So I’m going to give my initial impressions of the Audeze CRBN here, but I want everyone to know that this is just my perception when running it from the Shangri-la Jr. energizer. We’re currently working on getting other sources going as well. I also have to thank Sankar from Audeze for sending us a review unit!
Initial thoughts on the build - simply stunning! This has to be one of the best looking headphones I’ve ever come across. The… seemingly carbon piece inlay on the cup looks absolutely fantastic. Moreover, it’s also reasonably lightweight and more comfortable than Audeze’s planar flagship - albeit with slightly more clamp force.
It’s got ear gain! A surprise, but a welcome one to be sure. At the same time it’s quite relaxed in the mid treble, causing a bit of shout at times for me. I keep saying this but, I feel that ear gain can’t be evaluated without the context of the rest of the treble to ensure balance for resonant harmonics above. So… don’t treat this as merely adherence or deviation from a target, what matters more is the balance between fundamental tones and their resonant harmonics.
For those who are sensitive to mid treble, the CRBN sounds quite smooth for the consonant sibilant tones, but it’s definitely too relaxed there for me. The upper treble does sort of come back a bit though, so it’s not exactly that kind of congested sound one might associate with a midrange focused headphone. But yeah, the upper mid to treble balance isn’t quite to my taste, but it’s not far off either.
Like I mentioned, I still need to try this headphone off a number of sources but my initial assessment is that this headphone has strengths and weaknesses for its technical performance. The main strength so far is that… it doesn’t seem to have that ‘estat timbre’ that some have negatively associated with these types of headphones. It sounds a bit more natural for that quality. At the same time, while I’m getting good detail in the midrange, I don’t get quite the same detail in the treble, even after EQ to bring it a bit more in line with the target. But again, that could be something going on with the source being more well-suited to the Shangri-la Jr. So I’ll report back on this once I’ve tried more sources.
So far this is an interesting take on an estat - it’s quite different from the ones I’ve heard so far, which admittedly isn’t that many of them. I do think the bigger question worth asking though is… is this really worth looking into over Audeze’s planars? Well, certainly for the weight/comfort, yeah I can see that. But when strictly evaluating sound quality, I’m not sure it’s a straightforward or conclusive answer. Definitely worth a listen though if you have the chance.