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Had to grow on me a little, but actually damn good headphones for under $100!

A Review On: Creative Aurvana Live! Headphones

Creative Aurvana Live! Headphones

Rated # 35 in Over-Ear
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Review Details:
Audio Quality
Comfort
Design
Value
Purchased on:
Price paid: $96.00
HeretixAevum
Posted · Updated · 10736 Views · 19 Comments

Pros: Genuinely impressive sound quality for under $100, Cozy comfy, Lightweight & secure fit, Nice looks, Includes accessories

Cons: Earpads would benefit from being more spacious, Build quality could be improved, Isolation is similar to Denon D2000

 

A legendary value performer

 

The Creative Aurvana Live! (CAL! for short) has a strong reputation for being an excellent choice for beginning headphone hobbyists and an amazingly good sounding headphone for under $100. I found myself with some spare cash, and was after some new headphones after selling my Denon D2000, and thought it would be fun to try the CALs, since they are a reincarnation of the Denon D1000. People have described them as a little brother of the D2000, and I think they are to some extent. Certainly for the better in the sound department, for the worse in other areas. So, I bought a pair directly from Creative, and 4 days later they arrived (Quick shipping seeing as it came from Singapore). Here was my experience:

 

Well you guys are certainly right about one thing

 

And that is that these headphones sound excellent, especially for under $100. I really want to talk about this first, because it's where the CAL! is just amazing. Honestly, these headphones are an audiophile's wet-dream to use in arguments against Beats users when you want examples of headphones at less than half the price that blow the doctor away. This is the area where they really do sound like a smaller, cheaper Denon D2000. It's definitely less refined all around, but it does a very similar thing, and at a stupendous level of quality for under a big green note. 

 

The bass on the CAL! is less pronounced than the Denon, placing it very slightly north of neutral, but close enough that I think you could call it well balanced, but slightly warm. The roll off begins much earlier than on the D2000, but the extension is very respectable, but again, not as much. It's certainly controlled well, staying in it's place with very minimal encroachment on the midrange. Definitely a mud-free presentation. Definition is good, and authority isn't lacking when called upon. The bass is a great reason it's great sounding for beginners, it will teach them that you don't need grossly overblown, bloated, unnatural bass for music (including 'bass culture' music) to be enjoyable and properly represented. Neutral-to-warm is where the real cool kids are at! I've read about the bass being a tad loose, but it sounds fairly tight to me. Overall, a commendable bass response from the CAL!, definitely a sign of it's Denon lineage. 

 

Much as with the D2000, the CAL! doesn't put you in a chokehold and demand you swear allegiance to either bass or midrange, you get both! I must say, that vocals struck me very quickly as being very, very good on the CAL!. I think this is a result of not only placement and separation (They seem very distinctly separated from everything else) but just how realistically three dimensional they sound. If you've ever experienced a headphone that seems to swallow vocals up in the sound, and you want something better, then these will do it. I find the midrange to be well detailed and resolving, bringing out the texture of the sound more than you might expect

 

The treble on the CAL! really fits the part for these cans. To my tastes I couldn't quite call it dark or bright, it's fairly neutral sounding to me, which I think is beneficial for a slightly warm headphone. If you have warmth (or an outright bassy response) coupled with bright treble then you get a V shaped signature, which I don't have high levels of tolerance for (depending on extreme the V is). A left out midrange is no fun. These headphones definitely avoid harshness and sibilance, but I would say they're actually quite energetic and "active" sounding in the treble, but without any sense of being artificially boosted or forward. I really think they sound very surprisingly clean up high for a cheap, sealed can like this. 

 

Imaging is also really good (for a headphone of it's type and class)! Much like the big sister D2000, the CAL! seems to benefit most noticeably from it's poor isolation with the trait the open headphones are best known for: soundstaging. To compare these to the HFI-580 (a sealed circumaural that can go for twice the price of the CAL!), I'd say these knocked their socks off in the imaging department (Well, I find the CAL! much more enjoyable as a whole, too). The Ultrasone is supposed to have S-Logic to help it out, but it sounds downright unnatural and cramped compared to the CAL!. Layering is great on this headphone, with pretty respectable instrument separation. It is, of course, bested by the D2000 but I'd say the imagine was about 80% as good. Really impressive!

