Creative Aurvana Live Around-Ear Stereo Headphone review

Discussion in 'Headphone Reviews' started by dalethorn, Mar 3, 2016.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

    Jul 3, 2011
    Charleston South Carolina
    Youtube review:


    Sources: iPhone6s+ with Oppo HA-2/FiiO K1 DAC/amps, various computers using the Audioquest Dragonfly-2/HRT Microstreamer/FiiO E17k/FiiO E07k DAC/amps.

    Review notes: My first impression of the sound of the Creative Aurvana Live is based on direct comparisons to other headphones, particularly those that resemble its design (Edifier H840 for example), but also to a few premium headphones for reference. I'll describe how I relate to the Aurvana (i.e. my personal tastes and how I use the headphone) only after covering all of the objective issues. This headphone was purchased from Amazon U.S. on 13 Feb 2016, order # 002-8155210-4253006, for $33 USD.

    The Aurvana has a big emphasis through the bass range, centered around 110 hz or so, but it's not a boomy or muddy emphasis - it's solid and smooth. That emphasis is slightly less than what I hear with the v-moda M100. The upper mids are recessed somewhat around 1.5 khz, and there's a very deep recess around 5 khz. I have headphones with large emphases and also large recesses around 5 khz, so it's pretty easy to hear how the Aurvana compares to other headphones in that regard. Other than those specific dings, the overall sound impresses me as boomy and muffled. For some people, especially portable users, that sound might not be a problem if the user is oriented toward a dark sound, and since portable use in noisy settings means that very fine details are inaudible anyway due to the noise. Isolation is good but it's mostly effective against higher frequency sounds - good in a coffee shop, but not so good on the tube or jet plane. Leakage is low, but in a quiet office, loud playback volume would be a no-go.

    The Aurvana is a mixture of metal and plastic, well-designed I think, and looks pretty good for wearing in public. A carry case isn't needed for daily use, since the earcups can be pulled down all the way and the headphone worn around the neck indefinitely with no bother. The earcups don't fold flat, but they have good enough rotation in all directions to fit nearly all heads. My average-size head fits well, in the middle of the 5/4 inch adjustment range of the headband. The overall weight seems average for a small yet full-size headphone, and with a soft padding under the headband and very soft squishy earpads, comfort should be great for nearly everyone. One caveat - the earpads go around my average-size ears OK, but larger ears might not fit, or would necessitate an on-ear fit. Even then, the earpads are so comfy that on-ear would work very well for me.

    The cable is double-entry (not detachable), about 4 ft. long, and terminated with a standard 3.5 mm miniplug. The cable looks durable if not yanked hard or frequently. The Aurvana came in a simple paper-plastic shell for retail display, with no accessories. In previous reviews I've included the following music examples with comments about how the headphones sound with each track. My suggestion is instead of reading each one as an absolute unto itself, you could compare my notes here to those other reviews and see how the Aurvana compares with each individual track. Caveat: I played the following tracks with a little bit of treble boost and/or bass reduction, because otherwise the Aurvana would not be reviewable by me. Since it is a nice headphone that sells for a low price, I recommend it for users who are willing to experiment with those tone controls, or just accept the sound as-is.
  2. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

    Jul 3, 2011
    Charleston South Carolina
    Animotion - Obsession (1980's New Wave/Techno): The upper bass synth has excellent detail and tone, and both male and female vocals sound natural without favoring either. The Aurvana plays this pretty well.

    Bauhaus - Bela Lugosi's Dead (~1980): Strong midrange sound effects - this is a good worst-case test for resonant-type sounds in the most sensitive midrange area. Handled OK by the Aurvana.

    Beethoven Symphony 9, Solti/CSO (1972): Excellent overall sound. Of special note here are the bass impacts beginning around 10:30 of the fourth movement. Those impacts are soft and well in the background, but you can feel the weight they carry with the Aurvana.

    Black Sabbath - Iron Man (Classic Rock): Good instrumental detail and the vocal sounds very natural. As with most classic rock tracks, there is very little or no deep bass. The Aurvana plays this music smoothly, and the lack of deep bass doesn't unbalance the treble.

    Boz Scaggs - Lowdown (1976): Great sound quality - this is a good test for any nasality in the midrange. Handled very well by the Aurvana.

    Cantus - Danny Boy (Traditional/Male Choral/Acapella): The Aurvana plays the voices with enough low end warmth and weight to sound natural, yet there is no added emphasis of the lower register of the male voices on this track.

    Cath Carroll - Moves Like You (1980's New Wave/Techno): This track's percussion and voice are crisp and well-balanced, and there's a good sense of space or soundstage around the voices and instruments. The Aurvana reproduces the space and detail fairly well.

    Catherine Wheel - Black Metallic (~1991): Goth with industrial overtones - I like this since it's a great music composition and the sound effects are smoothly integrated into the mix. This may sound distorted or mushy with some headphones, but the Aurvana renders the deliberate instrumental distortions clearly.

    Chris Isaak - Wicked Game (Pop/Rock): The Aurvana plays this high treble energy recording smoothly - the voice and instruments are detailed but not edgy - very musical in fact.

    Chromatics - I'm On Fire (Synth-Pop, female lead): This track has a good amount of space around the voice and instruments, making for a pleasant stereo image. The voice is excellent, and the tambourine sound is clearly identifiable.

    David Hazeltine - Fur Elise (Jazz): A very high-quality recording from HDTracks. The Aurvana reproduces the instruments smoothly with a spacious ambiance. The wire-brush-on-cymbal harmonics are normally very extended and detailed, but the Aurvana needs some treble boost to get there.

