I'm a pround owner of Creative Aurvana Live!, which shares the same Foster drivers as the Denon D1001 or D1000 but with a slightly bigger, more oval cup. According to what others have reported and what the frequency response graph suggests, much if not all of the difference lies in the bass department, where the CAL is a little bassier than the Denons.
Other satisfied CAL owners are welcome to contribute or share their experience here. And of course, anyone else who have some inspiration for modding or just want to comment should do so as well. Posting pretty photos here of your CAL either alone or with things such as amp, DAC would be nice too.
First of all, I haven't owned the CAL for as long as many of you. It's been about 6 months give or take, but the headphone is fully burned in. To be honest, I liked the CALs straight out of package as is, so any mods I have performed are only intentions to perfect it.
This headphone is deemed comparable to M50s by many, while a few even went as far as prefering it to D2000 and D5000, HD650 and Ultrasone Pro900. Crazy claims you say? Maybe... I guess I will never know since I can't afford those high end products.
CAL is famous for its musicality, slightly V-shaped sound signature, so it can't be be considered "technically" great. My old poll revealed that a V-shaped sound is only second to neutrality in terms of popularity, therefore I can't imagine anyone would hate the CALs. However, some people have disliked, what they describe as fuzzy/boomy bass, yet there is a fix for them (see the dynamat mod).
My first impression was that it blew me away. It has plenty of bass, good mids and sparkling treble. The low end and the highs both extend quite far; to well over 16kHz. It's recommended for games and movies, as I'm a more of a movie person than a music lover I decided to check it out. For a close-back, it has a wide and deep soundstage with excellent 3D imaging.
It came with a pouch, a 3.5mm to 6.5mm adaptor and a 1.5m extension cord (a bit fragile and thin nonetheless). The impedance is only 32 ohm; thus very easy to driver. They are circumaural to me (semi-circumaural to non-average ears). Unfortunately, the price used to be cheaper before I bought them, and after as well. Nevertheless, it still is one of the must buys for the best bang for the buck; perfect for beginners and cost conscious budget audiophiles alike.
The well-known markl mod, orginally to D5000 from here, and specifically to D1001 from here, consists of applying sound deadener to the inside of the cups and on the drivers; putting fiberloft in the earcups, stuffing fiberloft to the pads (only D5000), and additionally recabling.
I applied Dynamat Xtreme that I bought from a fellow head-fier to my CAL. To me surprise, the Dynamat is not that light in weight due to a thick layer of tacky stuff (like blu tack). Warnings to those don't want their headphone to weigh any more than they already weigh(note: CAL is of the of lightest full-size cans, weighing only 210g).
The back of the cups is the tricky part, because I didn't manage to take the cups completely off the headband. All in all, it took me more than 2 hours to get this modification finished, shame on me.
The mod is surprisingly good. It makes my CAL almost sound like a completely different headphone, while retaining most of the signature. Punchier (tighter) bass, more foward mids, not much change to the highs, I feel there is better imaging and a wider soundstage. I didn't notice any reduction in bass quantity though. It took a little while to get used to the more in your face sound (the next mod on the pads cancels out this effect more or less IMHO), as I would imagine it's due to less false bass due echos/vibrations, so I can hear everything clearer. I reckon this is the next best thing to buying a much more expensive headphone, and I can't think of anything else that would improve the SQ so drastically (be it amps, DAC, cable change, or even EQ)
However, it is not easily reversible as I had first expected. It was hard enough to apply the Dynamat already, that it took a long time to measure, cut, remeasure, recut, and implement it. I'm sorry to say that I forgot to make some numerical measurements to provide you with the lengths and widths for this mod.
Inspired by this thread I found yesterday, I executed a second mod to lift up the pads so that the headphones/speakers are more away from the ears. No matter how comfortable the CAL is, I always found the inner parts(in front of the drivers) touching my ears ever so slightly. There is no easy way to stuff the actual pads as they are completely sealed off or to stuff the back of the pads as there is no room. A foam can be added to the inside of the pads.
Instead of soft foam used in the other thread, I choose to cut up some cheap mousepads laying around the house. You can get them for free from many places. I peeled off the thin blue layer with the logo, so that only a dense/firm black foam is left.
This time I measured the dimensions for you convenience.
Left: no foam; right: lifted with foam.
Left: before; right: after. As you can see, it won't make it look like as thick as your couch. It's really a tactile rather than asthestic change.
This eliminated the problem with my ears touching the speakers, as well as increasing the soundstage/headstage. It's using the same principle as holding the headphones some distance away from the ears, but without the loss of bass. Not only is the JMoney Audio lambskin earpads are as expensive as the CALs themselves, the pads also don't fit the CALs since they are designed for higher-end Denons. I say this does the job just as well at minimal cost or no cost at all. Both mods have increased the weight a bit, especially the first one; and made it a bit hotter (perhaps pschological). But I still think they are reasonably light and comfortable. I am even more hestitant to upgrade now; good for my wallet really (no "sorry for your wallet" sort of thing on head-fi, a big plus!).
Like what markl originally did to increase one side of the pads more than the another to align the earpads to the angle of the human ears, this is a variant of his taper mod. However, the effect won't be as dramatic or apparent as R10 or HD800 where the placement of the drivers is designed that way. This will only make the plane of the headphone less "backward-facing".
Carve out a third foam padding, slice it in half as follows.
Because I ran out of superglue, I just put each half to the sides that are behind the ears when worn.
Add the foams from before on top of the "arches" to creat a slope for the plane
Edit: I reverted the taper mod though, as the extra layer was stretching the pads to much. However, I am still keeping my original pad mod. I didn't find it to have much effect to begin with anyhow, It was only to be faithful to the Markl mod.
Edited by kingpage - 4/25/11 at 7:55pm