E-Mu Walnut Headphones Review
I’ve loved the Aurvana Live since I first encountered it in 2017, and I mostly love the E-mu Walnut. It brings a tiny bit more bass and a tiny bit more isolation to this venerable closed-back bio-dynamic headphone. It also looks really nice.
If only the packaging wasn’t dumb, I’d have nothing major to complain about.
I’m trying something new where all the pictures live in a gallery at the top of the article, because it’s a new year so why not. You can click on or touch this thing to make the images move, so you can see all of them.
The E-Mu Walnut is a $99 “Over-ear” closed-back headphone. You can buy them only from online retailers, and there was also a Massdrop version available a couple of years ago before they started making the E-mu Purpleheart instead.
That newer Massdrop model is just $75, and aside from the cosmetic differences of a matte plastic finish around the cups and the Purpleheart wood, it is the same headphone. So the only reason to choose the Walnut is your own aesthetic preference and a desire to spend 25 additional US dollars.
You get absolutely no extras in the box. The extension cable, 6.3mm adapter, and carrying bag from the cheaper Aurvana Live are all removed.
The problems with the box continue beyond that. The outer shell is nice, made out of a stiff paperboard with a fake walnut finish. It folds open, revealing the headphones inside. They’re contained in the same plastic bubble used in the Aurvana Live packaging…but the bubble is stapled shut with standard desktop staples.
At first I thought this was a mistake. But then I re-watched Innerfidelity’s old video review and spotted the staples in there too. The whole point of the Walnut is to offer a slightly fancier version of a classic headphone, and staples do not make a good first impression. Some simple tape or even twist ties would have sufficed, and would have been much easier to remove.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen headphone packaging held together with staples before. I get that this is more of a limited run item, and it may have even been packaged by Creative/E-mu office staff rather than the manufacturing facility. But it was a little bit strange.
The E-Mu Walnut has the same great sound signature as the Aurvana Live, but with a few delightful drops of additional bass. It’s a warm headphone, with enough detail in the midrange and upper treble to not sound muffled, cupped, or lacking.
It’s sort of like listening to a Bose headphone, but with a little more oomph in the mids and a slightly less tizzy/crinkle-y treble. Long listening sessions were clearly the priority, as the sound is pleasant and inviting with no hint of fatigue. It doesn’t resolve detail quite well enough to be used as a critical monitoring pair, and the midbass is a little too aggressive to please the most ardent audiophiles…
But MAN. This is still a great-sounding pair of headphones.
When I originally reviewed the Aurvana Live, I thought the soundstage was a little thin, but revisiting these…I don’t have that issue anymore? I had just come off of extensive listening to a few Beyerdynamic pairs, well known for their ability to present width, so perhaps things were a little fair to the Aurvana.
I even re-bought an original Aurvana this week just to compare and see the differences in the sound. They’re nigh-identical. The Walnut has a little bit of extra oomph in the bass region, but it’s otherwise the same to my ears.
At the $59 price the standard Aurvana goes for…this is a phenomenal level of sound quality. At $99…the competition is much stronger. The Walnut still acquits itself well, but it’s not quite “The best-sounding $99 headphone.” The M40X, Cloud Alpha, DT240 Pro, and a few others provide ample competition.
Still, if you like a warmer headphone with no fatigue in the treble, this is a great example of that, with a surprising level of width and imaging for its small size.
Wearing the Walnut for hours and hours is a slightly iffy proposition. The pads are just barely big enough to fit around my ears, and I wish the headband pad was just a tiny bit thicker.
I can achieve a long-wearing comfy fit if I fiddle with them for a while, but if anything is even a little out of place, my head starts to complain after about 30 minutes or so.
Materials used are great. The leatherette and memory foam are both of above average quality for this price. The headband has a really wide adjustment range in spite of this being such a small pair, and the clamping force is strong enough to keep them on, but light enough not to pinch. The small cups and the small headband will do all the pinching you need.
They’re still a decently comfy pair for how small they are, but they’re not going to directly compete with bigger pads, cups, and headbands.
The Walnut ear cups have a matte finish and feel very nice in the hands. They add a negligible amount of weight to the original Aurvana Live, which was already a light headphone to begin with.
Outside the cups, the rest of the headphone is identical to the Aurvanas, which means it’s a bunch of light plastic with some metal running through the headband. This is…okay? The Walnut helps to fancy these up a fair bit, and move them a little further away from the “Feels kind of cheap” line.
The cable is sadly non-detachable. But the separation point is low enough that it shouldn’t ram into your neck.
Unlike the Massdrop E-mu Purplehearts, the Walnuts have massive branding text on the sides of the headband arms. Somehow, these manage to be less subtle-looking than the hyper glossy Aurvana Lives. This will save you from having to answer questions if anyone asks you what headphones you’re wearing in the Starbucks, but it ruins the smooth look that these would otherwise have just a bit.
It’s ridiculous that this package doesn’t include at least a 6.3mm adapter. The Aurvana Live is substantially cheaper, and comes with an adapter, an extension cable, and a decent carrying bag.
The Walnut comes with staples in the box and a short permanently attached cable. At about 4 feet long, it’s the right length for a pocket, a game console controller, or a laptop in front of you…and that’s about it.
I bought the Walnut because I think they look nice and I already enjoyed the sound of their predecessor. It’s not a “perfect” headphone, but it’s an aesthetic upgrade to a timeless budget classic. The E-Mu Purpleheart from Massdrop is objectively a better buy at its lower price point as long as you like the look of the purple wood. But if you really enjoy the Aurvana Lives and you want your headphones to match the trim in your local coffee shop, then the E-mu Walnut is a fine choice.