e-mu Walnut Review

The E-MU Walnut is a $79 headphone that can be purchased from Drop.com or via EMU's official website as part of Creative Labs Singapore. The Walnut is essentially a modified version of Creative's Aurvana Live headphone, which goes for around $50 USD. I purchased these directly on Drop's website.

The key difference is the addition of walnut wood cups instead of plastic cups on the original. Everything else remains practically the same, including same pads, headband, and cable. Unlike most headphones I review, these cables are soldered directly into the headphone driver, and are not removable. I personally modified my set to add 3.5mm female jacks to the cups, and allow for interchangeable cables.

The overall headphone is very lightweight and decently built. I wouldn't say the build quality is above average or anything, but the wood cups are quite nice and fit well. This closed-back headphone is very small and portable. With that, the pads are small, and may not fit larger ears very comfortably. For me, it is comfortable enough, and the biggest issue I'd have is really just the heat of the pads after some use.

Speaking of pads, they are not very well built. They are extremely comfortable for being so small and shallow, but they inner lining is horrible. Mine already started to flake apart not too long after I started using them. I ended up peeling away much of the vinyl lining material just so that it won't flake off and get into my ears. Luckily, this only seemed to be a problem on the inner side of the pad, and the part that faces and contacts my head is still well in-tact. 

Sound Impressions

The Walnut is a bassy and fun headphone with a V-shaped sound signature. The treble range is not too bright however, and is actually within range of my target response, although, it does lack a little bit of treble extension.

The bass range is mostly mid-bass, with an elevated mid-bass bump. The sub-bass does roll a little bit, and is respectively lower than the mid-bass, so much of the focus is on pounding thumps than deep bass rumble. The bass range is dirty, and it doesn't exhibit a lot of articulation or detail, but it is still pleasant for what it is, and surprisingly doesn't overly bleed into mids -- at least not as much as I would have expected.

The mids and treble are again pretty smooth, albeit perhaps a little dark at times. The lower mids are warm and thick. Again, resolution isn't the best here, but for the price point, it's alright. At $100-ish dollars though, resolution pales in comparison to say the Hifiman HE400SE. 

With my 3.5mm mod, I believe the treble became just a tad brighter, which can be heard on some songs I played. This created a little bit more dynamic sound, but it did have a sharp resonance to it that could be bother some. I believe this could be due to the fact of how I had to remove a clip to solder in the 3.5mm jacks, and that broke part of the seal at the lower half of the cup.

The soundstage is expectedly small. This is a closed-back headphone, with a big focus on bass and a fun sound, and that can typically mean that it is narrower in stage and more forward in sound. I find that the case here. For reference, I found the Emu Rosewood, another Fostex-based biodynamic driver headphone with wood cups to have a much larger soundstage. This, of course, is a larger driver, with a larger cup diameter and driver/pad spacing. 

"Glimmerings" from GoGo Penguin's newest album, "Everything is Going to be OK" has a very powerful bass and kick drum rhythm that comes off with good impact and decently-well controlled on the Walnut. There is a bit of decay that lingers perhaps a tad too long compared to other headphones I've listened to this track with, but those other headphones don't present with the powerful impact that this one does.

When the piano comes in, the Walnut surprisingly comes across quite coherently and controlled, and I don't feel any sense of issues with separation on this 3-piece jazz track. 

When I put on a busier track, such as Tool's "Jambi" from "10,000 Days", I do feel the instrument separation suffers a little bit here in the busier parts of the track. In "Wings for Marie, Pt 1", there isn't a great sense of depth throughout the entire track, with a very forward sound. The buzzing and swirling guitars do sound like they move around the soundscape, but do not have as much width as I hear on other headphones either. The attack on guitars sounds a little more blunted and rounded, but for a budget headphone, this still handles it all quite well compared to its competitors.

Final Thoughts

The Emu Walnut is a surprisingly well-made and good sounding headphone. It's priced very competitively at $79 on Drop, and if you don't care for the wooden cups, you can get the basic Creative Aurvana Live for $49 or less on Amazon. This isn't the most technical headphone, and I don't think it claims to be either. It's a fun headphone with a tasteful bass boost that gives good impact, and unlike many other headphones in this price range, it doesn't have a total V-Shaped sound, where the treble is overly lifted, and it doesn't come across as flat and dark either. The upper-mids and treble are quite tolerable, giving this headphone a good overall sound that I find works well with many genres.