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Audeze CRBN


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a few impressions from the SoCal meet:
no. 1
" Audeze CRBN , silky, great low end for an estat, impressive soundstage, faster than the lcd-5 but without the same tactile feel. Sounded MUCH better out of the mjolnir audio than the Z10e. Very different than Stax, and I really enjoyed these. I may not even need to hear the sr-x9000 before deciding to put my order in. Sounds like the waitlist is until Jan … crazy."
no. 2
"The best sound for me were the Audeze CRBN's. These are my next dream headphones. They sound totally different from Stax, and have their own sound signature that I really liked. They were musical and had a visceral slam/punch I haven't heard in my own collection of electrostatics. I've never heard the HE-90's, but the CRBN's sound like what I dream a HE-90 would sound like."
no. 3
"Unfortunately I don't think they bring anything to the table. As a big 009 fan, I think if you are making a non typical estat-like estat, you better have something special to justify the specific amplifier requirement. This definitely doesn't have either the 007 magic or the 009's extreme detail and lightness. I might need some more time with it but so far I haven't found anything impressive from them."
no. 4
"listened to the CRBN after auditioning the LCD-5. Solid headphone, although I preferred the HFM Shangri-la Jr. due to its superior soundstaging and overall refinement. Probably my favourite headphone that I heard today! I detected a bit of grain in cymbals on the CRBN, although the audition was too brief to make any definitive statements. Bass was definitely above average on both the Audeze and HFM by 'stat standards. Some dynamic compression seems to be a fact of life with this technology vis-a-vis planars, but the Shangri-la Jr. does offer more resolution than even the Susvara, and I'm intrigued for sure. Will listen to both again tomorrow and update my impressions."
no. 5
"CRBN (some un-obtainium set up). After hearing these I understand why some people warship e-stats. The CRBNs have a delicate presentation, but they don’t ever sound thin or lacking in body. The overall frequency response is very similar to the LCD-5, but the presentation is a lot different. The bass is excellent in texture and level, easily better than the Susvara. Not as punchy as the LCD-5 though. Midrange is equal to or better than anything here. More body to the vocals than the Susvara. Treble, comparing here again to the Susvara, the Susvara are pretty magical, but I like the texture of the CRBN a little better. The soundstage on these is larger, open and layered in a way where I could easily forget I was wearing headphones. The build quality and comfort here again are equal to or better than anything. As far as pure aesthetics, these are the best looking headphones I have ever seen. In person they are stunning."
no. 6
"I had a short opportunity to A/B test CRBN and 009s on Mytek & BH. (Also heard CRBN on Mjolnir Audio but I felt the A/B test was much more interesting.) CRBN sounds very tonally correct, polite, but didn’t carry the sparkles nearly as much. Sound stage is smaller than 009s. I felt CRBN is more similar to Elite and Utopia than to 009s. I personally would pick 009s every time over CRBN. I didn’t get to test bass heavy songs at all, which I heard is what CRBN excels at. What a pity."
no. 7
"But now for me and the one BURNING question I had was how does CRBN sound on the Blue Hawaii Special Edition? As some one who still owns and enjoys the original 009 my curiosity was peaked!
And honestly... for starters I feel like CRBN does everything the original 009 set out out to, it retains that insane sense of speed and detail I love about 009 BUT has a slightly denser tone with noticeably stronger bass with all the detail and transparency I've come to expect. It's sound stage is a little more intimate too and all in all while I still love the original 009's lovely tone, exceptional nuance and delicacy. I could 100% see my-self picking up CRBN as a compliment for when I want that extra bit of weight, heft and intimacy without any lose in the speed or detail that I love about Electro Stats!
But overall I feel that CRBN really captures and delivers the true spirit of Audeze! Powerful, detailed TRUE to life BASS! A natural weighty mid range with amazing speed and clarity that alongside with crystal clear highs are all presented within an outstandingly cohesive and precise sound stage. I for one can't wait to get a little more time with BHSE and CRBN! It's likely going to become my new favourite thing to hear at each show until I'm ready to pick up a set for myself!"
no. 8
"Overall a fluidic, semi-sweet / modestly dry (in a good way), linear sound with the full FR represented. Bass texture was spot on but overall leans ever so slightly towards a brighter signature not far off from Stax SR-009. Soundstage was great as well, but may be a small step behind Stax Lambda series in that regard. Sense of PRaT was nearly impeccable, though drums may not hit with quite as much authority as a well driven dynamic or planar headphone (something Mark Cohen of Audeze also confirmed). These pull it off so nicely that one may not even notice any shortcomings whatsoever, and can do almost any genre with finesse and seemingly left over headroom to boot. This paired exceptionally well with what I believe was the Mjolnir Audio Carbon e-stat energizer. For a comparison to the SR-009 I would have to do more testing, but I would say the SR-009 has superior sense of resolution, speed, depth and emotional / visceral quality. Not necessarily better overall, just different."
no. 9
"Holy moley this was the headphone of the show for me. I'm an electrostatic headphone fan, and the CRBN's bass surprised me. I find the SR-009/009S to be too bright for me and I much prefer the Dan Clark Audio VOCE over them.
I don't know how the Mjölnir Audio Carbon sounds since the only thing usually at these shows is the Blue Hawaii, but the CRBN sounded pretty solid out of it. Volume-wise, I needed to turn the volume knob quite a ways for the CRBN, so either the Carbon doesn't output a lot of power (which I doubt since it's made by spritzer/Mjölnir Audio), or the CRBN isn't very sensitive (whose technical specification is unlisted on Audeze's website).
There was good texture and presence in the bass region, more so than the other estats I've heard, but it didn't overwhelm the midrange.
The midrange had excellent clarity and timbre overall, but was a tad bit warm-sounding to me from the bass region. Unlike any other estat I've heard, the bass seemed to take the main stage away from the midrange, as the mids seemed laid-back in comparison (which reminds me a bit of the 007 MKI from memory). The frequency response sounded more linear/smooth overall compared to what I'm used to hearing from the SR-404.
The treble, like a lot of estats, was silky smooth and retains a lot of detail overall.
Image separation paired with the Carbon sounded excellent, which is another feature I find estats to do well compared to other transducer types.
The soundstaging seemed a bit small compared to the 009/009s/VOCE to me, and was more rounded than the SR-Lambda series. Compared to what I'm used to hearing with the Lambda series, the images were spaced more around my head versus left/right and vertical, which I appreciate.
Also like most estats, I was able to turn up the volume really high without experiencing any fatigue. The other transducer types don't seem to be able to replicate this effect, and I have no idea why.
Comfort-wise, these rock. Audeze's headband on the CRBN is quite comfortable. Paired with the supple leather earpads, the CRBN fits snugly, but not too snug on my head. The oval-shaped earcups fit on my head pretty well even with glasses on. At 300 g, this thing is insanely light!
The "cube" pattern on the earcups' grill is also pretty unique-looking. I feel like I've seen this pattern somewhere else, but I can't put my finger on it at the moment. The strain relief parts from the earcup look more sturdy than those of STAX."

