Review: Cat Ear Audio Mia – the Debut

Cat Ear Audio (C.E.A.) Mia
Cat Ear Audio (C.E.A.) Mia

Leveraging the experience and expertise from parent company, Cat Ear Audio enters the portable audio industry by debuting their first pair of IEMs: Mia.

Thank you, Nappoler Hu, from HiFiGo for sending me the Cat Ear Audio Mia. The products were provided to me free of charge in exchange for my honest review and opinion.

Introduction

Cat Ear Audio (C.E.A.) is a daughter company of Shunshi (Shenzhen) Technology Co., Ltd. The parent company is an enterprise founded in 2007, which focuses on research & development, design and production of top high-fidelity audio wires. Besides this, they are providing acoustic tuning services as well. In 2013, the company expanded their expertise to the portable audio industry. After years of development and researching, the C.E.A is one of their achievements in this industry.

C.E.A is positioned to produce headphones and cables, to fulfill the crave of audiophiles in pursuing high fidelity in portable audio setup. Mia is the debut entry-level IEM from C.E.A. Thanks to the background of the parent company, Mia is well-equipped with numerous cutting-edge technologies, such as cryogenic treatment. This makes Mia extremely competitive in the entry-level IEMs range.

Will these technologies and experiences from the parent company help C.E.A. – particularly Mia – to conquer the entry-level IEMs market? We will find out in this review!

Cat Ear Audio (C.E.A.) Mia
Bottom Line

The sound signature of Mia is warm and has a slightly U-shaped profile. Regardless of whether the O-ring is attached on the MMCX, the sound signature does not alter significantly. Mia has more emphasis on the lows and lower mids. For warm sound signature lovers, Mia is definitely a good choice for you.

What We Like
  • Removable O-ring at MMCX for tuning
  • Deeply extended sub-bass with great rumbles
  • Warm sound profile
  • Realistic and natural lower mids
  • Excellent quality cable
  • High quality stock ear tips
What We Don't Like
  • Overly emphasised bass
  • Bleeding of lows towards the mids
  • Removable O-ring at MMCX is hard to install and easy to lose
  • No termination option for stock cable

Unboxing

Mia comes in a black box, with the logo and model printed on it. The box is relatively larger compared to a lot of IEMs in the USD$100 range.

The packaging of Mia
The packaging of Mia

Opening the box, the Mia is held securely by foam to prevent it from moving and hitting around while transiting to the users. Underneath the foam, there is an accessory box. Here are the accessories that are included in the box:

Accessories in the box
Accessories in the box

Technical Specifications

Design

C.E.A. adopts a piston-like shell for Mia. This is similar to Final Audio E-series IEMs. The shell is processed with aluminium sandblasting. As a result of this process, the surface of the shell is smooth.

Aluminium sandblasting is a process that’s applied to the aluminium surface with the purpose of cleaning, acquisition of texture or renovation.

The shell is made of two portions – the red rear portion is slided into the black front portion to seal the driver in the shell. Close to the end of the front portion of the shell, the pattern is nicely machined with computer numerical control (CNC).

The shell of Mia
The shell of Mia

At the bottom of the IEMs, users can find the MMCX connector. C.E.A left some gap between the MMCX female connector and shell. This gap is designed for tuning purposes. Out from the box, there is a rubber O-ring sealing the gap, to reduce air leakage and enhance the bass. When the O-ring is removed, more air is allowed to enter and leave the shell. This will alter the sound signature.

MMCX connector of Mia
MMCX connector of Mia
The gap between MMCX female connector and the shell is for O-Ring installation
The gap between MMCX female connector and the shell is for O-Ring installation

The length and diameter of Mia’s nozzle is average. I tried several third parties ear tips on Mia and I didn’t face any difficulties in fixing them onto it.

The nozzle of Mia
The nozzle of Mia

Moving on to the cable, the cable is a four silver plated OFC wires braided cable. The cable is terminated with a 3.5mm unbalanced plug. The silver plated OFC wires are specially processed with a cryogenic treatment. This special process shows the expertise of C.E.A.’s parent company in this industry.

Cryogenic process is a process of treating workpieces to cryogenic temperatures (i.e. below −190 °C (−310 °F)) in order to remove residual stresses and improve wear resistance on steels and even composites.
The MMCX male connector on Mia's stock cable
The MMCX male connector on Mia’s stock cable
The Y Splitter with logo printed
The Y Splitter with logo printed
The 3.5mm unbalanced TRS jack with logo printed
The 3.5mm unbalanced TRS jack with logo printed

Fit and Isolation

Mia is comfortable to wear due to its piston-like design. There is no stress exerted at the back of ears which hook-over-ear IEMs normally have. I can easily have Mia on me for hours. The insertion into the ear is shallow. Hence, a pair of bigger ear tips will be advantageous for a better fit and isolation.

