Mobile technology should not be about cramming the office into your pocket but a way to enjoy your everyday life.
Creative Aurvana Live!2 - Affordable Hi-Fi?
Like everyone else I want my headphones to sound good and be comfortable but I also want to keep the price down to around 100 EUR/USD and not pay extra for a fashionable brand. I want to pay for the tech, not the logo - something I think is getting more difficult after Beats reshaped the headphone market.
I have previously looked at traditional consumer brands such as Philips and Sony but while reading up on current alternatives on discussion forums I came across a pair of headphones from Creative of SoundBlaster fame; the Aurvana Live!2.
These headphones' claim to fame are their 40mm neodymium drivers with bio-cellulose diaphragm. Bio-cellulose, also known as microbial cellulose, is a natural fiber manufactured using bacteria and only nanometers thin, much thinner than plant based cellulose as used in paper. The idea is that bio-cellulose diaphragms are as thin as aluminium or titanium diaphragms but with a "warmer" sound similar to that of paper ones.
The CAL2 has been around for a few years already and Creative have now dropped the prise to a very affordable 69€ (at amazon.de in 2019).
When listening to these headphones I did side by side comparisons with two other headphones: Audio-technica ATH-M50x and Denon AH-GC20 (in passive mode using a cable). As source devices I used a 2016 iMac and a OnePlus 6.
On the go, I use Bluetooth headphones but now I'm looking for home use I prefer wired headphones. The CAL2 has a 4 pole (CTIA TRRS) 3.5mm plug with an in-line microphone and slide volume control on the cable for use with phones. The cable is detachable and can be replaced if needed or you want another type of cable.
In my experience circumaural (full size, over the ear) headphones are the only ones that are comfortable to be used for hours at a time. The CAL2 (and A-T) are just barely curcumaural and this is one of my main complaints about the headphonse: the earcups are simply too small. The Denon headphones has noticeable bigger earcups.
The earcup padding is soft and the headphones feel light without clamping onto the head too hard so there are no other ergonomic problems. In fact, I'd say they are quite comfortable to wear, more comfortable than the A-T or Denon thanks to being very light.
Previously I have gone for open designs because they feel cooler as air can pass trough when using them for long periods. The CAL2 is a closed design and they do get warm so that is a drawback.
Open designs might also give a more natural soundstage but I must admit I enjoy the punchier base you often get with a closed design and Creative advertises these headphones as bringing out the base. In some reviews I have read that these headphones boosts highs and lows somewhat while leaving the midrange untouched - a classic although modest equalizer smiley face. However, that is not how I perceive the headphones. Compared to the Audio-technica, the CAL2 feels more neutral and the A-T feels more like it had a smiley face equalizer setting although the A-T is referred to as a neutral "monitor headphone". This was unexpected.
When comparing directly against the Audio-technica, the CAL2 do perform well and although they sound differently they do sound almost as good. Compared with the Denon I actually prefer the sound of the CAL2 - the base is quite similar but the highs are clearer with the CAL2. The Denon are much more expensive but that is mainly because they also have Bluetooth and active noise reduction.
Considering the price point for the CAL2 today, it's not a bad choice.
Since the CAL2 headphones have been around for a few years I also had a chance to find out about typical problems. The headband sometimes breaks near where they are attached to the earcups. The other, and slightly more common problem, is a connectivity problem related to the detachable cable. Since the cable is detachable, this can usually be fixed by simply replacing the cable. The build quality does not impress and they might feel a bit flimsy but once you put them on you appreciate how light they feel. The construction is also silent without any squeaking sounds from the plastic joints - something that the A-T suffers from a bit.