Creative SXFI Air Gamer Review – Audio Holography Wonders
Hey ho, another gaming headset in the shop. A selling feature by plenty of gaming headsets is virtual surround sound, and the one we will look at claims to be the best in the business of surround simulation.
This time, courtesy of Creative Technology Ltd. They kindly provided us with a Creative SXFI Air Gamer gaming headset for us to review. The “Air” in SXFI Air Gamer means this is the wireless version of the SXFI Gamer and the gamer-focused version of SXFI Air. Without further ado, on to the review
Exterior Features and Equipments
The SXFI Air Gamer only comes in black, with a fully plastic build except for the adjustment band. Fortunately it is not a cheap looking headset but also not a premium feeling one too. Solid overall.
The earcups feature RGB lighting, configurable through the mobile app. Full-range RGB too, so the whole 16.7 million color for you to pick. The lighting can be turned off if one is not fond of being attention-grabber with the bling-bling.
All the controls and inputs are located at the left side. For buttons, one can find the On/Off, SXFI modes and source modes. As for inputs, there is a mic jack, 3.5mm TRRS 4-pole jack, USB-C for both charging and wired mode, and a MicroSD slot.
The left can also has touch controls. Double tap to play/pause or answer/close call, swipe up/down to adjust volume and swipe front/back to switch track. Easy to use and well tuned sensitivity especially the multi-touch rejection. One finger only and easy to avoid accidental activation.
As for in-box equipment, Creative included a CommanderMic gaming microphone, a 3.5mm interconnect / AUX cable and a stiff USB-C cable made of Kevlar®. The headset is already preinstalled with a tiny NanoBoom mic and can be swapped with the CommanderMic for improved quality during chats. A rubber plug is also included to cover the mic slot when not in use.
Finally, a USB-C to USB-A converter dongle if the user has no USB-C devices. Overall, a decent set of accessories from Creative.
The SXFI Air Gamer is equipped with thick leatherette earpads. They provide ample padding and comfortable wearing experience while not being stuffy like other thick pads thanks to the perforated design for better breathability. The headband is also covered with leatherette and cushioned but the thinness of the padding makes it feel non-existent and I can only feel a hard surface. My advice is to get an aftermarket headband cover/cushion.
The clamping force is also not restrictive, with adjustable height to cater to different head sizes. The headset weight is also just right, not too heavy and I was able to wear the SXFI Air Gamer for hours without feeling major discomfort. Combined with the comfortable thick ear pads, an overall solid comfort factor for the SXFI Air Gamer.
The SXFI Air Gamer features extensive connectivity options. As the Air name may imply, wireless Bluetooth connectivity is the main feature of the SXFI Air Gamer as compared to its sibling the SXFI Gamer. Pairing process is very easy, double press the Source button and it is ready to pair. Codec wise, only SBC is available which is a bummer. But considering the sound quality this is adequate.
Wired connection through USB-C and 3.5mm jack is also available. Connect the USB-C cable and it will appear as an audio device. The 3.5mm jack is especially useful if you want to use it passively and thus saving battery. Also useful if you want to bypass the internal processing completely and use your own DAC/amp and EQ.
You may remember the mention of a MicroSD slot previously. “Why a MicroSD?” you may ask. The SXFI Air Gamer can in fact play music directly from a MicroSD card. One use case for this I can think of is a scenario where the user is not allowed to bring personal devices or connect to a dedicated music player. Another use case I can find is directly listening to recording from a personal voice recorder. Just pop MicroSD from a device and slot it in for instant listening.
For full experience in using the headset, you need to download and use 2 mobile apps. SXFI App and SXFI Air Control. The SXFI App is for calibrating their Super X-FI feature (more on this later) and SXFI Control is for onboard settings like equalizer and RGB configuration. One downside is that an SXFI account is required to use the SXFI apps, justifiably to sync your SXFI calibration profile across devices and headsets. I prefer optional login instead, please.
SXFI App is required for the Super X-FI mapping. Start mapping, then the app needs you to scan your left ear, right ear and face. Advisably, get another person to help with regards to the ear scans as it is very difficult to align the scan circle while not looking at the screen. I found a workaround by mirroring my phone’s screen to my laptop and easily did the scans. With that, your SXFI head profile is complete, and unique to you.
Another app, SXFI Air Control is used for general configuration of the headset. Set RGB light color, equalizer profile and SXFI toggle can be done in-app. SXFI calibration however, is still done through the SXFI App but the SXFI Air Control app can direct you to it.
