CVJ CSN REVIEW: Neutral cohesive sound with cold tonality

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SOUND: 8/10
CONSTRUCTION&DESIGN: 9/10
PACKAGING&ACCESSORIES: 7.5/10
VALUE: 8/10

THE PLUS: Neutral tuning, Good macro-resolution, Good imaging, Good transparency, smoothly bright tonality, clean vocal without sibilance, thigh attack
THE SO-SO: Tamed bass presence, slightly cold sounding, lack of treble snap and sparkle, intimate soundstage, not very dynamic sounding, average technicalities for an hybrid

CVJ (Dongguan Jiuxian Acoustic Technology Co) is a newcomer Chinese audio company that gain experience with diverse audio things like hybrid IEM, TWS IEM, DIY cables and other things. It has been created in 2019 and even has an official WEBSITE.

While this company seems to come from nowhere, they surely have a lot of contact with OEM manufacture Chifi lover are familiar about, like those creating TRN housing at least. Instinctively, I put them in the same bucket as KZ, TRN, CCA and even more obscure TRIPOWIN, the 2 latter being startup trying to climb on some BA obsess Chifi craze.

And indeed, CVJ seem to be one of those Chinese budget audiophile company that is all about Hybrid IEM. They have launch 3 Hybrid lately, which is the Dual DD+BA CSA, the Hybrid DD+2BA CS8, and the flagship mode I will review today which score 1DD and 5BA and is called CVJ CSN.

While I’m pretty certain to have seen this housing design somewhere in Chifi IEM, it sure isn’t a badly crafted one. But this meant nothing if it sounds like a generic Chifi BA pumped IEM, let’s see in this review if at 60$, the CSN worth the attention of budget audiophile with nuanced hearing.

You can buy the CSN at best price (around 50$) from AK AUDIO Store HERE.

SPECS

  • Brand Name: CVJ
  • Vocalism Principle: Hybrid technology
  • Active Noise-Cancellation: No
  • Style: In-Ear
  • Sensitivity: 108±2dbdB
  • Wireless Type: None
  • Is wireless: No
  • Line Length: 1.25m
  • Plug Type: Line Type
  • Connectors: 3.5mm
  • Model Number: CVJ CSN
  • Resistance: 22Ω
  • Waterproof: No
  • Frequency Response Range: 7 – 40000Hz
  • Model: CVJ CSN
  • Cable: 0.75mm 3.5mm

INTERN

CVJ CSN | Headphone Reviews and Discussion - Head-Fi.org

PACKAGING & ACCESSORIES

CSN offers a different boxing experience due to material use for the box, which is made of wood, this give a pleasant look and can be used as a ranging box for ear tips or IEM. In term of accessories, it’s just the minimum and I admit it’s a little underwhelming for an IEM of this price. You got only 3 pair of ear tips, a kinda decent 4 strands braided copper cable and a little pouch.

CONSTRUCTION AND DESIGN

The housing is made of ”CNC technic metal” that feels very sturdy and isn’t too heavy, you don’t have any plastic part which too me is a sign of quality and durability. All 3 pieces are well fit with no imperfection. The 2pin connector is flush to the housing and permit to use a wide array of 2pin cables. The nozzle is enough long fo deep insertion.

The housing DESIGN have an angular backplate that creates an intriguing light effect while the front has a slightly organic shape that permits universal fit. You don’t have any angle that touches your inner ear

SOUND

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Overall tonality is comfortably sharp, but well balanced in presence because everything seems unapologetically forwarded. Bright and neutral with enough energic upper mids and upper treble, fast attack and just enough punchy controlled bass is the sound and it isn’t particularly sibilant or harsh even if slightly shouty.

SOUNDSTAGE is average but out of your head enough and quite deep, it’s clean too, but wideness and tallness are average which isn’t bad too.

IMAGING is quite good, especially with not too busy music where the sharp clarity expands instrument separation space. Most of the instruments placement seems rather centric, some percussion being very near your left and right side.

BASS is tight and punchy, with slightly elevated kick presence and light sub-bass extension. It’s fast too and does not bleed on mid-range at all. Timbre is on the thin side and impact isn’t very weighty, more still well forwarded.  The texture is there, more than thickness. Sub-bass is dense but slightly boxy. Here what impresses is the articulation and tonality that permit to articulate bass line with great intelligibility. This type of bass is better for rock, IDM, and Pop than Jazz, classical or sub-heavy hip-hop.

