Creative Sound Blaster X3 Review

Sound performance


For the purpose of this review, I mainly used Creative own Aurvana Headset. Bonus headphones: Sennheiser HD800S and Audeze Mobius. All files were played from a computer in USB DAC mode.

Overall signature

“Damn, that’s some good stuff man !”


Truth be told, I didn’t expect much of the Sound Blaster X3, even less from the Aurvana headphone. However, once I’ve put the headphone on my head, launched my usual tracklist and crank up the volume, all my preconceptions were blown away.

Attention, this is not AMAZING either. You won’t get the same level of performances found in a Chord Hugo 2 for example, but for 120 bucks, this is very, very impressive. At least NuPrime Hi-mDAC impressive.

Even without X-Fi activated, the sound is natural with a wide sound stage and good spaciousness. Output power is remarkable and even with the Sennheiser, the X3 was able to deliver commanding, deep, bass. It’s not as transparent as the Hugo, but it’s better than the Mojo, on the amp section.

I played with the EQ and Super X-Fi mode, only to end back with the default settings. If those modes add some fun to the music, it only works with the Aurvana headset in my opinion. With my usual headphones, the sound stage sounds too wide and the vocals too near.

Pan effects are superb, vocals are acute, not too smooth but not too harsh, and the mids/low mids really surprised me, in a good way.

Over time, the little DAC grew on me, and what I considered a fluke, ended up to be real work in the background. The Sound Blaster X3 offers an excellent layering and depth when properly fed. On PS4 games, the difference was clearly noticeable, and what’s been lost between the PS3 and PS4, could be -slightly- retrieved.

If you’re in search of an analytical DAC/Amp, this isn’t the one. However, if you want a dynamic DAC with a good amount of detail, the X3 could fit your needs.


Highs : slightly tamed, with good details. The Sound Blaster X3 isn’t the best DAC I tried in this regard. Treble aren’t harsh, but they lack the level of precision usually found in Sabre or AKM chips. That said, if you’re ready to play with the EQ, it can reach higher grounds, like Cowon with its JetEffect.

Track : Says – Nihls Frahm

Mids : excellent layering and great impact. Mids are the forte of this DAC in my opinion, the output power combined with a great level of resolution, give excellent results. Lots of details, great vocals and superb dynamic, even with the HD800S !

Track : Nobody Speak – DJ Shadow

Lows : deep, powerful bass. The X3 doesn’t fall short in this regard. Lows are deep, with a good amount of body, enough to make the sound lively, but not too much so it becomes… bassy. It blends well with the rest and if you like hard-slamming bass, Creative may please you.


JDSLabs The Element : a bit of an unfair comparison, but design-wise, I had to do it. The Element is much more impactful, more powerful, but also less quirky. It’s a DAC/Amp I’d mainly use with Audeze headphones, where I’d keep the Sound Blaster X3 with dynamic earsets. And streaming of course, thanks to its mic-in.

FiiO Q5S : the Q5S is another swiss-army knife DAC/Amp. It’s more audiophile focused with its balanced outputs and Bluetooth HQ support, but sound-wise… those two devices aren’t that far. Still, I may prefer the X3, not just because it’s even more quirky, but because I prefer the sound.

Audeze Mobius : the king of convenience in the headphone world. Like the Sound Blaster X3, the Mobius can emulate a 7.1 sound stage, directly thanks to its embedded chipset. And, if both devices offer the same level of quirkiness, I’d stick with the Mobius at the end of the day. Or, you could get an LCD-1 and the Creative, that’s also a matching pair.


Can a mass-market manufacturer like Creative find its place in the audiophile world in 2020 ? Looks like a yes to me.

The Creative Sound Blaster X3 offers real audiophile performances and gaming/home-theater versatility, at a really low cost. We are talking sub-$150 gear here, price-range where you usually go chi-fi, or go home.

And this is the strength of the X3 : you get chi-fi sound quality – and build quality to be fair – from an established brand. The name doesn’t sound awkward, customer-service is available in bazillions languages and most of all: you can get this DAC from your local shop, almost anywhere in the world.

Are they better DAC/Amp out there? Of course.

At this price point?  Not so sure…

With as much features? Even less…

So yeah, if like me you want to reintroduce some Sound Blaster in your life, lend your ears to Creative. In the process, you may even end up with a very good DAC, able to feed both your headphones and your speakers. A win-win situation if I may say so.

4.4/5 - (188 votes)

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.


  • 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.


  • Reply April 17, 2020


    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


    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


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

  • Reply April 21, 2021

    J Law

    This is the very reason i got this X3 is to revive my Z-5500, but after plugging it in like i usually do and switcht o the 6 CH direct input…no sound comes through the x3…when i’ve detected audio working on windows 10

  • Reply May 4, 2021

    James Harrison

    Creative has always provided center channel AND subwoofer through the SAME output. You just need a Y-splitter from the center/sub out and one part of the Y will be the sub output and the other will be the center. I don’t know why they do it this way, but they do, and it actually works. You’ll probably never read this comment, but just thought I would give you the solution since you asked for it.

  • Reply August 10, 2021

    David Novak

    The Creative SXFI THEATRE have a great sound quality!

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