review

Creative Aurvana Trio Wireless & BT-W3 Bundle Review Bluetooth Neckband With AptX LL Audio Transmitter

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Some people like an over emphasized dynamic bass sound, while other people prefer a more natural sound across all frequencies with clear instrument separation. If you are on the latter group, the Aurvana Trio Wireless will be the kind of headphone sound you're looking, all nicely packaged inside a snazzy neckband solution.
The Aurvana Trio Wireless neckband weighs just 40 grams and measures 40cm long from the top of the neckband to the tip of the earbuds. The cabling alone measures 23cm long and has a rounded and siliconized sheath, covering the internal wiring. The neckband section measures 40cm long, making the weight and height equally proportioned. The neckband has a rounded 4cm diameter and, it's made entirely of silicone rubber with metal-like plating covering the ends of the neckband. The tips of the neckband have an interesting conical shape reminiscent of a stylus pen.
The Aurvana Trio Wireless re-charge via micro USB connection; hence they integrate a micro USB port, which is located on the underside of the neckband, which is out of sight. The micro USB charging port is covered by a thin hard plastic cover, which is hinged to the neckband. The protective cover is easy to close and open but, it has a very thin plastic hinge. 
The protective charging port cover doesn't have a seal o-ring, which partly explains why the Aurvana Trio Wireless are not IPX rated; hence there is no protection against dust and water. That said, the charging port cover will help prevent large particles like pocket lint from clogging the charging port.
Aside from the somewhat flimsy charging port cover, the Aurvana Trio Wireless have a solid construction throughout, which is reinforced where it matters the most at the joints where the Trio Wireless has a noticeably thicker sheath diameter that extends onto the back of the earbud itself encircling it. The Trio Wireless earbuds have a quirky glass orchid pot design with a narrow bottom and a wide top section to accommodate the three drivers.
The Trio Wireless body shell has a shiny plastic half construction and a metal magnetic backing construction, which allows you to wear the Trio Wireless securely around the neck when not in use. The tiny holes on the driver body are vent ports, not microphone pinholes. 
There is actually just one microphone pinhole located on the neckband, near the charging port. The microphone has an omnidirectional pickup pattern, which comes in loud and clear and naturally picks up everything but, the integration of cVc 8.0 noise cancellation does balance out the noise.
The pinhole next to the volume + button contains an led that feedbacks status. This led does flash blue every 2 seconds during audio playback. Creative brand etching can be found on the side of the neckband and on the back of the earbuds. The internal 130mAh lithium polymer battery accepts a maximum 5V/0.5A input charge, which fully charges the Trio Wireless in 2 hours. The Aurvana Trio Wireless 2-hour charging time is actually pretty good considering the maximum runtime of 20 hours (with volume set at 50%).
Another feature that makes the Aurvana Trio Wireless stand out from others is the integration of Super X-Fi, which is software emulation based on the Super X-Fi dongle. While not quite on the same level as the Super X-Fi amp dongle hardware, the Super X-Fi mobile application does a good job of making the listening experience more immersive and spatial similar to how "Windows Sonic for Headphones" does it by widening the sound stage.
The Super X-Fi mobile application uses your smartphone camera to map your face and your ears, using algorithms built-in to the software to basically tailor the sound stage according to the distance between your ears; hence different people will get a different sound experience, which is neat. 
The Super X-Fi app also lets you tweak the sound manually via a customizable 10-band equalizer with dedicated bass and treble sliders. It's worth mentioning also that the Super X-Fi app can only apply the tailored sound signature to audio that is actually on your device. It will not work with streaming services such as YouTube.
There are three mechanical buttons on the Aurvana Trio Wireless neckband. The buttons don't have a clicky actuation; hence they don't make any sound when pressed. A silent actuation is nice, although clicky buttons do provide more tactile feedback. Button functions include volume control, skipping tracks, answering/ending calls. The Trio Wireless earbuds make an audible beep sound when max volume is reached.
The exciting part about the Aurvana Trio Wireless lies beneath the body shell, which features a three-driver setup, consisting of one dynamic driver for the bass and dedicated balanced armature drivers for the treble and midrange. The Aurvana Trio Wireless has an interesting driver setup with the balanced armature drivers positioned (side by side) closer to the nozzle tip and right in front of the dynamic driver.
The Aurvana Trio Wireless uses an 11mm dynamic driver size made with bio-cellulose, which makes the dome of the Trio Wireless dynamic driver have a paper-like texture similar to a speaker paper cone. Bio-cellulose is actually attributed for the success of Sony's legendary (and much sought-after) MDR-CD3000, which was released in the 1990's.
