UPDATE: Scores have been changed (lowered) to reflect the real state after the arrival of the new competition on the market.
CE320 is made by CTM (Clear Tune Monitors) company, based in Orlando, USA. CTM works with many music industry creatives, and that cooperation is noticeable in this product too. But let’s dig into the review and I’ll expand on that claim in more detail.
Packaging, Build, and Fit
In the box, you’ll find three pairs of silicone ear tips, three pairs of foam ear tips, a nice-looking carrying case, and a 3.5 to 6.35 mm adapter.
The earphones themselves are made of clear plastic. They’re lightweight and slim in profile, which makes for a very secure fit. The slim profile also means that these don’t protrude from your ears much, and I found out that they’ll stay in place even if you put a, let’s say, winter hat over your ears. I find this detail very practical since I’m always having trouble using my in-ears during cold winter days. This is especially useful for performers, and I personally know a few, because when on stage they really want slick-looking in-ear monitors that are not easily moved once fit in their place. It seems that CTM understands this need quite well.
The detachable cable is of a decent quality. It’s on the thin side and braided but surprisingly enough it doesn’t tangle easily. However, if you find a need for such action, you can always replace it with an aftermarket one using a 2-pin connector.
CTM CE320 is a triple driver earphone, meaning that each earphone contains three balanced armature drivers. The manufacturer claims a very decent sensitivity of 124 dB SPL @ 1 mW, and I really felt these can be easily juiced even with modestly powerful sources.
But all the specs aside, let us dig into the most important part of the review.
Right on the front of the box, there’s an inscription saying “EXTRA BASS”. I tend to be put off by this kind of tunings, preparing for bloated and unruly bass response. Luckily, my fear was dispersed as soon as I started listening. Sure enough, there’s elevated bass response here but it’s done with taste and skill. The bassline is emphasized, but that doesn’t mean it’s slow and lacking details. On contrary, I find it quite agile and rhythmic.
The same goes for the midbass that’s rich and juicy but definitely not bloated. It also doesn’t leak into the midrange. The midrange itself sounds warm and laid back. There are enough details to be heard hear but they’re never thrown into your face. This is especially true for the upper midrange or the so-called presence region. Many in-ears emphasize this one, creating a fake sense of resolution and clarity. This trick actually adds sharpness to the edges and emphasizes huskiness in the voices. CTM didn’t play this card, letting the midrange sounding warm and full-bodied instead. The same story continues when it comes to the highest frequencies. Sheer resolution and detailing are very good, as these are really products of time-domain precision, but they’re just tuned to be presented in a more laid-back manner instead of being thrown at you.
Moving away from the frequency sound signature, there’s a reasonably wide and deep soundstage to be heard here. Layering is very good too, so each instrument has its own position and enough room around itself. Dynamically speaking, this is a very capable in-ear and married with elevated bassline this makes for a very fun and exciting listen.
Thinking CTM CE320 is something only bass-heads could enjoy would be wrong. Playing some of my favorite singers such as Leonard Cohen and Norah Jones proved to be a very pleasurable experience. Even though the huskiness and raspiness of these vocals were not as pronounced, both sounded present, well-focused, and very full-bodied.
Having Kinera Freya on my hands, which is another $250 in-ear, I was able to make a direct comparison of these two. Freya’s deep bass is not as pronounced but its midbass is definitely looser or less controlled if you will. The upper midrange has that emphasis I was talking about, making them sound brighter and sharper. But take a minute to adjust your ears to a darker CTM CE320 presentation and you’ll realize it’s actually the more resolute one. I love Freya in isolation, but it sounds slightly muddy in direct comparison.
CTM CE320 does have a bass-heavy, warm, and darker sound signature. However, this is done with great skill and it produces excellent results. While lesser in-ears tuned this way can sound bloated and overbearing, CE320 just sounds beefy, full-bodied, and positively sweet. Add to it a lack of any artificial sharpness and we have a winner on our hands.
CE 320 might not be the most neutral and most detailed experience for the price, but listening to my favorite music through them feels like going home for the holidays and eating a slice of homemade apple pie with cinnamon. If you enjoy full and sweet character too, then there’s nothing preventing me from recommending this one.
|CLEAR TUNE MONITORS CE320 – CHARACTERISTICS
Sensitivity: 124 dB SPL @ 1 mW