The Crack Spot - Szymon's Impressions Thread

Hi there!

My name is Szymon. I’m not really a crackhead, but that’s the moniker the community has given me, so I’ll run with it.

If you’re not familiar with me, I don’t blame you. I have not been very active here in the past, sticking mainly to some Discord communities and YouTube. So for a quick introduction, I have gotten into audio about two years ago, thanks to Dankpods. I started watching his channel purely because I was an Apple fan interested in iPods, but his fun attitude and passion for all things audio drew me in to start experimenting by myself.

Later, I stumbled upon Joshua Valour and Super* Review, whose chill, beginner friendly attitude helped me come into my own in this hobby that, let’s face it, can be overwhelming even for veterans with the sheer amount of gear out there, let alone newbies.

So, because of how I came into the hobby, this is who I want to be for others - someone with Wade’s enthusiasm, Josh’s and Mark’s chill… And a bit of my own chaotic neutral personality sprinkled in. My YouTube videos will always focus on the newbies, as I’m hoping to be a great starting point for anyone joining this hobby. My written reviews - x you are here - is where I get to flex my literary muscles, and create for an audience that likes to read and likes to know what an IEM or headphone really sounds like.

Here’s some links to my most important work:

My Ranking List (currently being overhauled and missing some of the newest additions to my collection, but a great starting point)

My YouTube Channel

I hope you enjoy my musings!

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Reserving this post for links to my reviews.

Written
KZ DQ6 Review
Etymotic ER2XR Review

Video
Beats Solo Pro Review
CCA CRA Review
Etymotic ER2XR Review
Can you get good sound for under $10? - Ultrabudget IEM comparison (TRN MT1, KZ EDX, QKZ AK6, Sony EX15LP)

Moondrop Starfield - First Impressions

I ordered the Starfields for one reason, and one reason only - they are pretty as fuck.

I did not expect much from the sound. I tested Moondrop’s own Aria - often dubbed “the cheaper Starfield” (or “the bassier Starfield”) - and was extremely underwhelmed. That earphone sounded muddy, lifeless, and sharp. I wanted to have it in my collection just as a reference in reviews - it’s a set a lot of people have, so if I described how the IEM I was reviewing compares to the Aria, it would instantly make the review more relatable.

But I couldn’t buy it. No, it’s not because I hated the Aria too much, that was mostly me memeing on Discord. My impression always was that it was a bad IEM, but not the absolute pile of shit I painted it out to be.

No, the reason was simpler - and stupider. It was because the Starfields are so much prettier than the Aria. So, wanting to get serious about this whole review business, I went and bought the Starfields. And I have to say, I am positively surprised.

It’s a very relaxed, inoffensive set. Ideal for low volume background music or listening indoors, not great for outdoor use (bass gets lost in the environmental sounds) or working in a café (poor isolation).

The sound signature is a variation on the Harman target, and in my opinion a very good one. The bass boost is a gentle slope rather than Harman’s “tuck in the lower mids and boost the shit out of the sub-bass” approach, which I appreciate. The upper mids are less elevated than the target would mandate, and conversely, the treble is more elevated than whatever Sean Olive deemed appropriate.

The result? Probably the only IEM in my collection that plays all vocals in a natural, realistic way.

But before I review it properly - look forward to my video on it in about two weeks - let’s compare it to some other popular sets around this price range.

VS Tanchjim Hana 2021

When talking tonality, this comparison goes to the Starfield without a question. The Hana is, to put it mildly, tonally challenged. You have a huge sub-bass boost that has no reason to be there, especially when the bass quality isn’t great, and there is not enough mid-bass and lower mids, which leads to a bass response that feels disjointed and bloated. The mids and treble aren’t much better. The upper mids are gigaboosted, without enough lower mids or treble extension to balance it out. This leads to a presentation that feels imbalanced - there’s a main sound (usually vocal harmonics, but sometimes an electric guitar or strings) that feels overly emphasised over everything else, paired with some random bass appearing in the weirdest moments - usually NOT when you would expect a bass drop in the song - and all the other instruments seem shoved into the background forcefully.

