Audeze CRBN - Electrostatic Headphone - Official Thread

Let’s say it’s suddenly very bloody high on my radar! The pairing thing could be a nuisance, however, I guess.

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Thanks much for posting this. We all hear differently but a trained listener can be relied upon to accurately point out the differences between headphones. In my mind the bar has been set very high with the 009S. They will stay in my collection.

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One small point re the question from @ufospls2 re SRD energizers from stax, and on a point that @Torq made about the SR-007 - hopefully not too far off topic (let me know if that’s the case), but since there has been a fair amount of discussion in this thread about use of ‘energizers’, and the sound of other estat headphones I’ll chime in with an observation…

@ Torq wrote [apologies for the lack of proper quote formatting - I tried the Blockquote function, but apparently I need to work on formatting with the embedded editor. Mods pls feel free to fix if desired]:

/Re: … Bass [of the CRBN]
No lack of bass here, at all . It is properly extended all the way into the sub-bass - which immediately gives it a leg up over the SR-009S. The SR-007MK2 is a bloated mess in comparison to either, unless port-modded. The CRBN is linear, taut, fast, neutral, tuneful and perfectly balanced (for me).
/Blockquote

For context, I don’t have anywhere near @Torq’s level of familiarity with the best of the best, however I have a Birgir/Mjolnir modified SRD-7 and a pair of SR-007 MKIIs, which I use with a couple of different amps (as well as a pair of Susvaras).

Fwiw, I found that the Birgir/Mjolnir modified SRD-7 - with an suitable amp, tightens up the SR-007 quite a bit. The resulting bass was way better quantity for sure, and I think also in quality, than I heard (in a very limited time) with a SR-009 from a BHSE imho. Ymmv, and others may feel differently of course.

I have been pleased with the result using this particular energizer with the SR-007 - esp given the additional flexibility that the energizer approach affords. So @ufospls2 and others considering the energizer route, it may be worth a listen if you can - esp if you value the flexibility of potentially using one amp in multiple systems.

EDIT: Of course, for folks considering the CRBN headphones, you might be looking for the best of the best, and don’t mind dedicating an amp to use with them. If that’s the case, your conclusion might be different.

Of course, I’m also very much looking forward to hearing what @Torq thinks in the context of the energizers he has available and his experience with TOTL systems and his available equipment. I fully expect that as usual should be both entertaining, and may be very useful to those of us with access to less TOTL equipment and systems.

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I haven’t had a chance to try a Mjolnir-Audio modified SRD-7, so I can’t really comment directly on how that might work with the SR-007Mk2 nor the CRBN.

Bass quantity favors the SR-007MK2 (2.9) almost regardless of the way they’re driven.

Bass quality is another matter, and without that port mod I still think they’re a mess in that regard; and I find it very hard to believe just using a different transformer would fix the tuning issues with the SR-007MK2’s low-end. Fairly involved EQ won’t do it, and that has way more scope for change than an energizer.

So, again, for me it takes the port-mod (Blu-Tack mod) to really get them under control. Though once done, they’re perhaps the most agreeably tuned Stax headphone for most people*.

As long as you like what you use though, that’s all that really matters.


*The longer I spend in this hobby, the more I think its populated with more closet/in-denial bass-heads than not.

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I spent a good chunk of Saturday over at my electrostatic-collector (not just Stax) friend’s place. His collection is extremely impressive and amazingly expansive; the only notable omissions being the CRBN and the SR-X9000 (which no one here has yet).

We spent most of the day running the CRBN and SR-009S on as many amps/energizers as was practical (didn’t get through them all), and then a bit of time comparing the various “electrostatic flagships” from different brands using a Carbon CC, BHSE and a T2.

That’s going to take a proper write-up, I think.

And I need to go back and take pictures (I didn’t even think about that at the time - was too focused on listening) as I have some pretty harsh things to say about some of what I heard (including some very expensive* stuff) and I want to head-off the “pictures or it didn’t happen” nonsense that I expect will otherwise pour forth from a certain fanboy segment.

A few very-high level comments coming out of the day, however:

  • I still have an overall preference for the CRBN.
  • I still intend to keep the SR-009S (SR-X9000 might change that).
  • I didn’t find anything that the Carbon and BHSE wouldn’t drive beautifully**.
  • Any of the Mjolnir-Audio/KG builds*** from the KGST and KGSS up were ample for the CRBN, though moving up to the HV, Carbon or Carbon CC versions did yield improvements in bass presence and impact/slam.
  • The better Stax amps also had enough drive with the CRBN, though the ones with CCS mods faired notably better than the stock versions.
  • We tried a couple of energizers (still more to test), but I was not super-familiar with the source amplification - so will have to re-evaluate those with amplification I know well to evaluate properly. Reaching suitable replay levels was not an issue, however.

*AKA comically overpriced and/or underperforming nonsense.
**Excepting stuff that sounded lousy, or was terrible value, no matter what was driving it.
***Assuming competent, quality, builds of the KG designs where not actual Mjolnir-Audio units.

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Fair enough… Looking forward to your impressions, as always.

*Guilty as charged/implied, no doubt :-), although perhaps not as much as some

Cheers

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Says the man who standardized Trentemøller’s Chameleon as a headphone (and speaker) test track. The EgglestonWorks Nico Evo’s do quite well with it thank you.

