Today we’re checking out a new earphone from a new brand, the CCA C10.
CCA came out of nowhere with a number of products that have raised some eyebrows; the C04, C10, and C16. The C04 features a 1+1 hybrid setup with one balanced armature (BA) and one dynamic driver (DD) per side, while the C16 has a whopping 8 balanced armatures per side. Besides the number of drivers being crammed into their products drawing attention, it also seems that CCA is spin off from Knowledge Zenith, masters of the budget realm. This is evident in the accessories, ear piece shells, and more obviously from the application of KZ branded armatures visible through the plastics.
The C10 we’re checking out today splits the difference between the C04 and C16 with a 4+1 hybrid setup. With one dynamic and four balanced armatures per side, it immediately makes me think “rebranded ZS10”. Is it? Let’s take a closer look.
The C10 was sent over by Sunny from Better Audio on Amazon. The thoughts within this review are my own subjective opinions based on a couple months with the C10. They do not represent CCA, Better Audio, or any other entity. At the time of writing it was retailing for 41.99 USD on Amazon.com. You can check it out here: https://www.amazon.com/High-Performance-Monitor-Drivers-Earphone-Detachable/dp/B07L6FL5Z9?ref_=bl_dp_s_web_3018878011
The C10 is quite easy to drive. I tended to pair it with neutral or bright-leaning DAPs like the Shanling M1 or Walnut V2S because it is a very warm, mid-bassy earphone and darker DAPs made it too thick sounding.
I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. My preferences for earphone tuning are quite relaxed and as such their is no one signature I look for. The HiFiMAN RE800 Silver, Brainwavz B400, and Massdrop x MeeAudio Planamic are examples of earphones with wildly varied signatures that are enjoyable for different reasons. I generally listen at very low volumes, so keep this in mind when perusing my thoughts on how an earphone sounds.
- Driver: 4 BA + 1 DD
- Frequency Response: 7-40,000Hz
- Impedance: 32ohms
- Sensitivity: 108dB/mW
- Weight: 29g
Packaging and Accessories:
The C10 arrives in some very KZ-esque packaging. On the front of the exterior sheath covering a compact cardboard box is an image of the C10’s earpieces with the cable installed. It does a good job of showing off the beefy connectors and preformed ear guides. You also find the usual CCA branding and model info, as well as information that it is a hybrid earphone with ten drivers total. Flipping to the back of the sheath you find CCA’s location and contact information as well as the earphone’s specifications.
Slipping off the sheath reveals the C10’s earpieces under a plastic cover, tucked tightly into a cardboard and foam insert. Under the insert are the accessories and documentation. In all you get:
- C10 earphones
- 0.75mm 2-pin copper cable
- Single flange ear tips (s/mx2/l)
Overall this is a very basic accessory kit. It’s interesting to see that the tip selection is identical to what KZ provided with the ZSN. The pre-installed medium tips are not the usual “Starline” model, instead featuring a smooth finish and very flexible silicone. The extra tips found in a sealed bag are all “Starline” models with the grooved bore.
Build, Comfort, and Isolation:
The C10 sees a nice step up in build quality over it’s little brother, the C04. With improved acrylics and a metal back plate, I get mixed vibes of KZ ZSN and Fidue A85 Virgo. ZSN influence comes from the basic shape of the shell while the A85 influence can be found in the matte silver colouring and wavy accents. In my opinion the C10 is a lot more attractive and premium feeling in person than in pics where the metal plate has a plasticy look. In hand it carries a weightiness that isn’t common in budget gear, though it’s not so heavy that comfort is impeded. In additional to simply feeling good, the build quality is great with no sloppy moulding or misaligned parts. Even the metal grills were installed neatly, though I have seen a couple examples of those falling off. Looking through the clear shell you can see how neatly the five drivers are installed. They didn’t load the C10 with glue, only adding what was needed to hold the drivers in place. Overall these are wonderfully built shells that wouldn’t feel out of place on a significantly more expensive product.
