CEntrance company is one of those who are well-known among limited number of people. Despite their main interest lies in professional audio, they do not forget about general music lovers and produce effective solutions for them. Today we will speak about the model that may appeal to both professionals and casual listeners — Cerene dB.
Let’s first speak about the input of CEntrance into audiophile world. Apart from recording solutions (Mixerface, MicPort and so on) the company has at one point created legendary portable headphone DAC/amp HiFi-M8 and its portable Mini-M8 version, showing that their main goal in sound is neutrality. After that we have seen great portable DACs in the likes of DACPort HD, DACPortable, BlueDAC, after which CEntrance for some time has moved to professional market. However last year they have remembered about those who just like to listen to music and have announced sequel to HiFi-M8 DAC. It’s release time has been moved due to quarantine, but luckily the company has managed to create the second product — monitor headphones — and they are available for purchase.
It’s necessary to say that I haven’t had non-pricey (and the price of Cerene dB is around 200 USD) over ears on review recently, probably from the times of German Maestro.
- Transducer: 45 mm, dynamic
- Frequency range: 10 Hz – 26 kHz
- Sensitivity: 96±3 dB
- Impedance: 40Ω
- Max power: 900 m@ per channel
- Cable: non-detachable, with 3.5 mm TRS jack
- Weight: 364 g.
Accessories and packaging
A simple box from green glossy cardboard screams about Eco-friendliness, although polyethylene bag inside spoils this impression a bit. Inside there are headphones, thoroughly attached to cardboard insertion, and good artificial leather pouch for storage.
That’s all, but it’s what you expect from most of over ear headphones.
Design and comfort
Although the headphones initially have been made for studio monitoring the design is rather pragmatic. CEntrance have taken famous Audio-Technica M50x as a reference and have made the same headband with slightly increased size that will mostly suit for European and American heads. The headphones are made mostly of plastic, but there are metal insertions where necessary (in headband, for example). Durability has been the main goal and build quality is really great.
Cerene dB have enough room for headband size change and together with normal pressure level and soft headband that spreads load well, it brings pleasant balance of comfort and quality passive isolation. Also the ear cups with soft pads can rotate both ways and it brings additional comfort. The pads are also made of artificial leather. The size of central part of pads is average but it does not bring any discomfort because of their softness. The sound isolation is above average and works well both ways, so you can easily use Cerene dB in the street, in office or in other places with audible noise or where you can bother someone with your music.
As a must for ‘headphones for work’, Cerene dB’s allow to turn the ear cups in different ways — to turn them 90° to wear on chest or to fold them in the direction of the headband for convenient storage.
One-sided cable is non-detachable, but is thick enough so you shouldn’t worry about its durability, especially as long as there is protection against breaking.
I have used the following equipment for listening purposes.
- Yulong DA10 and Resonessence Labs Concero HP as DAC and AMP
- Apple MacBook Pro Retina 2016 as a source
- Audirvana+ as a player
- Lotoo Paw Gold Touch, Astell&Kern A&ultima SP2000 and others as portable players
- Hi-Res recordings in Lossless-formats (Dr. Chesky The Ultimate Headphone Demonstration Disc and others)
I have allowed 48 hour of burn-in with audible changes for the first 30 hours.
The headphones may be similar to M50 in terms of appearance, but there are luckily not so much in common in sound. CEntrance have made many experiments with different transducers and cushioning system for two years and have managed to create model with natural yet detailed presentation that is suitable both for monitoring and casual listening.
The bass is accentuated, but the bump is small, so the headphones won’t suit for those who love emphasized bass. It’s detaied with good texture transmission and great resolution. Of course due to closed architecture and dynamic transducer it’s obvious that neutral planars will sound even more dry and detailed. Bass is well controlled, it’s not boomy as many other closed models because there is no resonating from ear cups. Dynamic transducer and slight accent make bass have correct weight and thickness and provide great background for any track. Lows are universal and show themselves well with acoustic instruments and synthesized bass (except for probably very bass-oriented genres that might require more accent).
Mids are neutral and detailed (again, for dynamic transducers) but have great weight and dynamics that allow headphones not to sound too dry and lifeless. Cerene dB underline emotions and macro details well but won’t add anything not present in the recording. The weight of voices and instruments is on good level. Sound stage is slightly above average in width and clearly larger than average in depth, with quality and realistic layering. The instrument positioning is better than one can expect from non-expensive closed architecture model.
The highs are not accentuated and there is no attempt to overemphasize them to get pseudo details or additional ‘clarity’. Their quantity is well balanced between ‘too soft’ and ‘too harsh’. Their length is slightly above average but not too high. They transmit data above 10 kHz, but it’s laid back to avoid compression artifacts. Upon the whole the highs are detailed, natural and have realistic attacks and decays. The layering is very basic (you should expect this given the price tag), but there are all needed overtones.
Unfortunately I haven’t had comparable models recently and there’s no sense in comparing these to open headphones, so I will concentrate mainly on two models that are not similar to Cerene dB at all.
Meze 99 Neo This comparison is valid for Classics as well, but Neo is closer to Cerene dB in terms of price. The Romanian bestseller is made in style of classical V-shaped models, they have more accent on frequency range edges and have more noticeably laid back mids. Cerene db, in their turn, sound more neutral and monitor.
Audio-Technica MSR7 These headphones make more micro detail accent and their presentation is more vivid and less weighty so they will be more suitable for those who want overly realistic presentation but don’t fear piercing highs. Cerene dB, again, sound more neutral, with better weight and naturalness.
Cerene dB are moderately hard to drive, there’s not much sense in pairing them with phones or tablets, but any player with average output power will do them justice.
They are independent in terms of genre with being critical to recording quality more than average, scoring 7 out of 10.
Gang Of Four — The Dying Rays (2020) As a programmer I couldn’t miss post-punk ‘Gang of Four’ band, especially given they have recently released a new EP. This track is what you await from this band: slightly melancholic material with deep percussion (I have chosen this track mainly because of them). Cerene dB play such thick slams very well. However, GoF in the very next track remind us that they are not just ‘post’, but also ‘punk’, but this is another story.
Banda Los Recoditos — Ya Se Fue (Versión 30 Aniversario / Audio) Would you like some Mexican music in good quality? Famous band in terms of 30th anniversary has released the compilation of their hits with new and impressive mastering, so the Cerene dBs will allow you to dig deep into this charming and exotic atmosphere of vocals and winds, which are played with great weight and detail level.
Doyle W. Donehoo — We Hunt the Despoiler! In epic Warhammer: 40000 universe there are even more epic things. Of course I mean fleet wars that are in Bettlefleet Gothic game series. Just imagine epic battles of huge fleets consisting of, again, huge ships. Piercing rays of energy lights, missiles and so on… Do you imagine the hardness of the task for such soundtrack author? Luckily, Doyle W. Donehoo is no newbie and has coped with the task very well. Slow and triumphant melody contains choir insertions that played well by Cerene dBs and make listeners feel wrath against enemies.
CEntrance have fulfilled all tasks by creating closed headphones that offer pleasant monitor sound without excessive dryness. If you look for the model to use when passive isolation is required, Cerene dBs will be a welcome variant around this price tag. You can also purchase them bundled with DACPortHD, having a discount and closing the question about source.
Translated by: Vadim Kolchev