Status Audio CB-1 Headphones Review
Great Sound, Great Comfort, Baffling Build
I recently tried the well-regarded XPT 100’s and thought they were pretty good…at least when it came to comfort and isolation. The build was less than inspiring, but still just over the acceptable line.
The Status Audio CB-1's have a similar reputation for being a good, cheap pair of headphones. Can they deliver where it counts?
Yes! But they also have some build issues.
Status Audio’s CB-1 headphones retail for about $79, though they regularly go for less than this. I got mine for just $55. They’re a closed-back pair of headphones with no branding or logos of any kind, like all Status products.
Also like all Status products…they’re actually made by a different company. Status applies their own design tweaks and packaging to a core headphone produced by Chinese company Somic.
They have 50mm drivers, come with two different removable cables inside a nice box, and are made from plastic, plastic, and also some plastic. And then a little bit more plastic.
Whether that’s a good or a bad thing is going to be up to your personal tastes and needs.
If you’re a “get the most sound quality for the least amount of money” sort of person, these are a good choice, just like the RIG 400’s.
These have a neutral, studio-style sound. Bass is nicely extended but not at all overly emphasized. Mids are crisp and natural. Highs are kind of sharp and revealing but just shy of the fatigue range.
I was definitely able to hear recording errors and file distortion in these headphones, so they’re not the best for lower quality audio, and they’re certainly not the warm bath that most consumer headphones are.
Soundstage is nice and wide, for a closed-back pair. This, combined with the upper-end detail, would make this a solid choice for gaming.
The sound signature reminds me a little of Audio-Technica’s M40X and M50X. The upper mids and highs ring out with enough detail for professional work, and there’s enough bass to keep things fun. If you are prone to listening fatigue from high frequencies, or really love big powerful bass, these won’t do it for you.
But like the XPT100's, the CB-1’s pull off a studio- style sound very well for not much money. You could pick these over an M40X or 7506 and not be missing anything… well, sonically at least.
You’ll be giving up some other stuff though, which I’ll get to in build/design below.
Status Audio actually uses bigger and softer ear pads on the newest pairs of this headphone than the ones shown on their web site. The pads on their site are an angled, ergonomic model, with the front side curved down lower than the back side to follow the curve of your ear.
However, my pair, (and the pairs of others I’ve seen in comments online), just has fully flat, big circular ear pads on it.
They look a lot like the pads on Sony’s current Xtra Bass lineup.
Fortunately, these pads aren’t just for show. They’re nice and soft, and provide ample room inside for your ears. Their circular outer shape and lack of ergonomic sculpting meant I had some trouble getting them to seal properly against my head, but I got there with some fiddling. So don’t be afraid to kind of work them around.
Unlike the minimal headband pad on the XPT100, the headband pad here is pretty stout. It’s big and squishy, and runs the full length of the headband. They’ve angled the headband well to make most of it contact the top of your head.
To get the best fit, I have to wear these fully extended. So be warned if you have a larger head! My head is fairly big, but I usually have at least a little wiggle room. Not so here.
They don’t press on my glasses or my face at all, and they don’t create any hotspots even after a few hours of wear.
I can’t really ask for much more from a pair this cheap, comfort-wise.
The big padded cups and closed-back design lead to isolation that’s pretty good... once you get them to seal. I used these in a loud coffee shop just fine, and even accidentally yelled at my girlfriend once while I had music playing.
That was both me getting ready to write this part of the article, and a short way of expressing how I personally feel about the design and build of these headphones.
There’s no branding on the headphones, which is nice. They look like typical studio headphones. The headband and ear cup yokes have a very Audio-Technica look to them.
The headband is covered in a nice soft leatherette. The ear pads are also covered with a nice soft leatherette. I don’t think the padding inside is memory foam, but it doesn’t matter because they’re really comfy as mentioned above.
The backs of the ear cups have a fake gold metal finish on them, sprayed onto plastic. It’s fine. It’s got a brushed look to it and everything.
Everything that isn’t leatherette on this pair of headphones is plastic. There’s plastic everywhere and no metal at all. Even the sliding mechanisms in the headband are made from, you guessed it, plastic.
That’s not always a bad thing. I really like the RIG 400’s, which I also mentioned earlier in this article, and they’re made entirely from plastic. They’re also lighter than these, and they have a cool modular design that allows for easy part replacement.
