CCA in ear monitors Impressions Thread
Sep 24, 2021 at 8:15 PM Post #3,046 of 3,126

Tzennn

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After going through all my dongle, settle with ve ohd (earbud dongle), they finally sound good, no more non existence mid, they sound more balance, have a little more body to it, still lacking something around 3k
Electric guitar sound fantastic tho
 
Sep 24, 2021 at 8:30 PM Post #3,047 of 3,126

Musicoflife

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The NRA arrived over the weekend; been listening to it ever since.

My initial impressions that I was intending to tap on my phone late last night but fell asleep instead:

Cable is different from their previous brown braided stock. I rather like it. Not as tangly though a bit stiff. Followed Slater's lingering advice and got tiny silicone O-rings to use as chin strap.

IMG_20210920_170309~2.jpg

Supplied cylindrical tips do not provide a secure seal. Even the largest ones keep slipping out with just the slightest facial or head movements. Changed them with yes, shallow, wide-bore soft silicone tips one can get from AliExpress or from Shopee in any color for $2 to $4 US per 100 pieces. I've had mine since the C10. Great pairing with the NRA's small nozzles.

IMG_20210923_091451~2.jpg

I think I have to agree with what @saldsald averred: 1) that the reproduction of low frequencies is remarkably good—the bass resonance is even better than the ZAX, I think; and 2) something seems off in the upper registers specifically in the transition from upper midrange to treble where sibilance occurs.

At first I thought there was something wrong with my unit but I've been playing my reference tracks and several others from different setups trying to see if they distort and all I got was a bad case of tinnitus.

Rebecca Pidgeon's high-resolution Spanish Harlem which is naturally sibilant in fact sounded fine. Her voice and the bass notes were beautiful and the nuances of the shaker were distinct. And yet...

Finally, I narrowed the pesky culprit down to reproduction of recordings that have heavy voice reverb, a stellar example of which is George Michael's Kissing A Fool. Every time a fricative or affricate consonant in this song is pronounced the resulting echoes become extremely sibilant. Turning down the volume helps, but when one approaches 70 dB it becomes irritating. Other similar recordings generate this unfortunate effect, a sort of harsh, trailing hissy edge. I don't get that with my other in-ears. Well, there's the KZ ZS5 v.1...


I referred to the FR graphs of @paulwasabii and @saldsald that both have similar peaks in the aforesaid region and EQ'd them (~5 and ~8 KHz) by a modest -2 dB on my setups paying heed to mirror the Q levels and the annoying sibilance disappeared. Some traces do remain but I can live with them. Further subtractive EQ may yield even more positive results.

Another pleasant consequent of the EQ was that the "tizziness" of crash cymbals, mostly harmonics in the subject range, were toned down to a level that's more natural for me.

That's it in the meantime. Will continue to listen and enjoy while waiting for my endgame.

Oh! I became a senior citizen at about the time of SARS-CoV 2 Patient Zero. Right before that I had a complete physical and I could still hear (but barely)14KHz. But I think I'm just starting to have a bit of difficulty in focusing and picking up individual conversations in a crowded room with relatively elevated ambient noise levels. Ahem! I hope reviewers get the hint and be more transparent with their personal hearing range—no offense meant. :wink::ksc75smile:
Can you give the link to buy those cheap, wide bore, shallow silicon tips on Shopee or Ali? Thanks
 
Sep 25, 2021 at 4:57 AM Post #3,049 of 3,126

Nimweth

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+1 The MT300 are excellent sounding IEM's!

They are in my top 5 favorites no matter what people claim about them or think about them...Can't get enough of them. :wink::thumbsup:

-Clear
Ha ha, same here, it's in my top 5 as well.
 
Sep 25, 2021 at 9:31 AM Post #3,050 of 3,126

SybilLance

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Sep 26, 2021 at 1:00 AM Post #3,051 of 3,126

r31ya

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CCA CA24 is an AST with slightly more bass and slightly more rolled off treble?
Tough he said, "its basically the same set with AST"

1632632375480.png


so yeah, like one of headfier convo with the sales rep, CA24 is simply a reskinned AST
 
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Sep 26, 2021 at 7:59 AM Post #3,052 of 3,126

ephrank

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Received my CCA NRA last week and have been listening to it daily. The mid-bass is quite bloated just as @RikudouGoku 's graph has shown. They response quite well to EQ taming down the mid bass.