MIDS are crisp, forwards, bright and energic, with just a slight hint of sibilance that isn’t disastrous as older chifi hybrid. Balanced armature timbre is present in mids and treble but have a good cohesion with the dynamic driver bass. It’s not too grainy and attack is thigh and energic. What impress here it’s instrument separation in midsection, and how clean they are from any congestion. Vocals aren’t particularly emotional or addictive, but they have well-centered presentation with sharp clarity. Timbre is near thin, but have an edgy presentation with just enough density to avoid to be hollow. In fact, vocal are aggressive and jumping at you, especially female vocal, and I must admit it’s not always pleasant.

TREBLE is the more energic part of CSN, but thanks god, it’s not overly aggressive, thanks to well-tuned balanced armature too, everything is sharply resolved without shouting too loud at you. Because yeah, the CSN is just slightly shouty, again, way less than 90% of similar chifi hybrid in this price range. Sure, these are unapologetically bright but free of grain or unbalanced harshness. These BA treble drivers are very snappy in attack but not very sparkly about decay. Percussions are well balanced with rest of the instrument, but micro-details aren’t as crisp as what we can expect with multi-BA.

COMPARISONS

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VS TRN V90 (35$)

Both these two multi-BA hybrids have a similar all-metal construction, but V90 have semi-open back design and smaller housing with a more organic shape, making it more comfortable but more prompt to noise leakage too.
In terms of timbre, both sound very similar with slightly thin and a hint artificial approach. The V90 is a little more W shape, which tend to thicken it’s timbre a bit over CSN.
SOUNDSTAGE is slightly wider and deeper with the V90, IMAGING is crisper and has more space between instrument too. BASS is notably weightier and more punchy, it have slam while the CSN is flat and dry. MIDS are more aggressive and forwards, slightly more shouty than smoother CSN, especially for female vocal, but it gives extra dynamic that CSN lack too. TREBLE is extremely similar, but CSN has a bit more snap and better define highs.

Simply put, the CSN sounds like a bass shy V90 with less energic sound. Technically they are near identical but the V90 attack offer better dynamic and timbre seem a bit fuller so I really don’t see why you would choose the 2 times more expensive CSN over the more capable V90.

VS JADE AUDIO FA1 (40$)

Construction-wise, the EA3 is made of cheap plastic and seems less durable. The cable is better but ear hook is too tight.

EA3 is more V shape and brighter than CSN, timbre is slightly more natural and fuller even if mids are a hint more recessed. SOUNDSTAGE is notably more out of your head, taller and deeper with EA3, while it’s perhaps a hint less wide. BASS is thicker and more punchy, it’s faster and weightier, both quality, and quantity is better. MIDS have a more natural tonality but the balance favorize the highs and stole presence, as well, the bass can feel overly present and distract you from mids. TREBLE is more aggressive and forwards, it can be fatiguing and distracting while the CSN highs are more balanced and on par with other frequencies.

All in all, while the single balanced armature used with EA3 is of better quality in term of micro-resolution and timbre, tonal balance as well as overall technicalities are inferior. The CSN is more neutral and maturely tuned without harsh spikes from low to highs treble.

VS HIDIZS MERMAID MS1 (100$):

While the CSN can compete with any sub-100$ in terms of construction, the Mermaid can compete with anything under 500$ with it’s excellently crafted housing using high-grade alloy and eye-appealing design. The housing being notably bigger and heavier, it could be less comfortable for small ears.

MERMAID has a more V shape signature with a brighter lower treble. SOUNDSTAGE is way bigger, deeper, taller and airier than CSN, making it hall like and quite shocking to listen after more intimae CSN. BASS is less flat and has boosted sub-bass, the slam has more rumble and resonance but offers slower attack and seems recessed in mid-bass compared to leaner bass response of CSN. MIDS are more forwards and aggressive, it has a wider presence with more transparency, vocal tonality is more realist and resolved with MS1, it’s less intimate and thin than CSN too. TREBLE is fuller with CSN and feel more balanced and controlled, Mermaid is more spiky, sparkly and colored in the treble region, favoriting micro-details, and region that give extra brilliance and air to the sound while the CSN have thicker highs with less decay and smoother attack.

The MERMAID win in terms of musicality, soundstage, and attack weight dynamism while the CSN win in terms of overall technicalities to the cost of sounding too cold and flat.

CONCLUSION

It’s hard to find real fault in CSN sound, but it’s hard to find real talent that stands apart from the overcrowded ChiFi market too. It does everything well and has decent technicalities if you compare to a single-dynamic, but if you compare to latest TRN, CCA, KBear or KZ offering in the same price range or even at a lower cost like the TRN V90 or KZ ZS10PRO, the CSN feel more of the same, but in a more polite manner. This is mostly explainable by the fact all these companies tend to overused the same Balanced armature models that inflict on timbre similarities.

If you search for the most neutral multi-BA hybrid, perhaps the CSN worth the buy, but if you’re looking for unboring neutrality with high definition and lively bass and musicality, you should look somewhere else.

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