Accessory Review: Creative Super X-Fi Headphone Amp “Another Game Changer”
When I was offered the Super X-Fi amp to review, from Creative, the creators of the fantastic Outlier Air Ear Buds, I was sceptical. For starters, I already own a decent headset with my PlayStation Gold Headset, offering 7.1 audio on my PS4. So what could the Super X-Fi amp really offer me? Via the official description, in a nutshell, this amp can apparently turn just about any headset or earbuds into blissful audio quality, replicating that of a top end headset. The sceptic in me says it all sounds too good to be true, but I like to keep an open mind, so I jumped at the chance to review this magical amp and to be honest, some of the results were quite amazing to say the least.
Seeing as I primarily use my PlayStation Gold Headset, I thought I’d connect this amp to the headset and as expected, while it offered a different kind of audio, it wasn’t really an improvement, at least for me. After all, this headset already offered 7.1 audio, so I expected this to be the case, but I wanted to rule out my curiosity none the less. However, the real noticeable improvement was when using the headset provided with the Super X-Fi amp (Aurvana Special Edition Headphones) and even more so, my bog standard and cheap, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild ear buds that I use when playing my Nintendo Switch.
The Aurvana SE Headphones are very lightweight, soft on the ears and alone with no amp, offer good quality audio. I first used this headset playing Marvel’s Spider-Man and while some of the dialogue audio had a sound, almost like your hearing it directly from a recording studio, it picked up the environmental sounds such as crowd chatter, cars beeping horns and wind whistling as you web-sling through Manhattan fantastically. After this I checked out the amp with other open-world titles such as Horizon Zero Dawn and GTA V, and it gave me the same impression as what I had with Marvel’s Spider-Man. So I began to believe that this might be the case with open-world games in general.
So moving away from open-world games, I tried something more enclosed, beginning with Alien: Isolation and my god, if this game didn’t scare the crap out of me before, the environmental sounds that the amp picked up, had me even more on edge. Alien: Isolation is a game that you must not only rely on instincts to survive, but you must also listen to audio cues from the Xenomorph stomping in the vents, the sinister hiss of the alien tracking you down, as well as the background cracks and creeks of the space station designed to turn you into a nervous wreck. The Super X-Fi amp helped heighten my senses with all those background noises, taking the horror experience to another level.
In truth, I wouldn’t say it was particularly better then the PS Gold Headset, but it was at least on par, but the amp, plugged into the Aurvana SE offered an alternative to the sounds that I was used to. Whereas the PS Gold Headset offered a better all-round sound, the amp and the connected Aurvana offered a better experience in terms of environmental sounds, an aspect that is perfect for horror games in general, especially one such as Alien: Isolation. However, out of curiosity, I tried the Aurvana SE headset without the amp and the audio was still great, but it didn’t offer the same kind of level of detail then with the amp connected.
I also tried the combination on Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 and the environment sounds continued to shine, not only with the gunfire, but bullets flying past you, the impact of grenades and also, perhaps more importantly when playing online, the footsteps of opposing players, which I felt helped give more of a slight advantage. Then I tried the combination on GT Sport and the results were equally fantastic, but in a different way of course, such as hearing the hiss of a turbo and the screech of the tires and breaks as you navigate round a tight corner. So with the games that I tested out the amp on, while I believe my PS Gold Headset offered better all-round audio for open-world games or titles that require you to focus on audio dialogue, the amp was perhaps superior with more linear, enclosed titles such as Alien: Isolation or online shooters such as Call of Duty, where I didn’t really have to focus too much on audio narrative.
However, it’s one thing connecting the Super X-Fi amp to a console using an already decent headset, but what about some relatively cheap ear buds? Being a Legend of Zelda fan, I purchased the official Breath of the Wild ear buds because they were cheap, but they still looked quite cool in terms of the art design that is on the buds. Yet in terms of audio quality, while they do their job on a basic level, they are very basic and cheap. But I paid for them, so I use them as often as I can, when playing my Nintendo Switch.