News Flash: About 2 hours ago, AutoEq has an update with new measurements. Although NRA isn't there yet, KZ DQ6 is in. I've started using DQ6's EQ settings + reduced mid-bass + boosted sub-bass on the NRA. Very enjoyable so far!

p.s. the stock tips are garbage.
 
Sep 27, 2021 at 11:34 PM Post #3,053 of 3,126

r31ya

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One of the local online store sell CCA NRA with warning of
"Not for Laptop/PC Use! Danger of electrical shock from errant electric current from Laptop/PC. Please use rubber slippers or equivalent if you use it on Laptop/PC"
Apparently this problem is common enough for the warning to plastered on the first line on the "product detail" segment before the spec and audio signature explanation.
 
Sep 28, 2021 at 1:14 AM Post #3,054 of 3,126

unifutomaki

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One of the local online store sell CCA NRA with warning of

Apparently this problem is common enough for the warning to plastered on the first line on the "product detail" segment before the spec and audio signature explanation.

When “shocking value” gets taken too literally
 
Sep 28, 2021 at 3:07 AM Post #3,055 of 3,126

SybilLance

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I know about those effects in Kissing A Fool, and in the rest of the songs in George Michael’s Faith album. The process behind them is discussed in this article by the album audio engineer himself, Chris Porter, as opposed to a bunch of random guys weighing in with their opinions—not that it’s bad or anything, but in legalese there is evidentiary value in the testimony of a co-creator, insofar as it pertains to the creative process behind and leading to the shaping of the final recording, as compared to hearsay which has none (no pun intended):

https://www.soundonsound.com/people/classic-tracks-george-michael-faith

For sure the Faith album songs are filled with those reverb effects, but I chose Kissing A Fool as an example because it is a ballad where the instruments simply form a backdrop to the centerpiece which is Michael’s vocals and the voice reverb and delay effects are more prominent than the rest of the songs in the album. Also, I’ve been listening to the vinyl of Faith, then CD and to its lossless FLAC rip, as well as the double CD and the FLAC rip of Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael that also contains Kissing A Fool, since these albums came out. The subject track has always been in my list of songs that are sibilant as recorded and engineered. When I first listened to it with my old 2-channel stereo rig (Gosh! I just started law school and My Babies were still babies!) I distinctly remember I was actually annoyed but then didn’t mind it afterwards and haven’t been distracted by it since. Until I listened to it with the NRA. And it wasn’t just annoying. It was harsh, grating, painfully sibilant. (There are at least 2 separate threads on sibilant recordings—focus on vinyl—in stevehoffman.tv if one is curious about such things; on my part I have openly stated and maintained my definition of sibilance, and how I view it, in previous posts in head-fi.)

For the past 4 days I’ve been doing repeated comparative listening sessions with all of the headphones in my collection as regards the particular issue of the CCA NRA that I reported, using the subject track as test reference and isolating my audio gear. Long story short, I stand on my assertion that what I reported is an issue with the NRA.

The next question is, if indeed there is an issue with the NRA, which issue is apparently related to its new “electrostatic drive unit”, should the NRA be dismissed then? Of course not. Personally I would place it among my specialist in-ears, like the KZ AS06, because for listening to Classical and Jazz acoustic recordings it is among the best in my modest collection. Its dynamic driver is a revelation.

What about its “electrostatic” driver? I could only guess. Perhaps it’s a resonance triggered by those reverbs and delays in the track. Perhaps what I hear is distortion. But it could be fixed. I’ve shown it could be done to a certain extent with EQ. Perhaps after several iterations of this “electrostatic” or “electret” driver, KZ will get it and its tuning right, and they’ll have a killer, as mentioned. Or perhaps, in fairness, it’s my unit that has such inherent defect.

Will I buy another? No. A future model? Maybe.

It will have to be within the neighborhood of $30, though. This self-imposed-but-not-that-strict spending limit has its long-term rewards.

I shall always love KZ/CCA for the wonderful fun times their affordable releases provided me, and how they paved the way in my transition from 2-channel stereo to headphones.
:beerchug:

My gear setup:

I have the latest foobar2000 release installed in my Windows 10 laptop, a near-decade-old but trusty and tested MSI GE70-0ND, updated to the latest Windows 10 build, with all drivers up-to-date.

