it always?) and the DD drivers could certainly stand to be faster, having previously owned the Dunu Lunas I know what I'm missing there.

Looking at the bigger picture, these are heinously good for under USD $30 and I'm not entirely sure how to feel about that. On the one hand "entry level" IEMs this spectacular can bring true fidelity to the general population & hopefully drive a stake through the heart of Bose for good. On the other, part of the fun of being an audiophile is being an elitist snob and if society's riff raff is suddenly walking around with earphones this good doesn't that invalidate the time & money we've spent being weirdos who are into this hobby?

CCA raised the bar and I honestly don't see how I won't be giving these more future ear-time than any other IEM in my collection, nor does that feel like New Toy Syndrome talking. The IE600 has been whispering my name but that little voice fell silent the moment these arrived. For how long? We'll see.
Bosk
Bosk
The CRA+ are definitely better all-rounders than the CRA which seem to excel on some albums but perform poorly on others. If you're concerned about them being somewhat aggressive I'd suggest pairing with a more laidback source.
ScrofulousBinturong
ScrofulousBinturong
This is the best written and most informative review I've ever read.
W
warbles
"part of the fun of being an audiophile is being an elitist snob and if society's riff raff is suddenly walking around with earphones this good doesn't that invalidate the time & money we've spent being weirdos who are into this hobby?"

🎵😂🎵

Say no more. Comrade!
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ywheng89

Head-Fier
CCA CRA+ Review - An upgrade or?
Pros: Big soundstage
Impressive bass response
Smooth and non fatiguing treble
Good imaging for the price point
Cons: Vocal is a little lacking in texture
Slight edginess on treble
REG3rr9WU-7ISP6E5dScZRkPXWD0Aip__Qp8kABOLFp5GG4HhLXwZpzc13n4yezQFwOHxtrYuNVI-ykHGobYmOdj49r6sq_zrnjgwptgtdPphGW53_5R6x7BGUplwqbzQMo8R9esUv_bLcnZ7g


Intro
CCA is a brand that I believe most people are familiar with. They are a sub brand of KZ and pretty much every budget audiophile or seasoned audiophile should be familiar with these two brands. Today I have with me the CCA CRA+, which is an upgrade from the previous CRA model. CCA claimed that the CCA+ is improved in various aspects in sonic performance, and also an entirely new dynamic driver (I don’t do tear down so i will not be able to justify that claim on my end, shall leave that to the tear down guys like Jeff or Delta)


Packaging
The packaging of CRA+ is the usual KZ/CCA styled packaging. IEM itself and eartips and the cable. The cable is similar to the previous CRA’s. Pretty straight forward presentation and minimalistic packaging. Nothing to complain


Build/Comfort
The build quality itself is average, at least it doesn’t look cheap. Although it’ll be better to provide the buyer with colour choices rather than just one gold colour, although I am okay with that colour, it does look flashy and posh.

As for comfort, I don't have any discomfort wearing them for long hours, I have to trim the ear hook off the stock cable as it kinda meddles with the fit. Once the ear hook is off, it pretty much sits well in my ears. The stock cable itself is not stiff, so it’s fine without an ear hook, but that is just my preference, if it fits well for you, by all means just keep the ear hook.


Source (Stock cable and eartips)
Foobar2k -> Chord Mojo -> CCA CRA+
Foobar2k -> Questyle M15 -> CCA CRA+
Foobar2k -> Tempotec Sonata HD-V -> CCA CRA+
Foobar 2k -> Xduoo Link2Bal -> CCA CRA+
Cowon Plenue D2 -> CCA CRA+
iPod Touch 4G -> CCA CRA+


Sound
So, is CRA+ an upgrade from the OG CRA? I asked myself when I unboxed the CRA+. Upon listening to them, it’s safe to say it is definitely an upgrade over the OG CRA.
Take note that the impression below is based on stock eartips and stock cable,i will talk a bit on swapping to another cable
Let’s break it down below:

