The Creative SXFi is a product that promises to change the game when it comes to mobile audio and we got our hands on this Amp to get the full experience. This is our Review.
Let me be clear, if you are reading this on your mobile phone, your audio sucks. Mobile phones are fantastic gadgets. They’ve revolutionized our lives and we’re seeing incredible mobile titles like the recent announcement of Battle Chasers: Nightwars and Godzilla Defense Force. The industry has even managed to spew out some utterly incredible gaming phones, yet their audio is never going to do justice to the work of audio engineers and composers. The reason is integrated audio tech. When I reviewed the Cyrus Soundkey, I got a schooling on the problems that integrated audio faces. Even expensive desktop motherboards face significant issues with audio clarity when using integrated audio components. Now, audio manufacturer Creative’s Super X-Fi promises to take the strain of audio processing and blow you away with a new world of Holographic Audio, but does it?
- Gain: 3X
- Max Power (16 ohm): 425 mW
- Max Power (32 ohm): 370 mW
- Max Power (300 ohm): 51 mW
- Max Power (600 ohm): 26 mW
- Connector: (Input) USB Type-C, (Output) 3.5 mm jack
- Compatibility: PC, Mac, Nintendo Switch, macOS, PlayStation 4, Android
- Product Type: Wired
- Chassis: Aluminium Unibody
- Finish: Matte-Black Fine-Textured Anodized
- Dimensions (In inches): 0.4 (D) x 0.7 (W) x 2.6 (H)
- Weight: 15 g
In the Box
The Super X-Fi Amp is a tiny peripheral and, as such, it arrives wrapped up in a diminutive case. The flimsy cardboard outer doesn’t feel quite as premium as the Cyrus Soundkey’s and is not going to last very long as an option to keep your new audio amp good. Assuming you have a pocket for the Creative amp then I’d just crack open the box and get rid of the extraneous packing. Getting inside, The Super X-Fi comes snuggly contained among foam and is accompanied by a USB C to USB C cable, a USB C to micro USB OTG adaptor, a simple setup guide, a quick start pamphlet, and warranty card.
Once you’ve cleared the cardboard container, the quality of this Creative component is obvious. Like the Soundkey, this device is encased in what appears to be a textured aluminum housing and doesn’t have much in the way of superfluous additions. It measures something between 2 and 3 inches in length with a profile that will find it slipping into any pocket easily. A single USB C port and a 3.5 mm jack adorn either end of the X-Fi. A set of volume controls, a pause/play button, and a button to turn on the Super X-Fi’s holographic sound are all aligned along the top of this device and are just about big enough to feel useable. All in, the Super x-Fi feels excellent in hand. The light but sturdy construction gives a definite premium quality to the X-Fi and it shouldn’t be any sort of distraction as it dangles off the end of a mobile device.
Plugging In A Personal Experience
On its own, the Super X-Fi is a treat for the ears. The minuscule amp is built around an AKM 4377 32-bit DAC which can blast out some impressive gain. The joy of the integrated USB C connection is that this device can draw enough power to drive a pair of headphones up to 600 ohms. This means with the right connection you and your fellow commuters are going to get some impressive levels out of this tiny amp. It’s not all just about turning it up to eleven either. Up to 8 simultaneous channels of 24-bit/96 kHz is supported by the DAC in this device making the jump from any integrated audio to this a massive improvement. Without getting too technical, all this means that even without Creative’s own special sauce, the X-Fi pumps out some astonishingly crisp audio without the seepage or interference of underwhelming integrated amps.
Hooking up and configuring the Super X-Fi’s own proprietary tech is a little more involved than you might imagine but the Creative creation promises a bespoke configuration for your mobile audio experience. As well as the hardware, the Super X-Fi comes with a software component. While many Android devices now ship with Dobly sound software, Creative has gone leaps beyond this auto equalizing endeavor and crafted something that puts the user first. It’s called Holographic Audio and relies on some nifty software tricky to deliver sound in a manner that works with the hardware around your head and the very contours of your own ears.
Setting the software up for the first time is a relatively easy affair but certainly far from plug and play. You’ll need a spare pair of hands and you will also need to download the Creative SFXI app. Using the Super X-Fi software app form the Google Play store, you create an account with Creative. You’ll then be prompted to take some more personal pictures. You or your friend can grab a picture of the side and front of your head. With this, the Creative software can compute the contours of your ear and bone structure. This is, according to Creative, crucial in making things personal for the end-user. Finally, you will need to configure the software to use a specific set of headphones. Over 60 head and earphones are listed in the app, with 14 of these specifically certified for as certified for use with the Super X-Fi amp.
While the setup is a little unwieldy the result is astounding. The Super X-Fi does a great job. Creative’s holographic audio is something else. Holographic audio is comparable to custom-built surround sound algorithms. While the Super X-Fi still manages the same directional audio as standard headphone surround, it makes Dolby and competitors just sound flat. Hook the Super X-Fi up to a game or film and holographic audio blows open the surrounding soundscape. There is an obvious sense of depth to any audio experience with the Creative SXFi that is simply immersive. The difference is hard to put into words but try out the Super X-Fi and suddenly you’ll realize how planar your existing audio is.
This difference is most notable in specific circumstances. While the effect of a dedicated processor and amp gives pop, rock, and metal a clearer and fuller sound, its when you press the SXFI button that battle really kicks off. 2D side-scrolling RPG titles don’t have any major benefit to this but if you drive into Asphalt or drop into Fortnite you’ll appreciate how much wider the world becomes. After initial configuration, the SXFI can be ported over onto other gaming devices. Plug this into a Nintendo Switch and wandering round the hellscapes of Mars makes Doom every bit as visceral as the bigger screen experience. Explosions abound and the drawling sneer of demons come at you from every angle.
Like any decent directional audio solution the game tuning, that is selected form the equalizer, makes explosions more present and combat more impactful while adding a layer of depth to sound that envelops gamers in the action. This is equally true of cinematic experiences. Crammed onto a 6-inch screen, the mobile cinema experience can be a little disconnected. The addition of this particular amp into any popcorn pastime really makes a discernible difference, picking up the massive scope of soundtracks like John Williams or Bruckheimer’s soundtracks.
Despite an incredible experience, the accompanying software does appear quite sparse when it comes to EQ settings and occasionally requires some recalibration with various content. Finally, while the Super X-Fi provides a fantastic personalized experience, it makes for a peripheral that isn’t exactly interoperable between every type of content all the time. The Creative SXFI amp needs to be configured on a compatible mobile device before you even think about moving it onto something like a PC or Nintendo Switch and not all content is treated equally. I did find myself having to reconfigure the device occasionally. These are, however, minor niggles and if you can pocket the expense then the Creative SXFi is an on the go audio experience that makes standard surround sound audio seem flat. After a week of on the go testing, I found that it really made a difference when plugging in my Nintendo Switch. Doom is never quite the same on the train after you’ve plugged in the SXFI. The Creative Super X-Fi is available now from major retailers and at the Creative Website for roughly $149.99.