The Starfields waltz in, sound more natural across the frequency range, refuse to elaborate, and leave. There’s more body to the sound, and the background instruments feel more present - not overly emphasised, but just right. The soundstage on the Starfields is also more natural, with vocals sometimes getting very intimate, and most sounds having more space to “breathe”.

The Hana isn’t straight up worse - it makes up some points in detail retrieval and giving a more “smoothened”, “polished” kind of sound - which might be pleasant to you if you aren’t used to a more neutral tuning. And while I wouldn’t call the Starfields neutral, they get closer than the Hana does for sure.

The final knockout comes in the accessories department - the Starfields come with a very nice, soft, braided cable that matches the colour of the earpieces. The cable that comes with the Hana is a piece of ghetto ass garbage that I legitimately find borderline unusable. It’s thin, wirey, hard and memory prone. A cable like this would be out of place on a $20 KZ, let alone a $200 IEM.

VS Moondrop SSR

Despite coming from the same company, these two IEMs couldn’t be more different. While the Starfield aims for a balanced, mild V-shape, the SSR aims for… Something, certainly. I don’t know what that something is, exactly, but I know the SSR does that thing well.

If the Starfield is a relaxed listen, then the SSR is akin to lying in a hammock on the Bahamas and chilling with a great book and a piña colada. The tuning is certainly not neutral. I would even say it’s completely fucked. Starting from the bottom, you got a rolled off sub-bass, a random mid-bass boost, neutral-adjacent lower mids, then whatever black magic fuckery Moondrop decided to do with the upper mids and lower treble, followed by a well-extended upper treble. The result is a very relaxed tuning that focuses on mid-bass and lower treble. M-Shaped, if you will.

In practice, that means that while the SSR definitely isn’t “what the artist intended”, it’s frankly a lot of fun. Compared to Starfields, the vocals certainly “pop” more on the SSR. I also like the bass-boost on the SSR more - it’s punchy and crisp, emphasises the bass guitars, without sounding muddy, while the Starfield’s bass is much slower, stronger, and yes, a little muddy.

Personally, I like both sets for a different reason, but in a head to head, for pure listening enjoyment, I can’t help but pick the cheaper, and frankly worse in most objective metrics, SSR. The Starfields sound much more neutral in comparison, but don’t match the SSR’s fun factor.

Sidenote - fuck the correlation that fun = more bass. It does not. I’m gonna have more fun listening to a KSC75 than a pair of Raycons. Fun is fun. Shut the fuck up. Don’t overthink it. Geez.

On the technical front, I’m gonna have to call it a tie. The SSR faster transients and the bass is where it’s most apparent. It’s not even very close, really. Neither is the soundstage, which is not bad on the SSR, especially when complimented by great imaging, but the Starfields both get more intimate AND give the sounds more space. What is close, though, is the resolution, which on first listen is nearly identical on both sets.

Another sidenote - Moondrop makes some great cables. The Starfield cable is very different from SSR’s thin, soft, rubbery cable, but the both of them are my two favourite cables I ever got with any IEM, period. Good shit, weebs.

VS Blon 03

Surprisingly, out of all the comparisons here, the Blon 03 might be the closest to the Starfield when it comes to midrange tonality, but there is a huge difference in the bass - the Blons don’t let their driams be meams and take every oppoty to rattle your skull with bass, making the Starfield seem almost like a good fucking IEM should neutral in comparison.

Despite being known as a very relaxed set themselves, in comparison to the Starfields they are definitely quite spicy up top. Starfield’s treble is very well extended, but quite polite and not forward in the slightest. Treble on the BL-03 rolls off noticeably earlier, but what it lacks in extension, it makes up in emphasis, with the treble being forward… Sometimes. Gotta love chifi with their peaks and dips. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad treble response, it’s just the Starfield does treble much better.

The Blons aren’t a bad set by any means. In fact, they are quite excellent, especially if you are into rock, metal or rap - for these genres in particular, the Blon is an excellent budget option. Whether you prefer it or the Starfields is up to personal preference. Blons are excellent with electric guitars, and being heavy on the bass does make these genres really fun while you bop to the rhytm. Starfields, on the other hand, bring the emphasis to the vocals and showing off more details, while still providing enough bass. Personally, I prefer the latter, as a midhead crackhead should.