Bass
  • I find that the bass is a lot more refined compared to the OG CRA
  • Bass is tighter and it the extension is better overall
  • Listening to jazz track by Gregory Porter, the bass line hits and doesn’t overstay making it sound boomy, it is there when it is called for
  • The bass is also fast enough to not cause any muddiness
  • I do find that the bass performance although it's better than the OG, somehow it is still lacking a little texture and warmth
  • In Devin Townsend Project’s Sumeria, the mid bass performance is surprisingly pretty good as it is able to keep up with the double pedal
  • Sub bass rumble is there but doesn’t rumble hard, evident when listening to EDM track (Armin Van Buuren’s PIng Pong), i’m not a basshead, i only listen to EDM whenever i want to test the sub bass response of the IEM

Mids
  • Vocal doesn’t sound recessed, however, it does lack body
  • Female vocal sounded a little thin
  • Male vocal does have a little more body compared to female’s, at times it does sound a little brittle to me
  • The upper mids does have some emphasis there but not on the fatiguing level
  • Compared to the OG’s Mids, i like the + better than the OG’s

Treble
  • Treble is well extended, however the emphasis on certain range does cause some instruments to be highlighted too much, such as the hi hats and cymbals, it made them some a little artificial to my ears
  • Other than that, the treble is not fatiguing to listen to even at high volume
  • It has got a good amount of air and doesn’t sound dark at all
  • I do find that the brilliance is a little too much to my taste
  • Good detail retrieval capability


Soundstage/Imaging
  • Given the amount of air that I feel on the treble’s region, CRA+ does have a good soundstage
  • Good width and height, it does have the sense of 3D when you are listening to it
  • Imaging is good considering its price, instruments can be pinpointed easily even on busy track (Devin Townsend Project - Deconstruction)

Cable Swap
  • The above sound impressions are based on stock cable
  • The stock cable bundled does limit the performance of CRA+, whether you are a believer or not on cable changes sound, if you have a spare copper cable, try it out, and you will be surprised
  • I swapped to Xinhs’s 4 strands twisted copper cable, the difference is very noticeable, male vocal doesn’t sound brittle anymore, and timbre of hi hat and cymbal, somehow sounded more accurate to my ears
  • Although it does make the soundstage a little tighter, but i am okay with it
  • Bass somehow got a better texture
  • Male and Female vocal has got a bit more texture, and it is a lot more enjoyable now

Driveability
  • CRA+ is very easy to drive, no amping is required
  • It does benefit from better source of course, but any dongle dac will do just fine


Final Thoughts
Should you purchase the CRA+ if you already have the OG CRA? For me, I think of it as a more refined CRA, if you already have the CRA and would like more refinement on the soundstage, bass and treble, by all means go ahead and grab a pair.

While CRA+ is a good set, it does have some shortcomings as I mentioned above when paired with stock cable. Your experience of course might vary based on your setup and synergy of dac/amp pairing. What i have written here is solely based on my own listening experience of my own setup

*CRA+ is sent over by Ivy from Hifigo for the purpose of this review. I am in no way influenced by them to produce this review. All thoughts are of my own. A big thanks to Ivy!

If you are interested if purchasing a pair, head over to their store to grab one, at the time of writing, it is currently on sale at 27.88$
CCA CRA+

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Redcarmoose

Headphoneus Supremus
The CCA CRA+ that wasn't an improved CCA CRA
Pros: Good from a phone
Wonderful midrange with all the trimmings
$28.88
Exciting and fun sound signature
Fits great
Speedy bass that is sculpted and sophisticated
Not a hint a balanced armature timbre, because no balanced armatures are used
Cons: Not an actual improved CCA CRA but a whole new driver
Does not truly upscale with audiophile DAPs, it does get better soundstage, though loses pace in the process
DSC_0145.JPG

redcarmoose.jpg

The CCA CRA+
As far as sales per item go……….KZ/CRA are at the top of the heap. If you were to go by sheer sales numbers alone KZ/CRA has made quite the name for itself. Around 2015 KZ got their very own thread at Head-Fi, though I think they were known a little while before that? Still they were not mainstream, nothing Chinese made was mainstream at Head-Fi till around 2016. I purchased my first pair, the KZ-ATE in June of 2016.