The braided copper cable is good and will be familiar to anyone that has bought a recent KZ since it’s the same, minus new hardware. This also means it takes on the same qualities. It is flexible and doesn’t transmit much noise, but the y-split is set too low making it easy to tangle unless you store it carefully. The memory wire KZ often uses has thankfully been replaced with well-shaped preformed ear guides. They do a great job keeping the cable in place around the ear, so no complaints there. I was pleased to see this cable equipped with the knurled metal 2-pin connectors KZ uses on one of their upgraded cables. They look nice and the knurling makes removing the cable quite easy, should it be needed. The y-split is also quite nice with some pretty extreme strain relief where the cable enters from the bottom, and splits leading to each ear piece. The latter is where relief is often omitted, so props to CCA for including it. The cable stumbles slightly when we get to the 90 degree angled jack. The good is that the strain relief here is also fantastic. The bad is that there is no extension for the 3.5mm plug to accommodate cell phone or DAP cases, and since the plug is somewhat chunky you’re likely to find they interact in a way that is not desirable. My LG G6 has a very simple, thin, clear rubber case over it with a fairly spacious hole around the headphone jack. The C10’s plug sits flush with the body of the phone but rubs against the case so really any movement causes it to dislodge slightly. So yeah, if you’re planning to use the C10 with a device that has a case, you’re probably going to need to swap to a different cable or forgo the case.
In terms of comfort the C10 is fantastic. But, as seems to be the case lately those with smaller or oddly shaped outer ears might want to be cautious checking out this model because it’s not particularly small and is meant for over ear wear only. Luckily I don’t fall into either of those categories and as such the C10 is a gem to wear for long periods. The absence of any sharp angles or weird shapes means it tucks into my outer ear naturally.
Isolation is about average to slightly above which caught me by surprise. Outside of the ZSN, none of the other earphones I’ve used with a similar shell were particularly outstanding at blocking outside noise thanks to the relatively shallow fit, so I don’t know what makes the C10 different. Maybe it’s because all that interior space is filled with drivers instead of air? Either way, these worked great outside and in noisy areas and I’d happily take them with me on my travels.
I need to applaud CCA right off the bat for taking KZ’s armatures and tuning them to be so impossibly smooth. Looking through the shell and seeing a bunch of KZ armatures, then popping the C10 back into my ears makes me want to do a double take because there is no aggressiveness, no harshness, no sibilance or roughness, and no readily apparent peaks. Somehow they made these armatures smooth and tame, yet without any sacrifice to speed, detail, or clarity. Very ZS10-like. You can actually listen to The Crystal Method’s “Grace feat. LeAnn Rimes” through the C10 and it’s not a screechy scratchfest. Super impressive. Despite being reasonably mellow, the presentation is still quite spacious and airy too with a convincing distance between notes. If you’re treble sensitive and looking for a solid budget hybrid, here you go!
The mid-range is much the same. Warm and silky smooth with great articulation and coherence. It blends in very well with the treble and bass, though the lower mids do see a touch of interference from the low end as the C10 is quite mid-bassy. Still, male vocals sound wonderful as evident tossing on Daft Punk’s “Touch”. Paul Williams tones are deep and full with tons of emotion and nuance. It’s pretty great. Female vocals are served well too as heard on Jessie J’s “Bang Bang”. Jessie and Ariana sound powerful and distinct while Nicki’s rapping is on point and free of the nasal tone some cheapo earphones apply. Timbre is excellent with the acoustic guitar on Porcupine Tree’s “Baby Dream in Cellophane” sounding just right. Attack on each strum is solid and confident and decay hangs for just a brief moment. The only complaint I could levy here, and it’s more of a preference thing, is that the mids could stand to be a couple dB more forward. That or reduce the bass a bit.
Speaking of bass, the C10 has lots of it. It extends well and provides a good bit of visceral feedback on The Prodigy’s “Thunder”, but the mid-bass bloom is a bit much at times and can make the C10 boomy. Most of the time it is tight and well controlled and can take on quick double bass, such as on Havok’s “Covering Fire”, pretty easy. Despite the quantity of bass on handle, it can be nimble when it needs to. Texturing is a little lacking at times as I found running through Tobacco’s discography as their grungy bass is smoothed out more than it should be. I guess that’s good if you listen to lots of lo-fi music or highly compressed files ala. Soundcloud or Youtube.
The C10 provides a good sound stage experience for a budget headphone, but still not much beyond average. You get none of that in-your-head feel. Instead, music plays just beside your ears. I find the stage deeper than it is wide, so while the C10 will toss effects off in the distance, the movement is limited. The depth certainly helps with layering and separation though, keeping instruments and effect distinct and from blurring or smearing each other. Imaging is smooth but slightly vague making pinpointing locations of instruments or effects less accurate than on something like the single armature Brainwavz B100.
