disclaimer: I purchased the Clear Concept Audio (CCA) CA4 from MissAudio for a reduced price for review. If you are interested in purchasing the CCA Ca4, it can be found in their Ali store here.
Unboxing / Packaging:
Those familiar with KZ or CCA packaging will recognize the small white slip-cover box immediately. CCA does use full color graphics on the front in a departure from the KZ line drawings, but otherwise the packaging is identical. Inside, a clear cover sits over the foam tray with the earpieces and under that the cable, tips, and warranty card. The kit is fairly minimalistic but so is the price point so that is to be expected.
The CA4 shares a shell similar to the Zs10 Pro, CA10, and ZSN pro with a metal faceplate, and transparent plastic inner shell and is designed with tip-up wear in mind. Also in common are the dual vents on the under side (one over the dynamic driver, and one to the rear of it), and the hooded .75mm bi-pin cable connector. Nozzles are brass a with a stainless grill and do have a lip. The CA4 differs from most of the KZ line in the placement and angle of the nozzles. The nozzle exits the shell a few millimeters back from the lead edge and has neither a forward or upward rake. This gives the CA4 a bit different feel even if it shares the size and overall shape of its siblings. Comfort is good for long wear with no tendency to move around once fitted.
The CA4 uses a 10mm 1 tesla dynamic driver (shared with the Zs10 Pro) paired with a single 30095 balanced armature driver per earpiece and lists a nominal impedance of 23Ω with a sensitivity of 107dB/mW. I found the CA4 easy to drive from an android phone or Ipad and even energetic. Not only does the CA4 not really need additional amplification, it doesn’t particularly benefit from it. This is good news for those who want an in ear for portable use, but does limit its ceiling as improvements with different sources are minimalistic. Interestingly, the marketing materials reference “subtle circuit optimizations” but none of the exploded diagrams I have seen show an electronic crossover nor is one visible within the shell. I may have to dissect my sample at some point to learn more.
The cable provided with the CA4 is a bit of a surprise. I was fully expecting the same cable that shipped with other CCA and KZ products and for the most part, I got it, but it does have some subtle differences that I think are improvements. It starts with a 90º 3.5mm jack with a black plastic housing and strain relief, the 4 strand copper braid is the same as that used on KZ cables of late, but the splitter is both closer to the earpieces by a couple inches and of a different design than the current KZ line. I still wish it would move up a bit more and a chin slider would be added, but at least it is progress in a positive direction. At the north end, the cables terminate with pre-formed earhooks and clear bi pin housings. The Hoods are marked L/R but it can be difficult to see as the material is transparent. A drop of red paint somewhere would go a long way to improve that.
I found the CA4 is sensitive to tip rolling and needs a narrow bore tip to keep the bass from getting to far ahead of the rest of the signature. Shure Olives and Spin-fit CP145 worked for me where as more wide bore Auvio and whirlwinds were not a good match.
The CA4 has good sub-bass rumble but at times it can be a bit too emphasized as it is very definitely the star of this show. Mid-bass actually takes a back seat to nearly everything else in the signature which is an odd dichotomy as the driver does have some mid-bass bleed which provides a bit of extra warmth. The combination of stepping the mid-bass back and the bleed into the mids does a good job of adding that warmth without obstructing a lot of detail and makes for a pleasant listen.
Mids climb from the transition point with the mid bass all the way through the treble which makes for a fairly bright presentation, but does give life to female vocals particularly. I found higher register vocals to be slightly forward of their counterparts and cleaner but somehow less natural than the lower voices. Male vocals are full and warmer than the higher voices and as a result are a bit more believable. Electric guitar is well rendered with crisp tones and good attack/decay while its acoustic counterpart is a bit less so. Strings are passable, but obviously not the forte of this tuning.
Treble is a mixed bag as lower treble climbs from the mids, but then rolls-off fairly sharply above about 6kHz which limits the amount of air the CA4 has to work with. This hurts the attack of percussion which lacks that crisp edge one would hope for and keeps the CA4 from reproducing cymbals realistically. Cymbals come across as a bit tizzy and metallic although at the price point, I’m not sure I should really expect a lot better.
Soundstage / Imaging:
Stage on the CA4 typical of deep V tunings in its price range with average depth and a wider than deep stage. Some sense of height is present but the ceiling is low enough that it keeps things from really feeling 3 dimensional. Visualizing the orchestra seating is usually possible although a few placements seem more beside than in front/behind in the arrangement due to the stretched width. Instrument separation is good until tracks get overly busy and then the bass gets a bit thick. Imaging is for the most part good with sounds that are supposed to be directly behind sounding like they come from the side/rear rather than directly behind. Layering is only average and tracks do break down a bit when things get overly complex.
The CA4 is similar to the ZsN pro in both shape and size as well as price. In sound however, the ZsN pro is much closer to neutral while the CA4 is a much deeper V as shown. (Admittedly these two are not set for the same decibel level, but it does make it easy to compare the two graphs side by side.) Those who listen to genre that benefit from the extra energy on both ends (rock, pop, hip-hop) will prefer the CA4 and it makes an excellent choice for casual listening. Those looking for a bit more level playing field for orchestral or piano will prefer the ZsN Pro.
Thoughts / Conclusion:
CCA has previously released the C10 and C16 both of which are fairly close to neutral tunings. The CA4 departs from that path pretty sharply and goes for a more V shaped profile. It would be easy to criticize this as lacking a bit of detail and being a bit warm and sloppy at times, but the fact of the matter is, it is a very listenable tuning and when I gave all three CCA models t0 friends and family, without fail everyone of them picked the CA4 as the more engaging and pleasing signature. My daughter that is a bit of a basshead thought the CA4 was great but the other two were a bit anemic and I suspect with the current emphasis on heightened bass, many others will share her sentiments. When viewed as a mass-market product aimed at youth and the general music listener, the CA4 is a clear step above the headphones that generally ship with phones and tablets and will provide good service in that role. At $15, these are an easy recommendation for those looking for something for extended listening sessions with a bit of extra energy in places that help with popular genres. Those more into classical will likely want to pony up the extra $10 for the CCA C10 as it is better suited for chamber music and orchestral work.
- Bass - 6/106/10
- Mids - 5/105/10
- Treble - 5/105/10
- Soundstage - 6/106/10
- Imaging - 6/106/10
Pros – comfortable shape, potent V signature, large soundstage (considering price point)
Cons – mildly recessed mids lack detail, timbre a bit off at times, cable improved but still not great.