Creative SXFI GAMER hands-on: Outstanding microphone, SXFI THEATER — wired — experience overall
Before anything else, I strongly suggest that you take a look at the hands-on experience that I had with the Creative SXFI THEATER — from many points of view, the item that is in my hands today — the Creative SXFI GAMER — is (nearly) identical. However, there are quite a few things that set them apart, both hardware- and software-wise.
Priced at US$129.99, the SXFI GAMER is US$70 cheaper than the SXFI THEATER. Wireless connectivity goes away, but you get a headset that looks identical at first sight. The SXFI GAMER features a microphone designed for gamers — the CommanderMic — and RGB lighting that looks completely different than the discrete RGB rings used in the SXFI THEATER. The SXFI Control app gets a special Super X-FI Battle mode, which delivers a gaming-optimized holographic positional audio experience. Lastly, the audio-processing chip is located inside the left earcup and I never felt the heat that it should generate.
The retail package looks great and contains the headset itself, the detachable CommanderMic, a USB-C to USB-A converter, a 4-pole 3.5 mm analog cable, as well as a custom USB-C cable. This cable was custom-designed with a Kevlar-enforced copper core and gets the job done wonderfully. I also have to add that, when I got it for the first time out of the box, I used the Creative SXFI GAMER with a regular USB-C cable that I had lying around and I encountered various audio glitches from time to time. With the custom cable of this headset, everything works well.
Unsurprisingly for someone who had already used the SXFI THEATER and was very happy with it, this headset also feels solid and is very comfortable to wear. The premium leatherette earcups get the job done once again, although a bit of extra padding on the area where the headband meets the top of the user's head would have been nice.
In theory, we get the same 50 mm Neodymium drivers with 20 Hz - 20 kHz frequency response, 32 Ohm impedance. In practice, I discovered that the SXFI GAMER seems to be a bit less bass-intensive than the SXFI THEATER, but it might be just my hearing. The difference is barely noticeable, anyway. The CommanderMic, on the other hand, goes up to a 16 kHz frequency response (8 kHz for the SXFI THEATER's microphone) and a similar sensitivity level of -42 dBV / Pa @ 94 dB SPL.
Regarding the audio experience, there is not much to say. Without any doubt, the Creative SXFI GAMER sounds great in all scenarios, although those who never used SXFI products before might need some time to get acquainted with the highs and lows of this technology. However, gamers will surely enjoy the immersion and positional cues provided by the Super X-FI Battle Mode preset, not to mention the crystal-clear quality of the voice transmission/recording abilities of the CommanderMic. I will only mention that I used the microphone to record my voice a few times and the quality it provided blew me away — no measurements involved, just plain speech recording. After recording my voice, I replayed and amplified the result a few times to see if I could discover some background noise, pops, and so on — but I got nothing, just a pure voice recording, which was almost studio-like.
The good, the bad, and the truth
The Creative SXFI GAMER is an excellent headset for everyone, even movie aficionados who consider the SXFI THEATER to be slightly above their budget or simply don't want to pay more for the wireless audio capabilities. Like its wireless sibling, the SXFI GAMER combines a premium design with a solid build, durable materials, and a great out-of-the-box audio experience. If the internal audio processing is not enough, the user can always use the provided analog cable and feed audio from any internal sound card or USB DAC. Sadly, the software has the same problems that I noticed when I took the SXFI THEATER for a spin — there are no settings for the microphone and the equalizer is quite basic, without any additional effects or the ability to customize SXFI presets. The reinforced Kevlar cable might be rugged and able to deliver excellent audio overall, but it also sends cable noise into the left earcup when it rubs against the user's clothing or furniture, etc.
The Creative SXFI GAMER goes against the Logitech G Pro X and many others and, although there is a lot of subjectivity involved when judging headsets, I would pick it any day over most competitors. It might not be perfect, but it is one hell of a headset for gamers.
Disclaimer: The author of this review received the Creative SXFI GAMER from Creative Labs free of charge for the purpose of testing.
Creative Labs (United States) (official product page)