I TeK things...
Hey what's going on OCNers, I am bluedevil and today we are going to talk about another product from Creative Labs. This time it's the Sound Blaster X3 Hi Res 7.1 External USB DAC and Sound Card, with Super X-Fi.
So last time we looked at the Sound Blaster AE-9 from Creative Labs, which is a PCIe based sound card with an external audio control module. Which is great if you are running a desktop with an available PCIe slot, but what about those users that are on a laptop or the dreaded Mac? Well that’s where the Sound Blaster X3 from Creative Labs steps in. You see, not everyone wants or has the room for a sound card these days. In the AE-9 review, I asked why have a sound card in 2019? Having the ability to work on several platforms is probably why a lot of people would opt for an external sound solution, not to mention being easier to setup than a PCIe based sound card.
Starting off I would like to thank Creative Labs for sending over the Sound Blaster X3, links will be in the description below..
Like I said in the Sound Blaster AE-9 review, why not just use the onboard audio from your computer? For some of you audio from any source is “good enough”. Then there are some of us that crave more, more clarity, more depth, more of EVERYTHING. Last year Creative Labs had me sit down at CES and try out their new headphone holography called Super X-Fi. I can honestly tell you that I really enjoyed the sound I heard, but I understand it may not be for everyone. Super X-Fi took a bit to understand, while I personally think it’s amazing for movies and games. For music, I prefer Super X-Fi off. Music to me seems echoey and slightly distant, not that it is bad, it kinda sounds like you are at a small bar with a band playing for a smaller group of people.
So aesthetically, the Sound Blaster X3 reminds me of the GSX 1000 and 1200 Pro from Sennheiser. Having front 3.5mm headphone and mic jacks, making the it differ from the GSX models. There are three buttons on top of the X3, the first one for mic mute, the second one for switching modes, and the Super XFi button toggle. The X3 itself provides high power 32-bit, 192 kHz playback at 115 dB DNR / SNR. The very large volume knob, which also has a ring that lights up blue, white or red depending on the function, is located in the very center of the X3. The shiny beveled edge on the volume knob is also a nice touch. Moving to the rear IO of the X3, you are greeted with front, side, rear, and C/SUB 3.5mm line outs. A single 3.5mm line in, Optical out, and a USB-C port finish out the rear IO nicely. The bottom also has four low profile rubber feet to keep the X3 from siding around on your desk.
Alright so Super X-Fi might not be for everyone, but the X3 does offer other things that are appealing as well. Like customizing 3 different preset EQ modes with the Mode button. Mode 1 is Music, Mode 2 being for Movies, and lastly Mode 3 for Footsteps Enhancer which would be helpful for gaming. Another cool feature is that the X3 is compatible with most devices like Windows PCs, Macs, PS4, and the Nintendo Switch.
So how does it sound? After listening to the same tracks at 32-bit 192khz like I did in the Sound Blaster AE-9 review, I would be hard pressed to tell the difference between the Sound Blaster AE-9 and the X3 at the same volume. Notice I said at the same volume, the AE-9 is noticeably louder at higher volumes, most likely due to the extra power that is drawn from the PCIe PSU rail. Also something to note is the playback resolution on the X3 is only at 192khz unlike the 384khz playback resolution found on the AE-9, giving a nod to clarity in favor of it being almost three times more expensive. Another key difference is the headphone amp, the AE-9 is capable of driving headphones up to 600 ohms, with 5.3v RMS. The X3 can also drive 600 ohm headphones, but at a mere 2.9v RMS. That explains why the X3 doesn’t get as loud.
So in conclusion is the X3 from Creative Labs the end all audio device, no. The Creative Labs X3 does offer an extremely good aesthetic, simple to set up, and is a relatively lower priced DAC/AMP combo while providing great sound. Priced at $120 US, the X3 earns a solid 4.5 out of 5 flames. If you are looking for higher end audio out of your PC or consoles, I can confidently recommend Creative’s Sound Blaster X3 provided you don’t need audio to be screaming loud.
Alright guys, that’s gonna do it for today. Thank you all for watching or reading, please also take the time to subscribe, hit the like button, and bang the notification bell to make sure you get every bit of Overclock that you can get.
Creative X3 AMP DAC
Creative AE-9 PCIe Sound Card