Like the Aurvana, the HS-930i is a canalbud-style headset. In essence, Canalbuds split the difference between traditional earbuds and in-ear-canal ("canalphone") models. Since they fit partially in the ear canal, canalbuds block some external noise and form an acoustic seal that improves bass performance. However, they don't block as much sound as true in-ear-canal models, and they share a few drawbacks with canalphones: fit challenges, cable noise, and the odd sound of your own voice that comes from having your ears plugged while talking.
Compared to the Aurvana, the Creative HS-930i has a more eye-catching, retro design. Each L-shaped earpiece mates a capsule-shaped body with an aluminum stem, the latter fitted with clear-silicone eartips. The top half of capsule is stem-matching metal, while the rubbery, black bottom half leads into a black cable that exits at a 45-degree angle. The seam between the two halves features a thin, metallic band - blue for the left earpiece, red for the right. Interestingly, you can twist the two halves of this capsule to fine-tune the cable's angle relative to the rest of the earpiece.
The right-hand cable hosts a small, cylindrical module with a microphone and a one-button remote. The Creative HS-930i remote's button is flush with the body of the module, but sports a small, raised dot to make the button easier to locate. We like this design, which makes the button unobtrusive but still easy to use.
The Creative HS-930i's package includes small, medium, and large pairs of eartips; a velvety drawstring carrying bag; and a "PC adaptor" that splits the headphone and microphone portions of the cable, allowing you to use the headset with PCs and older Macs that have separate headphone and microphone jacks.
Although we found the Creative HS-930i's L-shaped earpiece design to be visually appealing, from experience we know that such earpieces - a common canalbud design - are somewhat incompatible with extra-large ears. To get an appropriate fit with many canalbuds, we need either earpieces that we can insert deeper than intended or extra large eartips. The HS-930i has neither. With some experimentation, we found a positioning that sealed the headphones properly so we could evaluate them, although this precise position was easily disrupted. Those with large ear canals should check fit before buying.
We tested the Creative HS-930i's microphone by making a recording of my voice and comparing it to the recordings we've produced with other headsets we've reviewed. The HS-930i's microphone sounded rich and natural, but was just a little on the quiet side. A friend confirmed this assessment during a test phone call. Overall, microphone performance was above average and more than adequate for voice memos and phone calls.
While the Aurvana's audio performance was somewhat bland, we found the Creative HS-930i's sound to be much more exciting. Higher frequencies, particularly cymbals, are emphasized, and while a few test tracks sounded bright and grating, treble is generally clean and detailed. High frequencies were very harsh when we first listened, but 20 hours of burn-in took most of the edge off. Bass frequencies are also emphasized, but missing some detail, with occasional muddiness in the mid- and upper-bass frequencies. The HS-930i's midrange is pleasant with impressive detail, producing rich vocals and electric-guitar tones, as well as sweet string and piano sounds. However, the midrange could be overwhelmed by the occasionally muddy bass frequencies.
Overall, the Creative HS-930i offered audio performance that was on par with the better canalbuds we've reviewed. Each offers impressive performance, but none are perfect, so choosing one is essentially a choice of tradeoffs. If you're a fan of treble, though, the HS-930i offers the most impressive treble detail of the bunch.
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