Pros: Natural, balanced, and pleasing sounding; Comfortable; Flat-fold earcups.
Cons: No plain cable without volume control for better quality sound.
I would like to thank Creative Singapore for the loan of Creative Aurvana Live 2 demo sample!
Launched in 2013, Creative Aurvana Live! 2 is a matured model that is still going strong competing with other models in this price category. There are around 10 reviews here in Head-Fi, so Aurvana Live! 2 that often called as CAL2 needs no more introduction, and I will try to write this review short and concise.
Estimated Sound Quality: 4/5 Very Good
Estimated Value (SQ/Price): 5/5 Excellent
Build Quality: 4/5 Very Good
Noise Isolation: 3/5 Good
Perceived level of:
Naturalness: 5/5 Excellent
Clarity: 4/5 Very Good
Detail & Separation: 4/5 Very Good
Holographic Imaging & Spaciousness: 4/5 Very Good
Dynamic & Transient: 3/5 Good
Treble level in comparison to midrange: 0
Bass level in comparison to midrange: 0
Relax (-) to Analytical (+) balance: -1
5 - Excellent
4 - Very Good
3 - Good
2 - Acceptable
1 - Poor
+/- 1 : Mild - Still within acceptable range for most recordings.
+/- 2 : Moderate - Generally acceptable, but may start to sound a little too much on some recordings.
+/- 3 : Strong - Generally sounds unnatural and too strong for most recordings.
Suggestions for improvements:
To include higher quality cable without microphone & volume control.
CAL2 has a very pleasing, intimate, and smooth sound character that goes well with almost any kind of recording, especially modern genres. Tonality is balanced with no significant emphasize on any area of the frequency response, slightly south of neutral, so not on the analytical side. Probably very mild emphasize around bass area to create the sensation of warm and full sounding, but just a mild emphasize. If I need to choose a few words to describe CAL2 sound signature, it would be: Smooth, balanced, pleasing, musical, and fun. No detected annoying peaks and dips across the frequency spectrum.
Bass is mildly emphasized. Slight emphasize around bass to mid bass area, good and punchy bass with good low bass extension. Low bass rumble is good but not emphasized. Meaning, low bass rumble is not very strong for realistic cinematic experience, but it is there, and not lacking. Bass speed and tightness are decent, not boomy, but not the fast hard hitting type. In my opinion, it would be better if bass dynamic can be improved further.
Midrange is natural sounding with a touch of warmness. Vocal is clear with minimum coloration. Good detail and clarity without any over emphasized in clarity. Vocal sounds smooth and pleasing with good clarity.
Treble is smooth and extended, and very pleasing for long period of listening. Treble has good extension and transparent enough for classical, but overall tuning is probably more suitable for modern genres. This is a safe headphone for people that are sensitive to bright treble but doesn't want to sacrifice clarity.
Stereo imaging is good, about average in size and depth, not congested and not particularly spacious. Instrument separation is clear enough and doesn't sound cluttered.
Dynamic is decent, not the most realistic dynamic, but lively enough, and definitely not sloppy or lazy. At this price point dynamic performance is pretty good, though if improved further it could be a giant killer.
IMHO CAL2 is more suitable for modern music, Pop, EDM, and other modern genre recordings with close miking. Though CAL2 performs quite well on classical and audiophile binaural recordings as well, but to my ears those natural distant miking recordings are not its forte. I prefer headphones with higher level of transparency and airiness, a little more analytical, for those natural recordings.
Comparison with ATH-MSR7LTD
ATH-MSR7LTD is clarity king, therefore MSR7LTD has higher perceived clarity and detail. Tonality wise MSR7LTD is relatively a bright headphone, therefore might not be suitable for treble sensitive user. MSR7LTD has more emphasize on treble and has more upper treble extension. Dynamic is also better on MSR7LTD, bass is tighter and punchier. Holographic imaging is wider and more spacious on MSR7LTD. MSR7LTD wins on technicalities, but not necessary more musically pleasing especially for long session. Using MSR7LTD for long period will be more tiring than CAL2. MSR7LTD also known to have stronger headband clamping force. CAL2 headband clamping force is just nice, not as strong as on MRS7LTD. MSR7LTD sound quality wise, in my opinion is more suitable to be positioned as professional monitoring headphone. Technically excellent for critical listening, but can be a little tiring for long session. CAL2 is a smooth and pleasing sounding headphone, with a friendlier sound signature for long period of use, more suitable for casual listening, with better listening comfort.
Comparison with ATH-M50
ATH-M50 has slightly higher perceived clarity with slightly less bass. CAL2 sounds a little warmer when compared to M50. M50 has slightly more emphasize on upper midrange, and more forward in presentation. While CAL2 midrange is a little more laid back and more relax than M50. Treble quality and extension is more or less the same. Both have smooth treble and are safe for treble sensitive users. Bass is a little punchier and more powerful on M50, slightly better bass dynamic, though bass balance in comparison to the midrange is about the same. So bass level is approximately the same, but M50 bass has better dynamic. Stereo imaging quality is approximately the same. Users prefer a more dynamic sound will probably like the M50 better, while those looking for smooth and relax kind of sound signature will prefer CAL2.
Features, Build Quality, & Comfort
Rated at 32 ohms, CAL2 is easy to drive; my old smartphone Galaxy S4 is powerful enough to drive it up to my normal listening loudness with good sound quality. I know some people might prefer to listen louder, for that a good DAP or an amp will be necessary. Comparing the sound quality between driving CAL2 using Galaxy S4 and ifi micro iDSD, though there is some improvement, but not a night and day kind of improvement. Meaning, CAL2 is quite user friendly, designed for daily use with practically any devices, and doesn't demand dedicated high-end equipment to drives it.
Fostex 40mm driver with composite Bio-Cellulose diaphragm
Overall build quality is good, pretty stylish, though a bit plasticky. CAL2 earcups can be swiveled and stored flat. This is a very useful feature, especially for traveling.
The cable is detachable, and the interesting part is the cable 2.5mm TRRS connection to the headphone's drivers. Creative knows it is important to separate the ground wire between the left and right driver to minimize crosstalk, therefore they use TRRS connection instead of TRS. Beside minimizing crosstalk, since the ground wire for left and right drivers are already separated, it is easier to make a DIY cable for balanced connection, to connect CAL2 to balanced output such as balanced headphone amplifier or balanced DAP like some models of the AK players.
Microphone quality is on the average, clear enough for phone call, but I actually expect something better. Beside that, there is a volume adjustment on the cable that though practical, technically it is not preferable for sonic purity. For purely music listening, I would suggest to Creative to consider to include a better cable without mic and volume adjustment. I believe when using a better quality cable without the volume control on the cable, the dynamic can be improved further.
I have no issue with comfort, earpads are large enough, and headband pressure is just nice, not hard. At 255 grams CAL2 is pretty light. CAL2 performs very well in comfort department.
In summary, CAL2 is an enjoyable and friendly sounding headphone that is both comfortable and easy to drive. An enjoyable companion for everyone, an excellent offering from Creative Technologies!
Weight: 255g (9oz)
Main Features: Inline Control, Volume Control
Driver Size: 40mm (1.57 inches) Neodymium magnet with composite Bio-Cellulose diaphragm
Impedance: 32 ohms
Frequency Response: 10Hz ~ 30KHz
Cable Length: 1.2m / 3.9ft, Detachable cable
Color: Black & Red-Black
Equipment used in this review:
DACs & DAPs:
Fiio X3 2nd gen
ifi micro iDSD (firmware 4.06)