1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.

    Dismiss Notice

Sound Blaster X7

Rating:
4.66667/5,
  1. Murcielagolp640
    An amazing all in one DAC + Amp
    Written by Murcielagolp640
    Published Jul 26, 2015
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Provide almost all type of interface including, bluetooth
    Cons - Only sounds amazing when using optical + Direct Mode (SPDIF-in) + High Gain (600 ohm)
    IMG_0957.jpg
     
    I purchase this all in one DAC + Amp because I love the design and the interface it provide, very useful. But after get it, I found in order to make it sounds great, it need some hard working. I made a lot of experiments after purchasing it for 2 weeks. Here's some summary
     
    Source 
    - Macbook Pro
    - Philips Desktop CD Player
     
    Headphone
    - Sennheiser HD 700
    - Sennheiser HD 650
     
    Different Combination
    - Macbook Pro + Sound Blaster X7 + USB Digital In = Small noise from time to time 
    - Macbook Pro + Sound Blaster X7 + Optical Digital In + SBX = After listening to music for a while, the X7 will not working, no sound come out. (The SBX light will turn dim, and the power light will become less light) I have to re-turn on the power to resume the playing
    - Desktop CD Player  + Sound Blaster X7 + RCA Line IN  / Optical Digital = Works just fine, but sound so so
    - Macbook Pro  + Sound Blaster X7 + Optical Digital In with Direct Mode = Works just fine, sounds better than pervious combination 
     
    The Turning Point
    No matter how I set up the X7, I still can't reach to a point which make my HD700 sounds as good as on my friend's A1. And he suggested me that maybe your Amp is not powerful enough. Then I remember I also select the "low gain". So, after switching to "high gain", magic happens. It sounds sooooo amazing, like 2 different systems. The sound suddenly become full of details, rich and very clear.
     

    Some Glitch Found
    1. When I use Optical Digital output from my Macbook Pro to X7, every time I open the Sound Blaster Control App on the Mac, the output method will automatically switch to UBS which is kinda annoying 
    2. Every time restart the X7, I need manually select "Direct Mode", because it will be switched off by default when restarting. It's also kinda annoying
  2. earfonia
    High-End Sound Blaster - Multi-platform & multi-function audio interface with excellent audio quality.
    Written by earfonia
    Published Feb 22, 2015
    4.5/5,
    Pros - All-in-One solution for music, movie, & gaming. Tons of features. Multi-platform support, including Android & iOS.
    Cons - A bit complicated, & rely too much on the control panel software, minimal physical buttons for standalone operation.

     
     
    This is the introduction & summary part of my detail review of Sound Blaster X7. The link to the detail review is here:
    Creative Sound Blaster X7 - Detailed Review & Impressions
     
     
    The detail review consist of 5 sections:
    Introduction and Summary
    Sound Quality
    Op-Amp Rolling
    Control Panel
    Features & Measurements
     
     
     
    Sound Blaster X7 is an impressive multi-platform, all-in-one solution for music, movie, and gaming. As a USB DAC, X7 works with most of today's operating system, Windows, Mac OS, and newer version of Android, & iOS. But what makes X7 stands out from the USB DAC's crowd is the SB-Axx1™ multi-core Digital Signal Processor (DSP) that adds many unique audio processing features to the Sound Blaster X7.

    The SB-Axx1™ DSP is a multi-channel digital audio mixer and signal processor, capable of processing up to 32 concurrent audio channels, at up to 24 bit 96 kHz per channel. Not only for mixing, but also audio effects such as equalizer, compressor, and other customized effects. If Creative would make a professional digital mixing console based on SB-Axx1™ DSP alone, it would probably cost around $ 1k or more. SB-Axx1™ is a powerful audio DSP.

    Sound Blaster X7 has a very unique triangular shape, nice looking, and attention grabbing design for a desktop component. Though for practical purpose, I prefer the conventional rectangular box shape for easy stacking and transport-ability.

    I bought SB X7 standard edition in November 2014 during the launch in Singapore Expo. And many thanks to Joseph from Creative Singapore, for the loan of SB X7 Limited Edition, to be reviewed together with the standard edition. The differences of the SB X7 Limited Edition to the standard edition are:
    1. Approximately 1 ohm headphone output impedance. Lower output impedance than the 2.2 ohm on the standard SB X7.
    2. High power, 144 watts power adapter, while the standard edition comes with the 69.84 watts power adapter.
    3. White color.
     

     

    I'm more of an audiophile, and not a gamer, so I won't review X7 from the gaming perspective, but more on SB X7 overall sound quality and main features. And 5.1 configuration was not tested either since I don't have 5.1 receiver and speaker setup.