This foobar2000 version, Release 1.6.7, now includes the Windows Audio Session API (WASAPI) as default output with both exclusive and non-exclusive modes available. WASAPI is Microsoft’s version of the “Audio Stream Input/Output” (ASIO) protocol and is an audio output method that, among other things, provides an exclusive mode that allows applications to take full control over the soundcard's resources (muting any sounds played by other applications) and play unaltered bitstream (bit-exact) output without passing it through the Windows mixer. It used to be a support component/plugin to foobar2000.

Next I have 2 digital output devices enabled, USB and SPDIF that connect to the Topping E30 DAC, a top-tier albeit not top-of-the-line DAC that’s audibly transparent. I’m using SPDIF to negate the inherent noise of USB, then PCM (source is just 44.1/16), pure DAC mode and filter set to default No. 1 Sharp, with an external power source (not the laptop). The E30 is connected by RCA to the Topping L30, certainly still one of the most transparent single-ended headphone amplifiers with the lowest noise and distortion available, as independently measured by Wolf and by Amir over at audiosciencereview (ASR) using state-of-the-art Audio Precision APx555 analyzers, with near-identical results. The L30 gain is set to -9dB.

Actually this is my default listening setup. Occasionally I’d switch from PCM to DSD in the E30 when I’d listen to the few DSD files I have, ripped from SACDs and some vinyl Classical recordings, and I seldom if ever use its preamp mode. Essentially it gives me the fidelity and transparency from source music to headphone transducer. Absolutely clean, black background.

My headphones:

I have listened to the abovementioned track at low, moderate and then temporarily loud levels with the following over-ear headphones and on-ear headset (in order of refinement):
Logitech H110 headset;
Sennheiser HD180;
Marshall Monitor;
Philips SHP9500;
HiFiMAN HE-400i (2016);

And the following in-ear headphones (in order of acquisition):
Ostry KC06;
Sennheiser IE80;
Hi5;
KZ ZS5 v.1
KZ ZS6 (red and green);
KZ ZSN;
KZ AS06;
CCA C10;
CCA C16;
Xiaomi Mi Pro 2 (QTEJ03JY);
KZ ZS10 Pro;
CCA C12;
KZ ZAX;
Moondrop Aria;
CCA NRA.

With my setup I have isolated the gear. I’ve got the source track, a 44.1/16 FLAC of Kissing A Fool, from George Michael’s Faith album (Columbia/Epic, 1987). The variable is the headphone. For reference I chose for over-ears the “entry-level” HiFiMAN HE-400i for its relatively neutral tuning—not to mention that it’s the best among the 5 I have, and the Moondrop Aria which more or less adheres to the Harman listening preference curve, for in-ears. Even prior to this I have already ascertained that these 2 give the most satisfying, immersive subjective listening experience with the subject track and album.

My impressions:

Using the L30 volume knob and the track intro, I level-matched by ear as near as I could to my normal listening volumes with my 2 reference headphones. This would be roughly 70 dB for the Aria and also roughly 75 dB for the HE-400i.

I listened with one objective: to ascertain if the trailing echoes, each time Michael pronounces an affricate or fricative consonant, are either unbearably or simply naturally sibilant. By “naturally” I mean that the said track is sibilant as recorded and engineered, and can be heard as such, in my reference headphones. Those listening to Kissing A Fool for the first time may find the vocals actually sibilant bordering on distracting. Even more annoying is that the trailing intentionally delayed echoes—not the actual vocals—from the reverb effects are even more sibilant. A headphone will either properly or poorly reproduce these echoes. There’s a range or latitude on what would be considered proper. But if the reproduction is poor, then the echoes will be harsh and thus unbearable. So when I use the term harsh it’s understood to mean unbearable.

By the way, my ear canal resonance, the frequency I’m sensitive to is around 3 KHz.

With the over-ear headphones and headset, even something as crappy as the Logitech or the Sennheiser HD180 did not reproduce harsh sibilant echoes (although it’s only with these 2 that I get distortion when I pushed the volume way up). Ditto for the rather dark Marshall Monitor (without felt tuning pads). The Philips SHP9500, known for its bright and grainy or rough treble, didn’t sound harsh at all with those echoes. Listening through the HE-400i was so good that I had to listen to the other tracks as well. And no harsh, unbearable echoes.