Edited by padam
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On 9/25/2021 at 9:39 PM, Four Kneez said:

They have a Carbon and a Z10e at their booth.

Audeze CRBN + Mjolnir Carbon... Of course Audeze would do that 🤪

Jest aside, very exciting breath of fresh air on the estats market from Audeze, although the price tag is no jest at all...

Given spritzer's impressions on the CRBN pitted against the Stax SR-007 (by the way, I do have to commend his bravery on taking the former apart) and the north-of-$6000 price tag of Stax's new flagship SR-X9000, I'm now thinking how much of a "steal" (as far as hi-end estats go) the 007 has become. Still, I'm quite intrigued by the CRBN, but $4500 for a headphone is way out of my league.

Head-Fi's YouTube review of the CRBN claims that it's relatively easy to drive, which clashes with spritzer reporting it above as "intentionally inefficient". Just to have a better idea, how does the CRBN fare against, say, the 007 regarding amplification demands? If I put a CRBN on, say, a CCS-modded SRM-T1S (as the one driving my port-modded SR-007A SZ2 right now), will it be enough?

Edited by plaurids
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I assume it is Jude running said HF youtube channel and then yeah... clueless as the day is long that one.  They are hard to drive so something like a modified T1S would work but... it depends on the volume levels.  The modded Stax amps work well a low to medium volume but push them and they start to struggle. 

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12 hours ago, plaurids said:

I'm now thinking how much of a "steal" (as far as hi-end estats go) the 007 has become

I was thinking the same thing but my worry (however premature) is that eventually Stax may retire them.
 

If someone wanted to hoard them as an eventual replacement does anybody have any idea as to how long they could/would survive unopened in their box?

Any ideas about the life expectancy of a pair in normal weekly use?

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I was listening to them again last night and I really love what the 007s do, there is simply no comparison between them and the Audeze's I had before (which actually cost more, albeit without needing an amplifier to drive them). It is true that maybe they "harden" a tiny little bit when the volume is a bit louder, maybe its just my hearing. If only I could find a suitable amp to drive them to their full potential…...😜.

 

Anyway back to the CRBN 

Edited by Juansan2
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On 10/2/2021 at 7:58 AM, Juansan2 said:

I was listening to them again last night and I really love what the 007s do, there is simply no comparison between them and the Audeze's I had before (which actually cost more, albeit without needing an amplifier to drive them). It is true that maybe they "harden" a tiny little bit when the volume is a bit louder, maybe its just my hearing. If only I could find a suitable amp to drive them to their full potential…...😜.

That's the ultimate reason I ended up doing the CCS mod on my SRM-T1S. In stock configuration, it was a good match to the SR-L407 that came with it but it definitely underpowered my 007, to the point I started hitting the well-known difficulties with higher volumes spritzer alluded to above. Things are a lot better now, also considering I'm currently unable to afford a BHSE or even a KGST (custom taxes here in Brazil are no joke). Likewise, the CRBN is pretty much out of reach for me right now but one can always dream...