    Purist audiophile probably considers the audio processing features in X7 are not necessary features. The fact is, Sound Blaster X7 is not only designed with gaming and movie in mind, but also has included some important features for audiophile, such as:
    USB asynchronous data transfer protocol.
    USB and SPDIF Direct Mode that bypasses the SB-Axx1™ DSP for bit perfect digital audio conversion.
    Audiophile-grade Components like the Nichicon “Fine Gold” capacitors.
    Swappable op-amps on the DAC output stage, to fine tune the sonic character.

    Sound Blaster X7 adopt asynchronous USB transfer mode, relying more on its internal low jitter clock, rather than the signal clock from USB / SPDIF. The asynchronous USB transfer mode is probably not mentioned in the X7 webpage and manual, but it is an important feature to be mentioned, and was informed to me by Creative.

    Creative have pushed the limit of a multi-function audio interface that excels in all aspects. And I would say they have done it really well! Sound Blaster X7 delivers. A very unique one box solution with superb sound quality and tons of features. And very reasonably priced!



    Pros:
    Multi-platform & multi-function audio interface, with USB host function to interface with Android and iOS platform through USB connection.
    Tons of features in such a small package, with extensive connectivity options.
    Asynchronous USB data transfer protocol
    Very good sound quality headphone output and line output, with pretty good speaker amplifier.
    High power headphone output (measured approximately 1200 mW @ 32ohm).
    Convenience 3.5 mm and 1/4" headphone socket.
    Very good sound quality Bluetooth audio with easy NFC pairing.
    Rich audio processing features for gaming, movies, and music, with smart equalizer.
    5.1 outputs with speaker calibration.
    Standalone operation.
    Swappable op-amps.
     

    Cons:
    High dependency to Sound Blaster Control Panel, minimal dedicated buttons for important features for standalone operation.
    No default start up volume for hearing safety.
    No volume level indicator.
    No DAC operating sampling rate indicator.
    Bluetooth connection announcement, "Device connected" & "Device disconnected" can be too loud and annoying. There should be an option to disable it, or replace it with a simple soft sounding tone.
     

    Suggestions For Improvement:
    Volume level indicator. Even a simple 4 LEDs indicator is sufficient.
    Option for default start up volume feature for hearing safety.
    DAC sampling rate frequency indicator.
    Dedicated button for DAC input selector. Toggle switch to switch between: USB Direct - SPDIF-In Direct - DSP Playback Mix (Default).
    Dedicated button for profile selection.
    Bluetooth transmitter / Bluetooth 4.0 adapter function, to pair Bluetooth headphones to SB X7.
    Better quality microphone input to accommodate good quality microphone (for recording, karaoke, etc.).
    Option to bypass line input gain.
    Icon to launch the X7 control panel from the Android notification panel.
    HDMI input.
     
     
     

     


    In summary, Sound Blaster X7 is really a High-End Sound Blaster that successfully integrates Gaming, Movies, and Music into one unique and innovative product. Superb sound quality with tons of features. Kudos to Creative!
     
     
     
    Feature Highlights:
    Asynchronous USB data transfer protocol
    SB-Axx1 multi-core audio processor
    Main Stereo DAC: 1x Burr-Brown PCM1794 (127dB Dynamic Range)
    Surround Channels DAC: 2x Burr-Brown PCM1793 (113dB Dynamic Range)
    ADC: Burr-Brown PCM4220 (123dB SNR)
    TPA6120A2 for the headphone amplifier
    TPA3116D2 for the speaker amplifier
    DAC output I to V stage: 2x NJM2114D (one for each channel)
    Differential to Single conversion stage: 2x LME49710 (one for each channel)
    Bluetooth 4.1 Low Energy connectivity
    apt-X Low Latency and AAC are supported for quality wireless connections
    PCM stereo up to 24 bit - 192 kHz (including 88.2 kHz and 176.4 kHz)
    5.1 channels up to 24 bit - 96 kHz
    USB to SPDIF converter
     

    Specifications:
    Output : Stereo and 5.1 Channels
    Audio Processor : SB-Axx1™
    Connectivity Options (Main):
    microUSB
    Microphone : 
    Built-in Stereo Mic
    1 x 1/8" (3.5mm) Mic In
    Line / Optical :
    1 x RCA Aux/Line In
    1 x TOSLINK Optical In
    1 x TOSLINK Optical Out
    Speaker : 
    2 x Binding Post Passive Speaker Out (L/R)
    1 x RCA Line/Front Speaker Out
    1 x 1/8" (3.5mm) Rear Speaker Out
    1 x 1/8" (3.5mm) Centre/Sub Speaker Out
    Headphone :
    1 x 1/8" (3.5mm)Headphone Out
    1 x 1/4" (6.3mm)Headphone Out
    USB HOST :
    1 x Type A USB Host Port - Device Audio Stream & Charging
    Headphone Amp
    Up to 600 Ohms
    Max Channel Output
    5.1 Channels, Stereo Amplified
     


