We've proved time and time again that you don't necessarily need to shell out hundreds of dollars to get a good pair of headphones. Status Audio has just made the case for finding a great set.
At $63, the closed-back studio monitor CB-1 headphones aren't the flashiest or most future-proof model available, but sonically, they outperform most competitors priced under $100. Granted, the dull aesthetics and lack of noise isolation needs improvement, but the stellar audio combined with long-lasting comfort and multipurpose cables make for a pleasurable listening experience.
From it's marketing photos, you'd think the CB-1 were a premium set of headphones. They are not. The design is more generic than high-end with practical features that are hit or miss depending on your personal listening habits. And to its large and minimalist appearance, the CB-1 won't win over fashion-forward audiophiles. Those sensitive to public perception might want to sport these indoors only.
Let’s start with overall build. Much of the CB-1 is composed from plastic while the headband and ear cups are made from soft leatherette. Depending on how roughly you treat your electronics, these could end up breaking faster than you would anticipate. Gold-accented rings surround each ear cup, which are assembled from cheap metal, easily drawing scratches and stains.
In fact, the only luxe facet of the design is the silver- and gold-plated 3.5 millimeter jacks on the two detachable cables included in the package. Something I found more intriguing than the materials was the the cord-lock mechanism found underneath the left ear cup that prevents the cable from being accidentally pulled out. This is great for accident-prone listeners like myself who occasionally rip their cables from attached devices.
The CB-1's flimsy, yet flexible frame makes them more portable than competing studio monitor headphones. Shortening the extenders to the lowest setting, plus folding and swiveling the ear cups inside toward the headband takes up less space in your carry-on.
Comfort and Fit
One of the best things about the CB-1 headphones is the weight, or lack thereof. At 8 ounces, the CB-1 weighs less than the 11.3-ounce Dekoni Blue. I found them gentle on the ears and super comfy on the head, never once feeling fatigued, even after multiple hours of listening.
This is mostly attributed to the soft ear pads, which are big and fluffy and apply less pressure around your ears. They also support oval-shaped cut-outs that have ample space for extra breathing room. I wore these headphones for 3 to4 hours daily and felt at ease. Even placing them around my neck wasn't too obtrusive once I rotated the cups inward.
While the headband isn't as cushy as the ear cups, it still provides quality comfort and snugness to prevent slippage when stationed at a desk or lying in bed. Running is a different matter as they slipped off and fell down to my neck. People with bigger heads will find solace knowing that the CB-1 provides a widened length to adjust the fit. Overall, these headphones are as equally cozy as the Dekoni Blue.
The CB-1 headphones don't feature any ultramodern sound circuitry such as beryllium or plantar magnetic drives like the Dekoni Blue, but it still crushes sonic expectations. The headphones boast great stereo imaging and a wide soundstage that lends itself surprisingly well to all music genres and media platforms.
On Snoop Dogg's "Gin and Juice," the 50mm drivers re-created the record's impactful lows and high-pitched synths accurately, which instantly put me in headbanger mode. With such a complex instrumental arrangement, I figured Snoop's vocals would've gotten lost in the background, but his commanding rhymes were articulate and crisp. The headphones also helped to clean up songs engineered to sound distorted, like Imagine Dragon's "Radioactive." The result wasn't perfect, but it was well enough to hear the lyrics more clearly.
Midrange is plausible depending on the song selection, though it's more balanced on the Dekoni Blue. Comparing it to my experience with the latter on songs like Prince's "Computer Blue," the CB-1 emulated the energetic drums and electric guitar chords admirably, but the sound wasn't as sharp as with the Dekoni Blue or the Audeze LCD3. Fleetwood Mac's "Everywhere" offered some airy, welcoming phonics, but the bouncier "Si-Fi Remix" lacked vocal detailing and designated the singers to the background.
The CB-1 does take advantage of spacious stereo imaging, which you get an amazing feel for when listening to live performances. Chills rushed down my spine listening to the emotional grit behind Kurt Cobain's voice on the MTV Unplugged version of "Come as You Are," making the crowd applause at the beginning and end well warranted. I wouldn't say it's as surreal as when heard on the LCD3, but it's impressive on these cans.
Out of curiosity, I sought to test these on other live-performance sets and randomly stumbled upon the Ice Cream Man segment from Eddie Murphy's Delirious on my Facebook feed. I immediately felt like a part of the audience, as the headphones notably reproduced the room acoustics of the theater, along with Murphy's signature laugh.
Just because over-the-ear headphones cover your entire ear doesn't make them noise-isolating. The CB-1 lets in a decent amount of environmental sound when listening to music at low or moderate volumes. Sitting in the living room, I could hear the muffled chatter of my roommates as they screened calls from the kitchen, which is separated by about 15 to 20 feet. The ambulance siren that zipped through my street a few minutes later was noticeable as well. Hitting max volume allowed me to drown out nearby noise, but at the cost of wrecking my eardrums due to the CB-1's excessive loudness.
I'm sorry to report that the CB-1 cans don't ship with a carrying case or extra ear cups. On the other hand, the Status Audio does gift owners with two cables and a 1/4-inch jack adapter for use on professional equipment. But neither cable comes with an inline mic to support calls or digital assistant commands.
The straight cable is lengthy and ideal for at-home listening, while the coiled cable is shorter and pairs nicely with mobile devices that support a headphone jack. Keep your dongle on hand, iPhone and Pixel 2 users. I got the most use out of the the coiled wire as its length was themost convenient for my MacBook Pro and smartphone.
Is the Status Audio CB-1 an elite studio monitor headphone? No, but it's a pretty damn good alternative available at an insanely low price. You get a great blend of solid audio reproduction and stable comfort that's unprecedented for sub-$100 cans.You'd be hard-pressed to find another Amazon's Choice selection that offers the same value on all performance spectrums. To fault it for not being the most attractive closed-back headphones or missing accessories like a carry case would be petty, especially when taking the CP-1's dynamic sound performance into account. Even as a purchasing gamble, you still come out taking the house.
Credit: Status Audio