Audeze CRBN Electrostatic Headphones

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by Vtory, Oct 14, 2021.

  1. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    upload_2021-10-14_19-30-38.png

    Product page: https://www.audeze.com/products/crbn

    I'd like to start a thread for Audeze's newly released CRBN. As of today (Oct 14, 2021), it doesn't seem there are many CRBNs in the wild. So this thread will cover some speculation until first-hand experiences posted.

    Yeah, this is another semi-unaffordable price (i.e., "semi" means it's not as impossible as Orpheus or alike), but at least a couple of points easily caught my eyes.
    • Very lightweight (300g). Considering its competitors' weights (i.e., 432g for SR-X9000 and 441g for SR-009S), it's downright hella lighter. Given CRBN having Audeze's suspension headband, this weight is very noteworthy.
    • And maybe for the first time in Audeze's history, CRBN used oval diaphragm plane in oval housing. This was not the case for LCD orthos (they used square diaphragm in circular housing) -- which was often criticized by some ortho gurus such as RD if I recall correctly. And for this reason, I bet some sonic advantage relative to their own LCD orthos.
    [email protected] posted some enthusiastic impressions in the headphones.com forum: https://forum.headphones.com/t/audeze-crbn-electrostatic-headphone-official-thread/13786/91
    I'd like to warn all his posts should be read with a good amount of caution though.

    Preliminary measurements done by [email protected] below. All pasted from the following video:

    upload_2021-10-14_19-53-1.png

    upload_2021-10-14_19-53-37.png

    They're from B&K 5128 (and probably with Jude's measuring habits), so please take them with a grain of salt.
     
  2. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    I was laughing at crbn with huge sarcasm when they first released. But reading a few impressions and notes (although I don't take any of them at the face value), I feel like I should keep my eyes on this product for some good reasons. Let the real purchase likelihood alone.
     
  3. Beefy

    Beefy Almost "Made"

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    Birgir/spritzer has a set, posted some listening impressions, and even did a teardown here. Take it with whatever dose of salt is needed, given his reputation with some members here.....
     
  4. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    Wow I never thought I would see Spritzer say anything positive about anything not made by Stax or Kevin Gilmore. Is the world ending?
     
  5. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    There was a petit (a group of 3) local meet with audio pals yesterday. The host could borrow and bring CRBN to the meet. I was excited to finally hear them myself.

    The listening was done with Chord TT, M-Scaler, and LTA Z10e amp if I recall correctly. There were also SR-009S in the meet and I brought my L700.2 (SR-L700Mk2) for a comparative purpose. Fortunately, there weren’t many people so it was relatively quiet for an audio meet.

    I first heard my L700.2 pair to get some idea about the chain difference (home vs meet place). The rig was not my cup of tea. No idea which one between Chord and LTA bothered me more. Maybe both. Sound was less dimensional than I’d like. A little boring to my taste, too.

    Keeping that in mind, here is the summary of what I found out.