    Unboxing & Accessories

     

     

     

  3. Evshrug
    Sound Blaster X7 - Flagship Gaming Source Component.
    Written by Evshrug
    Published Jan 15, 2015
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Inputs for just about anything, great DAC, solid amp, Mobile App for tweaking settings, Dolby decoder for consoles. All-In-One for a fair price.
    Cons - Built-in mic is PC/Bluetooth use only, mic isn't amazing anyway. All-in-One pricing might be con if you don't need some components.
    Creative Lab's Sound Blaster X7[/SIZE=5]

    As gamers, it's part of our hobby to seek "the next level". We're always looking for new adventures, new ideas, new graphics, and new ways to push the competitive edge. In the past few years, there has been a growing awareness (or for the hardcore, a resurgence) of how virtual surround combined with great headphones provides an ideal gaming experience: private, immersive, no speaker placement issues, and high value. Creative Lab's new Sound Blaster X7 is the result of a growing consumer awareness of these benefits and Creative’s taking note that there is a market for upgraded component quality and convenience.




    Here's as shortest way to describe what the X7 has to offer: it weaves the web of practically all your audio sources into an all-in-one high fidelity component and plays them back (almost) however you want. The X7 offers a surround DSP, desktop DAC, desktop headphone amp, passive speaker (!) amp, and beamforming microphone. The X7 can connect to optical, USB, analog RCA line-in, mic line-in, and up to two Bluetooth sources. Plus, it looks awesome with its pyramid/prism shape, uncluttered front,volume/mute knob at the apex, and wire headphone stand/home above it. Overall the X7 is a smaller unit than I expected and it rated an "Oh, that's a tidy little setup" from my girlfriend.

    My desktop setup, Before/After




    Those qualities were enough to make me jump at trying out the X7 as soon as it was released... but if you're reading this, I suspect you are trying to find out if it's worth its $400 MSRP price tag.



    The Specs & Sound[/SIZE=4]

    I want to point out right away that the specifications are all listed on www.soundblaster.com/x7, and except for one minor addition to that list I just want to focus on how each of those numbers benefit the sound.

    Right now, I'm keeping the writing juices flowing by listening to Daft Punk's newest Random Access Memories (featured in Stuff.tv's "30 Greatest Audiophile Albums" article), and that Burr Brown 127dB S:N DAC and Texas Instruments' headphone amp is easily revealing detailed minutia such as reverb and the decay of drums, with solid, tight bass, mesmerizing mids, and clean clean clean clear treble. With good headphones, I can hear most of these details with the built-in DAC in a typical 86dB motherboard or 98dB DAC built into previous console-gamer DSPs, such as an Astro Mixamp or Creative Recon3D. Often, however, I won't NOTICE these details until the X7 (or my other DAC, a Schiit Bifrost Uber) seems to pull the wool out of my ears and reveals the details. Playing "Hooked on a Feeling," I never before noticed the organ that begins playing at 25 seconds. The X7 is a very good DAC, so much so that since I don't lose any entertainment value compared to the $420 Schiit Bifrost Uber and I gain all the extra features, I'd easily recommend it for gamers over the Bifrost.

    Another shortcoming with a motherboard or Mixamp, those "entry-level" devices have merely "entry-level" amps. With higher quality headphones, which generally feature higher impedance (Ω, or Ohms) and lower sensitivity, I had to double-amp with a dedicated headphone amp to hear the true level of dynamic and controlled quality the headphones were capable of. Nothing extra is needed in the X7, thanks to the Texas Instruments TPA6120A2 solid-state headphone amp chip "capable of driving high-end 600Ω headphones." It certainly doesn't seem to be straining to supply my 150Ω Sennheiser HD700, 62Ω AKG K712, or 32Ω VMODA M-100; "Spirit in the Sky" digs really dynamically into the artist-intended distorted guitar and sounds awesome (and yup, I have the Guardians of the Galaxy OST). 



