The Creative Aurvana X-Fi headphones block external noise and improve audio quality. But cheap they are not.

Noise-cancelling headphones prevent the roar of jet engines (or PC fans) from marring your listening experience.

Creative has now added X-Fi sound card technology to the Aurvana X-Fi noise-cancelling headphones. X-Fi technology promises to restore the original sound quality of music compressed into MP3 files and to convert stereo audio into 3D surround sound. Does it work? Well, yes and no.

Two AAA batteries fuel the Creative Aurvana X-Fi headphones. Flick the power on and select the X-Fi option, and the headphones improve most MP3 files. Both 128 kilobits per second (kbps) and 196kbps recordings of Green Day's "Minority" had distinctly heftier sound. In fact, X-Fi gave music a boost in any format, compressed or not.

We wish that X-Fi CMSS-3D, the 3D-sound-simulating component of Creative's X-Fi technology, worked as well as the compressed-music enrichment feature did. Unfortunately, most surround simulators fall flat - and X-Fi CMSS-3D is no exception, sacrificing sound quality just to trick your ears. Unless you enjoy listening to music through six tinny channels, forget about using CMSS-3D.

That gripe aside, we found plenty to love in the Creative Aurvana X-Fi. The solidly constructed cans felt good on my head. And although the noise-cancelling technology didn't fully silence ambient sounds, it did reduce the drone of a commuter bus.


The Creative Aurvana X-Fi is not inexpensive. But the nearest competitor, Bose's QuietComfort 2, costs just as much and offers half the features. Which would you rather have - headphones that merely block noise, or headphones that block noise and improve your music? The choice is obvious.