Headphones with bragging rights to Bluetooth and noise-cancelling are in short supply – a peculiar thing when, in theory, they should go hand in glove.
After all, how can you bop down the street to your latest album when the drone of public transport keeps butting in?
Creative seems to be riding this wavelength. It already has two portable sound-busters to its name either side of the £200 mark.
Its latest flagship Platinum model brings changes to its predecessor – the Aurvana Gold model (£180) – that go beyond bigger 50mm drivers and a new tan and silver finish.
Noise-cancelling circuitry has had a revamp. Quad microphones replace the dual arrangement so, logically, more sound should be blocked out.
Noise reduction is claimed to have improved from 85 per cent to 90 per cent, with sensitivity increased from 17dB to 20dB.
A new ‘Tri-Mode’ function gives users three noise-cancelling modes – Indoor, Outdoor or Airplane – too, so sound can be more effectively blocked out in specific environments.
We test so many noise-cancelling headphones that flop when it comes to deterring sound. These ones live up to their name rather well though.
Play CHVRCHES’ Recover when switched to ‘Inside’ and humdrum drone of the office is severely lessened. ‘Outside’ mode blocks out road traffic and river noise quite effectively, while ‘Airplane’ pulls this off slightly better.
It’s still, though, not the stillness produced by our supreme sound-blockers, the multi-Award-winning Bose QuietComfort 15s.
The Platinum’s features don’t stop there. Thanks to NFC (near field communication), a Bluetooth connection can be made by tapping a compatible device onto the headset.
Bluetooth supports aptX, and connections can be held within a 10m range.
Creative has brought some of its own novelties onboard too. Creative ShareMe lets you share music with your mate, providing they have a Creative wireless headset as well.
The Platinums can also be wirelessly connected to two music sources simultaneously through Creative Multipoint – handy when you’re waiting for a conference call, say, while playing music on another device.
If anything outlines Creative’s intentions into the business traveller market, though, it’s the artistry engineered into the headphones’ design.
This is a pristine pair of cans, clad in tan brown faux leather and a thick silver plastic headband that would look quite at home draped over the arm of a business class recliner.
Even the earcups’ nooks and crannies are neatly trimmed or coated in a soft tan material. They feel the part too, rigid and durable to handle – albeit a little creaky in the plastic joints.
Thick memory-foam earpads enclose the 50mm neodymium drivers and fit snug over our ears.
On the bulky side of the Bluetooth headphone race, they aren’t exactly the ideal travel buddy for a short morning commute.
They don’t collapse inwards or compress their large size in any way. Wireless rivals are often more conveniently compact – our Award-winning Bluetooth headphones, the Philips M1BT, are almost half the weight.
Thin cushioning underneath the headband doesn’t make them particularly comfortable either.
The discomforting pressure they put on our heads made us want to don the aforesaid Boses after half an hour.
We’d imagine their company during a long haul flight to be pretty bothersome – a dent to their intended purpose considering their luxurious design, ‘airplane’ noise-cancelling and airplane adapter accessory suggest this very suitability.
We wirelessly pair them to a Google Nexus by holding down the multifunction key for five seconds. This button does most of the work when it comes to pairing, voice calling and playback controls.
Pressing it twice during playback also gives you a voice status of battery levels. The rechargeable battery should give you 15 hours of playback or 21 hours of talk time before needing around a two-hour refuel via the supplied USB cable.
There are separate volume controls and skip buttons to change or search through tracks, though, and a switch to power noise-cancellation – all of which are practically located on the right earcup.
It doesn’t take long to get used to the control layout, and voice activation prevents you having to take them off during playback.
It seems Creative has thought of almost everything when it comes to features and usability. So has the same consideration been given to dishing up a decent sound?
The very use of Bluetooth strips sound quality, remember. But even so, their sound leaves a lot to be desired.
We chop and change between the Platinums, Bose QuietComfort 15s and the Philips M1BTs, and both rivals demonstrate more clarity and vocal presence.
The Strokes’ vocal formation is intentionally distorted, but the Platinums made it sound hazy during Someday. Voices during phonecalls come through loud and clear though.
It’s no secret that Creative has opted for a more reserved presentation here.
The Platinums are fairly subdued, putting Michael Jackson’s Scream through the motions, but failing to make its naturally rapturous, eclectic sound particularly enthralling. Really, we expect more bounce for our ounce.
The M1BTs aren’t noise-cancelling, but champ at the bit with most recordings in comparison.
It’s this get-up-and-go approach and a touch more dynamic disparity that we hanker for from the Platinums.
More thump is exerted in the lower frequencies, though more dexterity in the bassline riff in Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Give It Away wouldn’t go amiss.
It’s not all doom and gloom. There’s plenty of detail, and tonally they’re as balanced as you’d hope at this price.
Tunes chug along with enough drive to suit most musical genres, and a roomy headstage helps generate a good concert atmosphere in a live recording of Suede’s Wild Ones.
Their fusion of spaciousness and a casual, refined sound would make them good easy listening apparatus for a journey to Middle Earth and back, twice – if only they were comfortable to wear for that long.
A wired connection brings a touch more tonal balance and overall clarity, as expected. But not enough to trump the reigning champs at this price point even then.
And that’s the crux of it. These Creatives simply can’t compete with the Bluetooth or noise-cancelling chart-toppers.
They do cram both features – and a great deal more – into one headset though, and this dual-spec is far and few between in headphones at any price.
If you’re desperate for decent sound-blockers for music on the move, then these will make a fine choice. And nice-looking ones too.
But if you can live without one or the other, there’s a catalogue of better-sounding, comfier cans out there that we’d be much happier handing over £200 for.