One important thing to mention is the accessories - and no, I am not talking about the BL-03’s cable. Many people hate it, but I don’t understand that - it’s perfectly serviceable in my eyes, I’d take it over the Hana’s table any day. What you’ll have to change for sure are the tips - the stock ones that come with the BL-03 are terrible. I personally use a pair of Spinfits 145 - bringing the total cost of the Blons to around $35. Which is still a third of the Starfield’s price, so I wouldn’t worry too much. :wink:

VS Tin T2

If you know me from Discord, you probably heard me gushing about the TinHiFi T2. The original one, not the Plus, not the Pro, not the Evo - just T2. I absolutely love this IEM. It’s nobassgang - so, perfect for someone like me who mains the Sennheiser HD600. It has a linear midrange, without much of a boost in the upper mids - which, in my opinion, is closer to the correct way to do midrange on IEMs - and then a some emphasis in the mid-treble, of all regions. On paper it doesn’t look great, especially if you’re a nerd. But in practice…

Well, not gonna lie, not having used the T2 in about a week, and seeing how much I like the Starfields, I started sweating.

Turns out, unnecessarily. With the T2 in my ears right now, I can confidently say that they are still my favourite IEM - regardless of price. They are simply excellent. The bass is punchy enough to keep you engaged regardless of the genre, but tight enough that it never takes over the soundscape. The treble is emphasised, yes, but very polite, and never sharp. The focus her is in the midrange, and 90% of the time, the T2 does it simply excellent. There is tons of detail, way more than any of the other IEMs in this comparison ever shows. The tuning is incredibly natural, with voices and instruments sounding exactly like they should…

90% of the time. Sometimes, the T2 stumbles. Something in its frequency response means that it just does not agree with a few select vocalists and plays them in a lifeless way. This is completely normal in the IEM world, with most of them having in my experience a way lower than 90% hit rate, but curiously… I have not seen the Starfields stumble yet. In those 10% of cases where the T2 fails, the Moondrop IEM is waiting on the bench, ready to pick up the pace.

This level of consistency is something very rare in an IEM, and I can’t help but commend Moondrop for doing an EXCELLENT job tuning this IEM. Even if it does not hit my preferences as well as the T2 does, and 90% of the time I would prefer to have the latter in my ears instead, I have to concede this - the Starfield is just better tuned. Absolutely incredible.

As for the technical performance, the Starfields have a soundstage that’s above average for an IEM - but the T2 have a bigger one. The Starfields bring out a really high amount of details from the music - but the T2 brings out even more. The Starfield do a great job with imaging - separating all the different instruments and giving them a place in space - on par with the T2, even. And the Starfields have a really good resolution - they handle busy songs even better than the T2.

Conclusion

I am EXTREMELY impressed. While not quite beating out the T2 for the top spot in my collection, they beat out some other sets I love - and the Hana 2021. I have only had the Starfields for two days now, and I never give reviews for stuff I have had for less than 2 weeks, but I have high hopes for this set - for the simple reason that I do not want to take them out of my ears. As good as the sound is, this also says a lot about how supremely comfortable they are.

Most likely, they are going straight into my top 3, along with the T2 and SSR. If you told me half a year ago, when I almost puked after trying the Aria, that 2 of my 3 favourite IEMs would be Moondrop sets, I’d laugh in your face, but here we are.

Good job, weebs.

Now it’s time for me to try the Blessing 2, innit.

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Hello Szymon, my fellow native person,
Nice to see another’s person den in here :slight_smile:
Could you explain a little what is the origin of crackhead nickname?

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Hey dude, cool to see that I’m not the only Polish person in here hahaha

As for the nickname, it started in the Super* Review Discord, when someone shared an article about a Japanese company (Final Audio?) tuning their IEMs in a zen garden. I replied that they do all this, meanwhile KZ is probably just one crackhead in a shed, tuning the earphones while on a coke rampage.

That was back when I was super new to the IEM world and was quite a big fan of KZ myself, so people later started memeing that maybe I am the KZ Crackhead.

And then every hot take I shared started getting replies like “this is truly a crackhead take” from people who didn’t particularly like me. I could either get mad at them or join in on the joke. Hence, Szymon the Crackhead. :stuck_out_tongue:

Just posted a new video.