    Aesthetics, BQ, Comfort
    • By far the most comfortable I’ve ever come across. Very lightweight for what they’re sonically capable of.
    • Great looking. I like its modern and sleek look. The most beautiful black-color headphones I’ve seen. I may slightly prefer the wooden ring of LCD4 to the PVA one on the CRBN tho.
    • All the material choice and BQ feel really expensive and luxurious, which I think is very important for this price level.
    • I have not worn Crbn for sufficient hours to say something strongly about long term comfort, but nothing to worry much. Combination of Audeze's proven headband and its unbelievable weight is, conservatively speaking, promising.
    Tonality
    • To my surprise, CRBN was very forward sounding for Audeze.
    • Very difficult to hear Stax-like coloration at all. Timbre didn’t feel artificial nor colored, either.
    • Tonally similar to Nectar Hive. But with more refined and smoother highs. Think Hive’s lows and mids coupled with 007A’s highs..
    • Mid to high treble may be too much withdrawn depending on genres, recordings, or personal flavor (reminiscent of Clear Mg). Audeze seems to take this approach intentionally to offer kinda sit-back, zero aggression, and relaxing experience for target customer demographics (or because initial voicing was for medical uses?). Anyway, like CMG was spot on for me, I also love Crbn’s tonal balance, but I can easily think of a bunch of senior members who may hate this tonality.
    • L700.2 is relatively less deep in bass, less forwarding on mids, a little sibilant on upper trebles, a little airier, and extending better on the top octaves.
      • One caveat is I don’t think tonality can be solely evaluated without the context of overall presentation. And considering both together, L700.2 is much closer to my preference -- despite Crbn having far more neutral tonality. More on this later.
    • I’ll save words for 009S. Perhaps a bit improved over 009, but it’s still 009. 009S sounded like a very fitting name.
    Technicality
    • Impressive PRAT/transients. Every signal starts and stops whenever I believe it should. Both L700.2 and 009S started a tiny bit slowly and could not sustain enough by comparison, either.
    • More importantly Crbn does it very cohesively between mids and highs, where Stax felt rather disjointed. Maybe this makes Crbn’s response more excellent than it actually is.
    • Details and microdynamics retrieval was top notch too. I don’t think either L700.2 or 009S was a slouch, but again Crbn resolves far more cohesively and believably.
    • I found Crbn’s macrodynamics pretty darn good for estats.. But it seems a little dragged by the treble tonality. Doesn’t feel fully rocking. In addition, while the bass was mostly slamming, it felt rather bouncy from time to time. Unsure if it’s due to amp or other components rather than crbn itself.
    • Every delta from all above was individually small, but the sum was large enough for me to believe Crbn is at least one league better than L700.2 and 009S. Say, Crbn is 0.8 leagues away from 009S and 1.1 leagues away from L700.2.
    Presentation
    • To me, this is the most mixed bag part of Crbn. Shortly, I’m strongly suspecting that the quality Crbn can render stages, layers, and images is highly dependent on how stuff was recorded (and how it was resolved in the upstream). Yeah, a textbook garbage in and garbage out.
    • To be specific, in usual stereo/closely-mic’d recordings, crbn’s sound was too much “in your face”. More headphones-like presentation compared to lambdas. Things sound much closer than I hear with L700.2. Couldn’t find good 3D in staging, either.
    • Put it differently, all the sound seemed to come from a cylindrical surface around me without good layer separation or phantom image placements, not to mention stages per se were diffusing. This is not at the level of what I’d want for 4.5k usd headphones.
    • Switching to better recordings (i.e., classical audiophile test tracks), things got better.. Less annoying to say the least. And when I tested with binaurally recorded video clips, I found crbn accurate in staging and image placements.
    • On the contrary, L700.2 equates dimensionality to great extent by faking/distorting spatial cues a bit no matter whatever I throw in. Please note that Stax lambda presentations are all like this. And imho L700.2 is the most optimal implementation among them via spot-on angled radiation. 009S was kinda sitting in between but maybe closer to crbn.
    Interim Verdict (as of now)
    • My findings indicate CRBN may not serve my use cases well. I honestly don't think sonic gain to me that much but potential sacrifice seems daunting as shit recordings account for roughly 80-90% of music I mostly hear. Yeah, disappointed a bit. But maybe rather good for me in the long run because I don’t have to break my bank.
    • Nevertheless, when I get a chance, I really want to dig into CRBN’s sonic performance with more tracks for a longer period. Interested in how they are measured in EARS, too. They do many things really, really well -- for the asking price they should.
    • I don’t think the testing rig did any justice to Crbn. Thus, my assertion may change if I try with gears that can energize better.
     
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    Last edited: Mar 10, 2022
  6. songmic

    songmic Gear cycler East Asia edition

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    [​IMG]

    The CRBN won’t be replacing the SR1a as my all-time favorite headphones, but it is the best “dark sounding” headphone I’ve heard to date. Note that the BHSE + SR-007MK2 was dark sounding for my tastes too, and I ended up selling the BHSE because it sounded veiled in comparison to Carbon (which is why I don’t think it’s a wire-with-gain amp like many people claim it to be).

