Competition within the budget-centric single dynamic IEM market has been fierce in recent years. Dynamic drivers are, after all, the default choice of driver in audio – it’s old but gold. Gold, like the faceplate of the CCA CRA+: a product of the single dynamic driver IEM boom.
Prior to the release of the CRA+, CCA – which is the sister brand of renowned “ChiFi” IEM manufacturer, KZ – has released a wide variety of budget IEMs. CCA’s products are often at the receiving end of praises for their sheer value for money.
In fact, the CRA+’s predecessor, the CRA, has been boldly claimed by many to be the “best budget IEM” in the market with its $15 (about RM65) price tag. CCA claims that this new plus model has stronger bass, a wider soundstage, as well as improved treble extension.
But at almost twice the price of the original, is the CRA+ a worthy successor? Read on to find out.
What It Is
In the box of the CRA+, you’ll find the IEM itself, a white “high purity” cable, as well as three pairs of different sized silicone ear tips. The build of the CRA+ is pretty standard affair with a transparent shell and a gold faceplate with the CCA branding.
While the shell design of the CRA+ doesn’t seem too different from some of KZ’s offerings, the task of having the IEM sit comfortably in my ears was…well, nearly impossible. The shell has a tendency to slowly lean outwards from my ear canal no matter which tip size I use. I suspect this might be caused by the drag of the cable.
Speaking of which, the CRA+’s included cable is as uninspiring as the shell design, and it is also extremely prone to tangling up. Thankfully, you can switch it out for any 2-pin cable of your choice.
As for pricing, the CRA+ is currently listed at $27.88 (about RM120) on Linsoul, one of the most reputable online stores for ChiFi IEMs. Want a mic? Just add on $1. While this pricing puts the CRA+ comfortably in the budget segment, it also cost (almost) twice as much as the previous model.
So…can the CRA+ really command the extra cost? Well, let’s get to that in the next section.
How Does It Sound?
Simply put, the CRA+ has a V-shape sound signature that’s not as aggressive as some of KZ’s offerings. That being said, if you’re familiar with the house sound of KZ, you’ll feel right at home here. There’s an obvious boost in the low-end that warms up the frequency range of the IEM, but not overly so.
The bass response of the CRA+ is the star of the show here with a sub-bass that is “muscular” with a pleasant, lingering decay. The mid-bass is punchy and quick, though it could be a tad tighter. Suffice to say bassheads will be able get their fix with the CRA+.
However, do note that the boosted low-end might be too overwhelming for some folks.
As is the nature of a V-shape sound signature, the mids of the CRA+ are recessed, but subtly so. The punchy bass of the IEM doesn’t find its way into the mids either, but that also leaves the mid-range a bit lacking in weight and definition. Both male and female vocals, while clear, could do with a bit more body as well.
The treble of the CRA+ is extended, but unfortunately, there isn’t much detail or resolution here. In fact, cymbals and higher-pitched synths can even sound sibilant on certain tracks. While there are decent airiness and sparkle present in slower songs, heavy instrumental tracks present themselves as a bit of a mess.
The CRA+ offers some some depth in the soundstage, but not much in respect to width or instrument separation. Busier music tracks have a tendency to congest the soundstage too with an incoherent mix of the boosted low-end and relatively sharp highs.
Is It Worth It?
While the fit of the CCA CRA+ takes some fidgeting to get right, the IEM’s sound quality still punches above its weight class. In regards to the promise of stronger bass and extended treble, the CRA+ does deliver on both counts – but at a cost.
In essence, the CRA+ tries to wear too many hats. It struggles to fill the shoes of the original CRA, which is considered by many to be a jack-of-all-trades.
That being said, the CRA+ is still an energetic, bass-centric IEM that will make you light on your feet with how fun it is…while also being light on your wallet. Priced from only $27.88, you can do a lot worse.
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