About the Audeze CRBN
Audeze's cutting-edge take on electrostatic headphones
You'll need a special electrostatic energizer to power the Audeze CRBN headphones.
Audeze's cutting-edge take on electrostatic headphones
As Crutchfield's "headphone guy," I'm calling it: this is one of the coolest products to hit our website this year. Audeze is a premium personal audio company from California who made their name on planar magnetic headphones — both with top-shelf audiophile models and rich-sounding gaming headsets. But the CRBN is their first foray into electrostatic headphones. And they've introduced some major innovations to the driver system. That includes some important medical breakthoughs developed alongside doctors at nearby UCLA.
But before I get too deep into that, I should let you know you'll need a special type of headphone amp or separate "energizer" to use them. The CRBN headphones use a 5-pin, 580-volt "pro bias" connection — the standard for electrostatic 'phones. Companies like Stax make all-in-one solutions, and we offer the formidable iFi Pro iESL energizer, which requires a separate amp.
Detailed, revealing sound with a natural, realistic presentation
"Instead of sounding like music being conveyed by something, with great electrostats the sound just kind of exists." This is how Head-Fi founder Jude Mansilla astutely explained what makes electrostatic headphones so special. (He recently interviewed Audeze CEO Sankar Thiagasamudram to introduce the CRBN headphones.)
The Audeze CRBN headphones deliver transparent, detailed sound with accurate bass.
That overall sense of clarity, detail, and realism is why you'll find so many electrostats on the list of "best headphones ever" — including Sennheiser's $80,000 HE-1 Orpheus headphones and models from the Japanese company Stax.
With the CRBN headphones, you can expect that rich, natural midrange that electrostats are known for. But Audeze also set out to deliver better, refined highs and purer bass for even more-lifelike sound. So that "absence of headphones" feeling is even more profound, giving you the impression that music has materialized effortlessly.
How do electrostatic headphones work?
Electrostatic headphones seem similar to planar magnetic headphones at first glance. Both technologies rely on a large yet ultra-light diaphragm moving quickly to create sound. But electrostats use an entirely different principle, in which the diaphragms are suspended between two metal stators. The diaphragms receive a fixed, high voltage, while each stator receives a varying audio signal to push and pull the diaphragm back and forth.
This process requires consistent power, which is why you'll need the special amplifier (sometimes called an "energizer") that I mentioned earlier. The diaphragms start and stop quickly within the electromagnetic field to deliver that realistic, dynamic sound. Typical electrostatic drivers require a thin coating of conductive metal on the surface — but Audeze has gone a completely new route with their diaphragm design.
Audeze's breakthrough carbon nanotube diaphragm (in blue) is sandwiched between two metal stators.
Audeze's game-changing "carbon nanotube" diaphragm
The Audeze engineers have created a brand-new type of diaphragm that uses high-grade carbon nanotube film without any metal coating. Carbon is a strong, stiff element that can stockpile energy on its own. And it's distributed in a way that helps the diaphragms move more efficiently — while avoiding some of the inherent problems with "standard" electrostatic diaphragms. Namely, that the thin metal coating can occasionally stick to the stators or even deteriorate over time.
Audeze's new diaphragm consists of a large-diameter, yet super-slim sheet of polymer that is pockmarked by the tiny carbon nanotubes. Think of it like a sheet of bubble wrap, only it's just a fraction of the width of human hair — and the carbon nanotube "bubbles" are miniscule. They're placed in a dense and symmetrical pattern across the diaphragm, to ensure the electrical charge travels evenly and efficiently.
All these design details allow the diaphragm to move, stop, and start in a quick, uniform way. That's how the sound remains so pure and true-to-life, delivering that heady electrostat transparency.
The medical origins of Audeze's breakthrough 'phones
Surprisingly, these breakthrough diaphragms got their start in the medical industry rather than in the hi-fi audio arena, as an improvement to MRI scanning systems.
Here's a big problem with MRI scans: for doctors to get a good, accurate reading, the patient must stay still. Only, that's really hard to do! And it's especially hard for children and claustrophobic people, because the noise inside an MRI machine can go up to 120 dB. That's like standing right next to a chainsaw.
The SMRT Image medical headphones use Audeze's metal-free drivers to make MRI scans more bearable.
And even with all the advances in headphones and noise-canceling technology over the years, the MRI ear protection hasn't changed much since the 1960s. It's basically a choice between "ear plugs or ear muffs," according to Professor Marc Cohen, a neuroscientist at UCLA and co-founder of SMRT Image. He felt that there had to be a better way to reduce noise, stress, and anxiety for patients.
So, he and his team turned to Audeze, and their reputation of thinking outside the box. Since traditional headphone designs and noise-canceling circuitry use metal, they simply weren't an option. The powerful magnets inside the MRI machine could render the working parts useless and add blurring and artifacts to the MRI images themselves.
Enter Audeze's carbon nanotube diaphragms. The magnets had no ill effects on these metal-free drivers, so they could do their thing inside the SMRT image headset. (Watch the video in the carousel above to see them in action.) They can quiet the loud noise inside the MRI machine, which keeps patients more still and allows them to communicate with their doctor more clearly.
"The [SMRT MRI] headphones can do two things," said Audeze's Sankar Thiagasamudram. "One is it that improves the patient's comfort inside MRI machines, and the second thing is that it can actually help get better results in MRI machines."
