Creative Sound Blaster X3 Review

Today, we are reviewing the Creative Sound Blaster X3, a $/€129 DAC/Amp from the Singapourian manufacturer.

Disclaimer: Creative sent us the €129 Sound Blaster X3 free of charge, in exchange for our honest opinion.

 

About Creative

For those of you who might not be familiar with this mythic brand, here is a quick presentation.

Creative is a Singaporean brand that’s famous thanks to its Sound Blaster sound cards. Long before USB DACs and DAPs became a thing, Creative PC sound cards were there to feed our needs. Even I still own an X-Fi Titanium sound card in my gaming computer, with swapped OP-Amp and the specific headphone front I/O.

 

For more than 40 years, Creative has been a pioneer at various levels. If you’ve ever owned a computer, chances are you’ve already encountered the Soundblaster logo at least once. Sound cards, DAP, speakers, headphones, earphones amplifiers, the brand did it all. They even are hold shares in THX, with Lucasfilm and… Razer.

 

 

That said, time to see if the Soundblaster name is still praiseworthy, or not.

The Super XFI Series

Recently, Creative has introduced a new range of products, labeled Supreme XFI. As the name implies, all those models embark the new Supreme XFI chip. Here is a quick presentation.

Creative SXFI AMP

The Creative SXFI AMP is a pocket-sized USB-DAC. Like Nuforce’s Hi-mDAC or AudioQuest’s Dragonfly Cobalt, it’s the kind of device you can just plug anywhere, to up the game with a good headphone or IEM.

It works with Android devices, PC/Mac/Linux, iPhone/iPad and even game consoles like the PS4 and Nintendo Switch. As long as your source offers a USB port, you can connect your SXFI AMP.

Inside, the AMP combines the Super XFI DSP, an AKM AK4377 DAC, and a low-jitter Asynchronous USB UAC2. On paper, the amp is supposed to deliver enough power to drive high-impedance headphones, while keeping the distortion under 0.0022%.

On top of that, the Creative SXFI Amp looks pretty nice, thanks to the aluminum chassis, in matte black finish. Plus, you get physical buttons, a real plus in my opinion, for a little more than $149. Yes, that’s $20 more than the Soundblaster X3 we are about to review, and no I can’t explain why the Amp cost more than the other.

Creative SXFI AIR / AIR C / Theater

The Creative SXFI AIR is a Bluetooth and USB headphones with built-in Super X-Fi. It’s not the sexiest headphone I’ve ever seen, but for a mere $159, it’s packed with a sh*t-load of features.

A classic 50mm Neodymium magnet, 4.2 Bluetooth with no audio codec other than SBC – apt-X, LDAC anyone? – and a modest battery-life (10h). But, it supports USB connection so you can connect your SXFI AIR directly to your computer/game-console/smartphone and bypass the embedded DAC.

Or, you can put your own SD-Card and use your headphones as a DAP. Yes, you read that right. Then, you can either control your music directly on your headset or connect your phone in Bluetooth to access your folders.

The cherry on top? The RGB ring! 16 million colors to match your outfit, your gaming keyboard, your gaming rig, or simply because you don’t care, at all, what others may think of you in public transportation. 

And, if that wasn’t enough, Creative offers three different versions of the headset :

  • the SXFI AIR, with Bluetooth, micro-SD port and a NanoBoom microphone
  • the SXFI AIR C, without Bluetooth and a ClearComms microphone
  • finally, the SXFI Theater, with 2.4Ghz Wireless, a “gaming microphone” and up to 30h of battery life

Creative Sound Blaster X3

We’ve already previewed the Sound Blaster X3 previously on a First Listen Sunday, you can read it here in case you’ve missed it.

To sum up: the Creative Sound Blaster X3 is a USB DAC/AMP with Super X-Fi, 7.1 discrete outputs and various mods, depending on your use. Moreover, Creative was kind enough to ship it with the Aurvana SE, their Super X-Fi certified headphone.

I’ve been using it for a few months now, and it’s time to give the set, a full review.

The article continues on Page Two, after the click here

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A nerdy guy with a passion for audio and gadgets, he likes to combine his DAC and his swiss knife. Even after more than 10 years of experience, Nanotechnos still collects all gear he gets, even his first MPMAN MP3 player. He likes spreadsheets, technical specs and all this amazing(ly boring) numbers. But most of all, he loves music: electro, classical, dubstep, Debussy : the daily playlist.

    4 Comments

    • Reply April 16, 2020

      Tom Lee

      Thanks for the review! I happen to see the X3, and I have been thinking to choose it over the Mojo. Could you elaborate a bit when saying its amp section is better than the Mojo considering there’s no amp section in the Mojo?

      With its design, I guess it is mainly used for desktop not portable. I am also curious to know if there’s noise isolation implemented in the X3 i.e would the electrical noise (RF noise) coming from the computer to the DAC be eliminated? And if there’s a DAC connected through its optical out would the noise be eliminated too before the signal is sent to the DAC? The Mojo doesn’t have such noise isolation which raises my concern, but it is understandable because the Mojo is made for portable usage.

      Thanks!

    • Reply April 17, 2020

      Might_Guy

      Hello,
      Creative provides usb analog multi-channel DAC/sound cards with little to no compatibility with linux, and this one makes no exception.
      Too bad.
      There was a linux friendly product called Aim ultimate usb audio which is now discontinued. I’ve been using mine for 6 years and I fear the day it may stop working, because there’s no true replacement device available at such a price and quality level, even from Asus.
      Unless you know about one!

    • Reply April 29, 2020

      HieroX

      Hi there, nice review. Could you elaborate more on the SXFi effect on multi-channel content?
      As I understand from its spec sheet, you could also choose use SBX profiles for mutli-channel.

      Are there any comparisons between SBX and SXFi?

      If I am not wrong, PS4 can only output a stereo signal to the X3. Are you able to test and compare the SXFi with other virtual surround sound systems(e.g SBX, Dolby Atmos for headphones) with 5.1/7.1 content on the PC?

      Finally, I have read on forums that the latest firmware update from Creative cleared a lot of sound issues with the X3. It was released at the end of April.

    • Reply July 7, 2020

      teddy

      “it doesn’t work with non-certified Super X-Fi headphones”
      Ok. I stop reading here.

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