I’ve liked many of Sennheiser’s models in the past, like the 500 series. And those are mostly plastic. But the plastic there felt much hardier.
The CB-1’s, at their default price of $79, are up against things like the XPT 100, the MDR-7506, and the M30X. And also up against gaming headsets like the Astro A10 and the HyperX Cloud Core.
All of those models use metal reinforcement for key parts of the headphone. I didn’t think the XPT100's were built super well…but they still used a metal headband and metal adjustment mechanisms.
Look, I know these are cheap. And I know that they had to cut corners somewhere. But the total lack of metal here is a huge bummer for a “Studio headphone,” even at this price. The Astro A10 I mentioned above has a headband that feels like a hilarious tank, and it retails for $59 when it’s not on sale.
You’ll instantly feel the cheapness of the plastic here. The left adjustment slider on my pair is much looser than the right one, to the point where a gentle shake will fully extend the ear cup to its lowest position. I’ve only had that happen one other time on a pair of Turtle Beach headphones.
Although the design here is a little chunky, the headband and ear pad materials are really nice. If Status even upgraded just the adjustment mechanisms to metal, that would go a long way to improving the build of these headphones.
The ear cups rotate nicely…but the rotation mechanisms are spring loaded?!?
This means that, if you need them to rotate outwards a little, they’re going to slightly push back against your head instead of just resting there. It also means you can’t fold the cups flat for storage or neck-wearing, because they just snap back into their default position.
I wish they had spent the money used for these needless springs on the support materials instead.
I’m sorry to go on about this so long, but the gap between price and build here is slightly alarming, even at this low price point.
You get two really nice cables in the box…which again, just serves to make the lackluster build of the headphones a little more apparent. One is a 1.2m coiled cable, and the other is a 3m straight cable. Both are tipped with a 3.5mm plug, and both come with a nice little plastic plug cover on the end to prevent your plugs from getting banged up in shipping. A great touch!
The plug ends are solid metal with a spring-based strain relief, just like the old non-X M50 headphones. I love this plug, so that’s great.
The cables insert deeply into the left ear cup and have a twist lock mechanism that’s really stiff. In fact, it’s quite hard to get the cable out of the socket once you’ve put it in.
I almost gave myself a blister just trying to remove the cable. So you don’t have to worry about accidental slippage.
Fortunately, the hole is big enough that most standard 3.5mm cables should be able to go in there, if you want to use a different cable.
The two cables are the main extra here, and you also get a 6.3mm adapter. I don’t normally mention boxes, but the box here is really nice! It has cool foil printing on a canvas material, and it opens up nicely, revealing the headphones in a tray inside.
This is such a frustrating pair of headphones that I’m probably not going to keep mine.
So many details are right, though.
The sound quality is pretty great, and delivers studio sound for cheap, just as advertised. The comfort is wonderful once you get the giant pads to seal on your head. Those giant pads provide good isolation, and in concert with the headband padding, you won’t have any pain over long sessions.
But then the headphones stumble over themselves in build/design.
They don’t have a very large extension range. There’s soooo much plastic everywhere that I feel like I could break them by breathing near them. The cups are inexplicably spring-loaded.
They look okay from a distance but once you get in there and start using them, you see instantly where the sacrifices were made.
You can get good headphones for a cheap price. I’d take the Skullcandy Grind, Astro A10, M30X/M40X, HyperX Cloud Core, Plantronics RIG 400, Sony MDR-7506/V6, or XPT100 before these.
Just to name a few.
Even if my loose slider is just a problem with my particular unit…the piles of thin plastic everywhere do little to inspire confidence.
I guess I can see why these are so well-regarded, but I like to take my headphones on the go, and I’m convinced I would break these before a year was out. I hardly ever feel that way these days. If Status Audio ever upgraded the materials on these just a little, I’d certainly check out another pair.
And to be fair, I’ve heard that they have a first-class support department, so I’m sure they’ll take care of you if you end up loving these more than I did. But they just aren’t for me.
My next review will be the Sennheiser GSP300 gaming headset…another thing built mostly from plastic. Hmm. But Sennheiser has a great reputation and I’ve loved some of their plastic builds in the past.
Can Sennheiser’s legendary materials lab deliver the goods? We’ll find out in a few days!
Thanks for reading.