Most driver diaphragms today are made of either aluminum, titanium or beryllium metal. The latter tends to make headphones more expensive, especially if the driver uses pure beryllium. The exciting thing about bio-cellulose is that it isn't metal but bacteria-grown material that performs similar to paper, producing a more natural sound. Biocellulose drivers tend to have an elevated low end so, they require a precise type of tuning to accommodate the higher frequencies.
The Trio Wireless don't have this potential issue since the dynamic driver handles just the bass response, which is soft and soulful. When using the included foam ear tips, the bass has an even deeper "slam" to it. 
The balanced armature drivers do their job as expected, delivering clear and clean sound without any apparent sound cross-over or distortion. There is no rating of headphone sensitivity but max volume output is high, certainly around the 100dB mark and without distortion.
The Aurvana Trio Wireless Bluetooth 5.0 chip supports AAC, SBC, aptX HD, aptX LL, as well as multipoint pairing, which is a feature the vast majority of bluetooth headphones do not support. Multipoint lets you connect the Aurvana Trio Wireless to two devices (i.e. phone and computer) so, you can listen to audio and take calls from both devices at the same time without having to disconnect one device.
Passive noise isolation is something else you get with the Trio Wireless. The included ear foam tips have a similar performance to ear plugs and Comply ear tips with the foam being slightly tacky/sticky, which makes the earbuds stay in the ears really well. That said, the Trio Wireless earbuds are actually lighter than they look, weighing just 5 grams each, which is on par with the weight of a lot of true wireless earbuds. For situational awareness though, you should definitely use the included silicone ear tips, which don't block you out from your environment as much; hence safer when walking about.
Aside from ear tips, you get a Creative-branded semi-rigid EVA case, which weighs 40 grams and measures 13.5cm long, 7cm wide and 2.5cm deep externally. The internal dimensions are 12.5cm long, 5.5cm wide and 2cm deep. The internal layout is simple with an elastic webbing strap and a elastic mesh pocket to keep accessories. There is a subtle Creative etching on top of the case, which has a PU coating and a regular zip with plastic coils. The zip seam has no water proofing; hence the zip case is just water resistant.
Should be pointed out that the vast majority of phones do not support aptX LL, including Apple's iPhones and iPads and games consoles. Some Android phones do "silently" support aptX LL, which you can check within the Bluetooth settings of the phone. Most Android phones do support regular aptX and also aptX HD. In order to enjoy low latency audio via the Aurvana Trio Wireless neckband, your phone does have to support it. Fortunately, you can buy an external audio transmitter such as the Creative BT-W3, which supports aptX LL (low latency) and aptX HD codecs.
Any audio transmitter will work with the Aurvana Trio Wireless. However, if you want the best possible audio stream without video/audio syncing issues when gaming on a console or watching videos, you should definitely get an audio transmitter with aptX LL support, which reduces lag down to 32 ms. Regular aptX has a lag of 100ms, while aptX HD and AAC codecs cut lag down to 150ms and 170ms respectively. SBC codec has a lag of around 220ms, which is very noticeable.
A couple other things the Creative BT-W3 audio transmitter has going for, it's the addition of Bluetooth 5.0, a USB-C to USB-A converter/adapter and an analog microphone. The Creative BT-W3 has a USB-C connector so, you can connect it to any USB-C device like a USB-C smartphone, which is useful if you want to do mobile gaming over Bluetooth aptX LL. The analog microphone that comes with the Creative BT-W3 is also useful because when connected via aptX LL you won't be able to use the mic from the Trio Wireless.
The Creative BT-W3 analog microphone makes voice calls over aptX LL Bluetooth possible. The microphone is good but, it is a near-field ribbon type that needs to be closed to your mouth to pick up clear sound. This maybe an issue if you have the Creative BT-W3 analog microphone inserted on a laptop or desktop PC. Having said all of this, the Creative BT-W3 adapter does allow you to use standard A2DP Bluetooth so, you can use the mic from the Trio Wireless by enabling HFP mode, which is easily done by by pressing the button on Creative BT-W3 twice.
The Creative BT-W3 analog microphone is a 4-pole microphone; hence it requires a 4 pole 3.5 mm audio jack to work. The headphone jack of smartphones supports 3-pole and 4-pole. A 3 pole is basically a stereo connection. The easiest way to tell a 4-pole audio jack is by inserting a wired pair of headphones or earbuds that have a built-in microphone. If the microphone works, the audio jack is a 4-pole - that simple.
The Creative BT-W3 audio transmitter, converter and analog microphone have a plastic construction and all three pieces weigh just 8 grams. The housing of the audio transmitter measures just 1.5cm long. When combined with the converter the length is 3.7cm long, 1.3cm wide and 0.5cm thick. 
The Creative BT-W3 draws very little battery power (> 40mA) so, no worries draining the battery of a handheld device. You can buy the Aurvana Trio Wireless neckband and BT-W3 audio transmitter separately but, they can also be bought as a bundle, which you can buy directly from Creative.

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