INTRODUCTION, DISCLAIMER, AND PRODUCT LINK:
The CVJ CSA is a hybrid in-ear monitor (IEM) using one dual magnetic dynamic driver and one balanced armature on each side. CSA is a recent entrant to the Chi-Fi scene, and the CSA joins a crowded price bracket of 1+1 hybrids currently dominated by the KBEAR KB04. The CSA retails for $26.99 on Amazon at the time of this review. I purchased the CSA on Amazon and was reimbursed for my purchase by CSA prior to the arrival of the review unit, at a net cost to me of $.52.
The CVJ CSA can be purchased at the link below:
PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES:
The CVJ CSA comes in a small rectangular wooden box. The lid of the box is inscribed with the CVJ logo and tagline in silver text. The rear of the box is inscribed with CVJ’s contact information. There is also a sticker listing technical specifications specific to the CSA. This is a novel presentation for such an inexpensive IEM. The package includes a detachable .75mm 2-pin cable with a 3.5mm termination, three pairs of white silicone eartips (S, M, L), and a small brown drawstring pouch marked with the CVJ logo. A velcro zip-tie is affixed to the cable. Also included are a quality control pass chit, a user manual, and a warranty card.
BUILD QUALITY / DESIGN:
The CVJ CSA uses a two-part plastic shell. The inner body of the shell is clear, revealing the internal components. The faceplate is painted with a shiny white carbon fiber pattern. The CVJ logo is printed in black on the faceplate. There is a small circular vent on the inner face of the housing above the dynamic driver. The top of the inner shell is marked with white “L” and “R” indicators. The nozzles have soup strainer-like metal nozzle grills and substantial lips for securing eartips. The use of plastic as the primary shell material is acceptable given the low price point but there are many IEMs around or below the CSA in cost that utilize all-metal construction or at least metal faceplates.
The included cable is simple, with four black rubber sheathed strands. It strongly resembles the cables found on entry-level TRN headphones. The cable does tend to tangle when shoved into the included fabric pouch. The Y-split and jack hardware are anodized black metal. The CVJ logo is printed in white on the 3.5mm jack hardware. There is strain relief above the 3.5mm jack and below the Y-split but there is no chin-adjustment slider. The cable has pre-formed heat-shrink ear guides. “L” and “R” indicators are embossed on the 2–pin connectors.
COMFORT / FIT / ISOLATION:
The CVJ CSA is intended to be worn cable-up only. The earpieces have a moderate insertion depth and were comfortable for me. The housings are low profile and sit mostly below the outer surface of the ear. Secureness of fit is average. The angle of the housings in the ear tends to shift throughout wear and requires occasional readjustment, though the CSA sits more securely than the KBEAR KB04. Isolation is slightly above average for an IEM with vented dynamic drivers. I did experience driver flex with the CSA with most of the silicone eartips I tried.
My measurements were conducted with a Dayton iMM-6 microphone using a vinyl tubing coupler and a calibrated USB sound interface. The headphones are driven using my Element, which has an output impedance of no more than 1 ohm. The measurements use a compensation file derived from relating my raw measurements to published measurements from Crinacle and Antdroid. The indicated SPL readings are not accurate. The measurements are presented with 1/24th smoothing. There is a resonant peak at 8k. Measurements above 10k are not reliable.
The CVJ CSA is a bright-sounding IEM with a neutral bass presentation. It sounds best at low-to-moderate volumes. The CVJ CSA is easy to drive with a variety of source devices.
The measured channel imbalance in the bass is not perceptible. Sub-bass extension is fair. The sub-bass draws the listener’s attention more than the mid-bass. The bass response has good speed and articulation but is lacking in texture. Bass resolution is good overall.
The midrange has a cool tonality with plenty of presence. There is not enough mid-bass to bleed into or color the midrange. The lower midrange is thin-sounding and recessed compared to the upper midrange. Male vocal intelligibility is average and there is little body to male vocals. Female vocals have better intelligibility. There is quite a bit of sibilance, especially with female vocals. Female vocals sound fuller and more colorful than male vocals. Female vocals are forward of midrange instrumentation, while male vocals must compete with electric guitars and other instruments for the listener’s attention.
The treble response is uniformly elevated in line with the prominent upper midrange. The treble sparkly, detailed, and airy. Transient delivery is slightly diffuse and splashy-sounding. Soundstage width and depth are in line with my expectations for a budget hybrid IEM. Instrument separation and imaging are both excellent.
CVJ CSA vs KBEAR KB04
The KBEAR KB04 is another 1+1 hybrid IEM. The KB04, with its all-metal construction, sports superior build quality to the CVJ CSA’s plastic shell. The KB04 comes with a wider variety of eartips but does not include a carry pouch. The KB04’s included cable is less tangle-prone. The KB04 has a more conventional V-shaped tuning, with significantly more bass. The KB04’s bass is faster, more resolving, and textured, though it is arguably distractingly elevated. The KB04 has a more even upper midrange and its treble transients are slightly more realistic sounding.
While CVJ should be applauded for offering an alternative to the dominant tuning in this price range, the CSA needs further refinement, particularly in its upper midrange presentation.