Creative Aurvana In-Ear 3

Tyll Hertsens's picture

With 20-some years of experience in audio and the venerable ZEN mp3 player line under their belt, the folks at Creative are well-qualified to inject some serious fidelity into an earphone. They've certainly taken a good crack at headphones before with the Creative Aurvana Live!, a well-priced circumaural that is almost universally praised for its sound.

The Aurvana range of in-ears, however, has mostly passed under the audio community's radar. First introduced in 2007, the Aurvana line has held all of Creative's higher-end, balanced armature-based offerings. The latest such creation is the Aurvana In-Ear 3, which packs in two balanced armatures per side. I first heard the In-Ear 3 earlier this year and thought it offered decent value for money. A recent price drop down to the magic $100 mark, however, warrants a closer look at the In-Ear 3.

Design
Meant to sit flush in the ear when worn, the In-Ear 3 utilizes a housing shape similar to higher-end monitors from companies such as Shure and Westone. The plastic shells are smooth to the touch and very lightweight. There is only one real drawback to the ergonomics---the In-Ear 3 is surprisingly large for a dual-armature earphone. This is explained in part by the dual-bore setup, which uses separate sound tubes for each of the two drivers. No matter the reason, listeners with small outer ears may experience mild discomfort from the bulky housings.

The glossy bronze finish is reminiscent of the Shure SE530 and is attractive in an understated way. The strain reliefs are nice and flexible but the cable thickness is slightly disappointing. The rubbery cords are also prone to tangling, though cable noise in the soft, lightweight cord is very low, which is good. Isolation from external noise is quite good as well---above average among similarly-priced in-ears and very much sufficient for the typical commute.

Also praiseworthy is the accessory pack; in addition to the usual 3 pairs of silicone eartips, Creative includes 2 pairs of foam tips, an airplane adapter, and an earphone cleaning tool with the In-Ear 3. A leathery hard-shell carrying case with an integrated cable winder is included for storage and the original box can act as an acrylic display case. Is the In-Ear 3 worth putting on display? For that we need to take a look at the sound.

Company Info
Creative Labs Inc.
1901 McCarthy Boulevard
Milpitas, CA 95035
408 428 6600
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Comments
johthor's picture
Could you do a brief

Could you do a brief comparison of this reviewed item with the Shure SE215.  I bought the SE215 after your excellent review of them and have been happy with them for the last year.  Thank you so much for all your excellent reviews they are much appreciated.

johthor's picture
I just checked and it was

I just checked and it was Tyll that did the review of the SE215.  A comparison would still be appreciated if you are familiar with the SE215.  A comparison would be interesting as they are in the same price range.  Thank you.

ljokerl's picture
Sure

I've heard the SE215 and reviewed it over at Head-Fi. It's a nice earphone and I think that as a total package it's very hard to beat for the price (removable cables, nice accessories, low cable noise, consumer-friendly sound that's still pretty accurate, etc.)

 

The Creative is the more balanced earphone - it's got less bass (though I wish it had slightly more linear sub-bass extension) and sounds more even through the midrange and lower treble. Both earphones are a little light up top for me. At this price point that's fine. Overall, the balance of the Creatives gives more focus to the midrange while the SE215 definitly pushes that bass and places the midrange back a bit compared to the In-Ear 3.

 

Overall, they are two good earphones with two different signatures both of which are smooth and non-fatiguing.

yuriv's picture
Shouldn't be a problem for the most common portable players

"This, therefore, should be a headphone driven with the low output impedance of a portable amp if possible. When driven directly from portable players, low- and mid-treble response may fall off a bit."

That might be a bit overstated. For a portable player with an output impedance of 5 ohms (the worst case for a recent Apple product, the iPod Classic), the electrical response will be within a 2.1-dB window, if I'm doing my arithmetic right with your impedance measurements (high and low of 110 and 15 ohms, respectively).

An iPhone 5 (3.3 ohms output impedance) will play flat within 1.5 dB. For the rest of the recent Apple portables (2 ohms Zout or less) it'll be within 1 dB. The Sandisk Sansa Clip/Clip+/Clip Zip/Fuze should deliver flat responses as well.

According to your measurements, this IEM is sensitive enough that you might hear the player's noise during quiet passages (with the Sansas doing a little worse than the iDevices). This is where something like an O2 might help. But who wants to lug that around?

So if you have the typical garden-variety iDevice or Sansa, just plug it in and enjoy!

ljokerl's picture
Agreed

No doubt the modern iDevices and Sansas should be fine. I also had no complaints with my usual Cowon J3 (~2 ohm output impedance). There are more and more people using other smartphones, however, and those often are not nearly as well-performing. My HTC Android phone measures at something like 25 ohms. There are many reasons I wouldn't want to use my phone as a source but this is definitely one. 