Well put-together and packaged neatly
Sure, the CRBN headphones' sound signature can give you the illusion that they're "barely there." But that all falls apart if they feel heavy or bulky. And while these are oversized headphones, for sure, they're made of premium, lightweight materials like magnesium and carbon fiber.
Audeze's headband suspension system helps distribute the weight to alleviate pressure on your crown. And the hand-stitched leather ear pads gently hug the sides of your head. Audeze includes a heavy-duty aluminum travel case to keep the headphones safe when not in use.
- open-back design offers spacious, transparent sound
- designed, built, and tested in Audeze's Southern California headquarters
- special carbon nanotube diaphragms developed alongside UCLA doctors for use in MRI scans
- electrostatic drivers offer exceptional resolution with low distortion
- clear sound across a wide frequency range
- tuned for accurate bass response without extra boosting
- An electrostatic headphone amplifier or energizer is required for these headphones.
- 120mm x 90mm unique carbon nanotube diaphragm moves swiftly within electrostatic field
- metal-free design for even, uniform movement
- enhanced dynamics and extended frequency response
- ultra-thin metal stators
- delivers over-sized soundstage with pinpoint stereo imaging
- deep, realistic bass response
- durable magnesium and carbon-fiber frame
- air-tight earcup design keeps drivers shielded from dust
- thick, memory-foam earpads lined with hand-stitched leather
- leather headband for easy fit
- sturdy headband sliders for proper adjustment
- precisely etched grill for controlled airflow
- machined aluminum headphone connector
- feels lighter than most electrostatic headphones
General info and specs:
- detachable oxygen-free copper cable terminated by 5-pin 580-volt "pro bias" plug
- compatible with the iFi Audio Pro iESL energizer
- also compatible with Stax-pro amplifiers and energizers (sold elsewhere)
- includes premium aluminum carrying case
- frequency response: 20-40,000 Hz
- weight: 10.6 oz.
- warranty: 2 years
- Our 60-day money-back guarantee
- MFR # 215-EX-1121-00
What's in the box:
- Over-ear electrostatic headphone with attached 92" cable (5-pin pro bias plug)
- Pair of white cloth gloves
- Aluminum travel case
- 2 Keys
- Certificate of Authenticity
- Card with URLs for User Guide and Driver downloads
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More details on the Audeze CRBN
Features & specs
|Earcup Width x Height||3.7" x 5.316"|
|Mic For Taking Calls||No|
|Voice Assistant Access|
|Other||5-pin pro bias|
|Frequency Response||20-40k Hz|
|Parts Warranty||2 Years|
|Labor Warranty||2 Years|
Overview: The CRBN (pronounced "Carbon") is Audeze's first Electrostatic Headphone. Using a patent-pending Carbon Nanotube film driver, the CRBN produces a wide frequency response with excellent dynamic range and better bass performance than typical electrostatic headphones. CRBN is constructed with magnesium and carbon fiber, make it significantly lighter than Audeze's famous planar magnetic headphones.
Note: CRBN requires a specially designed electrostatic amplifier with a 5-pin 580-volt pro bias socket.
CRBN's Origin: CRBN came out of a collaboration between Audeze and UCLA's School of Medicine to design headphones that could be used in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Because magnets and other typical ferrous metals could not be used, Audeze came up with a special new thin film driver with suspended carbon nanotubes. With these special headphones, patients could easily receive instructions from their doctor, while improving the accuracy and comfort of the MRI scan process. The high performance characteristics of the medical headset led Audeze to use the same technology in a consumer audiophile headphone called the CRBN.
Carbon Nanotubes: Typical electrostatic drivers use a resistive coating for the diaphragms. CRBN uses an ultra-thin diaphragm with carbon nanotubes directly suspended inside the material. Audeze engineers discovered that when you control the density of the carbon nanotubes in the film, you can adjust the resistivity of the diaphragm material. The electrostatic charge is uniformly distributed throughout the film, resulting in a uniform driving force without the distortion normally associated with the typical resistive coating. Furthermore, the carbon nanotube suspended diaphragm is immune to the elements and will not degrade over time. The CRBN drivers are 120mm x 90mm (4.7" x 3.5"), and weigh only 2.6 ounces each, significantly less than Audeze's LCD-5 (3.4 oz.), LCD-2 (5.6oz.), and LCD-4 (6.6oz.) drivers.
Materials: The CRBN Electrostatic Headphones are made with premium materials for supreme comfort. The headphones feature a magnesium housing with polished polymer acetate rings and stainless steel posts. The open-back earcups are covered with a beautifully etched grill. The carbon fiber headband has a perforated leather band that stays cool. The pillow soft, oversized ear pads also feature premium hand-stitched leather.
Cable: The attached 92" headphone cable features OCC (Ohno Continuous Cast) monocrystal copper conductors and a braided jacket. The cable is terminated with a machined aluminum 5-pin barrel connector.
- Style: Over-ear, Open back
- Frequency Response: 20Hz - 40kHz
- Maximum SPL: >120dB
- THD: <0.1% @ 90dB
- Electrostatic Capacitance: 100 pF (including cable)
- Functional Bias Voltage: 580 VDC (Stax Pro Bias)
- Ear Cup Dimensions:
- External: Width 3.7" Height 5.316" Depth 2.27"
- Internal: Width 1.597" Height 3.19" Depth 1.125"