The Creative Super X-Fi (SXFI) was first demoed to the public at CES 2018 and the response was amazing. You had major publications like CNET calling it “frigging mindblowing” and AVSFORUM giving it the “Best of CES 2018” award.
I was stoked.
Creative is the brand I grew up with and I still fondly remember the days I own my first MP3 player, Creative Zen Micro. But ever since Apple released the iPod, all I ever hear from Creative are their litigation battles. They seemed to have plummeted into the abyss of yesteryear tech companies.
To me, Creative SXFI can be that wholesome shot-in-the-arm that Creative has been waiting for. I quickly placed an order the moment it became available and I was arranged to head down for a “personalization” session.
To the uninitiated, Creative SXFI is a portable amp dongle that can deliver multi-speaker studio experience without you upgrading your headphones. It uses computer vision for its head and ear mapping to create a custom audio profile. It then “synthesizes them with a multidimensional map of the desired room acoustics.” A lot of sci-fi-ish terms there.
I tried out the amp for a few days before sending it out to Lau for a full review. I also brought it to the office to get a general feeling of the device. This post will quickly capture my thoughts of it here.
The head and ear mapping were surprisingly fast. Took me less than 3 mins to set up my personal profile on the amp itself.
The reviews were true. Mind-frigging blown. At the beginning of the demo, there were participants mistakenly thought that their headphones weren’t working. They thought the audio came from OUTSIDE of the headphones. But in actual fact, that was the holographic sound experience that Creative was talking about.
I was trying hard to contain my chuckle when I realized what was happening.
If your headphones are struggling to give you any type of soundstage, plug the SXFI in and you are good to go. The spatial effect is very obvious. You can toggle it on and off to hear the difference.
I struggle to put this under “Good” or “Bad”. The spatial effect doesn’t work for every song. There are songs that were elevated to a much better quality. But there are songs that are just not suitable for it. The spatial effect became gimmicky for those songs and sounded echo-ish.
But nevertheless, this spatial sound effect is one of the key selling points and they do live up to their reputation.
Movies work equally well. It made my YouTube (YT) and Netflix experience 2x more enjoyable. I was really having fun browsing through different types of YT videos to see how the SXFI perform. Watching action films is great but not so much for conversational genres.
There is no dedicated iOS app for Creative SXFI. This means that you cannot do personalization on your iPhone. You have to get your hands on an Android phone somehow. Creative did mention that the iOS app is in the works but there are still nowhere to be found.
I said kinda because it can work with Apple iPhone BUT only if you have the lightning-to-USB camera kit. I had to fork out extra cash to get that. Apparently, Apple restricts the amount of power drawn out to third-party device. Only the camera kit will allow devices to draw sufficient power out.
On top of the camera kit, I had to purchase a USB C adapter to connect the camera kit to SXFI amp. Sigh…
The SXFI has a volume control button which I found to be not very useful. I had to press multiple times to get the right amount of volume I need.
You can create multiple audio profile in the app. However, you cannot rename them and you had to use their default name (which is the creation timestamp). If you want to share the SXFI with multiple people, they have created multiple profiles on the same app and you will have trouble looking for your own profile.
As mentioned, SXFI creates this weird echo-ish effect for certain songs. I found vocal-heavy songs to suffer the most. Somehow, the echo-ish effect is worse on the desktop than on mobile. This is probably due to the surround sound settings that are available on the desktop.
There is a toggle button on the SXFI for the holographic effect but it is inconvenient to keep toggling it for unsuitable songs.
Was it hyped up? Sure. Like all great products, the hype is always there. Did it live up to the hype? In some ways, under some conditions. I will love to do it more justice by getting more time with it but one thing is for sure – the Creative SXFI is no magic bullet. Have a more balanced mindset before trying it or else your experience will be highly disappointed.
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