CCZ Plume – The Golden Child
Author: Paul Wasabii
The Plume is the first IEM and the current flagship from the newcomer CCZ. It is a hybrid IEM with 10mm dynamic driver and 4BA wrapped in a premium golden colored shell. The 4BA (2 of each) are custom designed by CCZ and referred to as CCZ-IF-A (intermediate frequency) and CCZ-HI-A (high frequency). As their initial introduction to consumers, the overall impression of the package is very premium but at the same time, the cost is over $200usd so it does warrant a complete package that not only looks premium, ships with premium accessories, and most of all, has a sound that matches the price tag.
From the brush strokes and gold lettering on the outer box down to the accessories found in the leather case, it has a premium feel at every level. The outer box slides off revealing an inner matte black box which opens to a velvet-like tray containing the stunning golden shells and ear tip collection. Underneath the tray, there is a handsome leather case, the 6N OCC cable, CCZ tips, 2X 2.5mm adapters, cleaning cloth and brush.
The cable is specified as a 2 core 6N OCC crystal copper but it is sleeved in a dark brown fabric. The feel is soft and the twisted dual cores also contributes to the overall soft and flexible feel. The cable is terminated 2.5mm with a chrome and carbon fiber connector. The split is matching chrome and carbon fiber with a working black ball chin slider. The chin slider slides easily but does remain in place aided by the fabric sleeving. The black, partially covered 2pin 0.78mm connectors fit flush to the partially raised 2pin connection on the shell. Additionally, there are 2 adapters to convert the 2.5mm to 4.4mm and 3.5mm.
The included tip set includes 3 pairs of the CCZ designed “patent” tips which feature an extra ring or tube at the top of the tip and 5 pairs of KBEAR 07 tips.
To round out the abundant collection of accessories, there is a handsome storage case, cleaning cloth, and cleaning brush.
Figure 1. Take note of the two vent holes on the inside face
The golden shells are comfortable but on the larger size. For me personally, I don’t have any discomfort in short sessions, but in longer sessions, I can start to feel it. Additionally, there is a bit of weight to the shells so if your previous IEM is a lightweight resin or plastic, these will feel heavier. For me the wing helps keep the shell in my ear and the weight was not noticeable to me. Also worth noting, there are two vents on the inside face so avoid pushing the shells too far in which may block airflow to the vents.
Figure 2. FR Graph of the CCZ Plume
Generally, the CCZ Plume is a very likeable warm V-shape. Perhaps too warm and thick for those seeking a balanced hybrid tuning. It tends to sound more like a sub bass focused DD than a hybrid with such a rich and weighty low end and non-fatiguing upper end. While the BA timbre is somewhat natural on the Plume, the cost is detail and it could use a bit more sharpness to the upper range which would have made detail fans a bit happier. While easy to drive, the Plume does like a little bit more power to tighten up the low range and using a warm source is simply going to emphasize the boosted bass. CCZ was right in choosing wide bore tips for the same reason, no need to add any more emphasis to the bass. For me, the volume scaling is an interesting balancing act on the Plume. At a lower volume combined with some more power, the bass is less thick but mids are more recessed. Turning the volume wheel up will bring the mids forward with more detail, but more boosted bass comes along as well. I do suggest playing with the volume as the drivers will awaken at higher volume and will let you know when you have gone too far with some lower treble fatigue. While the Plume exudes a premium look, getting it dialed in with a more neutral source, open tips, and volume level will leave you thinking the premium look comes with a side of high maintenance when balancing the adjustments.
With a 10mm custom DD, the Plume tuning went heavy on the bass. The tuning is a very likeable bass heavy sound which will appeal to some listeners and others will prefer a cleaner lower range at this price point. As I mentioned earlier, using a more neutral source, especially one with some power, will help tighten the bass a bit but there is a bit more quantity than quality here. For bass fans, this is a very generous helping of bass and will hit hard and go deep on your favorite bass led tracks. For listeners looking for more detail and texture, this driver is not particularly fast or tight. I would say it is not overly boomy and remains controlled but not quite fast enough to match the detail of the 4BAs or perhaps the expectation of detail at its price range. Again, if the bass is too boomy, try a more neutral source. Additionally, the very wide stage helps with this level of bass from completely overpowering the mids and treble.