 

This is all good info to have out there for those looking to make an informed purchasing decision.

sue4's picture
Interesting

Would you please try to combine it w/ the hi-fi profile from Accudio on iPod Touch and give commentary? I am very curious whether EQ software (such as Accudio and Dirac HD Player, the later is for EarPods) do enhance sound quality, objectively (using graphs)! I listen to them, but only got a subjective impression since I do not have such a sophisticate measurement tools. Thank you, |joker|

ljokerl's picture
This is probably something...

...we should have Tyll address. He does all the measurement wizardry, I just have my two ears. I'm not much of an Apple user but the Android sound-enhancing apps I've tried basically provide different EQ presets. Nothing that can't be done better with a good parametric EQ and some listening time. 

Tyll Hertsens's picture
I'd like...

....to do a piece on some of these new ideas (Dirac, etc), but will have to do some programming of my test gear to accept playback from the independant source. I've got to finish the amp testing stuff before I do that (which, come hell or high water, I'll do before InnerFidelity's second anv. in April). So maybe by late in the year I'll be able to rig up a test.

melvin's picture
Interesting review.

I'm currently on the market for an IEM that's around 100 bucks and currently have the Shure SE-215, Mee A151 (or A161)  and Westone UM1 as options. The SE-215 is currently the front-runner I should say. I like the A151 because its the cheapest (and has braided cord, lol). And I'm just intrigued with Westone UM1 as some people say it has a fairly neutral sound. In your opinion, does the Aurvana In-EAR 3 best all of those  options handily?

ljokerl's picture
DIfferent strokes.

Three different signatures. Technically I would say the Creative In-Ear 3 wins out over the SE215 and A151 but probably not over the A161P as that has really clean, tight, linear bass that the In-Ear 3 can't match. The SE215 has the most bass while the other three are more mid-focused, with the A161P less so than the In-Ear 3 and A151.

 

If you're looking for neutral it'll have to be the In-Ear 3 or A161P (I can't opine on the UM1 as I haven't heard that), depending on whether you prefer something a little warmer, smoother, and more laid-back (In-Ear 3) or more extended, forward, and energetic (A161P). 

 

The A151 does have the best cord but it is slightly outclassed here in terms of sound, as it should be at the $50-60 it sells for. 

sfoclt's picture
Thanks for the review

I'm a long-time lover of the Shure 530/535 and drag them around everywhere.  This sounds like a good choice for somewhat inexpensive stand-ins for more "challenging" trips (like the walks that sometime in the last 20 years took the place of runs).

Seth195208's picture
Apple iem's

Tyll,

Apple's "new" IEM's seem to be the least expensive dual balanced armature available. Have you considered testing them?

ljokerl's picture
Apple duals

I'm no Tyll but I've heard the apple duals before. They've been around since 2008 or so. To my ears they don't offer a whole lot of advantages over a solid single-armature set but if you don't need much bass they are reasonably-priced considering the level of clarity offered. Been hoping for an updated version but it hasn't happened yet.

Seth195208's picture
Ljokerl

The body of work you have created so far for the IEM community is amazingly proliphic. I hope you are getting paid somehow for all the work you have done. You and Tyll also make the perfect team, with your well balanced, subjective IEM reviews and his measurement expertise. I hope the colaboration continues..

ljokerl's picture
Thanks

I appreciate that. I definitely hope to continue the collaboration. It's great to see some of the earphones I've previously covered on Head-Fi measured here - having objective data to compare and contrast with my own subjective impressions is educational, to say the least. 

ranilus's picture
AIE 3

TBH I was rather disappointed with the Aurvana In-Ear 3. I feel they have taken a step backwards from the In-Ear 2. I enjoyed the AIE2's form, fit, and SQ. In comparison, the AIE3 is much bulkier and more uncomfortable to wear, with no improvement to the cable (still really, really thin). SQ is not an improvement over the AIE2 - the AIE3 sounds about 90% same but less organic and more awkward sounding. The AIE2 is very natural and sweet, and uses dynamic driver. Creative's biggest mistake was to tune the AIE3, which uses BAs, to the sound of the AIE2. The end result is what are mechanical sounding armature drivers trying to deliver a natural, smooth, and sweet sounding SQ. 

 

All I can say for the Aurvana In-Ear 3 is, YUCK. 

ljokerl's picture
Maybe the AIE2 is better...

I can't comment on the sound of the AIE2 as I haven't heard it, but I do know that Creative advertises it having a single balanced armature driver and not a dynamic transducer.

latebeat's picture
Nice review but

Nice review, however I would like to see some more reviews of newer models like the sony xba 3ibp, 4ibp etc