Creative may have invented the soundcard and one of the first MP3 players, but in recent years it's found itself struggling to compete with integrated sound and, well, Apple. The company is now trying its hand at other related fields including its range of Aurvana headphones.
The Aurvana Air is its latest model, and it's a luxury set of 'phones that are designed to hug your lugs and not let go. But, just between us, if we were Bang & Olufsen (B&O) we'd sue Creative for everything it had — the Aurvana Airs are virtually identical to the B&O A8 Earphones. But get this: they're at a higher price. That's right, they're more pricey than a brand renowned for being ludicrously expensive. The B&O phones retail for AU$229.
Given the price differential, what then separates the Creative headphones from the Danish design maestros? While they may look similar, the Airs are actually a little smaller and more metallic than the Earphones. Depending on how big your ears are, you may find either brand is more comfortable. While B&O's rotate on two different axis to give you more flexibility, the Air only swings one way — from a hinge on the ear bud itself. The hooks themselves may feel a little more flimsy than the Danes, but Creative says the hooks are made of a nickel-titanium alloy so they should be rigid enough. While we personally found the B&Os more comfortable overall, the Creative set actually nestled into our ears better.
The 3.5mm jack is slim and should fit into iPhone sockets without much problem, and it's also gold-plated. Ooohh, audiophiley! Also, the cable features a "superior thermoplastic elastomer" coating, which means it doesn't have any of the microphonic handling noise you get with cheaper buds — you know, that grating sound you get when your clothes rub on the headphone cable.
The ear buds don't actually go into your ears but sort of nestle on them. This means there's no noise reduction whatsoever, but also means you don't have to excavate your ear canal every time you put them in. The hook also means you can jump around a fair bit — dangle upside down, fling yourself about with gay abandon, we don't care — and they'll stay on. In fact, Creative says they're best suited for active users, and after testing them on a bike ride we can say that important noises like impending trucks can still be heard.
You couldn't call a product the Aurvana Air without an "airy" sound and this is exactly what the headphones deliver. There is plenty of treble detail, and the open design helps prevent the "voices-in-your-head" sensation. Rock is best suited, with cymbals adding a level of propulsion not found on more sedate headphones. But we did find that they don't give the head-blasting volume levels that some other headphones have: we had to turn the volume up quite high. This is mostly an issue with the conservative volume levels of Creative's own MP3 players. We're sure that you'd struggle trying to hear some music on an international flight with the Zen X-Fi — due to the player's low volume levels and the headphones' open nature.
The biggest problem with these 'phones isn't even the price. Or the performance. While they do share a family resemblance with cheaper models in the range (and we're talking around 30 bucks) they do have enough sophistication to make the outlay worthwhile. And yes, they do sound better than Bang & Olufsen's offering. No, that's not the problem. The problem is that they're made by Creative. You see, Creative seems to be suffering an identity crisis at the moment, but we hope that products like the Aurvana Air can help turn the company's reputation around.