 

In short, the worst thing I can say about the sound of the CAL! is that it will be outdone by headphones in the $200+ range, but I think not only do they kick ass and take names under $100, but they continue to be super competitive up around $150 and approaching the $200 mark. These are some of the best value for performance out there!

 

Looks & Build

 

I think that for the money, the CAL! are decent in their presentation and their build, though I wouldn't say that they were outstanding in any way.

 

Compared to the Denon D1000, the CAL! wins my preference in aesthetics due to it's colour scheme. I quite like the dark, black finish on the headband arms, as well as the contrast between the chrome and reflective black finish of the the cups. The creative logo is in raised plastic with chrome finish, which I really like. I also appreciate the size of the logo, it's not too uncommon for logos to be placed and designed to be as attention seeking as possible. It's good to see visual design that appreciates subtlety. 

 

In the build department, I find that the CAL! could be a bit better, though I want to make it clear that these headphones are not poorly built. I would say they are overall superior to the Sennheiser HD448 which lacked metal in it's internal structure. The CAL! uses prominently plastic in it's build, from the cups through to the headband shell. I think the cups feel pretty solid, but I think the arms of the headband are a bit less convincing of that solid feeling you want from a headphone. The gimbals are slightly cheap looking in their plastic design, and if you apply pressure to the inner plastic of the arms, there's a little bit of give and a small creaking sound. Compare that to the Sennheiser PX100ii, and no such feeling or noise is present, they feel solid as a rock. That headphone also has more visible metal in it's construction, and just feels better finished and re-enforced than the CAL!. This is one of the big reasons I think the CAL! could be more impressive in the build department. Both headphones are the same price, and despite the PX100ii being much smaller and seemingly flimsier in physical size, it's just more solid feeling and I wouldn't hesitate to put more faith in it standing up to abuse than the CAL!, or at the very least it feels a little more premium. 

 

One thing I must say the CAL! does possess that impresses me is good quality pleather. Most headphones under $100 have quite poor imitation leather indeed, though the CAL! went all out and opted for the good stuff. The earpads are extremely soft, more-so than any other headphone I've personally experienced. I was genuinely surprised when I first felt them, and I think this property really contributes to the comfort factor of these headphones. 

 

With everything taken into account, I would say that the CAL! is a decently build headphone which you shouldn't worry about it falling apart on you, though don't expect it last through the ages or give you any sense of getting more than what you paid for.

 

Comfort

 

This is an area that the headphones seem to be almost equally famous for along side their sound, and I have to be honest, I don't think that's really justified. I do not think these are uncomfortable headphones, but a number of people seem to find their comfort more impressive than their sound quality, which is a mildly baffling idea to me. I've also seen one reviewer here on Head-Fi describe the comfort as being 'unbeatable'. Whilst I would normally say that comfort (much like sound) is a very subjective element of the headphone hobby, I can only think that if you consider the CAL! to possess the best comfort out there, you probably haven't experienced a great deal of headphones. They're comfy enough, but they simply are not a headphone that you can wear all day without irritation, and they're no where near the best.

 

When I first got the CAL! I found them quite uncomfortable. Luckily this changed, but I still do have some remaining bones to pick with the comfort. My first issue was that the headband padding felt quite stiff, to the point of being an under-padded feeling headband. This isn't a big problem now, the CAL! is very light so the headband doesn't need to provide a high level of support in the first place, but I found that the padding of the headband softened up noticeably after a day or two of use. I have noticed that I have to wear it quite forward on my head for it to feel right, and I'm not sure why. Normally it's the opposite for me. I like the headband of this headphone, though I would say that optimally, a wider and even softer headband would be preferable. 

 

The real issue of the CAL!'s comfort is the ear-pads. As mentioned, the ear-pads are very soft. However, considering it's a supposedly circumaural headphone, the amount of space given for your ear is rather conservative. There is just over 2 inches of height, and about 1.75 inches of width (at the widest point). My ears are fairly average, so I imagine those with large ears will note rather quickly that there is an insufficient amount of space. I don't find that the depth is a problem for me, but these are also not the deepest earpads around. This lack of space will irritate some people's ears due to the touch alone, but the other issue is that such a confined space that is encased in non-breathing pleather leads to a bit of extra heat. This is pretty unbearable for me if it's a hot day, it just feels disgusting. 

