While Creative is certainly not a new name to audio, the company wasn't really synonymous with high quality headphones until the release of the Creative Aurvana Live! The semi-circumaural, semi-portable headphone earned a strong following for its affordability and great audio performance (which should be unsurprising considering its relation to Denon's AH-D1000/1001, both of which share the same Foster-sourced drivers). One of Creative's more interesting releases is the Creative Aurvana Air, an clip-on earbud which has gained far less of a following than its bigger brother headphone. Will the Aurvana Air take users to aural nirvana, or at the very least be a great value like the Live!? My expectations were high, fueled by a very pleasant experience with the CAL!s as well as the optimism guiding my continuing search for the ultimate earbud.
PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES
The packaging of the Creative Aurvana Air proudly displays the earphone's elegant design. Inside the plastic package, you will find the Air encapsulated in an acrylic display case that I found to be both useless and borderline pretentious. We get it, Creative. The earphones do look great, but they belong in my ears, not on top of the fireplace mantel.
Rounding out the accessories are the far more useful leather carrying case with wind-up insert, and the requisite earbud foams, which I find to be an absolute must with these earphones.
The Creative Aurvana Air and its protective leather case
The Aurvana Air's clips are said to use a coated nickel-titanium alloy, which allows them to be bent to conform to the ear. The metal is quite attractive and should prove to be durable, although the hooks themselves do seem a bit on the thin side. Perhaps that's not a big issue considering the thinner hooks most likely contribute to the Air's excellent comfort and fit. The cable has a slight rubbery feel to it, not unlike other elastomer-coated cables used in other earphones and headphones. Strain reliefs seem to be reasonably sufficient on both the housing end and the smallish straight-plug, and the metallic slider is also a nice touch. Overall, the Aurvana Air gives the impression of a product that is well-designed and worth of its price tag, at least in the build quality department.
Before I begin on the sound, I should remind readers that the perception of an earbud's sound quality is highly dependent on fit, which in turn relies on ear size and shape, the use of foams, and other variables unique to the user. Perhaps more so than with full-sized headphones and IEMs, your mileage may vary.
One attribute that I really enjoy about the Creative Aurvana Air is, predictably, its airiness. This, combined with its exceptional ability to separate instruments and excellent imaging, help to create a sound that can only be reproduced in an open-air design. Soundstage itself isn't on the large side, though the airiness and cohesive nature of the Airs make up for this. Oftentimes airiness and cohesion seem to be mutually exclusive in most of the earbuds I've tried, but the Aurvana Air brings the two seemingly opposing characteristics together with aplomb.
The bass of the Aurvana Air is full-sounding with a good dose of warmth. Although the Air does exhibit some roll-off at the lower end of the spectrum, the bass is well-textured and well-controlled. In bassier tracks, the Air's midbass can at times seem slightly excessive, but usually this isn't a problem. The midrange is probably the Air's best asset, as it is smooth, refined, and quite detailed. With the use of the included foams as well as a secure fit, the Air is capable of excellent vocal reproduction. Strings also sound great, including everything from distortion guitar to the harp, and the sound of horns and other brass instruments flows freely and unrestrained. The treble of the Air isn't as abundant as the mids and bass, but it does exhibit smooth extension and remains articulate without a hint of graininess. While listening to the Aurvana Air, it is hard to for me to locate any true faults, which I feel allows the earphone to reproduce a wide range of genres equally well.
As I write this review, it has been approximately 8 months since I first listened to the Creative Aurvana Air, and I must say that I'm just as impressed with them now than I was the day I received them. Like the Creative Aurvana Live!, the Air is an earphone engineered for the enjoyment of music, providing a warm and laid-back signature perfect for long listening sessions. I wholeheartedly recommend the Air to anybody enjoys the open and dynamic sound of a well-designed earbud, and I feel that even those who aren't as smitten with earbuds (you know who you are) should give these a listen. The only real issues I have with the Creative Aurvana Airs is their availability and price fluctuations. Here in the US, they are pretty much only sold by Creative (through Amazon), which allows for very little in the way of competition. Also, the price itself seems to change monthly; when I purchased the Air, the price sat at around $79, which incidentally was the sale price from the beginning of this month until around this week, where the price now stands at $99. I do think the Air's sound is worthy of that price, but at $79 I feel they represent a value that rivals Creative's own Aurvana Live!
My experience is definitely limited with higher-end earbuds, so I can't say how they compare to other top-performers, but what I can say is that I like the Airs enough to where I'm willing to end my search for ultimate earbud. I'll still have a listen to some of the lower-end offerings from various companies, and I'll keep an eye out for other developments in the earbud world, but to my ears, I think I'll be hard-pressed to find a better-sounding earbud than my Creative Aurvana Airs.
Edited by kjk1281 - 10/15/11 at 1:55pm