C.E.A Mia
C.E.A Mia

Sound Analysis

To analyse the sonic performance of Mia, I hooked it with my Astell & Kern SR15 and ALO Audio RX portable amplifier. Don’t get me wrong, Mia is definitely not a power-hungry beast. I paired this portable amplifier to my DAP because I like the fullness and the transparency presented by it.

Rated at 16Ω for impedance and 105dB/mW for sensitivity, Mia can be easily driven by almost all of the DAPs in the market, or even a smartphone. However, feeding it sufficient power is essential because a dynamic driver is highly dependent on power from the source.

Paired C.E.A Mia with A&K SR15 and ALO Audio RX
Paired C.E.A Mia with A&K SR15 and ALO Audio RX

Sound signature and soundstage

The sound signature of Mia is warm and has a slightly U-shaped profile. Regardless of whether the O-ring is attached on the MMCX, the sound signature does not alter significantly. Mia has more emphasis on the lows and lower mids. For warm sound signature lovers, Mia is definitely a good choice for you.

The soundstage of Mia is average. It has good extension and expansion on all three axes of headroom, creating a three dimensional soundstage. The presentation is not congested and separation is acceptable, except for some tracks with more emphasis on the lows. I will elaborate more in the next section when we analyse the lows.

C.E.A Mia
C.E.A Mia

Lows

Mia gives bass generously. How so? I would classify this pair of IEMs as a basshead’s choice. The rumbles from the bass definitely can fulfil the crave of basshead audiophiles. The lows have a lot of emphasis from Mia.

It sounds like you are having two subwoofers sitting in your ears. This reminds me of Empire Ears X-series IEMs, such as Bravado.

The sub-bass is well-extended, contributing to the extension in the Y-axis. The mid-bass is given even more emphasis, yielding a full bodied and rich bass performance. However, due to the mid-bass emphasis or boosting, it’s restricted the performance of mids.

The speed of the dynamic driver is average, just like any other typical dynamic driver powered IEM. The warmth of the sound signature is a result of the dynamic driver speed. Fast responding bass performance normally will yield in a sound signature with less warmth.

C.E.A Mia
C.E.A Mia

Mids

The emphasis from the mid-bass continues to extend to lower mids, giving warmth to the lower mids as well. I particularly like this tuning because it gives emotions and lives to the vocals, especially male vocals.

Listening to acoustic male tracks, such as from Boyce Avenue, the overall presentation is comfortable to listen to. Boyce Avenue sounds realistic and natural, thanks to warmth.

The upper mids start to recess. This is why I classified the sound profile of Mia to be U-shaped. The female vocals can still be amazing in most of the tracks – smooth and sweet. There is no harshness from upper mids. However, in some of more bass-emphasised tracks, the upper mids tend to lose the focus and be blanketed by the bass and lower-mids.

I would call Mia a pair of track/genre dependent IEMs. It has good warmth and a comfortable listening experience. However, the overly emphasised bass restricted and limited its potential in handling some genres well.

C.E.A Mia
C.E.A Mia

Highs

The highs have more emphasis compared to the upper mids, but it’s still not as much as the bass. The overall presentation is smooth. It does not stand out from the three frequency spectrums.

It’s more like a side dish to the meal – it completes the overall presentation. Despite not being the main focus of the show, you cannot go without it.

For those who are having lower tolerance for treble, Mia’s is definitely acceptable because it does not sparkle overly much. It’s flowing smoothly behind the lows and mids. The decay of treble is well-handled by Mia too. I did not observe much distortion from the decay of the treble. This maintains a clear presentation at the highs.

C.E.A Mia
C.E.A Mia

Verdict

As the first model from C.E.A., Mia shows some strengths, such as great quality cable which the company can continue to persist on. However, the Mia has much room for improvement, too – especially on the tuning. It’s comfortable to listen to a pair of warm IEMs but the overall balance should not be compromised.

For bassheads who are looking for a pair of entry level IEMs with deep sub-bass rumbles, Mia is a great choice for you! It will never disappoint you with the amount of bass it can deliver to you!

The Mia retails for USD$99. They can be purchased on HiFiGo.

C.E.A Mia
C.E.A Mia

1 comment

  1. Thanks for your excellent review. Please forgive my ignorance, but is there some advantage(s) to a cryogenically treated cable? I suspect that there is, just that the review doesn’t make this clear.

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