It’s a channel update where I talk about:

  • Getting review units and the ethics behind it
  • The Scale of Suck
  • This Thread (Meta, I know)
  • My first impressions of the Moondrop Starfield
  • Comparisons vs Tanchjim Hana 2021, Blon 03, Moondrop SSR and Tin T2
  • Ranking them based on Bass, Treble, Mids, Technical Performance and the Scale of Suck
  • and a Q&A with the audience about headphone comfort, Planars, pretty IEMs and more. :slight_smile:
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I posted a review of the CCA CRA on YouTube. Written review coming later today.

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Nice detailed review of the CRA. I think it is an odd combination of big V and technical set as you said. People who prefer technical sets usually don’t want monster bass and people who want big V like to turn it up. For me, if it sounds too far from natural or fatiguing, I don’t care about the resolution at that point.

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Hi Paul, thanks for watching my review!

I completely agree. This is such a baffling choice - I mean, it’s not like good detail is something wrong to have in a big V set… But this sharp of a treble is. The CRA does get better once you turn the volume up, but you know… I don’t like the idea of being deaf when I turn 40. :stuck_out_tongue:

The CRA is definitely a divisive set. I can see how someone like Riku might love it when he’s into technicalities and loves big bass, but for me as a midrange stan, yeah nah

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Yeah good stuff. Played Use Your Illusion II too many times today. Civil War is an awesome track.

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The CCA CRA is elevated sub bass more than anything, and it balances the treble nicely. It is quite fun without being too thick. It is a cheap set. Great value to sound, but it isn’t going to slay any dragons.

I can see how someone like Riku might love it when he’s into technicalities and loves big bass

@Rikudou_Goku seems to love good V sets, but his measurement rig setup is a tight seal so I can’t compare his preferred signature well on other reviewer squigs. It makes sense (for me) to compare reviewer measurements with IEMs that I already have to understand the differences in how they sound.

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I grew up with Use Your Illusion I and II. The guitarwork of Slash is insane, and I love the lyrical contents of the songs too. Not surprised it became a brain worm for you. :stuck_out_tongue:

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Yeah. The CRA is alright. More than alright, really, hence I put it into the “more than alright” tier. It has some genuine impressive things about it, but at the end of the day, it is a poorly tuned budget set, it won’t compete at the highest echelons.

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Fix treble around 5 and 8k, reduce bass quantity a bit, flaten mids more. Give a slight fancier cable. Black and transparent shell with golden letters. Call it cra pro. Raise price to 20-25, cash out.

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This makes so much sense. It’s the most logical thing they could do.

No way this happens :rofl:

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CCA CRA Pro x nymz

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Edited…

:metal::grin:

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CCA CRA Review

hype

/hʌɪp/
noun
Extravagant or intensive publicity or promotion.
“The CCA CRA was hyped as an IEM that outperforms significantly more expensive earphones.”

Man does it feel difficult writing this review. I am not quite sure why. Maybe I’m subconsciously scared of the blowback for trashing the community’s latest darling? Maybe I’m wondering how to word this to not read like blind hate?

Or maybe the reason is much more prosaic - I hated listening tho these so much that I don’t want to recount that experience.

Whatever the case is…

Sigh…

We gotta talk about the CRA.

The Other Things

I’m going to keep this part brief - anyone who wants to know more about the build quality, design and accessories should watch my video review of the CRA, here I’m going to focus mostly on the sound.

CCA CRA is a brand new IEM from everyone’s favourite chi-fi brand, KZ.

It uses a single Dynamic Driver enclosed in a typical KZ-style shell with no pseudo-custom elements. This universal fit, coupled with the small size, means that no one should have problems fitting it or getting a good seal, but it is not going to be supremely comfortable for anyone either. It’s an average fit.

When it comes to looks, the CRA delivers. It utilises a two-tone look achieved with a combination of resin and polished plastic, giving me strong Cyberpunk vibes. Not bad.

The earphone sports a QDC connector for connecting cables, and I can’t stress how much better this system is than your standard 2-Pin plug. I really wish other companies like Moondrop or Tanchjim would adopt this connector instead of sticking with regular 2-Pin.

