Status Audio CB-1

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Status Audio is not like most other headphone-makers. It’s a brand-less brand, its whole game being “ No Logos, No Celebrities, Just Sound.”

The value of the $79 (£65/around AU$102) Status Audio CB-1 is pretty much impossible to dispute, particularly when there’s a lot to like about the sound. It’s not perfect. These aren’t miracle headphones. But they are a solid buy. 

Design and features

  • Large over-ear design
  • Comfortable pads
  • Logo-free but with some flashy metal rings

Status Audio calls the CB-1 studio monitor headphones, implying they’re the kind a producer might use to mix an album. However, they could easily be mistaken for a gaming headset instead. They’re big full-size headphones with thick pads and a chunky headband.

You can wear them outside, sure, but judging by how many headphone-makers crank out smaller, less brash-looking portable pairs these days, they don’t exactly look the height of fashion. We’re also so indoctrinated into expecting to see a brand name that the absence of one here feels quite odd.

There’s not even a Status Audio inscription on the jack or inside one of the cups. Whispers online suggest the Status Audio CB-1 might be a de-branded version of the Somic MM163, but when they’re no longer widely available, it doesn’t really matter either way.

Build quality is a strange mixed bag. For example, you wouldn’t catch Sony or Audio-Technica making headband padding that looks like a chair upholstered by an Etsy novice. Check out those wrinkles.

On the other hand, the plastics aren’t any creakier than the Audio-Technica M50x’s and, the real surprise, the light gold rings around each cup are real metal. In a headphone of this style, at this price, we don’t expect any metal on show at all.

The cups also fold into the headband, and swivel to fit your head. Our Status Audio CB-1 headphones have less pad contouring than you’ll see in the images on Status Audio’s website, but they are still very comfortable. Your head feels like it’s being lightly hugged by the pads and headband, with softer foam padding than the Audio Technica ATH-M50x.

The cut-out in the pads is oval-shaped, giving enough room to engulf most ears. They’re more-or-less zero fatigue headphones, which is why you might want to consider them over the many on-ear pairs at the price. The one caveat is that as there is a reasonable amount of headband force, they will press your glasses’ stems against your head.

Status Audio even provides two cables, which are more-or-less intended for home and “out and about” use. One has a coiled cable, letting it extend without leaving a mass of cable dragging across the floor, and the other is a normal straight cable. There’s also a 6.3mm adapter should you want to plug into a receiver or some pro audio equipment rather than a phone.

That’s your lot. Not bad for $75, but the Status Audio CB-1 are not wireless, don’t have active noise cancellation or any other tech tricks. And while they are closed-back headphones their isolation is not all that impressive. Big headphones don’t always block out loads of sound.

Sound Quality

  • Large-scale sound with nice stereo imaging
  • Mid-range resonance with some unwanted warmth
  • Not perfect close-listening monitors, but not bad

The Status Audio CB-1 are sold as very neutral, truthful headphones. However this isn’t really their strongest suit. Sheer scale of sound per pound/dollar is.

A wide soundstage and decent stereo imaging give the Status Audio CB-1 some of the scale and airiness of an open-back headphone. They have a more neutral tone than your average $50 full-size headphone, but unless the extent of your monitoring needs start and end at a low-cost home recording setup, we wouldn’t suggest putting them right at the top of your must-buy list.

The Status Audio CB-1’s mids are slightly recessed in certain parts, and lacking in texture in others, leading to certain parts of the sound being given a watercolour-style wash of cloying warmth. It’s the sort of thing you’ll notice if you spend time with these headphones listening intently in quiet rooms rather than walking around town.

These are good headphones for the price, but it’s important to head into buying them with the right expectations. Compared to a ‘proper’ studio monitor headphone like the AKG Q701, the Status Audio CB-1’s separation is in a different, much lower, league. The contours of the mids and bass are ham-fisted, as if they’ve been covered by a fine layer of wax. Certain unwanted resonances in the sound are, if anything, made the more apparent by aiming for a high-end sound signature.

Male singers backed-up by acoustic instruments show up these issues most clearly. Benjamin Clementine’s album At Least For Now ends up somewhat muddied in certain registers.

Treat the CB-1 like a normal pair of budget headphones, rather than a pair whose lack of branding and marketing will suddenly get you the sound of something three times price, and they become really rather nice. Bass weight and impact lean towards neutral rather than thrilling, but these are not truly bass-light headphones, and treble is detailed and clear.

As soon as we stepped out of navel-gazing listening mode and started listening to the Status Audio CB-1 just walking around, their substantial benefits became far more apparent than the shortcomings. Their wide soundstage and good imaging is great for music that plays with stereo effects, like Dirty Projectors’s Cool Your Heart. They simply sound much larger than the vast majority of headphones at the price.

If you want a big sound, this is one of the better low-budget options. However, pairs like the Grado SR60e have a much tauter, lean muscularity to them. And, closer to home, the Audio Technica ATH-M50x have less of that middy resonance.

Verdict

What happens when you take the marketing and fancy branding out of a pair of headphones? A good deal, that’s what.

The Status Audio CB-1 are very affordable given the sort of sound quality and design you get here. Sheer sound scale is the top feature here, getting you an epic soundscape you just don’t normally hear at this price.

Not every part of the sound holds up to ultra-close scrutiny, but keep your expectations realistic and you’ll be happy with the buy. 

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