At long last, I have managed to score myself a Super X-Fi Air Headset from Creative, a product that has won ‘Best of CES 2018’ and many audio pundits, reviewers and users were blown away by the unprecedented levels of realism created by Super X-Fi in headphones. Now let us get right to the bare bones, I used to love Creative, but over the years I have moved towards other companies like Bose, Sony, Razer, SteelSeries, HyperX, LucidSound, Plantronics and Edifier. Even when I was growing up in the era of the Discman, Walkman, Minidisk Man, I was packing a creative sound peripheral, but then over time, I moved to Sony as Creative just did not cut it for my generation.
When it comes to Gaming I would always go got the likes Razer, SteelSeries, HyperX, LucidSound or Plantronics. When I was out and about listening to music through my phone or media device, I would use Bose, Sony, or Edifier, the design, quality, sound performance, even how light then made their headphones made sense. Then after hearing about these new headphones, I had to get a pair, I had to check them out, I had to see if they can touch me in places no other headset have. So did they? shall we find out?
Super X – Fi Air – The Box
The front of the packaging for this headset is unusual when compared to other headset packages on the market today. While many idolise the headset itself and its overall look as the bases for attracting customers, the SXFI Air captures your attention with a unique image of a landscape with a difference. This draws the consumer in; on closer inspection the image of the headset sits snugly in the lower right hand corner underlined by the manufacturer’s logo, opposite the products name on the lower and upper left side. This particular packaging design trick is useful and can make a product stand out from its opponents on the shelf. As briefly stated above the product is named on both the upper and lower left side of the front image. The upper image plays with different typographies and seems to be the full name of the product, while the lower typography plays with font size and has both the full name and abbreviated name of the product. Both labels reveal different information about the product, one stating headphone holography the other Bluetooth Headphones. Holography you say? Well, this is supposed to ‘make the sound appear like it’s coming from multiple speakers placed at a distance around the listener, rather than from the headphone itself.’ (https://www.patentlyapple.com/patently-apple/2019/02/could-holographic-audio-be-the-next-big-thing-coming-to-headphones.html). Well apparently it could be the next big thing; I’ll leave that up to you. As a whole the landscape idea I think brings a unique and clever way of rivalling its competitors.
The top of the package or lid contains both the full and abbreviated labels as well as the manufacturer’s label. It also has a QR code for find out more details, in addition to the slogan ‘Experience Magical Audio Reality’; a hint towards the holography technology built in I presume. On the left side of the packaging there resides a stylised image that shows how the headset would look when in use. Although another effective way of advertising the product it does seem a little Photo-shopped. Again, what I would consider in this case to be the abbreviation of this product, sits above the image.
The right side gives a side view of the product when it is in use by showing where the lighting effects appear on the earpiece and also details the tech specs;
- Driver Unit: 50mm Neodymium Magnet
- Response: 20Hz ~ 20kHz
- Weight: 338g(11.9oz)
- Source: Bluetooth/USB/microSD/Line-in Supports Nintendo Switch Chat
- Response: 100Hz to 8kHz
- Impedance: <2.2kohms
- Sensitivity @1kHz: -38dB
- 0 / 5.1 / 7.1 Channels (PC/MAC)
- Colour: Black/White
- Bluetooth Version: Bluetooth 4.2
- Battery Life: Up to 10 hours
- User Manual
- 2m CHarger Cable
- 3.5mm Audio Cable
- Removal Nano Boom Microphone
When opened up everything was packaged away well, so there is no need to worry about your new headset being damaged during transit unless you have a stupid delivery company that has no respect for customer products and uses it like a rugby ball.
Creative has used a very clever packaging design using many techniques to maximise their presence in an already saturated market. The uses of imagery that complement the product help to make it stand out from its competitors. I feel the addition of a QR code is a nice touch and equally as effective for encouraging the consumer to find further information on the spot as a way to sway them towards a possible purchase.
So I have the headset in my hands I have managed to connect it up to my Phone and PC, but you need to a lot more to get these bad boys/girls working correctly, its not as simple as plug’n’play, its plug, download, install, take pictures, send to device, update device, set sound settings, well let me explain.
As these headphones use new technology Creative have gone above and beyond and have allowed you to create a soundstage just for you, how? by downloading and installing the SXFI app from the Appstore or Google Play, sorry it is not on the Windows Store. You then need to set up an account, after that, you start the head and ear mapping, these take the form of 3 pictures, left and right ear and front facing. A note of advice here, you will need someone to do this for you as its damn almost impossible to do it alone.
After you have taken the picture and you have connected your device to either your PC or Mobile the app will create a soundstage based on your personal user profile and taa daa, it is done. You can play with the app more, like setting up the RGB lighting, using a preset equalizer, or creating your own, or control the amount of bass and treble. For the majority of this, I preferred to use the Windows 10 app. Now for some reason these settings only show up when connected via USB, they do not show up within the app on Windows 10 when the headset is paired through Bluetooth.
‘Super X-Fi is computational audio; it uses complex algorithms and computationally intensive techniques to custom fit audio, for every individual, through a sophisticated Head and Ear-Mapping process. This is done by simply taking three photos of your face and ears with your phone.
Hundreds of anthropometric parameters are extracted from the features of the head in high precision using real-time image detection and analysis. An artificial intelligence (AI) engine then uses these parameters along with the dynamics of the targeted headphones, and synthesizes them with a multidimensional map of the desired room acoustics.’