    One last specification that is Head-Fi popular but rarely published by amp manufacturers is the headphone output impedance; I asked Creative and they told me it was 2.2Ω, which is a very nice and pretty universal measurement that will allow for all but the most difficult IEMs to drive nicely without distorting. Oh, and the speaker taps? They happen to play nice with my antique Stax headphones and their transformer:





    Okay okay, that is great and all, but how does it sound while gaming? Creative’s proprietary SBX processing for headphone surround, combined with a nice DAC, amp, and headphones, really makes a great recipe for console gaming – an example of something greater than the sum of its parts. Sure, it plays great from PC like top of the line soundcards, but the X7 is the first Dolby Digital Live surround decoder with a headphone DSP that has high-end parts.

    In testing, I played CoD: Ghosts while streaming to Twitch. I often pointed out for my viewers when I was picking out enemies by sound alone, well before we saw the opponent (and I blasted 'em). Even though I was about 3 months rusty from competitive FPS, I dominated because my awareness was so good! I actually showed the streamers how I tracked opponents through walls and anticipated when we would see them come around corners. Playing a single-player game like Metro: First Light, it's easy to get caught up in the atmosphere and spook when you hear a monster climbing up the pillar off the screen to your right. If you've never gamed with headphone surround before, it really sucks you in and immerses your senses, even more than 3D. SBX processing sounds cleaner and more realistic than the rare headphone surround DSP built into any home theater receiver. Plus, it's adjustable...


    Controls and Adjustments[/SIZE=4]

    The X7 has the best controls I've ever seen in an audio component. The PC control panel is logically laid out with different sections and icons in a sidebar, AND every control is also accessible from a similar layout on the smartphone/tablet app. I have iOS devices, and the PC control panel is replicated on my iPad, while my iPhone 5S has icons on the main screen that correlate with the sidebar sections on other devices. The connection is Bluetooth and there is a one second delay between making a change and the X7 changing to reflect that, but that doesn't diminish how cool it is to mess with SBX and Equalizer settings while the game is playing live on the main screen.

    The first screen of the Sound Blaster X7 mobile app on my iPhone allows me to switch between speaker and headphone output (don't have to unplug anything!), change volume, choose if I want my iPhone's sound to play through the X7 or something else, and choose between the 9 control categories. I'll focus on just three for the scope of this review: SBX Pro Studio, Mixer, and Profile (in the Cinematic panel, just set it to "full" and leave it there).

    SBX Pro Studio
    I covered a lot of these functions in my Recon3D USB review, and they function essentially the same here. The sample video/sound clip built-in to the PC control panel is useless, but you can just play a real game while making adjustments.

    "Surround" and its strength slider allow the virtual headphone surround goodness. I prefer personally to have this setting pretty high while gaming (~80%-100%) but getting used to 67% at first is a good baseline.

    "Crystalizer" is supposed to "restore" the liveliness of compressed audio, maybe this would be great with the Sony MA900 or HD650 to "wake them up," but the headphones I prefer are already pretty lively and this setting is fatiguing to me, so I switch it off.

    I actually like Creative's "bass" setting here and find a little boost pleasurable, I believe it makes an EQ adjustment and perhaps a little volume compression, the "crossover frequency" sub-setting is a cutoff point for where the bass boost stops having effect, so I can keep the bass from bleeding over the detail of the mids.

    "Smart Volume" is a volume compression to "minimize sudden volume changes" and make quiet sounds not so quiet compared to the loudest sounds. I know a lot of people will switch it off and I find it situational, but sometimes I find it really useful when a movie or especially TV show is quiet then suddenly booming, or if I'm writing a review article for 6 hours and I just want to listen at quiet volumes. 

    "Dialog Plus" enhances voices, again something I quite enjoy with movies and TV shows.

    On the mobile app, the SBX panel is also where the 10-band EQ lives – sometimes the EQ seems to hide from me, but then I remember that it's in this SBX panel, at the top of the screen.

    Mixer
    Astro Gaming, eat your heart out. The Astro Mixamp has two dials, a master volume dial and a game-to-chat balance knob. If you use any "chat" then the Mixamp actually loses some maximum volume output. The X7 has no such volume issues because it's all digital, and you can rebalance the volume of your overall output, mic monitoring (hear yourself echo in your headphone), line-in, SPDIF-in, Bluetooth, USB Host, and SPDIF Out. Any of those could also be muted, or change the balance of left/right ear in case you have any hearing loss or one speaker just sounds "off."

    Oh, I guess this is as good a time as any to point out that ALL these sources can be playing at once (only one bluetooth at a time, you an pair two but switch which is feeding audio), so you can have your PS4 going, your iPad playing some music, your friend on PC chatting with you, and hear your phone ring and quickly switch to just that connection. Since these play simultaneously, you can get creative with your console connections, which I'll get back to in the setup section.

    Profile
    Yay for controls and options! Boo-hiss for having to change all the settings per-headphone or for each type of media. Luckily, the X7 can save a set of settings into different profiles so you can switch everything quickly, or use one of Creative's preset ones.