 

As a rule of thumb, I would say that if you don't have large ears and don't live in a hot area, you should be OK. Don't expect game changing comfort, but it should be cosy. The fit is quite secure and lightweight, though, which goes a long way in my books.

 

Not bad, but I think it gets way more credit than it deserves. 

 

Conclusion

 

I must say, despite having issues with it at first, I've really grown to love this headphone! For under $100, this is a must-have for beginners, it's such a good introduction as to what good sound is. Some people are going to take issue with it's comfort, but I'd say for a lot of people this will indeed be comfy. Just don't expect DT880 levels or anything. 

 

Great for home use for anyone looking to get into quality headphones!

19 Comments:

After all this and you gave them only 2 starts??? I have had them for almost 3.5 years now, I listen them everyday for 6-8 hours. Superb sound, and very comfortable with plush pads. Light weight design that looks kind of weak but mine are used on a daily bases and on the go and still look and feel as solid as new. The CAL! just sound great period, even compare to more expensive headphones, on top of that they are one of the best bang for you buck at $60 it's criminal!  IMHO I would rate them at 4.75 out of 5
I think you'll find it's a subjective game, this headphone thing, Tommy. I find the comfort to be pretty crap. Really stiffly padded headband, and overly cramped and hot earpads that hurt my ears. I think the build quality is noticeably inferior to the PX100ii which is way more lightweight than this but feels so much more solid and durable in your hands, not to mention far less plastic-like and creaky. It evens looks a little nice to me and is lightyears more comfortable. I'll go into more detail when I write the rest of it.
In short; a headphone has to do a hell of a lot more than merely sound great to actually be a great product.
I respect your take but mine came with super plushy earpads and I compared them to the PX100 II that I had and they sounded great compared to the dull PX100. I find nothing wrong with the build quality though, it's not at portable as the PX100, that's for sure. I hate to bring it up but did you buy them new from an authorized dealer? Could it be that you got a dud?   I am not aware of any fake CAL! though. Please keep us posted.  
I copied and pasted the review by ljokerl and this is how I feel about them as well:
 
(B3) Creative Aurvana Live!: A true circumaural headphone, the portability of the CAL! may be questionable but the sound produced by the OEM Foster drivers shared with the renowned Denon AH-D1001k is not.



Build Quality (7/10): The Creative Aurvana Live! is a well-built headphone but doesn’t exude the same air of solidity as the K81dj and HA-M750. The plastics feel sturdy and well-made. The glossy black cups and chrome trim are fingerprint magnets but the grime isn’t too visible on them (unlike, for example, the ATH-ES7). The stainless steel headband is padded and the cabling is nice and thick, rubberized to prevent tangling and short enough for portable use. An extension cable is included. On the downside, the CAL! are neither collapsible nor flat-folding, so calling them portables is contingent entirely on their having a shorter cable and being easily driven.

Comfort (9.5/10): The cups of the Creative Aurvana Live! were designed to be circumaural, and they are - for all but those with the largest ears. The cups are deep, extremely comfortable, and have a wide range of motion. The phones themselves are very light, largely due to the plastic construction, and there is almost no clamping force exerted by the headband. The pleather on the cups and headband feels quite soft but can get warm after a while, though I can stay cool longer in these than the JVC HA-M750.

Isolation (5.5/10): Though leakage is expectedly low, the isolation of CAL! is also quite low for a closed can. While better than almost all of the on-ear ultraportables, it just doesn’t compare some of the larger closed cans. I found myself cranking the volume up almost immediately when going outside.