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It sounds like we need you to Review Stuff Accurately. We’ll call the website RSA and it’ll be legendary. “My ears are my measurements.”

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:slight_smile:

Including tracks with prominent bass and sub-bass in my evaluations doesn’t mean I want their bass overdone/over-emphasized and/or lacking control.

That track on, say, the Empyrean is just too much. On the Susvara, it’s not enough (though it is clean).

Though for “accuracy” I tend to go with acoustic stuff and/or my own recordings, and/or use my neutrally balanced speaker rig as a baseline.

That’s an interesting choice of acronym … especially given one of its anagrams … :wink:

For the last couple or three years I’ve tried to “take the high road” and just not comment on things I don’t like (unless specifically asked). That lead to me only writing reviews on stuff I really liked. Subjective reviews, at that. And that just lead to lots of ridiculous back-channel messages and accusations … so I gave that up too (other reasons as well, but that didn’t help).

The gear to which I indirectly referred is, however, so egregiously bad and so appallingly overpriced/under-engineered (IMO) and lacking in attention to detail that I’m not sure I can let it go without comment.

Also, I’m quite sure measurements will show it for the horror show it sounds like … so I’ll do those too (with state of the art gear).

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Hello,

I’m very much interested in this. Do the underperformers include energizers or are you mostly speaking of transducers?

The T2 is a rare treat so I hope you got a lot of head time with it using the CRBN and others.

That 'twas no accident. A mirror image one might say.

There’s a place for well-reasoned strong opinions and pointed call-outs. Perhaps you merely need a nom de plume without any email address, name, or method of contact.

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Amplifiers (as opposed to strict energizers; i.e. the amplifiers are self-contained where as an “energizer” needs a speaker amp to drive it) and headphones.

Enough that … now I’ll have to build one …

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I created this account to specifically ask you what components you disliked. I’m jumping into the electrostatic world and bought an X9000 that should arrive next month.

What ear speakers or energizers did you dislike, and why? I appreciate it :+1:

Welcome!

But … I am not saying any more about the offending pieces until I have the appropriate pictures and measurements. Other than that they were bad with almost everything so they don’t relate specifically to the CRBN anyway. And as such I’ll probably post about those items in another thread.

With a bit of luck that’ll be later this week.

In hindsight, I shouldn’t have said anything until then.

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It’s taken a while, but finally you are verging over towards Crazy Talk.

I’m at two weeks (and change) with my set of CRBN.

I think I’ve done as much headphone listening in those two weeks as I had in the preceding six months. I’ve gotten some reasonable comparison-time in during that period, though the bulk of it has still just been listening simply for the pure pleasure of it.

At this point, I am going to say that the CRBN has elevated itself to being my favorite headphone.

It just edges out my former favorite (which held that spot for over two years), the SR1a. The CRBN has a slightly more pleasing end-to-end tonality and matches or exceeds the resolution of the RAAL unit. There’s more to it than that, even. But at this point I would pick the CRBN for my critical listening/listening for pleasure (i.e. when I am doing nothing but listening) in any situation where the piece didn’t truly benefit from depth-wise spacialization/localization.

A particularly interesting aspect to the CRBN is that they sound “powerful” in a way that electrostatics often don’t … while NOT giving up their sense of air or speed or delicacy. The veritable iron fist in a velvet glove, so to speak.

They are technically fantastic, beautifully put together, amazingly comfortable and as, and usually more, capable of invoking engagement and emotional response to music as any other headphone I’ve heard.

So they take my “top spot”, and that renders my current favorite top-5 headphone as:

  • Audeze CRBN
  • RAAL-requisite SR1a <> Stax SR-009S (for different purposes/variety)
  • ZMF Vérité LTD
  • Focal Utopia
  • Audeze LCD-4

The SR-009S doesn’t quite have the impact/slam and low-end presence of the CRBN, but it does have a subtle mid-range sweetness that I enjoy. So, it’s sharing 2nd place with the SR1a.


There are things to be aware of here … not the least of which is a reminder that I’m talking from the perspective of my system, my preferences and my ears (and I have detailed audiograms of those, so I know my hearing isn’t fundamentally compromised).

But beyond that …

Like other very-high performance, neutrally-biased, headphones, the CRBN don’t give any quarter to marginal source material. They are ruthlessly revealing of what feeds them (I personally wouldn’t go here if I was using lossy sources); thus a chain that can fully exploit them isn’t particularly cheap (though they do sound fantastic of relatively inexpensive gear). They aren’t romanticizing anything and if you want an obvious tonal tilt to TOTL transducers … you’re not getting it here.


Put a gun to my head and tell me I can only have one headphone and, assuming I could still have my speaker rig, I’d choose the CRBN out of everything I’ve heard*.

If I couldn’t have my (or at least “a”) speaker rig it’d be a toss-up between the CRBN and the SR1a, but right now I’d probably still go for the CRBN overall.

Fantastic stuff; I still can’t get enough of them.


*Again, excluding the HE-1 … since it’s not just a headphone.

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Thanks for another great post.

How would you compare the CRBN vs SR1a for classical music alone? Would the importance of depth spacialization push you towards the SR1a there (assuming no access to other gear including speakers)?