With the tuning and level of bass on the Plume, there is quite a bit of bleed into the mids. The overall warmth runs from the bass and straight into the mids. With the level of bass and slightly recessed mids, this bass to mids transition is not as clean as I hoped. Again, this set will really appeal to bass fans and fans of a very weighty mid-range. The vocals are also weighty and full-bodied even if there is a bit of recession. I can certainly see where a full-bodied female vocal will appeal to many people on the Plume and the male vocals can take on a very thick sound which is a bit too deep. These are certainly not thin, shouty mids but could use more contribution from the upper range. If you prefer cleaner mids and more clarity, consider EQ’ing the bass down a bit and use a neutral source. Less of a problem if your music selection does not include bass heavy tracks as well. In that case, the V-shaped tuning will offer some recession in the mids and I preferred to play with the volume to bring the Plume to life. At lower volumes, vocals can be a bit more recessed and slightly dull so click your volume + button a couple times and listen for the mids to come forward a bit and come to life. Even when the track has a relatively low bass level and the mids are more forward, the level of detail and resolution is average at best. Again, this is a bass lovers tuning versus a price expectations problem. While CCZ could have sharpened the sound on the BAs to force more detail in the mid-range, the Plume leans more towards an easy going, relaxed presentation so detail lovers may want to go elsewhere, but this will be fine with fans of non-fatiguing long sessions with their favorite tracks.
Heading out of the mids, the rise into the lower treble is smooth and not too much gain, around 9db at 2.5khz. The mid to treble transition follows along with the relaxed presentation but for me, another small peak at 5k will be the lower treble focus area. Especially upping the volume a bit, the 5k peak will let you know when you gone too far. Beyond the 5K area, it drops off and, in my opinion, the higher frequency sounds are a bit hard to hear especially with bass in the track. The combination of lower level and heavy bass will make the pianos and even snare drums sound a bit dark, a bit blunted, a bit too fuzzy. Again, this will be great for fans of a non-fatiguing treble but for treble-heads, this will leave them wanting more upper treble to stand against the bass. As far as a very likeable tuning, the Plume nailed it as they could have simply gone with a sharper V-shape and boosted the treble to stand with the bass, but it would have been too fatiguing and potentially forced more BA timbre.
The other group who are really going to enjoy the Plume are fans of a wide stage. To be honest, with that much bass, it would have been a muddy mess with a small stage as the bass would have crushed the mids. Pushing instruments out wide, bass low, and height on the vocals and treble, there is an abundance of space allowing for good separation and layering. More so than I assumed would be possible from my first few minutes listening to the Plume. For the Plume, this is essential with the bass bleed into the mids, there isn’t the clarity and imaging that you would get out of a tighter/faster dynamic driver. The size of the stage is helpful, but especially for bass heavy tracks, the imaging is still going to be challenging. Another area where that neutral source with a bit of power is going to help bring a bit more clarity. Overall, the stage offers some wow moments as there should be in a set of this price.
I will say 7.5 out of 10 is the middle ground between listeners who prefer heavy bass and those who prefer less bass. The score will really depend on your preferences, if you prefer more bass, it is more like an 8, but if you prefer less bass, it is closer to a 7. For bass fans, non-fatiguing treble fans, this is certainly a set that is right up your alley. For everyone else, there are expectations, especially on the technicalities, which may not be met with such a bass-heavy, warm tuning. Ultimately the scoring comes down to price, value, and expectations calculation so I call it a 7.5 out of 10 but I wanted to be clear that the Plume is going to be better suited to those seeking its warm and bass-heavy sound. For those people who are looking to take a step up in sound quality from the sub-$100, understand the signature and strengths of the Plume so as to meet your expectations.