The KZ-ATE Copper Driver RQ:016NBM IEM below:

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https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/kz-ate-in-ear-monitors.21174/reviews#review-16455

Amazingly it was my first review to make it to the front page of Head-fi, and the first front page exposure of a KZ company product. In a way times have changed, and in a way, times have stayed the same. In 2016 retail for the ATE was anywhere from $7 to $27 dollars. Today’s CRA+ is $28.88. Interesting with inflation and all they still make value a top-priority. The thing that has changed? Sound. Sound advanced in a big way. In fact if you were to go side by side to your whole IEM collection from 4 years ago you may find the CRA+ to beat out all the IEMs up to the $200 price point. Advancements in sound reproduction quality are on the up-swing………and maybe even more so in the economy sector the CRA+ abides in? In fact I do my rating system in relation to sound-quality per dollars spent. How that works is if an IEM is cheap and sounds good it gets a great score. Nothing is perfect..............but say the IEM sounds really, really good? It will get a perfect 5 score, due to the sound-quality value it contains. The whole reason this type of system works is because a score of 4 for a $100 IEM would not necessarily be the same as a score of 4 for a $6000 IEM, even though maybe a $6000 IEM would sound better. So it’s simply based on sound quality per $1 spent. If anyone has a problem with that they can see me after class, or send me a PM.

So where does the CCA CRA+ fit in? It’s slightly different and 2X the price of the regular CCA CRA. That seems to be a marketing strategy designed to cash-in on the prior CCA CRA fame. This is the part I have issue with. It really would have been better to name it a whole new name. Because it's not in anyway a further destination the old CCA CRA driver was taken to. It's a whole new animal placed into almost exactly the same shell. The popularity of the original CCA CRA resulted from the IEM itself being $14.00. The difference is the new DD and the silver paint/sticker has been upscaled gold. That and they went from a black cable to a white/silver one for the CCA CRA+.

gold-solid-gold-1.jpg


Gold
Lol, of course it’s gold, it’s $28.88................not $14.00 anymore.

But it is a new single full-range Ultra-Thin Diaphragm driver (just like the prior CRA was) and the IEM is totally retuned. So? It's not like made of Beryllium, though it actually may be, but it's not marketed that way. For all we know it may in fact be washed with unicorn tears? So since I haven’t heard a KZ since 2016 we will simply audition this as a new product. My old KZ-ATE I gave away to a friend. Sadly the KZ-ATE lost its life to a skateboarding accident, though my friend is fine......well kinda fine, he has always been different.


CCA CRA+
10mm Patented Ultra-thin Diaphragm Dynamic Driver IEMs
  • * With Various Upgrades, Never Stop To Be Better
  • * Entirely New 10mm Dynamic Drive
  • * Luxury Appearance
  • * Comfortable To Wear
  • * High-Purity Cable

Model-CRA+
Pin type-0.75mm
Cable length-120±5cm
Plug Type-3.5mm
Impedance-23.5Ω
Frequency Range-20-40000Hz
Sensitivity-111dB±1dB

An Encapsulated Review:
For people short on time or interest

I was going to give the CCA CRA+ a score of 3.5, except I kept listening to it with an Apple Dongle..............it just sounded so good in its element, that I came to realize that it’s home. This is in-fact possibly one of the best reasons for its existence? While not perfect, it does have a function. Surprisingly the way it’s tuned is critical for playback with flat responses...........like the Apple Dongle represents. Meaning......... DAP number one was to mid-centric due to a boosted mid-range and the other........( DAP two) offered strange slowness due to heavy bass which in turn created a lack of pace. So after being overly critical of the CCA CRA+, I came to realize that it wasn’t necessarily made for audiophile sources, that to put it back in its (Apple Dongle) element was the ultimate solution. Basically to not make it anything other than what it is. It has been designed to be optimized from a phone or Apple Dongle.

The engineers knew the fan-bass for this IEM..........it's for phones. So what am I truly trying to accomplish making it go
through audiophile hoops? It shines doing what it does best. So at the end it gained an extra 1/2 a point to get 4 stars. And all and all I feel the sound quality reflects that score. I score on a sound quality per dollar spent scoring method, and this is exactly where it lands.


It simply is what it is.

