Another day and another Chinese IEM review. Its getting hard to keep up with all the new models coming out of China but this one is something a little special. The CCA C16 looks a lot like the KZ AS16 and righfully so because the 2 brands share similar parts and design ethos. This earphone stands out from some of the others I have reviewed mainly because of its tuning.
What are the CCA C16?
The CCA C16 are a set of in ear monitors with cable over the ear design and a multi balanced armature driver setup on the inside. 8 drivers each side to be more precise. Thats a total of 16 drivers total.
Just a few years ago earphones around this price point would have nothing other that a single BA or dynamic unit but it seems the Chinese believe that throwing in more drivers makes for better earphones. In reality it doesn’t always work this way but as I will get to in the sound portion of the review CCA have made something that is unseen for people on a budget.
As a side not I do think its crazy to be referring a 16 balanced armature earphone as a budget offering but this is the world we now like in.
CCA is the sister brand of KZ who are one of the pioneers of the Chinese Hifi revolution that has taken the portable audiophile hobby by storm. I have been a big fan of a lot of KZ earphones and they can always be considered value for money. CCA are still relatively new but they have already shown the can produce some good sounding earphone like the CCA C10 we reviewed last week.
Packaging and Accessories
Just like on the C10 the C16 have very simple packaging with little in the way of extras. You get some spare eartips, a manual and a warranty card but that’s it. There is no carry case or any other excess and that is probably to keep the cost of the total package as low as possible.
The box itself is fine. Its compact and the earphones are well protected. Its a simple cardboard sleeve with good graphics and some information about the earphones on the back. The earphones are set in a foam block so they won’t be falling about loose whilst in transit.
The CCA C16 are a very good looking earphone and when inserted in the ear the look virtually indistinguishable from the C10 of KZ AS16. All three share the same faceplate and are only differentiated buy the graphics.
The body of the IEM is all plastic but its good quality and feels well put together. They are designed to be worn with the cable over the ear and the cable exit is from the top front of the earpiece via a recessed 2 pin connector.
The end of the housing where the bore holes lie is also plastic but they have fixed a mesh grill to stop the ingress of dirt and ear wax. It looks a little janky so maybe something to keep an eye on in the future.
There is no lip of these to stop your eartips coming off which is something I am not a fan of but is in reality rarely and issue due to the earphones having a wider diameter that the included tips thus holding them in place via friction. If you really wanted to make this even more secure a simple solution is to just rough up the bottom couple of mm with some sand paper.
They are by all means a cool looking earphone but lack the special feeling that the slightly more expensive universal custom style monitors from the likes of Toneking and Fearless Audio have.
A lot of people will compare them to the KZ AS16 and rightfully so but of the 2 the KZ is better constructed. The KZ has metal extensions to the earphones tips and they just feel a little bit more sturdy overall. I do actually prefer the recessed 2 pin connector on the CCA however as the AS16 have one that sticks out from the earphones housing.
The cable is not great but its not really bad either. I have been raving about the Tin-hifi t3 cable in recent weeks and think that would make a far better option because its just so much more supple and well build. The CCA C16 cable is the same as on the C10 and C16 and in reality it performs fine, is nicely constructed and looks good but it is very prone to tangling and also retains too much memory in the wire making it quite springy.
Luckily there are plenty of options for headphone cables and a lot of them are very inexpensive so I wouldn’t be put off by this as it is an easy and relatively low cost fix.
Comfort and Isolation
The C16 are a fairly large IEM so I wouldn’t be surprised if people with small ears struggled with them. Medium ears and above will find them very comfortable due to the smoothed housing that only has an edge on the faceplate. It fits comfortably into the outer ear and with the cable worn over the ear is devoid of microphonics.
Isolation is quite good and even though they only sit at a medium depth in the ear canal they managed to reduce environmental noise quite significantly. I suspect this is down to the large area of the outer ears that the housing covers and the densely packed driver configuration on the inside.
These are an incredibly good sounding earphone for the price but they won’t be for everyone. They are balanced, neutral and detailed making them excellent as a budget option analytical earphone. No one frequency reigns dominance over another and the frequencies have been well blended without any weird goings on between the different drivers. Transitions are seamless and that’s impressive when we are considering 8 armatures per side for such a low RRP.
Highs are extremely clear and detailed and this contributes a lot to the rather large soundstage that the C16 displayer throughout multiple test tracks in this review. It’s almost on the bright side but refrains itself from being jarring but the key here is that it isn’t swamped by the mids and lows and it also isn’t a prominent treble happy earphone. Its just good detailed treble without being forced front and centre of the presentation which in the past has been the downfall of many Chinese IEM’s (traditionally asian IEM’s are tuned with higher highs than the smoother sound found in products targeting western markets. This is due to the regional genres like K-Pop and J-Pop being quite treble and upper mid focussed.)
Mids are good and detailed with very little warmth applied. Its accurate and full of detail but lacks the smoothness of something like the KZ AS16. Its retrieval of detail in the midrange was very impressive an one of the highlights of the earphone.
Bass is where it will get decisive. I listen to a fairly mixed style of music and often very hard EDM tracks. For me I need more impact in the sub-bass to make them an every day IEM for me but for other people who like tuning more balanced and flat response then these are actually very very good and pretty much unmatched at the price. Bass is fast and its detailed, it lacks the resonance of a basshead earphones but it doesn’t dominate the mids or lows. There was also no bleed into the upper mids which is good.
Soundstage is very good with medium width and just a little shallower depth. Imaging was also excellent and there is good separation between instruments.
The CCA C16 for the money are an excellent sounding balanced earphone that is capable of giving a very detailed and accurate representation of the source material. Unlike other modern ChiFi earphones which bump the bass a little and have a hint of warmth these are much more neutral. A lot of people will like these especially purists and hobbyists. The build quality is good and design is very nice albeit the same as the C10 and AS16 they lack some originality. Price to performance is absolutely through the roof so this is well worth considering if inside your budget.