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Creative Super X-Fi SXFI portable DAC. Audio Holography through personalised HRTF [with Detailed Hands-on Impressions from an Audiophile]

Discussion in 'Portable Headphone Amps' started by lekguan, Oct 11, 2018.
  1. lekguan
    Hi everyone, haven't been active on this forum, but I'm lucky to have been able to pre-order the super x-fi and headed down for a demo session at Creative HQ in Singapore.

    For those who haven't heard of it, it generated quite a bit of buzz back when it was demo-ed at CES 2018.

    Given the hype, I was excited to use it for stereo music but was disappointed that it didn't live up to my expectations and refunded. It seems like a device more geared towards creating ambience in movies but this is something not put forth in the marketing hype. Hence I would like to share my impressions about this device, hopefully it helps to manage expectations for use cases when it eventually launches more widely. My impressions were shared on another forum, which I copy and paste below (Note my impressions are with the SXFI effect on after taking a scan using the app of my ear and head to generate my personalised HRTF profile. For my very short impression of the DAC without the SXFI effect, refer 2 posts down):

    Although some had issues with the sound like me, there are numerous others who've had a more positive experience at the Hardwarezone forum which has become a very long thread. Not sure if I can link to other forums over here. If not allowed, let me know and I will remove it. https://forums.hardwarezone.com.sg/...y-creative-super-x-fi-amp-6-34pm-5908001.html

    If there are people here who are into movies, it might be something might want look forward to trying when it becomes more widely launched.

    Last edited: Oct 12, 2018
    slapo and musicphotolife like this.
  2. gr8soundz
    Thanks for the impressions (and for creating this thread).

    I've been looking forward to the sxfi but no U.S. orders being taken yet. Obviously haven't heard it and am skeptical of Creative's Super-X tech (due to most 'simulated' surround DSPs not sounding so great in the past).

    However, the AKM4377 chip and tiny form factor got my interest. Disappointed to hear the sxfi's stereo performance may not live up to the hardware.

    BTW, what headphones did you try with the sxfi?
  3. lekguan
    For the demo, they had a specially modified Emu Teak to make it more open (a cut out made on the wood) sounding. I also tried it with music on several headphones that were available there including the Aurvana Trio, Emu Teak(a very fine sounding headphones), Aurvana SE, and my own, which are Beyer DT860, PSB m4u 2, and Ety MK5 with comply tips.

    I have to highlight though that you can bypass the sxfi effect leaving it running as a normal DAC, which I didn't test extensively but the sound signature didn't particularly thrill me as the highs were somewhat rolled off and the lower midbass was boosted, to me a consumer-ish type of sound, while I preferred a brighter more detailed sound (as you can tell from my choice of beyer and ety). At the price though, I believe the dragonfly sounds way better (some of the cost has to go into the SXFI tech anyway). Also it does run slightly warm, not sure how it affects battery life if plugged into a phone.

    That said based on what I gathered from the local forum, the reviews were quite mixed, but it seems that audiophiles who care about imaging do not generally like it for music for but the less concerned, some of the mass market users are thrilled by the reverb provided.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2018
    musicphotolife and gr8soundz like this.
  4. musicphotolife
    I have actively followed the Singapore local forum thread (now past 3000 posts) and read a lot of comments, criticisms, improvement tips, etc.

    The SXFI Amp is not a magic pill to transform every known audio source into a perfect holographic audio to match every person's listening profile. It’s primary purpose is to make headphones audio sound like it’s coming from a natural room environment.

    What SXFI Amp does is to make the headphone audio sound like it’s coming from a pair of speakers in front of you. And for my case, it achieves this effect rather convincingly. As far as I know, none of the casual “room effect” software manipulation in the market – studio room mode, concert hall mode, and all that crap – could achieve this “external speakers” result as good as SXFI Amp.

    With standard stereo mode, the songs that you listen over headphones have distinct instrumental placement and intimate details, but essentially the sound staging comes from inside the head, near your face, or at the sides of your ears. not exactly how they are engineered to sound (unless recorded with binaural recording method). Say, if you listen to a symphonic performance in a concert hall, the instruments should sound like they come from a few metres in front of your face, not surrounding you.


    With the SXFI Amp, the exact same songs will appear to come from a pair of speakers in front of your face. In the best case scenario, you can achieve the holy grail moment where you can hear musical sources from the front plane delivering cohesive audio imagery, just like listening through loudspeakers. In some less-than-perfect audio tracks, the audio can sound a little hazy, a little excessive room reverb, frequency balance a little off. In the worse case scenario, this sound staging could sound flat, as if played through a lousy mono speaker. During my initial setup, I was dismayed with the loss of audio details. But when I tried other headphone profiles, I found that the “Sennheiser HD650” profile works better than the “E-MU Teak” profile with greater treble clarity and less bloomy midrange.

    After listening music over SXFI Amp for a few minutes, my ears would grow accustomed to the new audio experience which feels more natural and less claustrophobic. Then when I switch back to the normal stereo mode, it felt as if I was woken up from my dream and back to “reality”. The reality might not be all that bad, actually. In some cases, when I switch back and forth, I thought I prefer the clarity and details of the standard stereo version, but I definitely prefer the sound staging of SXFI Amp. Tracks with a more neutral frequency mix (i.e. not too bright treble and not too boomy bass) and less lossy compression will work better.

    I got a feeling that after this "trial launch" in Singapore, Creative may re-strategise on how to roll out worldwide. It needs to be able to handle all the queries from normal consumers as well as audiophiles. It might need to conduct roadshows to offer personalised profile mapping, not unlike CIEMs.

    Reference: https://musicphotolife.com/2018/10/creative-sxfi-amp-review/
    gr8soundz likes this.
  5. froes
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2018

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