Creative SXFI Gamer Review - Battle Mode Almost Feels Like Cheating 10

Creative SXFI Gamer Review - Battle Mode Almost Feels Like Cheating

Microphone Performance »

Sound Quality

The Creative SXFI Gamer headset is equipped with a pair of 50-millimeter neodymium magnet (dynamic) speaker drivers. Their specified frequency range spans from 20 to 20,000 Hz, while impedance and sensitivity are undetermined. This isn't something I'm going to complain about, though, as the built-in electronics are very capable of driving the speaker drivers. If I wasn't checking for distortion at high listening volumes (there isn't any), I'd never go above 70% volume, as that would probably result in hearing damage. Right off the bat, this comes as great news for anyone with an underpowered or otherwise problematic integrated sound card. You'll simply plug the SXFI Gamer into a free USB port (USB-C or USB Type-A by using the supplied adapter) and be happily on your way.

Even though the Super X-Fi surround sound technology is one of the most pronounced features of the Creative SXFI Gamer headset—heck, it's in its name—I'd first like to talk about its stereo performance, as it is a basis for everything else it has to offer in terms of sound quality. I can sum up my overall impressions like this: If this headset didn't have any surround sound features at all, I'd still consider it excellent and absolutely worth buying. In every aspect that matters, this is a great-sounding product.

The overall tonality of the Creative SXFI Gamer is nicely balanced and mostly neutral across the frequency spectrum. In other words, instead of a bloated bass or shrieking highs, you get just the right amount of everything. The bass is smooth, fast, tight, and punchy. It digs deep and hits hard, although I wouldn't exactly declare the SXFI Gamer a bass monster since bass decay isn't long, which would increase the perceived "thickness" of the sound. This is a good thing in my book because it makes the SXFI Gamer exceptionally suitable for more complex songs and music genres, including those you wouldn't usually associate with a gaming headset, such as orchestral and classical music, as well as anything with a fast (double) bass pedal, such as many sub-genres of metal. A quick, nimble bass will help you fight your way through frantic multiplayer shooters as well. You won't be overwhelmed completely by gunfire, bombs dropping around you, and heavy machinery plowing its way through the battlefield; the SXFI Gamer will always keep you aware of what's happening around you.

The middle and high frequencies are clean and very detailed. While gaming, that greatly helps with spatial positioning, and when you're listening to music, you'll constantly find yourself hearing the finer nuances in your favorite songs, especially if you previously used mediocre headphones or a lesser gaming headset.

With all that in mind, the Creative SXFI Gamer is one of the best-sounding gaming headsets I've tested recently, and definitely the most versatile. At one point in December, I had to use it at a tech event for livestream monitoring, as I had an issue with my studio monitoring headphones. It performed wonderfully, only fortifying my stance about its exceptional versatility. I can't think of many gaming headsets I'd trust to sound neutral and authentic enough to be used for monitoring.

The passive noise isolation is very good, which comes as no surprise given the thickness of ear pads, as well as them being entirely covered in pleather.

Super X-Fi and Super X-Fi Battle Mode

The Super X-Fi technology is a combination of hardware (the built-in Super X-Fi ULTRA DSP) and software (head/ear mapping mobile app) working together to create the listening experience of a multi-speaker system.

To use it, click on Control Panel, then Sound, and right-click "SXFI GAMER," before picking Configure Speakers, 7.1 Surround, and selecting all optional speakers in that order. With that done, make sure to save your settings. Now, run your game of choice and configure the in-game audio settings to output audio for 5.1 or 7.1 speakers, and disable any headphone virtualization feature. All of that with Super X-Fi turned on, of course, which can be done within the SXFI Control software driver or by pressing the appropriate button on the left ear cup.

Let me start by saying that if you're not into virtual surround, Super X-Fi probably won't change your mind and turn you into a believer. However, as far as virtual surround sound technologies go, Super X-Fi is one of the better ones on the market. It dramatically widens the soundstage without destroying the bass in the process or making everything sound extremely artificial. Depending on the content, some artificiality and reverb can definitely be heard, especially in the vocal range. At times, I really thought I was hearing sounds which originated from another room rather than a pair of speaker drivers close to my ears. I can't say Super X-Fi helped me pinpoint my targets in multiplayer shooters with extreme accuracy, but it did create some interesting experiences, not only while gaming but also when watching movies or YouTube clips. That's why I kept coming back to it, and that's why you should definitely try it out.

If pinpointing in-game targets is what you're after, you'll be interested to know that Creative threw in an additional Super X-Fi mode, Super X-Fi Battle Mode. This thing almost feels like cheating. Battle Mode is tuned specifically for first-person shooters, where it boosts sounds like gunfire and footsteps, making them easier to distinguish and pinpoint their origin. The benefits of using Battle Mode span from relatively unnecessary (CS:GO, Valorant) to "God mode" (Escape From Tarkov, Warzone, Apex Legends, and pretty much any other battle royale shooter). You'll regularly hear your enemies earlier than you otherwise would, which essentially gives you a competitive edge. Once you get hooked on Super X-Fi Battle Mode, it will be a nightmare to switch back to a gaming headset that doesn't offer this feature. You've been warned.
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