As for the cable that connects to these pins, it’s simple and functional - just two wires glued together until the y-split. It’s quite stiff to the touch and quite kinky unless you heat-treat it, but it gets the job done. I much prefer it to the old KZ cables.

I wish I could say the same about the included tips. They seal much better than KZ’s older Starline tips, but they make my ears itch about an hour or so of use - it seems like I am the only person with this problem so far, though, so your mileage may vary.

Sound Signature

The CRA is unapologetically V-Shaped.

Compared to the Crackhead Target, which is how a good V-Shaped set should be tuned in my opinion, you can see a frankly ridiculous boost in the sub-bass - 5dB above the target, which already features a 10dB bass boost. Combine that with a huge contrast between the lower and upper midrange and very bright treble - that 5kHz peak is definitely real - and you get a parody of a V-shaped signature, something that would feel at home in a pair of Raycons.

What that means in practice is that vocals sound thin, midrange is extremely recessed, the sub-bass dominates all the other sounds, and the treble is just on the edge of being too sharp - keep in mind, that’s on the edge for me, and I am very tolerant of sharp treble, so if you are more sensitive to sharpness than me, you will find them intolerable.

If that signature sounds like fun to you, more power to you. My friend and fellow reviewer @RikudouGoku loves it, for example. But personally, I found it extremely boring - I listen to music for the melody and the instruments, not just the wub-wub of the sub-bass. Listening to my review playlist on these and A/B testing with other sets in a similar price range felt like a chore.

One of the few genres I enjoyed on these was metal. In Kingslayer by Bring Me The Horizon I couldn’t stop tapping my feet to the rhytm, and I loved the presentation of electric guitars in DiE4u by that same band. In Am I Evil? by Metallica, the electric guitar and kick-drum took priority over all the other instruments, but that is not necessarily a bad thing in a metal song.

However, not even all of metal sounds great.** **In Paranoid by Megadeth, the bass felt disjointed, the plucks of guitar strings were ridiculously overemphasised, the cymbals were very sharp, and the vocal, while decently forward, very thin. A terrible offender was A Place For My Head by Linkin Park, where yes, the electric guitars sounded amazing, but both the vocalists sounded distant and lifeless.

The CRA can work for pop music with female vocals, like Cyn’s Drinks or KDAs Drum Go Dum. The lack of mid-bass makes for a "clean” presentation in these songs, but in my opinion, the same feature makes these songs lack a certain kind of musicality.

Electronic music is the last genre that works well on the CRA. Everything else is a no-go.

You would think a V-Shaped set would do well at rap, but when I tested the CRA with my favourite rap songs like No Name by NF and E-Girls Are Ruining My Life by Corpse, even though the bass was skull-shaking and the snares drove the rhytm nicely, the vocals were stupidly recessed… Which, correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t the vocals the main part of a rap song?

And don’t even try instrumental music. I played Harvest Dawn from The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion soundtrack and I burst out laughing. This amount of bloat really reminds me of Raycons or old-school Beats.

Speaking of bloat…

Bass

It is not a secret that I prefer a neutral sound, but that does not mean I hate bass. When I reviewed KZ’s own DQ6, I raved about the bass response, despite it having a huge bass boost. I just thought this is important to mention before the following paragraph.

image

The bass on the CRA is not only too much, it’s also poorly executed. The sub-bass dominates the music and crowds out the mid-bass, leading to weird effects like in Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby by Cigarettes After Sex, where the bass guitar in the intro is certainly strong and hits you… But doesn’t have that "warm blanket” effect that it would on most bass boosted sets. Even worse is Nirvanas Something In The Way from their MTV Unplugged concert, where you certainly feel the cello coming in at 0:44… But you can’t hear it at all.

Tuning aside, the quality of the bass is quite good, especially for the price range. Both the bass guitar in Nothings Gonna Hurt You Baby and the bass synth in E-Girls Are Ruining My Life are nicely textured. In the under-$40 price range the quality of the bass beats everything except the DQ6, which is a huge outlier in that regard itself.

