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Creative Aurvana Live! 2 Review and Mods

Discussion in 'Headphones (full-size)' started by kingpage, Dec 10, 2013.
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  1. kingpage

    Impedance: 32ohms (variable volume)
    Sensitivity: 105dB/mW
    Cable Length: 1.2m
    Price: US$199 ($129 now)
    The original Creative Aurvana Live! (aka CAL!), which is still available for sale, was derived from Denon D1001/D1000 using Foster drivers.  CAL! is not only cheaper, but some would even say that it is also better than the Denon’s. Creative announced a new version called Creative Aurvana live! 2 a few months ago and is very kind to send me a unit for review.
    The packaging is simple yet elegant. CAL!2 has a completely new enclosure, with a similar 40mm bio-cellulose foster driver like its older brother. The design is much better in a lot of ways. When I first saw the pictures before I got my hands on this product, I thought to myself, “This looks great, especially compared to the old version!”. The old version was lacking aesthetically and had the resemblance of the creatures from the Aliens movies. The new version, I believe, was redesigned to cater for the higher end crowd; very stylish. It comes in two colors, black and red. The price tag makes it compete directly with headphones such as HD-25 and ATH-M50.
    In addition to the great looks, the build is excellent too. CAL!1 felt a bit fragile, whereas CAL!2 is sturdier all round. The adjustable headband snaps better. The earcups can swivel like some DJ headphones, which is handy for cleaning the earpads. The earpads are circular rather than elliptical in shape, slightly bigger in width (5.5cm). I would consider these as circumaural unless you have longer than average ear sizes. CAL!1 would make me a little uncomfortable, that’s why I made the taper mod for it; however, CAL!2 feels a bit more comfortable, which I would attribute to the slightly thicker and wider pads. The weight is about 50g more than CAL!1, but it is still quite portable and easy to drive too. The headband used to hurt the top of my head after prolonged use, but it doesn't seem too bad in this iteration. It doesn't isolate as well as HM5, similar to the original which is average.  It comes with a soft pouch like before.
    Sound Quality
    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.
    Creative Aurvana Live! Review and Mods
    Brainwavz HM5 mods

    dan.gheorghe likes this.
  2. kingpage
    I have upgraded my computer since last time I did measurements. The ADC (mic) is the built-in soundcard in Asrock Z77M. Both DAC and ADC have a flat response, much better than the cheap little USB sound device I used previously. I've made a new testing rig out of cardboard again.
    This is what the FR of CAL!2 looks like. It's got almost perfectly flat bass from 20hz to 200hz. The mids don't sound recessed like that at all, probably because the boost is in the sub-bass/lower bass region instead of mid-bass/lower mids. By the way, this graph isn't unlike the equal loudness contour curve.
    Comparison of HM5 and CAL!2
    CAL!2 looks roughly like HM5 + FiiO E10 Bass Boost.
    Since there a volume control, I wanted to test if there's any difference in FR between max impedance and min impedance. As the graph clearly shows, there's a small bass boost effect under higher impedance. People often report better controlled bass or more bass, with a resister tweak or between same models under different impedance; this is clear evidence of that. If you want 2-3dB increase in sub-bass, then turn the volume all the way down (high impedance) and let your amp drive your headphone.
    I've decided to mod the CAL!2 lightly with what I've got available.
    There's some readily available foam material in the box of CAL!2. Perfect!
    Just carefully and slowly remove it from the cardboard box.
    Cut it into the right shapes. A heart shaped foam and two stripes for each earcup.
    Add some Dynamat Extreme to the back of drivers.
    Here's the results of the mods. The mods seems to bring out the mids and treble ever so slightly, as expected. Dynamat absorbs excess vibration and false bass. The foam acts as sound absorbers for sound being reflected off the back surface, which should fool the drivers into thinking they're in a larger enclosure (polyfill works similarly, but this is neater).
    dan.gheorghe likes this.
  3. zachgraz
    Very nice write-up ! I have tried them on the CEE in Singapore already and I can confirm they look and sound great.
    Are you sure it is the same driver in the Creative Gold ? They do not mention bio-cellulose in the description of the Gold and Platinum. I am really curious what drivers are inside those higher models.
    The 50mm driver in the Platinum cannot be the D2000/5000 driver as latter one has an 25 Ohm impendance. The specs mention 32 Ohms for the Platinum.
    Nontheless if the Platinum uses another bio-cellulose driver from Fostex it might be a great headphone in passive mode.
    I have'nt found any driver pics yet from Gold and Platinum but if anybody knows more details about those models please post them here !
  4. Hailin
    Thanks for the write up. I HAVE to have it now, damn... and put the Maddog Alpha Pads on it.
    Could you do me a favor please just for fun and science. Could you put the HM5 pad of the CAL!1 and measure it or try it out on a few songs to prove I am not crazy. I feel like when I did this to mine the sub bass got louder and the soundstage opened up a tad. I have never put the CAL! pads back on. I know the comfort was much much better obviously.
  5. Quaresma
    Thanks for photos showing the insides.
    Just one question! 
    Is it easy to disassemble the headphone and mod it? The first CAL! was very easy to mod.
  6. kingpage
    Put which pad where? Did you mean HM5 pad on CAL!2? I don't have access to CAL!1 anymore.
    It was very easy to disassemble, but one thing that bugged me was the small screws. I wouldn't want to unscrew them more than a couple of times, because I'm sure they will become useless very soon. I wish they'd use bigger screws that are more durable for DIY sake.
  7. zachgraz
    This is very true. Are the CAL!1 and CAL!2 screws the same ?
    The CAL!1s are made of soft steel, wear out quickly and are cheap, but not easy to get. I found one supplier who has this type of screws in stock.  I will buy a few rhe next time I come accross this shop. Anybody who has a screw-related emergency can contact me for spare screws. [​IMG] 
  8. iancraig10
    The detachable lead seems odd in that it comes off but there is no alternative offered. I'd like a lead without the volume control and mic in the way and it's not even a standard 3.5mm lead which really narrows any form of choice down. Great pity.
  9. iancraig10
    I hadn't tried it with an amp. From a phone or Ipod, they're great.
    From an amp, because of the daft plugs which aren't standard stereo plugs, you don't get the sound correctly delivered to the headphone from the amp!! You end up with an 'echo' version until you half pull the plug out of the amp and get a correct connection.
    There aren't many suppliers of 2.5 to 3.5 stereo jack leads and Creative don't supply one which is a dreadful omission.
    You can use the lead that comes with an AKG K450 or the Sennheiser Momentum stereo lead though.
    It's a real pain because the headphone sounds terrific.
  10. Quaresma
    If I use a 3.5mm to 2.5mm converter/adapter on the headphone end, will it degrade sound quality?
  11. Minarets
    These have popped as as a possibility for me. I have been thinking DT770 32ohm, Beats Studio, Master Tracks XC (calvin harris model) or AtH M50's but this has what I was missing from the original CAL, like detachable cable and better build quality.