    What I like about the CRBN is that while it doesn’t wow you at first, you can listen to it for a long time because it’s hard to find any faults with it once adequately driven by a powerful amp like my Carbon CC.
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2022
  7. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    Black+Black, Carbon+Carbon. Looks awesome!
     
  8. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    I really want to hear these with that Carbon amp!
     
  9. Failed Engineer

    Failed Engineer Friend

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    He's generally pretty complementary of other manufacturer's electrostatic headphones. It's the amps that he usually craps on.
     
  10. Tachikoma

    Tachikoma Almost "Made"

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    If anything, he has been harsher on Stax. I don't think he likes anything from Stax besides the SR-007mk1/mk2.9, including their amps. Even the X9000 is like a "meh".
     
  11. Rthomas

    Rthomas Friend

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    Hello Everyone,

    I've been out of the game for 18 months and I've been enjoying my 009S but last week I picked up a used CRBN.

    My thoughts:

    Laptop>RME ADI2 DAC> Mjolnir KGSSHV Carbon (@songmic edition :bow: )> Audeze CRBN

    This headphone has impressed me and Audeze have finally 'grown up'. No more clumsy design, this seems very well built and it is a polished design. Hopefully the drivers are durable.

    Sound: Neutral tuning and nothing annoys me and I could listen happily without any EQ. I've applied Bob Katz EQ which he described in his Positive Feedback review and with just a 2db bump in bass and a tiny reduction in the highs this headphone sounds very good.

    The Bass: For me this is the highlight of the CRBN. It brings something new to Estat land. There is a meatiness to the sound that is impossible with the SR009S due to it's very open design and non clampy earpads.

    CRBN pads have a bit of a clamp which is still comfy and they seal much better. I feel like I'm getting most of the Estat benefits without giving up bass.

    The price they have paid for that excellent seal and bass is Stax Fart to the extreme. I've owned the SR007 and 009S for a combined 3 years and basically never noticed any issues but when I first got the CRBN it would not stop Farting :D

    During listening sessions where I stay pretty still it's fine so not a deal breaker for me. Once in a while I discharge the connector on some aluminium foil as Katz reccomended in his article. Audeze have been pretty brave with this design choice and I won't ridicule them as I don't think there is any other way to get a Stat to nearly match a planar in bass quality, quantity and impact. I guess people with $10,000 headphone chains are willing to adjust and put up with this quirk. I am for now.

    Conclusion: Well done Audeze. The SR009S is still better for classical due to it's larger soundstage and brighter presentation but for most other genres the CRBN beats it IMHO. Not bad at all for a first effort.
     
  12. ufospls2

    ufospls2 Friend

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    edit: please see my updated impressions further down the thread on sept 28th 2022.

    I didn't know there was a thread here for the CRBN. I'll be honest, I bought a pair, and sold them within 6 days.

    My first pair legitimately had something wrong with them, so I had them changed out for a new pair. The new pair was entirely within what is considered normal working condition for the CRBN, so I highly doubt my impressions are because of a broken pair, given that my first pair was indeed - a broken pair.

    There were a main couple problems that I had with the CRBN. The Stax Fart/Diaphragm flex issue, and the tonality/FR.

    Audeze has said that they went with a looser diaphragm tension to achieve the bass response of the CRBN, which makes the flex/fart problem worse. If you use the CRBN sitting upright in a chair, and plug them in once they are seated on your head, and don't boost the bass via EQ, you will likely have no problem with this aspect of the CRBN. If you move even an inch and the air pressure in the cup changes, you will be greeted by a loud crack noise.

    However,

    1. The bass isn't really any better than other e-stats that I've heard (apart from maybe the 009,) so I wish they would have just used a normal tensioned diaphragm and let the user boost the bass via EQ should they want more in terms of level.

