As I write this, Creative is just about to unleash the wireless SXFI Air Gamer headset. The latest Super X-Fi powered device, this new upgrade is hoping to level up the SXFI range with more than just generational fine-tuning, and we’ve had a few weeks to find out if it can.
Back in 2019, Creative took headsets into something of a new dimension. Super X-Fi holographic audio made its early appearance in the SXFI AMP and the 2019 SXFI Air headset. At the core of both these designs is a proprietary audio system that aimed to change the way we hear. Using a custom sound profile, specific to each user, Super X-FI delivers a spatial sound experience that is seemingly octaves apart from the likes of Windows Sonic. After an impressive start with the original SXFI Air, I was eager to see what had changed for the introduction of the SXFI Air Gamer Wireless headset.
Out the Box
Unshackling the SXFI Air Gamer from its cardboard cell isn’t a particularly difficult job and the out of box presentation immediately highlights some of the updates that Creative’s latest has to offer. As you will see from our unboxing, the SXFI Air Gamer comes in an all-black configuration. A set of perforated protein leather pads, filled with memory foam sit atop a plastic housing that, at first glance, seems almost indistinguishable from earlier variations of the SXFI series. Taking a cue from the more recent SXFI Gamer C, the Air Gamer, however, features a dual outer RGB ring that aims to appease anybody looking for plenty of visual volume from this device. Beyond the obvious RGB options, an array of buttons and ports come scattered across the left ear. Power, function, and SXFI mode buttons sit alongside a trio of input ports, providing USB-C, 2.5mm jack, and SD Card inputs into this headset.
Running between the two ears is the same headband design we’ve seen before from Creative. The protein leather cover comes with a subtle Creative Logo impressed on along the top, while a steel and plastic core aims to provide plenty of strength without unnecessary weight. While this might not be my first choice to take outside, thanks to the bulky earcup design and the “SUPER X-FI HEADPHONE HOLOGRAPHY” stamped around the circumference of the ears, it is far from garish and manages to strike an acceptable balance that would easily accompany my Nintendo Switch when I’m finally back on the morning commute.
- Audio Processing: Super X-Fi, SXFI BATTLE Mode
- Interface: 3.5 mm Stereo Input, Bluetooth 5.0, microSD Card: up to 32GB, FAT32 file system, USB-C
- Weight: 338g (with NanoBoom Mic)
- Color: Black
- Frequency Response: 20–20,000 Hz
- Driver: 50 mm (1.97 inches) Neodymium magnet
- Battery Type and Life: Rechargeable Lithium-ion Battery, Up to 11 hours
- Bluetooth Operating Frequency: 2402-2480 MHz
- RF Power: Bluetooth – 1.70mW, Bluetooth Low Energy – 1.71mW
- Audio Codec: SBC
- Operating Range: Up to 10m / 33 ft
- Impedance: <2.2kohms
- Frequency Response: 100–16000 Hz (CommanderMic)
- Frequency Response: 100–8000 Hz (NanoBoom Mic)
- Sensitivity: @ 1 kHz: -42 dB (CommanderMic)
- Sensitivity: @ 1 kHz: -38 dB (NanoBoom Mic)
- Technology: SXFI InPerson®
Plug & Play
Thanks to Creative’s custom audio solution, this new headset is hardly jack in and turn on. A multitude of button mappings and ports come crammed around the left earpiece, making power on, pairing Bluetooth, connecting USB cables, and controlling the loaded SXFI button less than intuitive for beginners. This is not the only hurdle during setup, however. The Super X-FI audio enhancements at the heart of this illuminated headpiece are individually personalized and loaded using an accompanying SXFI mobile app. After downloading the app, creating an account and pairing to the SXFI Air Gamer, you’ll need some help to take pictures of your ears and face. Be under no illusion, this isn’t a solo mission. Once the process is complete, as per the other SXFI devices, then gaming can begin. Thankfully for me, my mappings from our review of the SXFI AMP were already available to use here.
Comfort & Style
Reassuringly, my initial impressions of the SXFI Air Gamer improved upon earlier iterations of the Air series. Sliding the headset on for the first time, the combined 338g of audio feels consistently comfier than the original SXFI Air. The chunky memory foam earpads cushion most of the weight, feeling cool and breathable on the skin, while a pair of generously sized earcups provide plenty of room and distribute most of the clamping force. For anybody with larger lugs, this means plenty more space than you might expect, and the multi-direction swivel of these cups means the rigid core of this headset doesn’t have to sacrifice strength for flexibility. Compared to the light-touch approach of a Steelseries Ski Goggle Band construction, the SXFI Air Gamer has a definite presence. While this would make a slither of foam across the middle entirely welcome, The Creative SXFI Air Gamer still manages hours of action across PC, console, and mobile before the battery is anywhere near defeated.
