Creative’s Super X-Fi technology is a mix of hardware and software audio holography. Its aim is to emulate the open feeling of speakers inside of headphones. Headphones are usually two drivers playing extremely close to your ears, giving a closed feeling whereas speakers sound open, more accurate to natural sound, and have the benefit of real surround sound.
With Super X-Fi, you could emulate that feeling surprisingly well. The soundstage became wider, stereo separation was evened out, and it often did sound like you were listening to speakers. There were a few times I was caught off guard, thinking my speakers were playing instead of my headphones. Then I realized that this wasn’t possible as the headphones’ passive isolation wouldn’t allow that kind of sound. Trippy!
However, this tech still had its issues. For one, and at least for me, music sounded unnatural. There was also the issue of excessive echo, an effect used to create a larger soundstage but hurting the quality of the sound. Super X-Fi was extremely impressive and innovative, but it was far from perfect. Still, it was an awesome feature to play around with.
This changed at CES 2020. The company unveiled Super X-Fi Gen2, a new and heavily improved version of the technology that’s available for everyone to use right now. If you have a compatible device and a profile, it should be updated to Gen2 by now. Open the app, hit Personalize in the side menu, and check to see if you have that “GEN2” badge next to your profile.
With this update, Creative has taken all of the user data collected over the last year to make improvements across the board. More detail is preserved, more directional “channels” were added, dialog clarity was improved, and bass was enhanced. And when it comes to products like the SXFI AIR headphones, you even get a 10% boost in battery life.
The CES 2020 demo featured a surround sound setup with everyone sitting in between the speakers. You get a set of headphones and an SXFI AMP to toggle the effect on and off. They played test tones across each speaker, then did the same thing with regular stereo headphones. It was almost indistinguishable from the speakers. Many of the people in the demo, including me, lifted our headphones to make sure the speakers weren’t playing. When it came to the music, movies, and other demo content we were shown, Super X-Fi continued to impress with seriously realistic replication of a surround sound speaker system. Even a mono audio song sounded like it was coming from in front and to the sides of you.
Frankly, I was blown away. This not only seemed to be a huge upgrade over the first generation of Super X-Fi, but it seemed to be damn near perfect. It sounded so real, so close to speakers, my brain was entirely fooled.
Getting home from the insanity of CES, I quickly grabbed my pair of Creative SXFI Theater headphones and decided to give the software a test for myself. Let’s be fair, curated demos in controlled environments are one thing, but real world usage is a whole different beast. My impressions are more of the same: Gen2 is a massive upgrade over Gen1 and takes Super X-Fi from a feature I liked to dabble with to one I feel genuinely improves a lot of my content. Whether it’s new high quality music or 90’s demos in awful quality, whether it’s surround sound movies or YouTube clips, Super X-Fi sounds amazing.
Will I be using the feature full time? Of course not. While it sounds amazing, it doesn’t work with every bit of content. Plus I actually do love the unique sound headphones provide. And it’s awful for first person shooters, though it does great in atmospheric games like Metro 2033. But it will definitely become a staple of my daily media consumption. Creative also announced a game mode specifically built for FPS games at CES, and future headphones will come with the SX-Fi hardware built into the cable, so I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Super X-Fi.