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Packaging:
The packaging is basically what you would expect for the money spent. Such extras include 3 sets of clear silicone tips, and an instruction booklet/warranty card. Though I am not sure if sending the IEM home to the factory (for warranty work) would be economical? Most of the documentation has to do with adjusting the volume as to not result in hearing damage. It should be noted that you have a choice when purchasing to get one with a microphone or with-out a microphone. There is a neat thing that you can do where you take everything out of the box and use simply use the box for storage...............upon placing your wired IEMs back inside.

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The Cable:
A standard 0.75mm gold-plated 2pin. They have made a change to a high purity silver plated cable over the regular CCA CRA which is copper. The cable isn’t really that bad. Though no chin slider, it’s not microphonic and coils when you want it to. The angled qdc style plugs have R & L markings, but no markings at all on the IEMs themselves except the CCA branding on the faceplate. You simply have to know which side is which by looking at the IEM shape to add the cable. Probably my favorite aspect of the cable is it does not tangle like the braided cables do. The advantage of the qdc style plugs is to allow the plastic receiver covered 2 pin females to exist outside of the IEM. This style offers additional security by only allowing the actual 2pin (when pushed down) to theoretically travel down only so far, as it’s stopped from traveling by both the inside of the cable-plug and the female reciever. Thus there is less risk of the whole plug mechanism pushing the IEM receiver plug through into the inside of the IEM. At first I didn’t understand the benefits, but now see why more and more companies are changing over. Obviously (with other designs) when the female 2 pin mount is built into the wall of the IEM there is no risk of the mechanism pushing through. Still the benefits of the qdc style is the female plugs are in essence reversed that they sit outside the shell. This single difference adds another layer of material when the plug is placed on-top. Also pin alignment (when applying the plug) is better as the receiver shape and plug shape have to align correctly before the pins are placed inside. In essence it’s the plug and receiver that are setting up the alignment angle (before joining the plug) not the delicate pins.

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Build quality:
While the IEM is two-piece, there is the additional (possible) metal cap which is gold. The shinny material could in-fact be plastic with a metallic surface applied? The original CRA was clear resin, now we have smoke. You can see the 10mm driver is also (fake) gold. There are two vents which can be noted in the pictures. They have also gone to quite the extent to build an internal structure to support the female 2 pin receiver. Such an elaborate build is either to make the 2 pin air-tight or provide addition support or both? But you can see the entire 2 pin receiver build traveling down from the plug area all the way to the bottom of the IEM. Then it seems the actual driver wires are attached to a separate second wall inside the IEM. There is an inset wire screen inside the nozzle. All and all it works for what it is.

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Driver:
A all new 10mm single full-range driver design incorporating a new patented ultra-thin polymer composite diaphragm with 0.15mm magnetic gap and 0.035 diameter loop to achieve a stable and efficient driver vibration frequency.

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The fit experience:

Fits like a dream. The three tip sizes are nice. Also the ear hooks on the cables offer a gentle over-ear guide for the wires. That’s the thing, everything here has ergonomic balance, the cable fits the IEM, the ear hook fits the cable and the IEM, the position of the nozzle is exactly at the correct angle...........the shape of the IEM seems to fit well. So it’s kind of a synergy of components that go all together to make it all work out. Oh….did I mention how lightweight they are? They are super lightweight!

Drivability:

I would give this a 10 out of 10 in combination with a phone or iPad. In fact with the iPad I was only as 50% volume and it was perfectly loud.


Sound:

Treble:

Just ever so slightly rolled off. Especially if you compare it to EST, or BA treble adventures. But you know what, that’s ok, as it’s not strident or sibilant in anyway. It’s just missing a hint of top-end. It’s not Lo-Fi but it is kinda monochromatic in its delivery. The saving grace here is the mids. So just remember it all works out somehow when we get there, and that’s next. Really it’s kind of a relaxing setting where everything is comprehensible and melted together. There really is no shooting treble stars traveling across the sonic horizon. There are no sun rays all of a sudden breaking through the clouds, the weather is overcast but it’s not raining. We can get our work done, it’s just not a visit to Disneyland or anything. Still it's pedestrian in the best of ways. It’s workable and serviceable in a way that you will not necessarily complain about any one thing. The treble isn’t boring. If anything the treble is truly a departure form most things in this price range. The difference between the CRA+ style of full-range DD treble response, and Hybrid BA treble response, is the treble is not as separated from the other notes. With Hybrids you are getting a delineation and focus due to it being a single BA whose job is to project an image of a treble element out into the soundstage. That single Balanced Armature element is alone as it was created by a separate device with-in the IEM. The downside is that separation usually comes with either a lot or a little of BA timbre issues. So it’s a give and take style of trade. I will go more into the CCA CRA+ treble during my side by side tests later on.

