You've got your new iPod or MP3 player, loaded up some songs and embraced the digital life. Trouble is, it probably isn't sounding as good as you hoped. Before you box up your Creative Zen Vision or your SanDisk Sansa you might want to check to see if it’s the headphones.
Manufacturers large and small are renowned for shipping low quality headphones in the box, not only to help cut costs, but also to encourage you to buy new and improved upgraded versions.
In steps the Creative Zen Aurvana In-Ear headphones with the promise of being "the ultimate accompaniment to every personal audio or video player". Strong words, but can the company's latest high end in-ear 'phones live up to the claim? We get listening to find out.
Coming in packaging more akin to a perfume box rather than just another pair of 'phones, the Aurvana's start off on the right foot. Beyond the cardboard and the incredibly hard to open plastic inner you get the headphones, different sized ear pieces, an airplane stereo jack, a cleaner and a carry case. The carry case, however, doesn't carry much and travellers hoping not to lose the airport adapter had better find a safe pocket to put it in, as the carry case is too small for it to fit in.
On to the headphones themselves then. The Aurvanas are black, sport three soft, contoured, silicon ear buds to offer you a secure, comfortable fit. The 'phones promise that 90% of ambient noise is reduced when in place and we have to admit in our tests on a plane, train and automobile that claim proved to be true.
As for music playback the Aurvanas performed well, but certainly not as well as we would have liked considering the price. At almost £90 (the price is soon to be dropped we are told to around £60) we were expected a lot more than we got. In our tests with tracks like Flipside by Moloko and Natalie by The Killers, the headphones struggled to replicate the low bass and high treble.
Of course we understand that these things are subjective word, but compared to listening to the same tracks with a pair of Shure 4s and then a pair of Bose's new QuietComfort 3, the Aurvana's noticeably sounded poorer for the experience.
While we understand that both are considerably more expensive (the Shures around twice/three times and the Bose around five times) if we are about to spend over £60 on a set of headphones then we want them to work and work well.
Other problems we experienced were for these phones to work effectively you've really got to shove them in your ear. Something that some readers (especially if you've got plenty of ear wax) won’t feel comfortable doing. Failing to do so means that you won't get any decent sound at all.
We have mixed feelings about the Aurvanas, on the surface they look the part, as well as clearly being an obvious improvement on anything you will get in the box. However we were expecting better performance for the price compared to the competition and better reproduction of bass.
According to Creative, the Aurvana In-Ear sound best playing tracks like Cinema Serenade by Itzhak Perlman with Pittsburg Symphony Orchestra, Layla by Eric Clapton and Miracles: A Journey of Hope and Healing by Paul Cardall however we, and I am sure you as well, don't own any of these masterpieces and I get the feeling that might be the problem: the Aurvanas just aren't cut out for modern music.
One to test before you buy, but if you're going to blow the budget, we would recommend spending a little more and get a pair of Shures instead.