So being curious to see if or how much the amp would improve the audio quality of these basic ear buds, I connected them to the amp and then plugged them into the Switch and it was here that I was most impressed with the audio quality. The amp really did take the audio quality of my basic buds to another level and surprisingly, they perhaps worked best when playing Football Manager 2020! The reason being is that it turned relatively simple audio such as crowd noise and the sounds of the ball being kicked about on the pitch, to something that sounded more crisp, more surround. I was genuinely taken back by how the Super X-Fi amp enhanced the audio quality of my basic buds to another level.
I then tried it out on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and once again, the results were fantastic. I know previously I said that the amp didn’t perform at its best with open-world games on PS4, but I believe the fact that Breath of the Wild and for most first-party Nintendo games in general, they don’t rely too much of audio narrative with much of it being text and grunt based, these factors worked in the amps favour when playing certain titles on the Nintendo Switch in my opinion.
Finally, going back to the Aurvana SE headset, as I’m more comfortable using a headset over earbuds when watching movies, I tested out the amp, not only watching YouTube Let’s Play videos, but I also used it while watching The Matrix and once again, the amp surprised me to how much it enhanced my overall experience, arguably performing to a higher standard to that of playing a video game. So going forward when watching movies on my lonesome and not with my family, I will certainly be using the Super X-Fi amp whenever I can.
In terms of the more technical aspects, I won’t go into too many details, as I’m not the most technically savvy person, which is why I wanted to talk of how well the Super X-Fi performed on a basic level. The amp itself was just 15g (0.5oz), 17.5mm wide and 67mm tall in its aluminium shell, so it’s very lightweight and is unimposing when connected to your headset or ear buds. The amp as default uses a USB Type-C input port with a 3.5mm audio jack output, as well as featuring a C-to-C cable, and an additional adapter for those that are using a micro USB. The amp also has functions to switch on the fly between the Super X-Fi and the audio that your headset/ear buds provide natively. So if you prefer the audio provided for a particular game or movie, you can easily switch between the two, as well as adjusting the volume just as simply.
While the Super X-Fi is compatible with the PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC, iOS and Android, I was unable to test out the amp on my mobile, unfortunately. The reason being is that I recently acquired the Samsung S10e and upon using the amp while listening to my music, the beats would distort and when I disconnected the amp and just used the headset/ear buds, I did not have this issue. So I contacted the PR representing the Super X-Fi, and they informed me that the developers at Creative currently have issues with some new Samsung devices and as sods law would have it, my phone is one of those devices. While there is no fix at the time of writing, I was also informed that they hope that a firmware update will release for Samsung devices impacted by this issue to correct the problem (I’ll update this review when/if that happens).
However, I did test out the free app that accompanies the Super X-Fi amp and it’s very thorough as it requires you to take three photos, one of each ear and another of your face to map your head, so that it can be tailored to you. Once in the app, you can then select from a variety of supported headsets, to better customise your experience and I would imagine, that the list of headsets/ear buds will only grow over time. Though it’s worth pointing out that even if your headset/ear buds don’t appear on the list, such as my Zelda buds, your experience will still be vastly enhanced. Sadly however, due to my Samsung compatibility issues, I was unable to put the amp to the test on my phone.
At the moment, the Creative Super X-Fi amp will cost you a cool £129.99 at the time of writing direct from the Creative online shop. Now I know £130 is expensive and you can get a top-line headset for that price. However, if you already own a top of the line headset, whether it be listening to music on the go or movies and videogames in the comfort of your own home, then the amp might not be for you. However, if you currently own bog standard ear buds or a headset, and you want something top of the line, then the Super X-Fi amp could be a very worthy investment now and in future.
By investing in this impressive bit of little kit, you not only can turn your basic ear buds in to something top end, but should you purchase a headset on the cheap at a later date, this amp will also turn that cheap headset into something truly marvellous, and vice versa. You can do this for just about any headset/ear buds like for like going forward, so you don’t have to spend a small fortune on a headset and as a result, you’ll very likely save money in the long run. On top of that, this little bit of kit works wonders for even the most average of headsets. I know it’s very difficult explain how great something sounds, but trust me, the Super X-Fi is another game changer from Creative. You can read up on all the specifications and pick-up a Creative Super X-Fi amp here.