The E-Mu Walnut: A Creative Aurvana Live! Woodied-Up
Originating with the Foster OEM design (model 443741, page H-4 of this .pdf) and seeing the light of day first as the Denon AD-H1001, then the Creative Aurvana Live! (CAL!), this model has now been refreshed as the E-Mu Walnut. This is a lovely example of a companyin this case Creative Technologies in the form of its subsidiary company E-Mu Systemsrecognizing they have a solid-performer on their hands, and incrementally improving it. I wish I saw this more often.
Creative may have learned this lesson the hard way in this case. A couple years after its introduction of the CAL!, it was replace with the swankier looking, but not as good sounding, Creative Aurvana Live!2. Value minded headphone enthusiasts groaned...and continued to buy the CAL!. Evidently sales of the older model must have kept up a good pace as Creative never discontinued it, and the CAL! remains available on Creative's site to this day at the bargain price of $52.99. I reviewed the CAL! and put it up on the "Wall of Fame." This is a darned good little headphone!
Taking the model one step further, the E-Mu Walnut adds wooden capsule backs (Walnut, of course) to this long-lived favorite. The company is also releasing a higher end model called the E-Mu Teak, which is a new varient to the famous Foster model 443742 (page H-4 of this .pdf) that spawned the Denon AD-HX000 series, and then the Fostex TH900 and TH610.
A couple of months ago I met Chan Ming Tat, Director at E-Mu Systems, at CanLanta where he was displaying the new E-Mu Walnut and E-Mu Teak headphones, along with a mesmerizing array of wood and finish samples. It's probably fairest to let him explain in the video below.
The interesting sentence for me was, "We have some debate in our company of how much change is the wood, and we go ahead and do it and found there is a difference. People like the wood. This is why we are offering this to the public."
Well then, let's have a look:
The E-Mu Walnut (approximate price $149; sold on Massdrop at $100) is a full-sized, sealed headphone. The Walnut uses the same biocellulose as the CAL!, in fact the insides, except for the wooden back, appear identical to the CAL!.
The only thing I saw that might have been different is it seems like the filter paper over the rear center hole behind the driver might be a little denser than the CAL!.
Overall build quality and styling are a bit ho-hum for a $100-$150 headphone. But I've found the CAL! to be surprisingly durable and comfortable over time, and the sound quality sure as heck makes up for any lost style points.
Headband and ear pads are a nice grade of protein leather and are amply plush. The memory foam earpad openings are 38mm wide X 50mm tall making them cozy, but large enough for most ears. The headband pad is quite a bit stiffer than the ear pads, but the curvature of the pad does a good job of spreading the load across your head some, and their light weight makes for a fairly comfortable wearing experience.
The cable is in a "Y" configuration, entering at the bottom of each ear capsule, and is terminated with a straight 3.5mm TRS plug. It does not have a remote control, and no other accessories come with the headphones. There are no folding features on this headphone to make it smaller for storage and transport.
On to the sound quality....