A week with the Creative Aurvana X-Fis

I am really late in posting this post, but I have been so busy lately.. that I really don’t have much time or enthusism to post much. It’s kinda like what Uzyn wrote.. With work pilling up and twitter the incentive to blog is really very little.

Anyway.. so I received a review unit of the Creative Aurava X-Fi for Tech65 from Creative a few weeks ago.. I had it for a whole week and I did use it quite a bit during that week. So here is my review about it..

The Creative Aurvana X-Fi is Creative’s attempt to combine their noise canceling headphone, with the X-Fi. So the 3 main features of the headphones consists of the Noise Cancelling; X-Fi Crystalizer; CMSS-3D.

Design.

The heaphones are well deisgned. They look nice.. A little geeky with the blue leds.. but I liked it. The buttons on the side simple and easy to remember.. So one doesn’t have to remove the headphone to switch on/off a certain feature.

I also loved the fitting, it fit snugly over my head and around my ear.. It did not feel too uncomfortable.. My friends did complain that it was tad too small for him.. but well.. we can’t always cater for the big-headed people..

My favorite design feature has to be the use of a standard stereo jack where the cable connects to the headphone. This makes it easier to replace the cable, if one gets damaged, or ..in the really horrible event… cut. It also allows one to use a cable of ones choice length, type, quality… I like this customizability option..

Sound:

Since the headphones themselves are not as spectacular as the features, I will talk about the sound with respect to each feature.

Noise Canceling

The closed cans, which fit really snugly, already provide a bit of ambient noise canceling. But, the real magic happens when you switch on the active noise canceling. It does take a few milliseconds to initialize, and during that time you won’t hear anything.. But once it start, it’s like getting dropped into a sound proof room.. OK. I am exaggerating, but its is some of the nicest noise canceling I have heard. And it’s really fun to realize that active noise canceling makes you not hear your own voice…

The canceling is well done. It does cut out the din and sound of TV Mobile in the bus, or the noise from the MRT traveling in the tunnel. But the voice of the super loud announcements in the MRT, or the uncle shouting into his cellphone, are heard, with just a little attenuation. This is good or bad, depending on how many years you have had in Singapore.. :)

My only issue with the noise canceling… two actually.. are the feeling of heavy pressure on my ear drums and the coloring of sound during noise canceling. When you turn on noise canceling, the way active noise canceling works, a lot more energy is put into your ear.. This is felt as pressure built on your ear drum.. and trust me.. its un-nerving.. especially after using it for long times.

Also, I noticed that whenever noise canceling turned on, the bass gets boosted!! What?? Why? Can’t you leave the bass? I’ll pump it if I need to in my player.. I don’t need the headphones to do that…

X-Fi Crystalizer

Next to the noise canceling, the X-Fi crystalizer was the something I tried the most. The crystalizer is one of X-Fi’s technologies that is integrated into this headphone. It is supposed to “up-sample” music and make it sounds like a 24bit 192kHz Track.

Now, that I will call bull.. While I can’t believe they are recovering the “lost” information, whatever they are doing sounds lovely. After listening to some tracks I realized, that it felt like adding a little high end, a bit of compression and a touch of echo.. and it works.. Most of the tacks on my Zen are mp3s, and the sounded more ‘live’ through the crystalizer.. The sound was indeed brighter..

CMSS-3D

This was the feature I tried the least. It is aimed at gamers and people watching movies. And the idea is to recover 3D information from stereo tracks, and make a stereo track sounds like surround sound. What’s with creative and recovering lost information… They should really start a backup and recovery service… But I digress..

At the demo, I was told, that when I turned this on, I’d feel that instead of listening from under the singers arms, I’d feel that I am listening to a live concert as an audience. Point being, that it ads a lot of stage, and possibly color mimicking the music being played live.

This is also supposed to help in gaming as it allow the player to feel the sound coming from various other direction, and not just left or right. Similarly for movies.. But being separated from these two form of entertainment for a great deal of time (~2-3 months) I did not bother trying it out… but I did try it with music.. and I absolutely hated it. And trust me, I turned it on a few times, just for the review.. as there is no way I would have had the courage to listen it again and again.. It basically killed the stereo in the tracks completely.. I agree it doesn’t work with most of the tracks which I listen to where there is heavy panning and lots of electronic sound.. but still, I did not find even 1 track in my library that sound anything close to listenable in that 3D CMSS mode.. And stop snickering about my choice of music..

Conslusion.

So overall, I’d say its a great piece of technology. As my friend pointed out.. if you are something like an audiophile, or if you care about fidelity and accurate representation of sound.. don’t even bother. But otherwise a lovely pair.. especially to use while traveling or at work.. Ah.. at last.. a peaceful office.. :)

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