Feb 3rd, 2020

I previously reviewed the Creative SXFI AMP, a tiny USB-C amplifier that bypasses the stock audio processing on your phone or computer for better quality audio through headphones. This will not only improve general audio quality, but allow you to drive high end headphones with ease. But the ace up its sleeve is the Super X-Fi audio holography, which aims to transform a headphone experience into one sounding like speakers.

When I tested it six months ago, I found the hardware to be fantastic. The build quality was phenomenal, with a metal chassis and great clicky buttons, and the audio quality was great. For a portable DAC/amp, it can drive many high end headphones and sound great doing it. I even use it with my laptop to bypass the inferior headphone jack at the sacrifice of one of my precious USB-C ports.

However, the Super X-Fi audio holography feature didn’t impress me. It aims to take the headphone experience, which is two speakers pressed closely against your ears, and widen it as if you’re listening to speakers. The soundstage is supposed to be wider, the bass bigger and more natural, and the surround sound audio more positional than stereo. This is achieved with ear mapping software, with which you take photos of your ears and face and a Super X-Fi profile is made for you.

Well the end result sounded like an echoey mess and I couldn’t really enjoy it. And after working with Creative, we figured out that there was an issue in how the ear mapping software worked with my ears. AKA I have weird ears. Let this be known. The folks at Creative were kind enough to check out my ear mapping and modify it quite a bit. The difference was substantial.

Much of the echo was removed, leaving behind a truly wide sound stage. It really did sound like you were listening through speakers. And with some content, particularly live music and movies, the sound was an improvement. I genuinely enjoyed it and started using it more. The already useful portable DAC became even better. And best of all, the headphone preset selection keeps growing with popular headphones like the AKG K7XX being added.

But things really changed with the release of Super X-Fi Gen2. If you don’t know about it, Gen2 was released at CES 2020 and I was given a demo of the new and improved holography tech. Read my full thoughts here. But for a quick recap, it’s a massive improvement and I was blown away. All Gen1 profiles for everyone with a Super X-Fi supported device were automatically converted to Gen2 and were immediately available for use.

Since then, I’ve used the SXFI AMP instead of my dedicated headphone amp on my desktop PC to watch movies because Super X-Fi made a big difference. I enjoyed The Mandalorian with Super X-Fi and it made the experience so much better. Not only did it widen the sound stage, but it also helped reduce fatigue from marathoning a show in headphones. Despite my main desktop amp being better, Super X-Fi was enough of a benefit for me to grab a standard USB-C to A cable and hook this little dongle up to my PC.

Super X-Fi is a game changer. And even though the SXFI AMP is a great portable DAC/amp for use with your phone or PC, especially since most phones don’t have headphone jacks and this is better than the dinky adapter included in the box, my opinion of it has changed. Don’t buy this just for the DAC aspect. Buy it for Super X-Fi, and enjoy.

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