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Mids:
Finally the mids. If it wasn’t for everything that the mids do, this would not work. It’s like if someone in the 1970s (if you were around then) snuck into your house and fiddled with your graphic-EQ. They (behind your back) took the farthest outside sliders; the bass and treble and they pulled them down to zero. Of course your EQ is behind glass and you only show it off to impress the ladies, if and when they come over. :) And sure enough you played your stereo and it sounded fine, only you didn’t know what’s up. That is exactly what we have here.

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The CCA CRA+ has a way to trick you into believing it’s all mids in a way. Just that it’s boisterous and showy with its midrange. It’s saying this is all I have, go a head and look. Such character can be endearing with all the midrange ineptness done by many IEMs. It’s kinda like the midrange gets emphases because that’s where it all goes down anyway. Also there is more midrange placed on-top of more midrange. Like we are at the midrange Salad Bar and they kept asking you if you want more of a different kind of salad, but you already have enough, and reach a small level of confusion as to how to move forward. That’s how midrange centric this is. Of course it could just be me trying to get used to this driver design. As there has been quite the amount of emphasis on single full-range DDs in recent years. There is the DUNU Zen, The DUNU Zen Pro, The BLONs, The Mele, and Olina, the Elixir…..I could go on and on. I guess from what single full-range DDs I’ve heard, the CCA CRA+ does walk a special line in that it’s not blatantly strident at any one time, and for that I give it kudos. It’s definitely trying something new with this retuned driver from what I understand. I never got a chance to hear the original CCA CRA.

You give it a phone and it shows balance and finesse. Many IEMs I review don't do this. Some IEMs, in the process, seem to have had all the air taken out of their sails, where here the CCA CRA+ awakes and says good morning.


Bass:


It’s hard for a reviewer to judge bass at times. One reason is that there is so many different kinds of bass. This bass is probably really good for the money. Probably my best time with the CCA CRA+ was when I was playing a soundtrack and it has this really well done sub-bass that was way outside of the soundstage. And guess what……….yep. It did it really well, then it did the bass in the next song really well too. And I was thinking this is not bad for under $30.00. In fact it has an element of great…..but that’s probably taking things a little too far?

The pace can be discombobulated if stuff gets too busy, which can affect the pace, still that’s not all the time. The best solution to this pace discombobulation is to simply to get it a super linear source. That’s right, the CCA CRA+ does better with less. In a way it doesn’t recognize nor scale with better audiophile DAPs, yes .....the soundstage gets bigger, but it bass gets slower and smeared. Get the CCA CRA+ a flat response from a phone or iPad and witness a nice complete balance of attributes. All of a sudden the bass gets put in its place, while still dramatic, the bass is not affecting the other instruments.

Bass roll-off:

The bass has a roll-off which means it does not go down all the way, still you may not even notice it. Just like everything the CRA+ does, it does stuff pretty good, and pretty good for the asking price. If anything it’s probably the ONE IEM that proved (to me) it’s all about the midrange. That if the midrange is nice, the whole response is nice. You can quote me on that.


The general sound profile summery:

Many are going to enjoy this simply because it really doesn’t do too much wrong. While there is a wide range a timbre issues with balanced armatures, we circumvent all that here using a single full-range driver. The trick with DDs is getting as much spacial separation as possible. Meaning the stage is really all about how the midrange imaging is presented…..as how it should be. They took a little off the top and the bottom to get this tune. So that gives us a very complete midrange with less contrast in the highs and a little less thrust in the lows. This ends up parlaying a serviceable treble extension, though if you are used to treble sparklers up top they are not here. What is though, is a fairy clean treble, even if the upper midrange is slightly bright. There will never be that moment when you hear those separated chimes or cymbals. The sparkles are non-existent frequency wise, gone spatially. They are not there spatially, because they are non-existent!