    Connections and Microphone[/SIZE=4]



    Alright, I've already listed the types of connections on the X7, but I just wanted to go a bit more in-depth on a few things. First of all, while the X7's mic works on PC and bluetooth, there isn't really a convenient way to use the X7's mic with a gaming console. That all has to do with Xbox simply not supporting USB audio, and the PS4 being unable to "see" the X7's mic among all its other features. Keep in mind that all other console DSP devices don't come with microphones anyway, an essentially face the same challenge of wiring the chat audio into the "base unit."

    Second, when gaming on PC, my friends consistently preferred my dedicated Blue Snowball USB mic -- even my cheap HDE/Neewer clip-on mic I found on Amazon sounds a little cleaner. A big part of that quality can be attributed simply to the compromise of being further away from a mic and then the room acoustics come into play. But it must be said that I'm not compelled to use the x7's Beamforming mic much, and that hurts the "all-in-one" score a bit. On the bright side, I had my friend call my phone with bluetooth and it seamlessly changed the playback and mic audio to the call once I accepted, so that's a plus.

    Connecting the X7 to Bluetooth headphones (which often have a mic, nearer your mouth) is currently not possible, but Creative is aware that this is a "highly requested feature." So, if Creative adds Bluetooth headphone support, cool things could happen and suddenly the PS4 or Xbox could wirelessly connect to 3rd party Bluetooth wireless headphones. Now, Sony itself doesn't support 3rd party Bluetooth headsets in the PS4, but they did with the PS3 (which I don't have). If Sony adds 3rd Party Bluetooth support for PS4, this could solve chat/mic issues, because it could "see" the X7 as a headset, which would enable the built-in mic at least and the X7 could mix together game and chat audio.

    In the end, right now it's simpler and sounds great to just use the X7 for game audio duty, and plugging in a desktop USB mic into a computer or PS4/3, if you're the type of person who likes to chat. You could also do what the console manufacturers want you to do, and use a Kinect or PS Camera as your mic, the mic quality on those are basically the same as the X7 (because they pick up your voice from distance and get some of the sound of the room). You could also get more complicated with a y-splitter, lapel mic or ModMic, and route chat audio from controller to the X7; the Xbox One additionally requires the headset chat adapter if you mean to use the controller-wired method. Personally that's too much wire mess and I'd stick with a USB mic or Kinect. Here's a picture of how the PS4 controller-wired-to-the-X7 setup looks like:




    Who Is This For?[/SIZE=4]

    The X7 has proved it's worth to me, performing some impressive feats of Alchemy while also being rather future-proof, and I'd buy it again if I had to. That said, I realize that some of it's features may not be worth it to my dear readers, in which case I'd recommend something like a Turtle Beach DSS, which fits pretty much in the middle between the 1Dimensional stereo sound from a console controller/PC motherboard and the high-end sound of the X7. I'd recommend saving up for the X7 if some of these points make sense to you:

    •College dorm, apartment, condo, and bedroom/office environments.
    •Best DSP on the market besides Beyerdynamic Headzone and Smith Realizer - realistically the X7 gets the max quality out of games and can produce better-than-CD music.
    •Make use of 3 or more features (DAC, amp, surround DSP, Audio Source mixing, etc).
    •"Next Level" audio quality, for those seeking better than a Mixamp.


    - Review by Everett, special thanks to Stillhart for editing and encouragement, and Ryan and Susie of Creative Labs for the extra information and helping me get my hands on one of the early units.
    - Next up, a youtube video review!
    1. View previous replies...
    2. akatsuki
      So one thought for consoles - could I take my Sony Silver decoder - which takes USB audio and can do chat, and use that to route a chat channel into the X7 with mic?
      akatsuki, May 29, 2015
    3. Evshrug
      Right, you can switch inputs without unplugging anything. You CAN use either smartphone/tablet app over bluetooth, or the PC app on the computer connected via USB... BUT if you don't mute the inputs the X7 is always "listening" to all them and can playback Optical and USB at the same time (sooooo if you don't care about electricity, you could have a mumble or Skype chat going on in your PC or smartphone while you're playing a console game).

      I guess that's the other mic option, using a chat app on a smartphone to hold a private team conversation while playing your game. Didn't think of that till now.
      Evshrug, Jun 10, 2015
    4. Evshrug
      And akatsuki, I'm not sure if the Sony Silver decoder dongle would work... But as long as the PS4 would send game audio out through optical, chat audio through the dongle, and you have a mic plugged into the dongle... Then sure!
      Evshrug, Jun 22, 2015