Sound Blaster G3 USB DAC AMP Review

User Rating: 7
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Creative’s Sound Blaster G3 is the power of the Sound Blaster brand in the palm of your hand. A flexible USB DAC Amp, it is aimed squarely at the console space and is loaded with enough features to blow away the muddy mid-range tones that are all too common with gaming in the front room. We checked it out to find out if it really does blast apart the competition.

Creative is not new to the micro DAC Amp space. The Soundlabster G3 sits well above the budget Play! 3 plug-in processor and is significantly cheaper than the Creative SXFi Amp variant at around $79.99. It comes packed with a range of features that make it compatible with Playstation, Nintendo Switch, PC, and mobile gaming setups all shrunk into something significantly smaller than a wallet.

Specification

Headphone Amp

  • 16–300Ω,
  • Low Gain: 16–63Ω (0.235V rms @ 16Ω, 0.41V rms @ 32Ω),
  • High Gain: 64–300Ω (0.64V rms @ 64Ω, 0.94V rms @ 150Ω, 1.145V rms @ 300Ω)
  • Dynamic Range (DNR): 100 dB

Playback Resolution

  • PCM 16-bit, 48.0, 96.0 kHz, PCM 24-bit, 48.0, 96.0 kHz

Recording Resolution

  • Mic-in: 16-bit, 48.0, 96.0 kHz
  • Mic-in: 24-bit, 48.0, 96.0 kHz
  • Optical In: 16-bit, 48.0, 96.0 kHz
  • Optical In: 24-bit, 48.0, 96.0 kHz
  • Line-in: 24-bit, 48.0, 96.0 kHz
  • Line-in: 16-bit, 48.0, 96.0 kHz

Platform

  • USB 2.0
  • USB 3.0

Connectivity Options (Main)

  • 1 x ⅛″ Headphone-out Jack
  • 1 x ⅛″ mini TOSLINK Optical / Line-in Combo Jack,
  • 1 x ⅛″ Ext. Mic-in Jack

DAC

  • Dynamic Range (Stereo): 100 dB

 

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While the Soundblaster G3 won’t empty much of that wallet weight, first impressions do reflect this. Straight out of the box, the G3 feels functional. The plastic shell is well enough constructed but the finish isn’t exactly premium. Take a look around the G3 and the analog dials, plastic switches, and lightweight feel of the housing are unlikely to blow you away. Thankfully this first impression shouldn’t be taken as too much of a deterrent. The lightweight design clearly reflects the fact that this DAC amp comes in at half the cost of the SXFi’s more premium construction, and even lower still than desktop devices like the Burson Playmate, and it isn’t designed to be dragged out on the go, at least it shouldn’t be.

Before even addressing any of these dials and switches, players need to set up the G3 and this is, initially, a case of plug and play. Certainly, inserting the G3 into a USB C or A port using the relevant adaptors circumvents the inherent problems of onboard audio solutions. If you are new to these issues then check out a bit more on our SXFi Amp review where we discuss it. Whatever headset you have installed, there’s an obvious difference in clarity when hooking up the G3 and escaping onboard audio. The resolution of up to 24 bits and 96Khz are all backed up with an output capable of driving up to 300 Ohms of noise, which makes a real difference in the ability of quality headphones to reproduce sound as it was intended to be heard.

This dongle is more than just a quality DAC Amp and it begins to stand out from the competition like the Cyrus Soundkey as its multitude of gaming features are engaged. Downloading the Sound Blaster Command software on PC, Mac, or Mobile provides full access to tune the output from the palm-sized add on. EQ settings work entirely as expected, with a pleasing variety of pre-loaded custom options and game-specific settings. Everything from footstep enhancement, RPG, Stadium, and even Overwatch profiles are available. These soundscapes and just a couple of clicks away and available in the prominent SBX settings menu.

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In addition to tweaking the profile of audio, anybody active in squad chat can balance game and voice chat levels using the G3 game chat setting. This unique option makes use of some ingenious audio configuration to enhance or mute voice chat via an inline control wheel on the side of the G3 or the software settings. Bundle all this with a set of extra enhancements that include  7.1 Surround Virtualization, Crystalizer, Crystalizer, Bass, Smart Volume, and Dialog+ and this box of tricks seems seriously impressive.