The KZ ZS5 v.1, the KZ ZS6 green (I have 2, red and green, that are tonally different), ZSN, ZS10 Pro and surprisingly the ZAX were borderline harsh on those echoes. I qualify this to simply mean that after a while the sibilance becomes annoying, but still not painful and unbearable. The textures offered by the Ostry reminded me why I kept it all this time. The Hi5, an inexpensive originally Japanese in-ear that’s been around for a while and that perhaps served as the inspiration for the Xiaomi Mi series of in-ears, and the Sennheiser IE80 at its middle setting sounded more or less the same on those echoes. The Xiaomi Mi Pro 2 surprised me as I thought it would also be a tad harsh on the echoes. They’re not. The rest of the KZ/CCA in-ears save for the NRA showed different capabilities in their presentation of the vocals and of the echoes, but did not sound harsh at all. Of special mention are the C10 (so smooth as to make the sibilance a non-issue) and the C12 (detailed, but the echoes aren’t that much of a bother). I’d have loved to listen to the KZ ATE with my present setup but I gave them away to a nephew. I remember listening to the test track with it before and not being bothered by sibilance and all, but memory without a specific anchor is funny, tricky and unreliable.

The Moondrop Aria, as with the HE-400i, had me listening for some time. Yes, the sibilance in the echoes was there, quite clear in fact; but presented in a manner that somehow does not set them off or detract from, the vocals. And you get lost in the music.

I actually placed the NRA as the 7th in the order of listening among my in-ears to lessen the expected bias if I listen to it last. Once I was done with it, I had to go back and forth between the current one being listened to and the NRA, just to be certain. And with the NRA, the difference is at once obvious and unmistakable. From the very first echo of the very first sibilant consonant the grating harshness hits the ears with an almost palpable impact such that I just couldn’t listen to it for long, even at low volumes. Actually I think what I‘m hearing is distortion. Lowering the volume and applying EQ of at least -3dB at both 5 and 8 KHz with a bandwidth of ~0.750 actually helped.

From the sub-bass to the midrange the NRA has detail, dynamics and a naturalness that’s addicting. Unfortunately there’s this thing with the treble. Clearly, it has to do with the new electret driver. Could it be a resonance of some sort that’s being triggered by the intentional reverb and sibilance? Or, to be fair, could it be an inherent defect peculiar to my unit? Either way it’s a flaw.


Disclaimer:

I’m a retired senior citizen who can now barely hear 14KHz. I also have difficulty focusing on and picking up conversations from across a reasonably-sized room with elevated ambient noise levels.

After these sessions I assume my hearing will have become worse.
 
Sep 28, 2021 at 3:27 AM Post #3,056 of 3,126

SybilLance

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One of the local online store sell CCA NRA with warning of

Apparently this problem is common enough for the warning to plastered on the first line on the "product detail" segment before the spec and audio signature explanation.
Oh my! Goodnessgraciouslandsakesalive! I actually connected the NRA directly to my laptop's audio/SPDIF output during my initial ootb listen!

Good thing there are no more grounding issues on the Topping gear. Mental asterisk: henceforth confine the NRA to phones and the old Cayin N3/Topping NX4 combo.

When “shocking value” gets taken too literally
Same with "electrostatic" drive unit. And if the CCA NRA pops while in your ears, "earsplitting" as well. :face_palm:

Further mental asterisk: No matter how ZEXy—No.
 
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Sep 28, 2021 at 3:46 AM Post #3,057 of 3,126

r31ya

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Oh my! Goodnessgraciouslandsakesalive! I actually connected the NRA directly to my laptop's audio/SPDIF output during my initial ootb listen!

Good thing there are no more grounding issues on the Topping gear. Mental asterisk: henceforth confine the NRA to phones and the old Cayin N3/Topping NX4 combo.
Most Desktop PC in my place is not properly grounded.
Plenty PC here is using crappy powersupply as for them, "as long its turns the PC on, get the cheapest possible."
To make matter worse, plenty electrical system in cheaper housing only have 2 core cable (no grounding).
So yeah, electrostatic~

I have to manually create grounding for my old desktop PC, tie in wire on the case and plant the other end of the wire into ground.
Cause if i don't do that touching the case or plugging metal USB flashdrive could electrocute you
Also, some laptop who no longer use original charger also have some electrical discharge problem.

So yup, i can see a lot of people got electrocuted by NRA. Enough to be a for the first paragraph warning on product details.
 
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Sep 28, 2021 at 8:21 AM Post #3,058 of 3,126

SpaceOperaVillain

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Most Desktop PC in my place is not properly grounded.
...

