Introduction and Summary
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!
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.
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.
Enable bass management in Stereo 2.0/2.1 speaker configuration, to use the subwoofer channel when required.
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!