The G3 In Action

As a linear DAC amp the G3 is a simple plug and play box, making it easy to get a solid audio experience from any gaming system. Begin to start flicking switches, however, and the more powerful options onboard this device and the difference s palpable. While the G3 cannot provide the same sort of soundscape that the SXFi does, the G3 feels far better equipped to take on gaming needs than almost any other DAC amp at this price point. Hitting the button on top of the amp illuminates a circular ring and announces a new audio experience. The solid 24-bit sound is accompanied by an impressive level of customization. Plugging the G3 into online music services makes listening to high definition music much more pleasurable with clear mids and a significantly more responsive dynamics than you might otherwise get straight out of a mobile phone.

Jumping into FPS like the Division or team-based hero shooters like Overwatch allows the G3 to prove its mettle as a gaming device. In Overwatch, the orchestral movements are interspersed with clear shots and the sound of Tracer zipping by. It’s a busy mix and the sort of audio that, at a minimum, immerses players into the action as much as it signals shots fired. In more competitive matches, MOBA and footstep enhancement settings really do strip back the extraneous audio and provide a tactical edge, allowing players to pinpoint the direction of the action or just concentrate on winning. Scout mode even takes this as far as the G3 possibly can and my initially dubious approach to the chat mixer was blown away when I swiped the onboard dial, dynamically changing the chat and game volumes in a perceptible fashion.

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I was, overall, pleasantly surprised by the G3. The plastic exterior belies a very capable piece of kit that is aimed at gamers and comes packed with an innumerable number of features. I still prefer the SXFi Amp’s holographic tech and AKM4377 backed internals for full immersion but this is almost half the price so it’s nothing to complain about.

The Problem With Complexity

While all of the above functions are available in a desktop app and via a Bluetooth mobile app, the number of features makes onboard controls somewhat unintuitive. Basic functions like volume, mute, and EQ settings are easy enough to work out but setting up the voice chat mixer and using in line controls requires specific actions. Buttons need to be toggled and several physical switches have multiple functions for different tech. The multipurpose nature of some sliders makes the accompanying Sound Blaster Command mobile app indispensable for anybody who wants to make on the fly changes or simply can’t bring themselves to dig into the back of a cabinet to start reconfiguring options in a firefight. Similarly, the PC or Mac setup of the Sound Blaster G3 includes steps to set up the communication and audio components of the device. It’s complex enough that Creative has a set of video tutorials available and it is hardly intuitive.

Once again, my other major concerns with the Sound Blaster G3 come in the form of its compromises. While the G3 can process 7.1 audio, the soundscape that comes through this device still feels a little limited. It’s not the first time this has been raised about creative amps and if you are looking for something that will really push your commute, the answer is already here.

Despite this, the audio coming out of the G3 is great value. Once set up, the number of features for this price range is impressive and while it won’t match the gain on more powerful desktop amp or provide the directional audio that the SXFi has, this feature-rich USB DAC Amp is a great value buy that immerses gamers in the action and fundamentally raises your audio expectations in any gaming scenario. It’s an outstanding step up from the doldrums of default audio and will allow that headset that you spent so much on to work as intended for a change. Stop wasting your money on expensive headsets and being fragged by onboard audio. Take the first step up and get the Sound Blaster G3 if you’re ready to experience every element of your game for a fairly frugal outlay. You can check out more about the Sound Blaster G3 over on the official Creative website now where it will set you back $79.99 or local equivalent.

Good
  • Lots Of Features
  • Love The Bluetooth Audio Control
  • Solid Audio Performance
Bad
  • Overly Complex In Line Controls
  • Soundscape Can Be Limited
  • Feels Cheap In Hand
7
Good
Written by
For those of you who I’ve not met yet, my name is Ed. After an early indoctrination into PC gaming, years adrift on the unwashed internet, running a successful guild, and testing video games, I turned my hand to writing about them. Now, you will find me squawking across a multitude of sites and even getting to play games now and then

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