    I really liked my AKG K81DJ except for the on ear design. Like my AKG Tiesto K167 except for the cheap build quality. I like detail, clarity and punchy bass. I listen to a lot of live music. Lots of Dave Matthews Band, coldplay, radiohead, of monsters and men, mayer, and the like.

    I like what I hear about these but can't figure out if they are so good, why there are so few thoughts on them?
  12. Quaresma
    You should check out this thread http://www.head-fi.org/t/684370/creative-aurvana-live-2
    10 pages with impressions and reviews.
  13. iancraig10

    Perhaps it's because they're quite new and there was no big campaign when they appeared?

    Actually, I really like them a lot, except for two things.

    a) The lead is a pain. It has to be changed coming from a normal amp or you get a 'ghost' image and they supply nothing as a replacement.
    b) The red ones look a bit garish. They look better in photos since they've toned the tinsel red down.

    The sound is great. Also the comfort. I prefer them to the m50 and they are a real improvement on the original CAL which I also have.

    There is a lack of info on them though.
  14. Minarets

    Compared to the M50, are they as detailed? I like crisp treble, not harsh. The M50 does a pretty good job, I think. I couldn't stand my MDR1R's or Momentums as they aren't detailed enough and have too much of a warm sound.

    I really like punchy controlled bass, but not a bass monster. The DT770 250 ohm did it perfect imo, its just not portable enough for me. The 80ohm version was too bass heavy.

  15. iancraig10
    The bass is as strong as the DT770 for sure. It has a big hearted sound. To me - similar to large speakers. It reminds me of the way that the Senn CX300/400's are described as 'bass led'. These are bass led but are a great match for Ipods and the like since they are quite sensitive. They go really very low for a cheapish headphone. Bass lines are very easy to follow in quite complex mixes.
    Extension into the treble is also good. It's not a toppy sound at all but there is the old CAL sparkle up there. To me, they sound like a grown up version of the original CAL. They are better for sure. There is a lot of detail in the top but the bass is big and so you get the impression at first that it isn't detailed. in fact, it does reveal some subtle stuff as well. I was listening to Transatlantic today and not only does the CAL2 give this big, warm sound that really communicates well but it also showed that on some of the tracks, instruments had been recorded in a different room and was easily detected on them.
    I'd say that it is a very much 'bass led' headphone with a treble sparkle in the top. no harshness whatsoever. It's also very pleasant when played loud because of this.
    Although I don't like the red version (colour), I have become quite attached to its really individual sound since it does sound like a full sized floor speaker!
    This cable is ideal and better than the one that comes with it by a long way:
    It's available in different lengths and doesn't play up on a stereo out from the amp as the supplied lead does. The lead that comes with it is designed for Ipods and phones. No good with a stereo out since the plug has three sections, not two which is a pain.
    I'd say that it sounds like something more expensive. I kept away from the modding thread on this headphone since it's too new to start pulling it about. However, if I were to modify it, I would consider lowering the bass quantity in order to make it 'flatter' sounding. I have a passive filter that actually does this if I want to but I enjoy its full bodied sound if I'm honest.
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