Mids

If music were a soup, the bass would be the salt, the mids is the stock and vegetables, and the treble is the spices. You don’t want to have a soup with no salt or spices, you need at least some of them to make it tasty. Everyone has a different taste for how much salt and spice they prefer, but one thing is certain, you don’t want to overdo them.

Well, the CRA is like a tomato soup made from a great, flavourful stock and fresh, tasty Spanish tomatoes, that someone then added three ladles of himalayan salt to and then put in a whole jar of rotten coriander.

It makes you sick, despite most of the ingredients being great.

And the mids on the CRA really are of great quality. There’s so much detail here. When I volume matched and A/B tested the CRA versus the $110 Moondrop Starfield… Yup. The CRA retrieved MORE detail from the music.

In Something In The Way, you can hear subtle details in Kurt Cobain’s strumming of the acoustic guitar. In BlowinIn The Wind by Bob Dylan there’s so much complexity to the Harmonica’s sound that you really can get lost in it. In DiE4u by Bring Me The Horizon, you can hear the electric guitar’s strings being plucked at 2:59. This is is real detail, too, not just fake detai courtesy of a boosted treble response, because the Heart Mirror (an IEM known for having good technical performance for the price already) does not show it despite a very similar treble level.

image

I can’t stress enough how great the CRA is at retrieving details in the midrange. It is not only great for the price. It is great period, matching sets like Tanchjim’s Hana 2021, a $180 IEM known for good detail retrieval.

Which is a god damn shame, because of how recessed and veiled the entire midrange, is. One of my favourite songs recently is Civil War by Guns NRoses and listening to it on the CRA just makes me sad. It resolves all the instruments really well, but it all just sounds off regardless.

Treble

Let’s start with the good.

It extends well.

Okay, that’s it. Remember that rotten cilantro analogy?

A soup with too much salt would be edible, if disgusting. A soup with too much salt and a bunch of rotten cilantro, well, it will make you sick. And so does the treble here.

I have no idea who thought this kind of treble boost was a good idea, but dude should get a Darwin award along with his job termination. The treble here is atrocious. I have probably the most blessed ears when it comes to treble tolerance, because I never found the aforementioned Heart Mirror, nor most cheap KZs even, particularly sharp. Even still, the CRA was toeing the line for me many times. If you have any less treble tolerance than I do, avoid at all costs.

In April Showers by Aimer, you have strings playing in the background. On most sets, I would say they are beautiful. On the CRA, they are annoying. So is the harmonica in BlowinIn The Wind. So are the strings and cymbals in Supremacy by Muse. So are 3/4 of the songs on my playlist. Extremely annoying. When we discussed my video review on Discord with other people who bought it after the initial wave of hype, some even described it as painful.

When it comes to the technical performance in the treble, cymbals and hi-hats in songs like Teenagers by My Chemical Romance or the aforementioned Am I Evil? by Metallica are extremely detailed, but their timbre is so fucked they sound like paper.

Technical Performance

This is the one part that CRA does well.

As I mentioned earlier, detail retrieval and treble extension are strong parts of this set. So is the resolution - the CRA manages to separate all the instruments in busy songs like Civil War and DiE4u, to a legitimately impressive extent. Despite all the soup talk earlier, you don’t have to worry about your music blending into one. With all the “CRA is worth $300” hype talk, the detail retrieval and resolution are the only parts of this IEM that could belong in that price bracket.

Coming back to the sub-30 dollar market, though. After it separates them, it feels as if the CRA does not know where to place the instruments, because the imaging is really weird sometimes. It separates from left to right really well, but front to back placement is almost non-existent. Combine that with a weirdly claustrophobic soundstage - the sounds feel like they’re placed on the inside walls of your skull, being neither spacious, nor intimate - and you start to remember how much you paid for this set.

Some songs that show off the poor imaging particularly well are Letter by Yosi Horikawa, where the placement of objects is solid, but the presentation feels very 2D, and Villain by K/DA, where listening to the part between 2:17 and 2:45 on a good set gives you goosebumps, as if you’re being seduced by a succubus. On the CRA, thanks to 2D imaging and recessed midrange, no such effect.

Comparisons

VS Blon BL03

image

Both the Blon and the CCA are V-Shaped sets, however the 03 does the tuning much better. First of all, the bass-boost isn’t as isolated to the sub-bass. You also have some more upper mids, as well as a treble that’s still elevated, but not as much as on the CRA.