While I managed a wildly varying battery life depending on the use of the SXFI mode and RGB lighting, around 10 hours of wireless play is achievable. Even after the Bluetooth battery is defeated, there is an impressive number of other connectivity options. The aforementioned Bluetooth 5.0 provides incredible clarity when connected to mobiles, while the ability to simultaneously insert yourself into PC and console via USB C allows players to take calls or chat in mobile apps while blowing up everything that their console throws at them. This is a neat addition that we’ve seen in more expensive headsets and comes in handy when getting around Nintendo’s seeming insistence to sidestep voice comms on the Switch. Certainly, it’s a more welcome addition than the odd Micro SDCard slot behind the left earcup. With this arsenal of options, Creative is aiming to conquer your game time, and the SXFI sound system simply adds serious ammo to that assault.
This myriad of onboard options is backed up by a solid set of customization features. While the RGB isn’t overwhelming, it can be easily accessed and changed via the phone or via desktop apps. This is just as true for the EQ features, SXFI mode, and every element of the SXFI Air Gamer. If you’re on the move and really would rather not glow bright pink then that is, thankfully, an option.
How Does It Sound
Despite the multitude of potential plugs, ports, and uses the Creative SXFi Air gamer sounds fantastic in most situations. Without any extra enhancement or EQ tuning, the SXFI Air Gamer manages great audio clarity whatever I threw at it. The 50mm drivers packed plenty of power without distorting the bass, while highs are pleasing and the dynamic response provides an immediate presence. Overall, the unedited audio is loud, responsive and played out on a broad stage, giving owners a solid platform to tweak settings for almost any variety of media consumption or to turn on more elaborate enhancement.
Both the included desktop and mobile app allow for effective EQ changes and various headphone configurations, but the SXFI modes are the game-changer here. Turn on the headline Super X-Fi audio experience, and the SXFI Air Gamer will throw you right into the action. Super X-FI adds a unique depth to any audio. Where studio clean cuts of Spotify’s best might sound unearthly, turning on SXFI throws audiences into a live recording where the call and response of individual instruments seem to come from the other side of an orchestra.
During testing, I swapped out the call and response of the Guild Wars 2 Living World Soundtrack for something a little more visceral and plunged into the middle of Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. The film’s protagonists might open this saga shuffling along an unwelcome seafront, but all I needed to do was to close my eyes and press the SXFI button to join them. The level of immersion was uncanny, with lapping waves rising in and falling back beneath by gunfire that pierced through the scene. Sound doesn’t just have direction with SXFI mode on, it manages to have a perceivable depth. Given a range of media, the SXFI only really struggles when presented with the higher tones of the human voice, sometimes making them feel distant due to the transformed soundstage. This is something that SXFI tech has always had trouble with, but Creative’s latest iteration avoids washing out the worst of this with good EQ and manages a good measure of clarity this time around.
Finally, throwing down in game, the SXFI Air Gamer has yet another trick up its sleeve. While the SXFI mode makes grand RPG adventures and MMOs feel richer and more engaging, first-person shooters like Apex Legends benefit from the SXFI Battle Mode. Creative has introduced the Battle Mode as a custom configuration that takes the already excellent immersion of SXFI audio and tweaks it to give even greater awareness. Footsteps of incoming enemies and the crack of gunfire move into three dimensions and the change is completely transformative. This option is especially effective when pinpointing individual opponents during standoffs or locating the crack of automatic weapons in the mid to long-range. While this button is an enhancement of an already immersive audio system, FPS games almost sound two dimensional without it.
The SXFI Air Gamer’s microphone comes in two distinct flavours. The already established nano boom mic is a wonderfully discrete plugin for anybody on the move. Voices sound clear and noise cancellation is above par, b coming in miles ahead of the integrated pin holes that come carved into many on the go accessories.
Switch over to the included boom arm mic, and the difference is audible. The Commander Mic, as Creative call it, brings a richer sound to vocals. Clarity is, great, where other microphones might make you sound a tad cold to your online competition. This natural tone does impact audio suppression somewhat, and it seems Creative combat that by keeping the pickup range relatively narrow, so you’ll need to keep the Commander Mic near your mouth. That said, the inbuilt pop filter is a thoughtful addition so as not to overwhelm the Commander Mic.
Out of the box, the SXFI Air Gamer delivers a clean, well balanced audio experience that most headsets in the $100+ price range would be proud of. That, however, is not the end of things. Start pressing buttons and the SXFI Air Gamer is suddenly one of the most innovative gaming headsets I’ve had on my head. Super X-FI is utterly transformative, fleshing out your on-screen experience in a way you probably never expected. With a fantastic array of sound option, a surprisingly good microphone setup, and connectivity for days, I can’t think of many other options more compelling than wading into Kings Canyon with a pair of these on. The Creative SXFI Air Gamer is available now at major retailers and the Creative website.