Status Audio CB-1 Headphones

Ok, on with it.
Status Audio CB-1 is a closed back headphone. They also make a similar priced Open back headphone called the OB-1, but I wanted to try the closed back design as that is what introduced me to the brand.

The Status Audio CB-1 is pleasantly light weight with more than ample padding on the ear cups. The ear cup padding is super soft and thick. While the oblong holes look a bit small, my ears comfortably fit inside them and I have slightly largish ears. What is more is that the ear cup pads can be turned to fit. That is a feature not found on most headphones. Headband padding is not anything special, but adequate for the weight of these cans, although a bit more padding would have added significantly to comfort. I don’t have much endurance for wearing headphones even with the most comfortable cans, if I can last just under an hour I am doing exceptionally well. Of course, most folks last far longer than I can. I see myself easily lasting 45 minutes to an hour wearing these.

These cans are all plastic, the only metal on them are the tiny screws and the magnets in the drivers as far as I can tell, but they seem to be fairly rugged. As I mentioned above, the ear cups are very well padded and headband is adequate. The slide adjustments have good resistance to prevent slipping. The ear cup assemblies articulate a full 90 degrees to front. You can also aim them all the way down so that they point to the outside. These cans also fold up for travel. Two 3 meter cables are included in the box, one is coiled and the other straight. The cable is detachable and the port is a universal design so it can take a cable terminated with a 3.5mm jack. The cables that come with it are terminated at both ends with a 3.5mm jack. They also include a 6.3mm screw-on adapter. The end that plugs into your source is well designed with what I’ll call a breakage prevent tip. It is quite a beefy connector with a spring sheath.

So what does an $80 headphone sound like? I was about to be surprised.
Per specs, the drivers are 50mm, which is unusual for cans under $100. Frequency range is 15Hz – 30kHz at 32 ohm with an efficiency rate of 97dB, so they are very easy to drive. Status Audio states the sound signature as: Neutral: Often referred to as “analytical” or “flat”, and generally preferred by audiophiles and audio professionals. Minimal coloration of the original audio signal, accentuating detail across the entire frequency spectrum. Highly musical, but may be perceived as lacking in bass for those accustomed to consumer headphones.

Let’s see how that works out: First, I used my Marantz 5004 CD player and it’s built-in headphone amp in my “reference system in progress” because the headphone jack on my Denon AVR is only an after-thought. The Marantz CD player headphone amp can power any pair of cans around. I put on a Mozart CD and was surprised at the width of the sound stage. It was not hugely wide of course, but for closed cans it is somewhat surprisingly wide. The CB-1 sounded well balanced, revealing, lows, mids and highs were articulate with nothing overshadowing anything else. Strings sounded full and rich. Piano had balanced full range and refined sounding, just the right amount of attack and decay. Bass was articulate and accurate. Horns and woodwinds were well presented without being harsh.

Switching to rock I grabbed Rush’s 2112 ’97 remastered CD as it was handy. I first noted that the bass did not have as much impact as I would expect with closed cans, but was not too lean either and was musical and articulate. Guitar was very accurate and detailed, allowing every note to come through without being fatiguing or too brash. The vocals were notably forward and yet appropriately warm and not harsh (not counting Geddy’s voice at the time) and the drums were detailed and accurate, I could tell apart all the different tones and from what type of percussion. This led me to wonder if it was the headphones, seeing as they are not broken in or possibly the recording. I then put on a UK import Porcupine Tree CD. Bass had more impact and I even noticed frequencies lower than expected, but there was still control and finesse.  There were no frequency drops and everything was accurate and revealed.
It turns out I was hearing the recordings as true! The cans are revealing, which I was not expecting!

I then wanted to see how these cans do with my stand alone headphone amps. Switching over to vinyl and plugging into my JDS Labs 02 headphone amp I randomly selected The Byrds “Further Along” LP. I noted that the CB-1s sounded just a tad brighter, but without being harsh or fatiguing and there was plenty of bass, which was well defined.

I then switched over to my Schiit Audio Magni and streaming. I noticed the cans sounded slightly warmer or laid back, but this was expected. However, they were still highly detailed.

Sound conclusion: From what I heard myself without the cans broken in or my ears acclimated, the Status Audio CB-1 headphones should sound like a pair of $50 headphones, but they don’t! They punch well above their price point!! These things are very impressive! Why did I not hear about these before? I purchased my $200 AKG K7xx cans looking for neutral sounding, revealing headphones with a wide sound stage and they failed to deliver much of that. Still good cans, but not as neutral or revealing as I had hoped or was told. (Another example of over-promised and under-delivered).

The Status Audio CB-1 on the other hand, is under-promised and over-delivered. The CB-1 has plenty of bass, maybe not enough to keep a hard-core bass-head who listens to rave music happy, but everyone else will find bass to be plentiful and musical with control and finesse. In fact, these headphones overall are very musical, but also surprisingly revealing. They really are monitors! If you like the revealing, neutral, far less colored sound of monitors, you will like the Status Audio CB-1. If you prefer some more coloration or just don’t like the sound of monitors, you may not find the CB-1 to your liking. Of course, this is all subjective. To say the CB-1s surprised me is a slight understatement. The CB-1s really sound better than my AKGs and Sennheisers, both which were 2.5 and 2 times the price respectively! It makes me wonder about more expensive cans say 8 times the price of my AKGs or more. In my view, headphones should be closer to neutral and revealing, so why pay a large sum of money for severely colored cans? Anyway, that’s just my view.

In talking with the manufacture I also learned that other features include user replaceable cable using any after-market cable with a 1/8 jack and you can also replace the ear pads with aftermarket ones! Sub hundred-dollar headphones with these features are almost unheard of.  They also told me that these were the first cans they made, but have been revised a couple of times over the short time the company has been around and the CB-1s they are selling now are the ones that have hit the mark.

PROS: 50mm drivers, thick comfortable ear pads, light weight, detachable cable, replaceable ear pads, overall sound and price
CONS: All plastic construction, could do with a little more padding on the headband.

Of course, much of this is subjective as it was my ears doing the listening and your mileage will vary. That said, I never thought I could recommend a pair of sub $100 headphones. However, if you are looking for budget headphones that are surprisingly revealing, I recommend the Status Audio CB-1 without hesitation. Like I said, $80 plastic headphones should not sound like this.

About the closest thing that comes to the Status Audio CB-1 are my Takstar Pro-80s. One day I will do a comparison of my headphones. For now though, for reviewing album purposes (heck, even just for causal listening on occasion), I will not hesitate to grab the CB-1s. I don’t use my Takstars often as for one, they do not have a detachable cable (wish they did) and second, because they are unobtainable now. I am even considering getting another pair of the CB-1s just as a spare even though I am not rough on headphones.