The SXFI Amp: Creative’s 2nd coming?

By Edward Lim

Spending three days manning a booth in an IT show can take a toll on the body and mind. What more a constant repetitive blasting of sound from a booth just across the aisle. The vendor was an up and coming Singapore company called Creative Technology. The product was the Sound Blaster.Little did I realise then that I was listening to music processed from a product that was to take the world by storm. By 1995, Sound Blaster cards were the de facto standard for IBM PC compatible systems, accounting for seven out of 10 sound card sold. Creative had become the darling of not only Singapore but the world’s technology industry, selling more than 15 million sound cards worldwide.

But the Singapore-headquartered company found the Sound Blaster to be a tough act to follow. Over the years, it produced many sound related products, including MP3 players to take on market leader Apple. Somehow, none of the products managed to reach the heights of the Sound Blaster’s success.

At CES this year, Creative showcased the SXFI Amp featuring a new technology called Super X-Fi headphone holography. That’s quite a mouthful but essentially, it’s a technology that makes listening to headphones feel like listening in a high-end multi-speaker system in a theatre of speakers.

The technology got the media all abuzz and many couldn’t wait for its official launch.

The SXFI Amp is the first product based on the new technology. Made for Android users, it combines Super X-Fi technology with a premium high-performance headphone amplifier in a dongle no larger than a finger.

Could this be Creative’s long-awaited next big thing?

True to its roots, the company chose to introduce the SXFI Amp first in Singapore in September. Priced at S$219, it comes with a free pair of Aurvana SE Super X-Fi certified headphone worth S$99.

Initial response was highly encouraging. Some 600 units were sold online within 20 minutes.

“I’m truly blown away by the initial whirlwind sales reaction to the launch of the SXFI Amp. The confidence that folks out there have in the revolutionary Super X-Fi technology is truly heartening,” exclaimed Sim Wong Hoo, CEO of Creative.

When it was announced that the SXFI Amp will be available in the US last week, the stock market reactive positively, sending Creative’s price up 12.6 percent to US$6.08.

Worth a try
With such a great response, I jumped on the bandwagon and ordered the amp from http://www.sfxi.com.

The package comprising the SXFI Amp and the Aurvana SE Super X-Fi certified headphone arrived within two days.

The first step was to download the app to map the head for optimum sound experience.

After that, it was a case of plug and play on my smartphone using the USB-C connection. There’s a micro USB adapter in the box as well.

I decided to play Mamma Mia! Here we go again as I had watched the movie in a cinema so the memory is still in my mind.

My first impression of the SXFI Amp? Wow! It really feels like I’m in a theatre.

Unlike a traditional headset without the amp, there was depth. I could hear the  holographic audio effect.

I turned the amp on and off, just to be sure that it’s not the Aurvana SE Super X-Fi certified headphone that’s making the difference.

I even plugged in my regular ear piece and yes, it’s confirmed — the SXFI does make a difference.

One thing I noticed though is that when the amp is turned off, the volume dips a little when compared to using a headset on the 3.5mm jack.

Next, I decided to see if my Pendulumic Tact T1 wireless headphone would work with the dongle. The answer is “yes” — it sounds just as good as the Super X-Fi certified headphone.

I got a few of my friends to try out the SXFI Amp and they loved it!

It’s a winner!
Creative looks like it’s got a winner here! It could be the company’s second coming.

Next up is the SXFI Air, a Bluetooth headphone which would be great for iPhone users. It will also come with a built-in microSD card reader for storing songs. The SXFI Air is expected to be available later this year.

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