Sound (8.5/10): As mentioned before, the CAL! shares OEM drivers (as well as pads and parts of the inner structure) with the renowned Denon AH-D1001k. My expectations were pretty high for these, so I was fairly surprised when I found the general sound signature to be similar to that of the significantly-cheaper JVC HA-M750. Over time, however, they grew on me and I learned to differentiate them from the JVCs in subtle but important ways. Like the JVCs, the CAL!s are bass-heavy headphones with a very rich-sounding midrange and a warm tonality. However, the Creatives boast better clarity in the (far less forward) midrange and a more dimensional sound - the soundstage has some depth in addition to the width. They are more laid back and balanced and at the same time a...









and at the same time a little faster when the music calls for it. The bass is textured, fairly well-controlled, and surprisingly deep (capable of dropping below 30Hz). The low-end response can be excessive at times - these are most definitely not monitoring headphones – but it’s hard to beat them for an enjoyable and relaxed listening experience with plenty of subwoofer bass.

Value (9/10). (MSRP: $99.99, Street Price: $99). I like these, I really do. They are extremely comfortable, reasonably portable, and they sound oh-so-good. Granted, the sound isn’t quite as neutral as some may prefer and the isolation could be better. But they are just so very fun to listen to. In a series of A:B comparisons they make my JVC HA-M750 sound muddy, aggressive, and flat and my K81Dj – hollow and resonant. The CAL! is definitely one headphone I could use both on the go and at home, but only if isolation was inconsequential and absolute portability was not a concern.

Manufacturer Specs:
Frequency Response:10-30,000 Hz
Impedance:32 Ω
Sensitivity:103 dB SPL/1mW
Cord:3.94ft (1.2m) + 5ft (1.5m) extension; Straight Plug
Space-Saving Mechanism:N/A
Nope, mine a definitely not fakes. I bought them directly from Creative, brand new. I agree that the earpads are very soft and plush, but they're simply not big enough, so they cramp my ears up. That pressure makes them sore quite fast, and they also get far too hot and sweaty (which is a comfort cardinal sin in my book). Compared that to a more spacious headphone that doesn't cramp my ears and uses velour so they can breathe, it's just a night and day difference. The padding on the headband, however, is not plush. It's hard and stiff, and gives me a hotspot on my skull almost instantly. 
 
I also agree that the CAL! sounds better than the PX100ii, but it doesn't blow it away, and I'd never say the PX100ii is dull, no where near it. 
This is very strange indeed... my CAL! has nice padding on the headband. The headband is pretty this but very plush... I wonder if they changed the design.
I don't think so. It's just a case of everybody being different, and I just don't like it. I'm probably going to raise the score a bit, 2 stars is probably too harsh. I'm just really taken aback at how these headphones have such a high reputation for comfort, they're really not great in that department if you ask me. Goes to show that everybody's heads and ears are different.
Cal2 is out... :P
im reading the comments and they are saying you gave it 2 stars. im seeing four right now. im looking to grab these headphones so if i may ask, what happened?
I initially had comfort issues, but with a bit of break in and getting used to them, they actually ended up feeling quite comfortable for me. I would recommend you get some.
Yup, how can you fully enjoy music when you're uncomfortable. great review by the way. very easy to read. thanks
Hey, thanks a lot :D And I couldn't agree more, I think an uncomfortable headphone is just as useless (maybe even more-so!) than a bad sounding one. I don't understand people willing to sacrifice comfort, it's super important.
Have you got a chance to compare these to the entry level grados?
No, but I used to own the Grado SR225i. I much prefer the sound of these. The 225i was a very, very flawed sounding headphone overall in my eyes. Far too little bass and far too much treble, tiny soundstage, no weight to the sound. It's very clean and fast, I'll give it that, but the CAL is a far, far more satisfying listen. The Grado is only good for a very few specific uses, but I wouldn't recommend it. From what I've read you would find the same thing with the lower Grados. 
Again. Thank you very much. I normally use the in ear types, but I wanted to try full sized headphones. Everywhere I read, I see recommendations of grados as the first step, but as you know, the reactions are polarizing. So I think you convinced me that CAL will be my first real headphones. Thanks again.
Last thing. How good are they in vocals. Let' say adele and florence + the machine?
You're more than welcome :) They're also more comfortable than Grados. Comfort and sound are the most important thing, and the CAL blitzes Grado in both categories. I think CAL is great with vocals, they're nice and clear. It's really just a very balanced headphone with a tiny bit of treble excitement that isn't harsh at all. Vocals will satisfy you, no problem. 
CAL it is. But maybe one day, I'll try grado's :)
I appreciate it. Thanks.
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