So for people that love images, this is what sound feels like when not using Super X-Fi
and this is what it feels like to experience Super X-Fi, this time a silent video
WoW, impressive right from the quote above in red, but does it actually work, well hold on to your horses, because before we delve into that section lets actually have a look at these headphones.
Plastic construction with a solid metal band for strength flows throughout these headphones, high-density memory foam with soft fabric earcups all with a durable leatherette headband. Damn, these look sexy, just not that light coming in at 338g. The picture below shows the Super X-Fi on and off button another way to connect to your music through a MicroSD slot, the Bluetooth Pairing button which also is used to choose the secret source. Inside the earcup are the 50 mm Neodymium magnet drivers to push out powerful sound along with L and R so you can not put the earcups on the wrong ears.
Flipping around the earcup you will find the power button, the Micro-boom Microphone, USB type c connection for charging and connecting to PC, and a 3.5mm audio connection. The intuitive touch controls are all set within the left ear cup, making this headset a rather impressive piece of kit. Touch controls allow you to skips tracks, control the volume or even answer a phone call.
As previously mentioned the headband is made with durable leatherette, what is leatherette you might be asking yourself well ‘Leatherette is a synthetic material designed specifically to mimic leather’. There is an adjustable metal band that gives these headphones plenty of strength with the Leatherette forming the construction around the primary headband with the Creative branding embossed on the top as seen in the image below. The only place on these headphones that will tell you that these are the Super X-Fi, is right at the bottom of the headband in a light brown stylised handwriting.
Now the experience
For years we have been using headphones confined to our ears, with a sound that is either Stereo, 5.1, 7.1 and recently Dolby Atmos for headphones. Now we are introduced to a Holographic 7.1 Sound experience, a soundstage that I have never ever heard of, experienced or thought was possible. What do I mean, its hard to put into words, but I am going to give it a good bash. With your general headphones, it does not matter if you have it set to stereo or any virtual surround sound set up the sound is always close, there is no true depth/distance. Now imagine you are in a room with speakers dotted all around the place, close your eyes and pretend that you have a set of headphones on, there is depth, a distance to where the sound source is coming from, this is what these headphones emulate.
Right from the get-go, it was hard to get used to these new headphones, as I am so used to hearing sounds the way we expect the sound to be when it comes to our headsets. So after setting up a personal profile with the thanks of my partner, I was sitting there wondering are these any better, do I like them, do I like this new technology. I even turned Super X-Fi off and used my Dolby Atmos setting instead, there was a huge difference, yes Dolby Asmos creates an amazing virtual soundstage which gives a sense of depth, but when using Super X-Fi there is a true sense of depth to any source material chucked at it. Take for example Battlefield V, you actually feel like you are in the field, part of the horrific war, you can hear the bullets from a distance, bombs dropping, everything felt more precise. Playing Resident Evil and all its jump scares, from a distance, to close up, all gave a true sense of immersion. I am not going to lie here, Dolby Atmos also gives the sense of being surrounded, but the added sense of depth and distance created with Super X-Fi just encapsulates your hearing experience in all new ways. Tell it how it was, I was gobsmacked, but it did take me some time to get used to and I put them down many times to go back to old faithful.
The RGB lighting is not something to shout about, there are no animations like you see of late from Razer, there are 16.8 million colours to choose from but you only get one static colour overall. They could have done much better by creating animations to play with or even allowing us to create our own animations. The headphones may feel a little heavy, but you do get used to them in the end, saying that there are lighter headsets on the market and these lighter ones may be more suitable for long use on those long commutes. The headband offers little to no padding, this is normal when it comes to this style of a headset, I should not complain but I am, I just wish they would add more. There is plenty of movement available when getting the earcups just right over your ears and against your head, it is just a shame they did not find a way to allow us to wrest the earcups face down on our shoulders like many manufacturers are doing of late. The Earcups are super comfortable to have over your ears, thanks to the high-density memory foam and soft fabric covering them, I never felt heat surrounding my ears during any long session with them in use.
I never wanted these headphones for making phone calls or answering them, I simply wanted them for gaming and music so the touch controls on the side, were intuitive and easy to use, volume up and volume down that was it. The best thing about these headphones was that I could use them with Nintendo Switch Chat and through a USB third party dongle for Bluetooth, happy days for a huge Nintendo Switch gamer.
One thing that has not been covered yet, how does the microphone perform and does it offer a good amount of noise suppression or does it suck balls? well, the microphone works great and picks up your voice fantastically however it also picks up everything else around you, from mechanical keyboards, mouse clicks, outside noises and everything in between, so yes the microphone works great but noise suppression is not all that hot.
As you can hear from the microphone test, its not bad quality, but it is let down purely by its noise suppression software, there is none.
Final Thoughts and Possible Improvements
Super X-Fi offers an all-new experience in audio that some will love, some will take some time to get used to and some will simply not like much like marmite. The design could do with some improvements, better RGB lighting, Noise Suppression on the nano-mic, more padding on the headrest and finally, allow the earcups to rest flat on the user’s shoulders. If you can move past all the improvements I recommended and want to experience what these headphones have to offer then I can promise you, you will not be disappointed. The audio soundstage these headphones produce in 1 in 7.53 billion and its a soundstage created just for you, an experience not found with any other headset a true to life audio extravaganza.