So yup, i can see a lot of people got electrocuted by NRA. Enough to be a for the first paragraph warning on product details.

NRA, or a USB connected keyboard with a spilled drink in it.

If you call up a headphones reseller or manufacturer and complain about shocks, they're going to tell you 2 things:

1) fix the ground issue with your source hardware
2) that your warranty has been voided

You need to hire an electrician to sort out grounding issues to permanently installed PCs. If you are recharging laptops on 2 prong outlets, it's safer to do so passively and to not use the device while it's plugged in to the wall. People think that because laptop converter is pushing DC that there's not much risk. Unless there's a power surge that shorts out the converter itself, which could still try to use your device connected hands and body as a ground to earth in lieu of the missing 3rd ground prong to the outlet. Rare, sure. But there's still a risk.

I grew up in thunderstorm prone area of the USA so I am especially weary about lightning risks. When the flashing starts, I disconnect the laptop or switch to my mobile. I use an APC branded power UPS backup unit on my laptop and external storage drives that also includes surge protection. They can be had for ~ $200, which is relatively cheap insurance. It's possible that a large surge could short circuit the machine somehow and find it's way to your ears via headphones. Same goes for any device plugged into a wall that you spend a lot of time connected to - like on your bedside nightstand. If you want to fall asleep listening to music, do yourself a favor and get a bluetooth amp and stick to that ... :D (I do!)
 
Sep 28, 2021 at 8:36 AM Post #3,059 of 3,126

SpaceOperaVillain

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From the sub-bass to the midrange the NRA has detail, dynamics and a naturalness that’s addicting. Unfortunately there’s this thing with the treble. Clearly, it has to do with the new electret driver. Could it be a resonance of some sort that’s being triggered by the intentional reverb and sibilance? Or, to be fair, could it be an inherent defect peculiar to my unit? Either way it’s a flaw.

Sometimes I notice weird things from the piezo drivers in the GK10. It doesn't happen very often, and I have yet to make a note of the track, volume, and source when I do. Other folks have said they hear strange things from NRA. I believe you, but I don't think it means the equipment is defective. I have definitely noticed distortion from the NRA at low volumes that doesn't exist from dynamic driver headphones ... but these probably have all of $5 worth of raw material in them. From saldsald's measurements, the magnetostatic unit seems to be more coloring the sound than fully backing the top end. The base dynamic driver was measured to be full range.

That said, the NRA is still getting most of my ear time. I stand by my rating of it, even if it is dirt cheap. I actually canceled my order of the ZEX since it hadn't shipped yet, and they updated the ad copy to indicate that it's using the "double magnet" DDs of other KZs, and not this newer driver in the CCA. I had my hopes up that the ZEX would be a tribrid using the MST, DD, and BAs. I think I'm going to hold off on any more KZ stuff until that shows up, or they release an update to the ZAS.
 
Sep 28, 2021 at 10:33 AM Post #3,060 of 3,126

dougms3

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Sometimes I notice weird things from the piezo drivers in the GK10. It doesn't happen very often, and I have yet to make a note of the track, volume, and source when I do. Other folks have said they hear strange things from NRA. I believe you, but I don't think it means the equipment is defective. I have definitely noticed distortion from the NRA at low volumes that doesn't exist from dynamic driver headphones ... but these probably have all of $5 worth of raw material in them. From saldsald's measurements, the magnetostatic unit seems to be more coloring the sound than fully backing the top end. The base dynamic driver was measured to be full range.

That said, the NRA is still getting most of my ear time. I stand by my rating of it, even if it is dirt cheap. I actually canceled my order of the ZEX since it hadn't shipped yet, and they updated the ad copy to indicate that it's using the "double magnet" DDs of other KZs, and not this newer driver in the CCA. I had my hopes up that the ZEX would be a tribrid using the MST, DD, and BAs. I think I'm going to hold off on any more KZ stuff until that shows up, or they release an update to the ZAS.
I think the brain needs time to adjust to the NRA's signature. It sounds a bit off when you do A-B comparisons but once you adjust to it, it sounds good. These replaced my ca16 for gym use because I didn't want to damage the ca16 with my sweat.

Its strong points are the higher frequencies, it can get a bit sybilant with some songs though. Its lacking in sub bass, almost all of the bass is in the higher bass frequencies which I'm not a fan of but at this price point is understandable. The more I use them, the more I like them. Definitely a steal for the price.
 

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