KZ ZS10 (46.00 USD): Both earphones are warm and bassy with the C10 showing more upper treble emphasis and a more prominent lower mid-range. C10 seems better with male vocals while the ZS10 seems more at home with female vocals. Bass on both is mostly focused on the mid-bass with similarly good extension (C10 has a slight edge here), limited texturing, and general performance. I don’t hear a significant enough difference between the two to say that I have a preference in that metric. Sound stage is very clearly in the ZS10’s camp despite the lack of upper treble. It provides a much more spacious experience making the C10 seems almost intimate in comparison. It also does a better job of moving sound accurately from channel to channel and comes across more layer with better instrument separation. Micro-detail goes to the ZS10 and while its mid-range is more recessed, it remains clearer. Even though neither of these two have the treble energy I crave, the ZS10’s much larger sound stage and improved technical abilities have me preferring it over the C10 in terms of sound. C10 is superior in terms of build and fit though, thanks to the metal face plate, improved cable hardware, and smaller, ZST-style shell.
BQEYZ KC2 (57.99 USD): The C10 has a warmer, mid-bassier presentation with less treble energy overall. KC2’s mid-range is more even and forward with improved clarity and detail. KC2’s treble provides more information but isn’t as well controlled or smooth as on the C10. KC2’s bass extension is just as good but the balanced is skewed less towards the mid-bass and more towards sub-bass. C10’s bass is less textured and softer feeling overall with less speed and punch. Sound stage on the KC2 is wider and deeper with better imaging, layering, and separation. Overall detail and clarity goes to the KC2. It simply sounds like the better performer, but it is brighter which the treble sensitive out there will want to shy away from if they tend to find budget hybrids too sharp. Build of the shells is in the KC2’s hand thanks to the well-machined, aluminum construction. The cable sucks though and I’d take CCA’s any day. I really don’t know why people like BQEYZ’s cable. Sure it has a chin cinch but that’s not particularly useful when the cable is stiff, retains all the kinks and bends from initial packaging, tangles even more easily than CCA/KZ cables. In cool weather it all gets worse to boot.
CCA is proving themselves to be a worthy entrant in the budget earphone sphere. Yes, they are taking KZ parts and drivers and re-tuning them while applying a new brand name, but it seems to be working. There are similarities between KZ’s ZS10 and the C10, but they definitely are not the same earphone in a different shell.
The C10’s warm, v-shaped signature is super smooth and quite refined with a decent sound stage and acceptable technical ability. For me personally, the mid-bass quantity could stand to be toned down a bit and once I start comparing to some other cherry-picked earphones in the price range, the level of detail on offer falters a touch, but it’s still an enjoyable listen and this style of tuning would make for a fantastic daily-driver. The build quality is quite nice as well, especially that stylish metal face plate which gives them some heft and a more premium look in person. Like many products nowadays, they feel and sound more expensive than their sub-50 USD price tag would suggest. If you pick them up while on sale or do some digging, they can be had at a price that absolutely shames what you could get from an equivalently priced product from a more mainstream brand. I would like to see CCA do more to differentiate themselves from KZ via more unique packaging, less parts sharing, and maybe toss in a carrying case which is something many customers seem to lament being omitted.
Otherwise, the CCA C10 is a well-designed and pleasantly tuned earphone that should appeal to a wide variety of listeners that enjoy warm and bassy earphones. It’s a good value and a safe pick if you want to snag a solid performer in the sub-50 USD realm.
Thanks for reading!
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Some Test Tunes:
Aesop Rock – Skelethon (Album)
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories (Album)
Elton John – Yellow Golden Brick Road (Album)
King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic (Album)
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black (Track)
Supertramp – Crime of the Century (Album)
Infected Mushroom – Converting Vegetarians (Album)
Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma (Album)
Gorillaz – Plastic Beach (Album)
Massive Attack – Mezzanine (Album)
Fleetwood Mac – Rumors (Album)
Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels (Album)
The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy (Album)
Tobacco – F****d Up Friends (Album)
Felt – Felt 2 (A Tribute to Lisa Bone) (Album)