When most prominent tech companies have gigantic booth setups in the main halls of COMPUTEX 2018, Creative Labs, the company more famously known for its Sound Blaster sound cards, has a cozy private room here to demonstrate the company’s next groundbreaking product – Super X-Fi, I got to know it first from my friend Aloysius Low at CNET a couple of months back, which he claims it to be frigging mind blowing and magical, I was eager to try it out for myself, and it turns out to be a really refreshing experience when my mind has been boggled with RGB peripherals for the day.
Before joining the demo, the staffs at Creative took a picture of my face and both ears with a special calibration app, which I was very impressed with how well it managed to detect the shape of my ears, this data is used to train the AI engine to produce sound that fits my facial profile and ear size. Creative says that this process is important as every face and ear perceives sound differently, however there’s no need for that when the final product is being released. Super X-Fi may seem complicated when you want to know the technicalities, but in a nutshell, it aims to make surround sound realistic on a 2-channel headphone, it’s like really having 7-speakers playing in your headphones, hence Creative isn’t even calling it ‘virtual surround’ like other headphone manufacturers, and it considers it as ‘Holographic Sound’.
While in the demo room, we continued to do a 30-second sound calibration with a pair of earbud microphones, the 7.1 sound system right in front played noise and sci-fi sound repeatedly, this is done to let the system understand how our ears react to the sound that is being played. Creative then proceed to play a few sample videos with Dolby Atmos sound effect, while asking us to take off and put on the Super X-Fi enabled headphones to compare the effect with their $6000 7-channel home theater system, it really feels like the speakers hasn’t left me even when I put on the headphones, it isn’t perfect but it does tend to set a significant difference from those so called ‘virtual 7.1 surround’ headphones.
What impresses me the most is how Super X-Fi managed to turn a standard 2.0 music track into a realistic live surround effect, it is done so well that as if the artist is singing right in front of me and it doesn’t have that fake echo effect that virtual surround sound speakers and headphones tend to produce. Creative says that they are working with music streaming and live streaming apps to integrate Super X-Fi, and it has been working with the 17 Live Streaming service in Taiwan, and teased that it could be even coming to apps like iFlix in time to come.
You can call Super X-Fi both a hardware and software sound solution, as Creative is about to release a free Super X-Fi music player app for iOS and Android devices soon to let users experience it coming this month, the app will do pretty much the same sound enhancements and can play local music files only. As for the hardware treatment, Creative has made a nice dongle which consists of a 32-bit DAC, headphone amplifier and the Super X-Fi sound processor, it will support both iOS and Android devices with a USB-C to Lighting and USB-C to USB-C cable respectively, power will be drawn from the devices so there’s no need to charge the dongle.
Creative says that Super X-Fi will basically work on any headphones or speakers you use, but the company also recommends that we look out for Super X-Fi certified headphones for the best possible results, the Super X-Fi dongle will be available around July-August and costs $150 (RM600), which is definitely worth it if you are a person that is used to invest in DACs and headphones. I’ll be looking forward to try out the Super X-Fi app and report back, and let’s hope it works as advertised.