Details: Third-gen enthusiast-oriented IEM from consumer electronics giant Creative Labs
MSRP: $149.99 (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: $100 from amazon.com
Specs: Driver: Dual BA | Imp: 28Ω | Sens: 112 dB | Freq: 10-17k Hz | Cable: 4′ I-plug
Nozzle Size: 4mm | Preferred tips: MEElec triple-flanges
Wear Style: Over-the-ear
Accessories (4.5/5) – Single-flange silicone tips (3 sizes), foam eartips (2 sets), cleaning tool, airplane adapter, and hard-shell carrying case with removable cable winder
Build Quality (3.5/5) – The glossy, reflective housings are plastic and feature matte dual-bore nozzles and very, very flexible strain reliefs. The rubbery cable is extremely soft and thin. It never gets in the way but also tends to tangle and doesn’t inspire much confidence in the earphones’ longevity
Isolation (3.5/5) – Ergonomic housings and fully-sealed design result in above-average isolation
Microphonics (4.5/5) – Pretty much nonexistent in the soft, featherweight cable
Comfort (3.5/5) – The housings are very well-designed – lightweight, smooth, and rounded at the edges; the nozzle is angled well and the soft strain reliefs never make themselves known. However, the sheer size of the housing is uncharacteristic for a dual-BA – it is larger than that of a Westone 4. Those with smaller outer ears may experience discomfort quickly as a result
Sound (8.5/10) – Creative’s third-gen armature-based earphone takes some pages out of the Shure playbook when it comes to more than just design – the sound may be familiar to the Shure faithful as well. The signature is mid-centric and slightly warm. The bass is accurate and controlled but not prominent or aggressive. It is fairly punchy but made to sound less so by the midrange emphasis. Gentle roll-off at the bottom also means that even certain single-armature earphones – the Fischer Audio SBA-03, for example – offer better bass depth.
The midrange is the focal point of the Aurvana’s sound signature – forward compared to the bass and treble, warm, and very smooth. Note thickness is good but the presentation is a bit dry, reminiscent of the ill-fated Klipsch Custom 3. The Fischer SBA-03 has similarly forward mids but sounds leaner, with more crispness and slightly better detailing, while the Aurvana is smoother, thicker, and warmer in tone. It’s a pleasant sound but clearly not one for those in search of a balanced, neutral, highly detailed monitor. Even the dual-dynamic JVC HA-FXT90 has better transparency than the Aurvana 3, as well as more natural tone and timbre.
At the top, the Aurvana 3 is laid-back and very non-fatiguing. Compared to earphones with crisp, prominent top ends – the VSonic GR07, for example – the Creatives sound a bit veiled and even a touch dark. As with the bass, the top end is not so much rolled-off as it is overshadowed by the attention-grabbing midrange. The presentation, too, is defined largely by the balance of the earphones – the Aurvana 3 is not particularly dynamic and rarely sounds aggressive or even energetic. The soundstage is about average in size, albeit quite well-rounded. The space is larger than that of the Fischer Audio SBA-03 and the layering is more convincing. Still, the Aurvana 3 lacks air and openness next to dynamic-driver competitors such as the JVC FXT90 and doesn’t have the same imaging prowess. On the upside, it is very, very efficient – clearly designed for use straight out of a portable player.
Value (7.5/10) – The Creative Aurvana In-Ear 3 is a solid mid-range monitor that could pass for a consumer-oriented product from Shure or Westone. Aside from the mid-centric sound, which won’t be to everyone’s liking, the Aurvana 3 also filters potential listeners by ear size with its large plastic housings. Sonically, the Creatives have few weaknesses but also offer few memorable traits – a sound that fails to impress at first listen but may just be a cheaper – albeit slightly less balanced – alternative to something like a Klipsch Custom 3 or Ortofon e-Q7.
Pros: low cable noise; competent mid-centric sound
Cons: large housings not comfortable in smaller ears; thin cable