Creative Aurvana In-Ear 3
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.
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.