    2. I usually listen to headphones at the end of the day, lying in bed, at least when I'm doing concentrated listening. This meant that ANY slight movement of the headphone against the pillow would cause a change in air pressure in the earcup, causing the diaphragm to flex and, usually, get stuck to the stators. This meant getting up, unplugging, discharging the pins on the thumb, replugging in, and going back to listening. Annoying to do this every 5 minutes.

    3. As I mentioned, the bass wasn't really that great or high in terms of quantity even though the loose tension was done to achieve this. This meant I was boosting the low end a bit via EQ because I like bass (about 3.5db, low shelve under 100hz.) At louder levels, the diaphragm kept getting stuck to the stators due to this, again meaning getting up, unplugging, discharging the pins on the thumb, replugging in, and going back to listening. Again, annoying.

    If Audeze had implemented a stop for the diaphragm so that it didn't stick to the stators (as some companies do,) I may have persisted with the CRBN, if the tonally hadn't been absolutely terrible (again, for my personal preferences.)

    Look, tonality is a personal thing. Some people absolutely love the CRBN, and I'm not coming for them, or saying they have shit taste. In fact, I'm really happy they have found a headphone they enjoy so much. It's just for me personally, The CRBN was my least favourite TOTL I've heard.

    Super shouty, not really better bass, or more bass than other TOTL's, kinda dark in the treble. The detail and technical stuff was totally ok but for me, just not worth the hassle.

    I tried fixing it with a bit EQ, but the 3khz peak in particular was just so wonky I found I couldn't make them enjoyable even with EQ, and lots of it. One time, when I turned off my EQ, before my ears re-adjusted, I even thought to myself "damn, that sounds like a shitty AM radio."

    So yeah. I know that I'm not the most critical reviewer compared to some others, and I always try to find stuff I like about a headphone, as I do feel most have something to offer. I even like Audeze, I've owned and enjoyed the LCD-3, and LCD-4, and like some of their other headphones.

    With that being said? The CRBN, for me personally, was a huge miss. It was a combination of being entirely wrong for me tonally, but also just being annoying as shit to use.

    If you like the tonality, and think you can work around the driver flex/stax fart issues, then I can see why people would buy them for sure.

    The one thing I will give the CRBN is they feel awesome. The materials they use are top notch, and the build quality and comfort are great. I'd love to see audeze go back to the drawing board, and come out with a V2 in a few years, and try to fix all the issues.

    (Impressions were with a Headamp BHSE and iFi Pro iDSD Signature.)
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2022
  13. Rthomas

    Rthomas Friend

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    We'll have to agree to disagree. It's kind of funny how polarizing some headphones are. I was influenced to try the CRBN as Torq said they were his favourite headphones ever (except the for the HE-1) finally dethroning the Raal SR1-A.

    Another review that influenced me was the one by Bob Katz. Now if he doesn't know what his music is supposed to sound like who does?

    I'm pretty sure the unique shape of our ear canals may have a lot to do with our preferences as well.

    Hope more senior members here can get them in for review. It will be interesting to see the consensus on this interesting new entrant in the estat scene.
     
  14. neo_the_one

    neo_the_one Acquaintance

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    I recently went to an audio meet and they had Stax Stall and Audeze stall. Stax had SR-007, 009 and their latest flagship. Audeze had LCD-5 and Crbn. Both driven by LTA TOTL amp (it can drive both conventional and electrostat). I had an extensive listen to both Stax headphones and the Crbn.

    Compared to Stax headphones, Crbn did seem to have more bass but certainly nothing that compares to LCD series (and the Audeze engineers agreed). The etherial quality that Stax has was missing on Crbn. For resolution the Stax beat the Crbn hands down.

    For me, if I have to go for bass - I would rather go for some LCD series (or even Utopia has a better bass control). If it get electrostat experience then Stax made more sense (I particularly did not like the tuning of their latest flagship). I did like SR-009S though, but probably will not buy it since maybe Bravura does bass better?

    Crbn is pretty light though for an Audeze - so that might be a consideration. I found the LCD 5 to be very light (and a side grade to LCD4-4z sound).
     