Interestingly though the response is so complete anyways those tones could almost be attributed to balanced armature artifacts. Almost! That or just different personalities due to driver methodology? Probably the later. This style of middle of the road-ness goes along to also be totally forgiving. Meaning even your worst tracks will be enjoyable and full.

KZ has made the treble deficiencies an attribute, which is the genius of this single tune.

So surprisingly in a way it does it all, in a way. It has enough detail to not be boring, vocals are just barely forward enough, the timbre and individual instrument tone are correct and it has enough pace to get by. Still don’t get it fast or complicated music (especially with an audiophile DAP) and you will run into the regular common full-range dynamic driver issues. So it’s like that kid in school who always got a grade of C on everything. Yet the kid was likable and got along with everyone. That’s what we have here. The CCA CRA+ doesn’t do any one thing good or bad, well maybe the pace issues, but you don’t hear those all the time. Also it’s kind of silly to beat-up a $28.88 hard tryer. The likable part is that it has a nice midrange magic, I may have even called it a nirvana (one time) but I was probably being too generous? Being single driver means there is ample amount of cohesiveness to be thrown around…..so at least it has that going for it. We as reviewers should never forget the actual user group here. And for that my friends, it’s perfect. The 20 year-old girl who is out for the week-end and skating or jogging down the boardwalk at the beach. She doesn’t even know about the top end or low end extension and doesn’t care one bit. It plays her whole music collection in a better way than she has heard before. It’s the perfect physical weight, the perfect size, and it is made of solid gold! Well almost!

Comparisons:
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TINHIFI T1S:

The T1S is $8 dollars 88 cents cheaper. The lack of T1S treble is probably the biggest difference. It’s like half the orchestra went on a coffee break with the TINHIFI T1S. If you were just judging on sound for the money the CCA may gives you more………a whole level of upper treble sophistication and new instrumentation. The bass difference is that the T1S has a broader tone, more pushed-out to the sides, where the CCA CRA+ is less furry. Which one of the two a person prefers is a matter of taste. Because the midrange and treble are lifted up with the CCA CRA+, it naturally makes the bass resonances and decay seem less than the T1S. But still the bass is less controlled and flabby with the T1S. They run at about the same volume but the extra mids and treble make the T1S seem more more power hungry. This really comes down to taste, though technically the CCA CRA+ is probably the better IEM. It comes down to how you value that extra detail and if it’s a value to you in the first place. Everything about the CCA response is cleaner, where the T1S is dirtier and warmer. Probably no other comparison showed me just how much extra treble and midrange detail was possible in contrast to what the T1S provides? In the end the T1S offers a slower (bass) more sleepy rendition of your favorite tunes. If you decide to call the T1S lower-midrange soundstage (atmosphere) a benefit or a drawback, it’s your call not mine. That specific atmosphere is why I like the T1S, though it could definitely be looked at as a form of Lo-Fi by many. Since both sound signatures exist to scrape a little off the treble, and do away with the lowest bass notes to function; they are more like brothers despite their differences.

https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/tinhifi-t1s-universal-in-ear-monitor.25813/reviews#review-28397


Next:

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KBEAR Lark:

At $29.99 the Lark sits directly in our pricing focus. Though it just depends if you buy into the marketing hype that Hybrids are better or Single Full-range DD is better. I try and stay on the sidelines with that inquiry as I think both philosophies offer good and bad points. Nothing is perfect and less than perfect in the $30 range. Still the Lark is a subtle game changer. It brought Hybrid accomplishment to the masses. There are actually two review categories for the Lark, with one alone having 17 reviews!

The Lark with a single BA and a single DD woofer surprised me. Even though the Lark came out near the end of 2020, it still holds a place in my heart. Remember the talk about the T1S and CCA CRA+ being the same because they both shave a little off the top and the bottom? Well, none of that malarkey is happening with the Lark. While yes, it has a BA, so it does have the prerequisite BA timbre issues. Still I’m trading those slight timbre issue for a wide and involved upper midrange and treble. What the CCA CRA+ lacks the Lark provides without question. Happenings like this test almost make you question if we are even traveling down the correct rabbit hole. Same price, slight off timbre yet better over all sound. Yep, and everything is better separated and delineated, of course it is. The air between notes makes me wonder why they even make single full-range DDs in the first place. The Larks soundstage is filled with life, it’s filled with excitement..........way more life than $29.99.

