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E-MU Walnuts: truly the best variant of the CAL?

Updated: Jan 3, 2021

Hey guys, welcome back to the Neighborhood. It’s Your Friendly Neighborhood Reviewer with InToit Reviews. For today’s review we’re taking a look at another headphone from E-MU. The E-MU Walnut. This review is thanks in part to Ricky RDT, as these are his and he sent them into the channel for a review. I’ll place a link to his channel in the description below to say thanks.

Anyhow, E-MU as a company really likes wood, and they invest in the idea that wood cups, in general, really enhance the sound of headphones. And, here the E-MU Walnuts are no exception. In fact, it is because of the success of this headphone, I believe, that the E-MU Purplehearts from Drop were made, which is the Drop specific variant of the CAL, or Creative Aurvana Live, that Drop made in collaboration with E-MU.

As I own a set of Purplehearts, I covered them early on the history of the channel, and I’ll place a link to that review in the description below for your reference. This will be important if you are interested in the build of this headphone or want to know a little more information about E-MU as a company, as I won’t really cover that information again here. Instead, I’ll just let you refer back to that posting for that information.

So, I won’t be overly duplicitous here, other than to say that the build consists of the same rattly plastic and leatherette construction with wooden cups and a short, rubber, attached, 3.5mm cable; which seems intended for portable use. Although the build doesn’t inspire confidence upon first inspection, I will note that I have had my Purplehearts for at least a few years, have been rather rough with them, and they have withstood both the punishment and the time, at least so far. So, take that information for what you will. The major differences between the build of the Purplehearts and the Walnuts is that cups are encased in shiny, chrome plastic on the Walnuts, and the Walnuts have a walnut cup rather than a purpleheart one.

Onto the sound. These are warm and dark bois. This actually surprised me, because the Purplehearts have mainly been reviewed as the darkest variant of the CAL, but honestly, I found the Walnuts to be even darker, at least in the traditional sense. What I mean by this, is that the treble is significantly rolled, and even more so than it is in the Purplehearts. Of additional distinction, there is additional subbass presence in the Walnuts, and because of this the Walnuts appear smoother or more even to the ear.

In this way the Walnuts distinguish themselves from the Purplehearts; which have more of a midbass presence in comparison. Unfortunately, both the Walnuts and Purplehearts suffer from bass bleed into the rest of the frequency response range, but again, the Walnuts bleed is more from the subbass region rather than the midbass. This results in a warmer, more mellow, and a more even-sounding presentation, whereas the Purplehearts come across as more traditionally V-shaped in comparison.

Perhaps this is why, with the stocks pads on both sets, the Purplehearts have been perceived by some in the audiophile community to be "worse," and I have to say that I do prefer the sound of the Walnut for a more relaxed listen when comparing both sets with their stock pads. Simply put the Walnuts are more coherent and cohesive sounding with their stock pads. Having said that, the Walnuts are also more limited in their definition, fuzzier, less resolving, and, despite a mild increase mid-range presence, offer a dearth of mid-range and vocal clarity in comparison to the stock Purplehearts.

So aside from the mid-bass bleed of the Purplehearts, I would say that the Purplehearts are actually the better headphone of the two. Especially if you value any semblance of treble performance in your playback. But fear not the midbass bleed of the Purplehearts, because if you’ve watched that video, then you would know that I have a fix for the bass bleed there in the form of a pad adjustment to large, Meze 99 Classics pads. With this pad swap, the Purplehearts’ bass bleed mostly remits- offering additional clarity and balance to the presentation of these affordable, and portable, cans. And while I tried the swap to Meze 99 Classic pads on the Walnuts, the results just weren’t as favorable. Generally speaking, the Walnuts remained the warmer and fuzzier variant of the two sets, and although it gained a bit of stage and treble, it wasn’t sufficient to make up the quality gap between the two headphones in my opinion.

So, having now heard the O.G. Cals, Walnuts, and Purplehearts to date, I would say that with the large Meze Pad adjustment the Purplehearts are surprisingly the best variant that I have had the opportunity to listened too. Having said that, I see a lot of posts in the community about the newer, Special Edition version of the CAL being the best one, so I’m kind of interested now in giving those a shot as well. Let me know if you’re also interested in the comments below, and if so, I might pick one up a set for the channel to review and comparison in the future. And in the meantime, don’t forget to like this video, subscribe to the channel, consider becoming a Patreon, and share this channel’s content with your friends and fellow audiophiles to help the Neighborhood grow! And with that, I’m out, for now…

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