    Grieg (Beecham-Royal Philharmonic) - Peer Gynt-Solveig's Lullaby (Classical): This very old (late 1950's) stereo recording must have been made on the most expensive gear in the world, since the overall sound quality and especially Ilse Hollweg's amazing voice are as close to "being there" as I've heard with some of the better classical recordings made since the year 2000. The Aurvana plays this music very well.

    Hans Zimmer - Dark Knight-Aggressive Expansion (Soundtrack): The percussion in this track hits really hard, and the bass tones beginning around 0:45 have the ultra-deep "shuddery" kind of sound that indicates a solid deep-bass response. Overall, the Aurvana plays this music well.

    Heaven 17 - Let Me Go (1980's New Wave/Techno): The bass instrument (guitar?) has excellent detail, and the voices and ambiance have a "you are there" quality that's uncommon in early 1980's pop music. The Aurvana plays this track pretty well.

    Hugo Audiophile - 15-16 (Electronic): I'm not sure what the 15-16 stands for - perhaps track numbers from a CD album. The deep-bass tones that start around 33-34 seconds into the track reproduce very well with the Aurvana. This is a great recording for evaluating whether a headphone's bass will be sufficient for most environments, since for many headphones that have a weaker bass, the deep bass gets absorbed and mostly lost when the environment contains a lot of low-frequency energy.

    Jimmy Smith - Basin Street Blues (early 60's): This track has several loud crescendos of brass and other instruments that don't sound clean and musical with some headphones. The Aurvana provides fair reproduction. Listen particularly to the second crescendo at 15 seconds in for best-case detail. I'd like to emphasize that these crescendos are probably the worst-case test I have for instrument separation and detail, and the Aurvana does those fairly well.

    Kellogg Auditorium, Battle Creek Michigan, Aeolian-Skinner Organ (1933) - Pedal, 32', Resultant, Arpeggio: This 16 hz organ pedal tone differs from other music tones in that you won't "hear" the tone - you'll only feel it. Although most music tones have harmonics (including this one), the harmonics from this tone will be too weak to provide any "feel", so whatever you actually hear would not be part of the fundamental 16 hz tone. There are ~30 hz sounds in the outdoor environment in big cities, generated by large trucks, buses, and subway trains, and they have a quality of "rumble" that's similar to some deep-bass tones found in music. This 16 hz organ tone is easily distinguished from those sounds when compared on a headphone that has good undistorted response at 16 hz. The Aurvana plays the fundamental tone with proper weight and reasonable detail.

    Mantovani - Sunrise Sunset (Easy Listening, ca. 1972): A master musician and conductor** who specialized in light classics and orchestral pop music, Mantovani's accomplishments were overshadowed by music critics who couldn't tolerate the notion of "light classics" or "semi-classical" music, even when those recordings were no threat to the classical music genres. In any case the later Mantovani recordings from the mid-1960's through mid-1970's had the advantage of being mixed for much better hi-fi systems than those which the music critics possessed at the start of the Long Playing (LP) record cycle. Here in 2015, at least some of those digital remasters have improved the sound further, although it's not always the case. This track as played on the Aurvana is a good example of the sheer musicality lurking in those later recordings, and is highly recommended for soundstage, instrumental tone, and musical balance.

    **Mantovani developed the "Cascading Strings" sonic effect circa 1950, a famous "Wall of Sound" effect for mono hi-fi systems that predated Phil Spector's own famous Wall of Sound effect by 10 years or so.

    Michael Tilson Thomas - Rhapsody In Blue (20th Century Classic): Great sound and soundstage, and terrific piano playing and tone. There are some very deep bass impacts starting around 38 seconds into the 17:24 length track, and the weight of those impacts is subtle but appreciable with the Aurvana.

    Pinback - Non Photo Blue (Pop-Rock): Crispy sound with "crunchy guitars and bashing drums" - the Aurvana renders this music about as well as I've heard an energetic pop-rock recording played with any headphone.

    Porcupine Tree - Trains (Pop-Rock): This track opens with some nicely-detailed string sounds and a forward-sounding male voice with a higher-than-average register. There are a series of "clip-clop" effects starting at 3:19 that should sound like they were made with wooden blocks of some kind. The Aurvana reproduces the 'clop' portion of that sound to an extent, but not perfectly.

    Richard Strauss (Mester-Pasadena) - Also Sprach Zarathustra (opening) (Classical): The granddaddy of bass is in the opening 1:50 of this recording, and I've heard it only once on a large and expensive loudspeaker system in Cleveland. For most people, that experience would be indistinguishable from being in a fairly strong earthquake. The Aurvana conveys as much of that experience as is possible on a small stereo headphone. The tympani also have good impact here.

    Scarlatti-Kipnis - Sonata in E Major K381 (Classical, Harpsichord): The harpsichord here is fairly bright and normally very detailed, but the Aurvana needs some treble boost to render the tones and transients properly.

    Tiger Okoshi - Bootsman's Little House (Jazz): The trumpet here is recorded fairly close up and is somewhat bright with a significant "bite". The Aurvana's reproduction is very soft, and the close-miked piano is a subtle backdrop. For comparison, I have several Maynard Ferguson tracks that feature a similarly strong trumpet with lots of brassy bite.

    Trombone Shorty - Backatown (Jazz-Funk): The deep bass impacts here are strong and work pretty well with the horns and other instruments. The Aurvana delivers the impacts with great weight and detail, and the horns have the kind of bite that gives them a realistic sound.

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