Pros: Lush bass, good mids, sparkly treble
Cons: Average isolation
Straight out of the box, it sounded great, pretty much like the original CAL!. I’ve done over 100 hours of burn-in. DAC is FiiO E10. As I mentioned in one of the posts, it reminded me a lot of Sennheiser HD 25-1-II. This can be a headphone for people who really appreciate bass (bassheads included).
Is this a neutral can? No, but it is definitely a fun can with a V-shaped signature. Most people on Head-fi claim to prefer neutrality, but the truth is a V-shaped response is perceived to be more balanced due to the equal-loudness contour.
The bass is deeper than even the HM5; has better extension than the original CAL!. I could feel the tactile low notes more at 20-30hz with the CAL!2. The bass is excellent, tight and punchy. It’s got both quantity and quality, which is highly valued in the audiophile world. HM5’s bass is cleaner and tighter, whilst CAL!2 decays better.
I can’t really find much fault in midrange. The vocals don’t get drowned out by the bass or treble. There’s no detectable boom or muddiness in mid-bass. The warm signature makes listening to genres such as classical a bliss. I was rather surprised. With bass-heavy music, it sounds just like you’re in a club (or places with good PA systems).
The treble is sparkly like the original, a tad more so than the HM5. Voices are airy as should be, while the high notes are by no means harsh or fatiguing; your mileage may vary. The bass, on the other hand, can get tiring after long listening sessions at high volume, for those unbalanced bass-heavy songs (which describe most contemporary music nowadays unfortunately).
The sound of CAL!2 is a lot fuller than the HM5. CAL!2 is more intimate; whereas the HM5 is more distant sounding and overall thinner. Though it doesn’t sound as open as the HM5, some people criticised the HM5 for its artificial hollowness. I guess I might be too spoiled by HM5.
CAL!2 is also great for gaming or movies. For competitive gaming, you would probably want an open bass-light headphone instead. For casual gaming or for pure immersion experience, this has the fun factor to bring it all out. The same goes for movies. Dialogue isn’t a problem. Cinematic effects are fantastic.
The sound is lush and sparkly. I think if you loved the first CAL!, you’ll love the new version. CAL!2 took what CAL!’s good at and improved upon it. Although I recommend buying the original CAL! if your budget is very tight (<$100), this upgrade is worth the extra money (with diminishing returns like everything else in the audiophile world). It has plenty amount of quality bass for the mainstream listeners while maintaining a clean and clear sound throughout the audio spectrum.
There are also premium models available that have active noise cancelling and wireless features – Creative Aurvana Live! Gold and Creative Aurvana Live! Platinum. Gold has the same driver as CAL!2 but Platinum has a 50mm driver, which potentially could mean better sound, similar to D2000/D5000/D7000? In my opinion, if they put the 50mm in the CAL!2 and let the Gold and Platinum have extra non-audiophile features like wireless and ANC, that would be perfect for us.