Reproduced sound is affected by a lot of factors, some of them scientific, some are immeasurable. Using the Xonar U1, foobar2000 was employed for playback duties. When you run any headphone off a different device, expect things to sound different. Damping factor, impedance matching from one stage of amplification to the next, IMD from radio frequency noise, or even that cool blue LED can lead to a drastically different experience.
Initial listening was positive, with the Aurvana Live! sounding lively and confident. On “Take Five” in “Jazz At the Pawnshop”, the double bass sounded well controlled, setting the pace for the track with great involvement. Snares and kick drums took on a snappy, punchy feel. High hats sounded sufficiently convincing, if a little splashy. Between each strike the brassy resonance dissolves naturally, with the drums taking on a physicality within the aural image. Trumpets exist within their own space, sounding a little recessed at times. A little more dynamism and air would have contributed to the realism of this track, something which the Aurvana Live! could possibly improve upon.
Dropping the breathtaking rhythms of “Take Five” for Susan Wong’s “First of May”, I was greeted with a delicate approach towards guitars and vocals. A simple recording like this one benefited from the sonic signature of the Aurvana. Instruments, backed up by a strong lower-mids, sounded lush and “present.” As the mix got a little more complex, the Aurvana did not glare over the minor details, instead keeping the overall feel of the song in shape. The Aurvana Live! presented acoustic instruments with a slight smudge of a veil, but remained tonally accurate to a reasonable extent.
On Dire Strait’s “Brothers In Arms,” the opening basslines were a little lost-in-transit. Mark Knopfler’s voice took on an ethereal quality, guitar riffs cutting through the drum beats and electric bass. It was apparent that whatever clarity in the mids and highs offered by the Aurvana were purely limited by the abilities of the Xonar U1.
To add a little Asian zest to the session, Faye Wong’s FLAC rip was brought in. “Shadow” from her “Sky” album is a good test for midbass slam and separation. With the Aurvana, strings sounded somewhat stale, Faye Wong’s voice droning into boredom. Drums sounded a little one-notey, with apparent lack of air around the instruments. If hi-fidelity was the key to the Aurvana, I’m sure it joined the shadows on this track.
With Shirley’s “Red” album, “My Heart Only Has You” set me toe-tapping over the Mandopop evergreen. Instruments were well placed, with the electric bass brimming with tone and texture. Drums sounded particularly realistic, where harmonics of the vibrating drum skin were presented with much aplomb. The Aurvana successfully placed the instruments beyond the boundaries of the head. No crossfeed was employed, and yet I was getting a good representation of depth. Impressive.
Hotel California sounded a little congested with the Aurvana. It was not able to present the magic of the atmosphere, the electric feel of the crowd as they cooed over Hell Freezes Over. Guitars lacked bite, being overwhelmed by the bass.