In practice, this makes the Blon set sound much more organic, natural, musical, and over-all pleasant, not to mention you are able to turn the volume up louder without it becoming unpleasant, which means that you can take in more of the mids. Even volume-matched, though, the mids on the Blons have a much fuller body to them, rather than sounding like ghastly illusions from another plane of existence.

In Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby the bass guitar is much warmer and more full on the Blons, vocal competes with the synths for space instead of conceding it, and the percussion in the background has actual timbre.

The CRA only wins where you would expect it to win - it resolves more detail in the midrange and bass. This is especially aparent between 1:35 and 1:47 in Drinks by Cyn.

VS KZ DQ6

image

In the past, I’ve described the DQ6 with foam tips (graph shows a mod that sounds quite close, but not quite the same) as a better Blon BL03 with less treble. It follows within reason, then, that since the Blon destroys the CRA, so will the DQ6.

And indeed it does, throwing a few punches that the Blon would not. The DQ6 brings the midrange much more forward. It has more detail in the bass (though less in the mids and treble) than the CRA. And it has insane soundstage and imaging that the CRA could only dream of.

Conclusion

It’s hard to rate the CRA. On the one hand, I really want to commend KZ for innovating with their driver tech to get this amount of detail retrieval and resolution at such a ridiculously low price. I also want to commend them for learning from their collaboration with @Crinacle and using proper dampening materials to tune their infamous peaks down.

On the other hand, they made the decision to boost the shit out of the bass and treble instead of just reusing the tuning Crin did for them on the ZEX Pro.

On the third hand (I have four, shut up), I know that I am not necessarily the target audience of this tuning as someone who does not like a ton of bass and gets most of his music enjoyment from exploring the intricacies of the midrange.

On the fourth hand (told you) the technical capabilities of this driver are BEGGING for a more refined tuning, and this IEM just sounds… Bad.

So I decided to split the difference. I could place it in E Tier, because that’s how bad the tuning is to my ears. I could place it in B Tier, because that’s where the detail retrieval belongs. And in the end, I will place it in C+ Tier. C Tier is where the good earphones belong, and this one certainly has something special that, for the right person (someone who likes big bass AND loves to EQ), makes it more than just good.

At the price it really doesn’t have an equal. Even the Blon 03 and KZ DQ6/DQ6S are twice the price of the CRA. Sure, that just means you’d have to deny yourselves three Starbucks coffees to save $15, but the point stands. So I will award it two value stars as well.

It feels wrong to rate the CRA so highly despite it being one of the most boring, most annoying and straight up worst experiences I have had listening to music lately. Thankfully, if you caught one of my last two streams, you know that I created a new, very subjective rating system, based only on how much I actually enjoyed listening to an earphone. The scale starts at -10 (absolute dumpster fire), and goes through 0 (where the REALLY good stuff sits) all the way up to 3 (absolute perfection). This scale shouldn’t really matter to you unless you have literally the same taste I have, but it matters to me. I call it the Scale of Suck. And on that scale, the CCA CRA scores a very prestigious -8.

Fuck the CRA.

Tier: C+

Tonality: D-

Technical Performance: B-

Value: * * / 3

Scale of Suck: -8

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I think you do a great job of summing up the CRA faults really well: this is not a vocal set, it sucks at imaging as the sound stage is wide and flat, and it isn’t good for older tracks with noise in the recording.

The Blon BL03 is warmer in the mid bass, and much better tonally for vocals, while the CRA is more technically capable.

The CRA subbass may be too much for some, but the main fault always comes down to that ~4.7 KHz peak that seems imprinted into the driver. Some stuff will sound thin and lifeless and capture a lot of background air and mic blowing (songs without much of bass), other stuff will sound like deep fried dried noodles (already trebly tracks).

But every now and then there is a song that pushes drums and cymbals cleanly, or bumps up orchestra sub bass making it thunderous, and brings out the brass instruments up front and in your face like the curse of sergio.

vYn

I wonder if anyone has tried poking a hole into the bass vent tuning filter?
I would also hope someone can graph the ol’ dried towelette mod with it as well.

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