Returning to the CCA CRA+ makes me eat my enthusiastic Lark words a little, as it’s way more fuel-efficient in response to source. The overall sound stage is big on the Lark, and the mid soundstage is big on the CCA CRA+. The two are so vary different it makes comparisons troublesome. When in reality you would think comparisons of close to the same sound would lead to more trouble. The Lark in all its glory is a whittled down display of elements where the carving as more forward and back............more places for the shadows to fall. The CCA is more all at once, the carving is both big and wide, but shows less relief between handiwork. The shadows fall into more shallow cracks, yet that’s OK. The timbre issues are minimized and there is a unification of tone just not presented by the Lark. Interestingly I went into this comparison thinking the Lark would have more vibrancy. It does have more vibrancy than the T1S, but maybe the CCA CRA+ is more vivid than the Lark! The Lark is the old school tube style, the CCA CRA+ more digital sounding. There is this obvious separation with the Lark, where treble elements like bells and chimes are pushed out, where the CCA CRA+ offers a closer proximity. But because the Lark offers a conventional placement, you can mistake it for a bigger display at first.

Which one do I choose? The Lark. :relaxed:

https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/kbear-lark.24761/reviews#review-25273


Conclusion:

I know this will be a high profile release. But KZ tricked you in a way because this really isn’t the second edition of the CCA CRA, it’s a whole new driver and a whole different sound signature. CCA would have been better off if they started with a whole new name for it. But that’s life…..and this still sounds pretty good. Just the fact that we are here in 2022 and experiencing this level of sound for the price of lunch is truly remarkable. The fact that if you went to most members of your family gave it to them, they would in-turn love the heck out of it. They would rate the CCA CRA+ a 10/10. A 10 out of 10 because that is what they sound like to 90% of the population. The fact that the soundstage is wide, the fact that all the instruments sound correct............there is no off-timbre, well maybe in places. But this IS a generally likable sound signature, the fact it does exactly what it was designed to do, to appeal to the masses!

Now here’s the kicker. If you only have a phone, Dongle or iPad stay with the CCA CRA+. Spend the $28.88 and go on to have a wonderful life. The CCA CRA+ sounds like a million from a iPhone. But.........if you want a little more, if your looking for a more accurate response, get the TRN TA1 Max. It’s 46-47 dollars and way better sound from an audiophile DAP or desktop.

https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/trn-ta1-max-universal-in-ear-monitor.25854/reviews#review-28523

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If you purchase from Linsoul you also get free world-wide shipping, and a 1 year warranty.

Linsoul website: https://www.linsoul.com/
Linsoul Aliexpress Store: https://ddaudio.aliexpress.com/store/2894006
Linsoul USA Amazon Store link: https://www.amazon.com/s?me=A267P2DT104U3C&marketplaceID=ATVPDKIKX0DER



Disclaimer:
The CCA CRA+ was sent to me by
Kareena Tang of Linsoul in exchange for this review.
Disclaimer: These thoughts and ideas are of one individual, your results may vary.
This ends review.

Equipment Used:
Sony WM1Z Walkman DAP MrWalkman Firmware 4.4mm/3.5mm
Sony WM1A Walkman DAP MrWalkman Firmware 4.4mm/3.5mm
Apple iPad
Apple Dongle


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C
Carpet
Great review as always. I appreciate uncoloured reviews that acknowledge differing preferences and use cases. I'm probably going to pass on this one and get the TRN TA1 Max. It's very handy to know it performs well from a basic source, so I can safely recommend it to friends wanting an upgrade for their phone.

Thank you! :L3000:
Redcarmoose
Redcarmoose
Thank-you so much, your style of comment makes it all worth it! You are exactly right. Have the friends and family get the CCA CRA+ as it sounds absolutely stunning from a phone. Though the TRN TA1 Max sounds crummy from a phone. So get the TRN TA1 Max to use with the DAP or any style of upgraded source and for that $20 extra you will have a true audiophile experience in the end.
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