That also raises an interesting point. Hi-end dynamic or planar magnetic headphones usually need a (more often than not similarly priced) suitable hi-end headphone amp to drive them at their best. It makes absolutely no sense to buy a Focal Utopia or an Abyss AB-1266 Phi TC and then plug it straight to an iPhone or a mainstream DAC, when you can get close enough results on such devices spending about one order of magnitude less. Of course, you can also do it with such headphones, but then you'll leave so much refinement on the table, you are no longer doing it for the sake of sound quality but rather of something else. If you take that into account, the estat proposal of always factoring a matching amp/energizer into the cost+practicality equation no longer seems so absurd at the hi-end level.

Edited by plaurids
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Let me just mention one minor thing that does bother me about the CRBN, though...

The earpads are glued. Why Audeze, on a $4500 headphone? Especially an electrostatic one...

I know spritzer reported that the earpads do seem solid and may not need replacement for quite a while, but I did have to replace the (also glued) earpads on my L407 recently and it's not fun at all.

Edited by plaurids
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I'm not a fan of the glue either (having refurbed way too many Stax sets over the years) but at least they are using the super nice 3M glue which is not a pain to clean up.  The Stax stuff, especially the stuff from the 80's, is super nasty

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1 hour ago, Juansan2 said:

I have seen videos on YouTube explaining how to replace ear pads on their planar magnetic headphones and the comments were that the glue residue is not as difficult to remove as many believe. 

Hmm... Good to know. I'm taking the Stax Lambdas as my only former experience with this issue - it's a freaking nightmare to clean the glue residue from old earpads on these. But still... a flagship headphone such as the CRBN ought to have something better. I've read that Audeze's new planar magnetic flagship LCD-5 also has glued earpads. Seriously, even a relatively old mid-fi dynamic headphone such as the AKG K701 has plastic bayonets for the earpads. This can be done without compromising the earpad seal, and makes maintenance and modding far easier.

Edited by plaurids
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18 hours ago, plaurids said:

Hmm... Good to know. I'm taking the Stax Lambdas as my only former experience with this issue - it's a freaking nightmare to clean the glue residue from old earpads on these. But still... a flagship headphone such as the CRBN ought to have something better. I've read that Audeze's new planar magnetic flagship LCD-5 also has glued earpads. Seriously, even a relatively old mid-fi dynamic headphone such as the AKG K701 has plastic bayonets for the earpads. This can be done without compromising the earpad seal, and makes maintenance and modding far easier.

 

The above is one of the better ones I had seen, it goes into details about removing the adhesive

 

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On 10/2/2021 at 5:48 AM, spritzer said:

I assume it is Jude running said HF youtube channel and then yeah... clueless as the day is long that one.  They are hard to drive so something like a modified T1S would work but... it depends on the volume levels.  The modded Stax amps work well a low to medium volume but push them and they start to struggle. 

In due time: I was thinking... Indeed the CCS mod doesn't address a design flaw of the SRM-T1(S) which causes this loss of frequency response at higher volumes - namely, the fact that the 6CG7/6FQ7 tubes are driven slightly over their maximum voltage spec. It rather addresses a greater flaw which is the major loss of output current in the plate resistors, precisely by replacing them with constant current sources as done e.g. in the KGST. To fix the former flaw as well, some people have also proposed to use e.g. ECC99 tubes instead of the 6CG7/6FQ7 (which, in this case, requires some rewiring of the tube sockets and replacing the cathode resistors in series with the TVR2 trimpots), which have a higher maximum voltage.

I did the CCS mod on my SRM-T1S a couple of months ago (I wrote a detailed account of the process mainly for my own use in this thread, as sort of a field journal) and it really did wonders on how my SR-007A performs on that energizer. I'm still using the stock Gold Aero 6CG7 tubes and gauging whether it's worth to do the ECC99 mod or not - I use the volume at 10-11 o'clock as it stands, which is enough for most of the music I hear (classical, choral, jazz, blues, rock and metal), but I do need to go higher occasionally e.g. with some particularly compressed tracks (quite a few rock recordings have that problem), and then I notice the SR-007A doesn't perform so well. Of course, the recording itself may be also to blame for that since these cans are quite revealing of poor recordings (especially with the port mod I use), but I could be also hitting the tubes' limitations on the SRM-T1S's circuit design, I'm not sure yet.

So, suppose one has a Stax SRM-T1S energizer with the CCS mod and ECC99 tubes. Will it then be enough to drive the CRBN, even at higher volumes?

Edited by plaurids
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17 hours ago, penmarker said:

I'd experiment with some sticky residue remover like Goo Gone for the leftover adhesive. Isopropyl Alcohol could work too. I'm not sure what the surface finish is so as long as its not some strong solvent it could work yeah no problem.

For the glue on the Audezes, I guess so (never had one). Isopropyl alcohol doesn't work so well on the earpad adhesive for the Stax Lambdas, though. Believe me, I tried. However, since the casing is all plastic and the earpad gluing base is so close to the drivers, it's not advisable to use anything else, so one has to make do with it anyway. A lot of patience and care is needed to remove the black gooey, tar-like glue residues without touching the drivers - the former just seem to stick everywhere on the outer case.

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