disclaimer: Not needed, I purchased the Clear Concept Audio C10 at retail price for purpose of this review from an Ali store.
Unboxing / Packaging:
Those familiar with the KZ white-box packaging will recognize it immediately, Slip-cover, with clear plastic beneath and earpieces in a tray with all accessories hiding below. Certainly acceptable packaging at the price point but will do little to help seperate Clear Concept Audio (CCA) from its sibling Knowledge Zenith (KZ). In the box are the cable and 4 sets of tips, 3 Starlines in Small, medium, and large and a single black silicone in medium size. The fact that tips are KZ starlines is another give away to the CCA’s lineage. That and the cable and warranty card are pretty much the whole kit as no case or shirt clip are included.
The CCA C10 is a very close cousin to the KZ Zsn with the clear portion of the shell being identical with the faceplate changed to distinguish the two. Size is somewhere in the middle of the pack while thickness is a bit less than most which does help make the C10 an easy fit. Nozzles have a slight forward rake that allows for a good seal without particularly deep insertion but lack any lip to hold tips in place.
The C10 sports 4 balanced armatures per side, two 30095 and two 50060 handle the mids and highs, while a single 10mm Dynamic driver handles the bass responsibilities. Nominal impedance is listed as 32Ω with a sensitivity of 108dB/mW. This makes the C10 fairly easy to drive from a phone or tablet and while it does scale some with better amplification, the ceiling is fairly low so those using a phone or tablet are not missing out on much.
Cable is the same stock cable as is currently being shipped with all the KZ models. No chin slider, and splitter way too low and overall very tangle prone. To put it bluntly, this cable is not worthy of being included with the C10 let alone the C16.
Sub-bass is good on the C10 with some slam and rumble to it before rolling off in the low 50Hz range. Mid-bass is emphasized and while it does well most of the time, it does bleed a bit into the mids and at times can be a bit loose and boomy. I also found bass texture to be somewhat lacking as the C10 has seemingly traded detail for smoothing over some of the rough edges. Electric bass with intentional distortion should have some growl and edge to it that the C10 struggles to reproduce.
Mids also seem to follow the same pattern, smooth, warm, and polished, but lacking a bit of detail at times. The mid-bass bloom does interfere with lower range vocals at times and can make them a bit warmer than realistic. Electric guitar timbre however is very good and some of that growl that is missing on the bass side is present in the mids. Attack is quite good, with decay lagging slightly behind it that gives the sound a nice thickness. Upper mids are pushed a bit more forward and give female vocals a bit of extra energy while maintaining good control and I found no tendency toward stridency at all.
I have to admit, when I saw two KZ made 30095 drivers per side, I expected a treble cannon, maybe not as much as the C16 with 4 of them, but memories of the Zs6 are still fresh in mind. Again CCA has managed to take KZ drivers and smooth them out almost beyond belief and certainly beyond recognition. Lower treble continues to climb slightly from the upper mids, but remains smooth and clean. Snares are believable and cymbals do not sound metallic which is a nice change of pace for the KZ 30095 driver. Roll-off is fairly steep once you reach 11kHz which limits the amount of air and sparkle available. Even with the fairly early roll-off, the sound doesn’t feel closed in or congested.
Soundstage / Imaging:
Soundstage of the C10 is merely average which is a bit of a disappointment after the superlatives in the sound signature. I found myself reminding me that I paid $26 and shouldn’t expect these to be a $300 in-ear. Stage is deeper than it is wide which is the opposite of a lot of budget iems, but that limits imaging as at times things seem to be in front/behind each other instead of side by side. The more complex the track, the busier the low-end gets and the more the bass boom impacts the overall instrument separation. Again, impressive for $26, but far from perfect.
Thoughts / Conclusion:
The C10 has its faults to be sure, chief among them is the cable. Having said that at the price point, who cares? At the price point, the C10 is one of the best tuned most coherent sounding in-ears available and well deserving of the hype it is receiving. Those looking for an inexpensive iem for kids, travel, canoe trips, etc. would do well to give the CCA C10 a try.