  15. Rthomas

    Rthomas Friend

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    I have the LCD5 and CRBN at home and I respectfully disagree.

    CRBN has better bass quantity, equal bass quality and better bass impact than LCD5. With or without EQ

    LCD5 is being driven from a very powerful amp so I know that's not the issue, CRBN from a KGSSHV Carbon.

    I also have the SR009S. CRBN extracts all the details that the Stax can. Both are about as detailed as anything I've ever heard including Utopia, Susvara.

    I was planning to keep the LCD5 as a harder hitting planar equivalent to the CRBN but now I'm selling it as it is not required.
     
  16. ufospls2

    ufospls2 Friend

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    agreed 100%

    The CRBN seems somewhat polarizing. There are a couple users on Head-Fi, like you, who absolutely love them (which is totally cool) and others who feel similar to me and @neo_the_one

    Not sure what causes such differences in impressions but thats headphones and audio. If we all liked the same stuff it'd be boring.
     
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  17. Rthomas

    Rthomas Friend

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    Some people raved about the Audioquest Nighthawk as well :D

    Who knows, my ears could be broken.

    I was fully expecting the LCD5 to be superior for genres that need a more aggressive presentation.

    I was shocked at how much better the CRBN presented songs like Closer by Nine Inch Nails compared to the LCD5.

    All the ferocity and energy was present, something that is missing from any Stax I've heard.

    Maybe it's the massive oval enclosure + thick pads that seal very well.
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2022
  18. Huhnkopf

    Huhnkopf Friend

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    Ha, I am pretty sure who that Head-Fier is despite haven't been reading those specific HF threads in ages.
     
  19. ufospls2

    ufospls2 Friend

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    I have a quick update about my experience with the CRBN, which I feel I should share given my negative reception to them in my previous post.

    I had read about some improvements having been made to them on Head-Fi, Audeze support said the only change was a "streamlined production process" rather than any changes. The only way to know for sure was to buy a pair to try them again. I bought a used pair as I just couldn't take the financial hit from re-selling a new pair if they didn't work out for me, again.
    Anyhow, will copy paste my post from head fi below

    "OK, so the used pair of CRBN I bought to try them out again have arrived. This pair's little warranty card says they were made on April 11th 2022, or maybe that's just the day they left the factory - I'm not sure.

    In terms of build quality and comfort they are still great, and just the same as my first pair - that is to say, top notch.

    Anyhow, I'm just doing some listening sitting up right as its during the day whilst I'm getting some stuff done on my computer. This pair does indeed seem to be less touchy in terms of "stax fart" or the cracking noise. It definitely can still happen, but you seem to have to do something more major to make it happen. Rapidly breaking the seal etc...will still cause it to happen.

    I've also only managed to get the driver to stick to the stator once, and I was actively testing it to see if it would happen. I will continue to monitor how these do over the next day or so with bass heavy music, and also how they do when I'm lying flat with my head against a pillow, as that may influence things - TBD on this part.

    So far though, they definitely do seem to be less susceptible to the farting and sticking to the stator than the previous pair I had, which was a Dec 2021 manufacture date on the warranty card. With that being said, I do still think there was nothing wrong with that pair, and it was functioning as a CRBN should at that point in time.

    I'm really not sure what to think or make of the whole situation. Perhaps through the "streamlined" production process mentioned by Audeze support, things have been changed for the better? Or perhaps there was an actual change and Audeze doesn't want to admit to it for obvious reasons, and will just fix the older pairs as they are sent in by owners? Regardless, I'll see if the problems start to pop up more over the next day or if things remain as they are (I hope this is what happens.)"
     
  20. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    Wow, great.

    I'm also wondering if what they did also affected sound. This is because, in my understanding, fart/sticking stator issue is deeply related to diaphragm tension. And some companies opt for sticking stator to get better bass quality. Nectar Sound claimed so.

    Btw, I believe CRBN and T2 (Eksonic) will be extremely sexy.. aren't they? ;)
     

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