Sound quality, the most important factor in evaluating a headphone. So how does the SXFI Air Gamer fare? Well, the verdict is average at best and disappointing overall. Sonic signature gravitates to bright (treble forward), which is not bad but with the case of Air Gamer maybe too bright for my taste.
The bass feels underwhelming, especially the sub bass region (<200 Hz). I have to flip the bass boost switch on my DAC/amp to get the bass to a reasonable level. The mids are somewhat muddy and all over the place. Vocals especially feel hollow, cold and too centered in the head, lacking the warmth and fullness that it should.
Listening at a suitable volume for the bass and mids, the treble region just comes swinging in hot. Little too bright for my taste, and slightly fatigue inducing. Certain tunes with cymbals and hi-hats feel sibilant and piercing. Not an optimal headset for serious music appreciation to be honest.
A saving grace for SXFI Air Gamer is that you can EQ the headset using the app. The active EQ profile will be saved onboard so you can use it with different sources and it’ll keep the EQ profile. I boosted some of the bass frequencies and also the mids around the 2 kHz region, then pulled back on the treble frequencies. With EQ it actually sounds decent.
However, to Creative’s credit they are not selling or marketing the SXFI Air series as the bee’s knees in tuning prowess. The audio magic they are peddling is in the name itself, Super X-FI Audio Holography.
Super X-FI Magic
I have been following Creative’s Super X-FI audio holography technology since their pre-launch announcements around 2018. Supposedly through the magical power of data and head-ear shape computation that Creative has done, Super X-FI can recreate high-end speakers’ experience through stereo.
MOVIES – SOUND LIKE YOU’RE IN A CINEMA
MUSIC – SOUNDS LIKE YOU’RE AT A LIVE CONCERT
GAMES – SOUND LIKE YOU’VE DROPPED INTO A BATTLEFIELD~ Creative Technologies on Super X-FI
-are the things they claim that Super X-FI can accomplish.
Objectively, SXFI actually does it’s job in widening the sound stage and emulating a speaker setup. I tried it at my office and was genuinely taken aback at how convincing the speaker simulation can be to the point I was concerned that it was actually from my laptop speaker and my colleagues can listen to it. SXFI mode also did a good job in boosting the sub-bass region and the treble region is tamed to a reasonable point. But the sound comes nowhere close to the claims of experiencing live concerts, cinema and battlefields. Also, the tuning still feels average but fortunately the equalizer comes clutch to help you dial in your preferred tuning.
There is also SXFI Battle Mode for use in games, especially for first person shooters. I tried a bunch of different FPSs like CSGO and Apex Legends, and watched some VODS of Tarkov, Squad, Battlefield etc. Yes, there are marked differences like gunshots and footsteps are emphasized and positionally identifiable but it is debatable whether they are significant improvements.
Modern games already have a pretty decent HRTF and surround-on-stereo experience anyway, and I prefer the default soundscapes that developers provide gamers with. For the more competitive minded, this may help you but your mileage may vary. I may update this part after further dialing in and getting it right.
My less than stellar experience does not make me discount Super X-FI altogether. I will give Creative some leeway here, I could probably get better experience using a dedicated SXFI DAC/amp combined with different headphones. Different people may also obtain better results because you know, different ear shapes, heads, ear canals. You can never get all perfect. Again, your mileage may vary.
Mediocre sound quality aside, microphones for the SXFI Air Gamer are excellent. The preinstalled NanoBoom microphone is compact and adequate for phone calls albeit with noticeable background noise. The CommanderMic is great for a gaming headset and my voice is clear and natural sounding plus very little background noise leak.
GamerChat is a feature special to the Air Gamer. Talk to your buddies in Discord from your phone through Bluetooth while game audio is channeled simultaneously in your headset which is the perfect solution for Nintendo Switch lack of Discord and general voice chat functionality. Very nifty.
One surprising feature I found is native microphone monitoring. Mic monitoring / listening means speaking to a mic and the voice is actively channeled to the headset for monitoring, a hardware feature usually reserved for discrete microphones and audio interfaces. Of course you can turn on this feature for any microphone in Windows settings but hardware-based is better in my opinion.
The bad news is, the mic monitoring cannot be turned off, only mutable through your source device mic mute function. This also leads to another missing feature: built in microphone mute functionality.
Okay, not exactly singing praises of the SXFI Air Gamer for its tonal quality, how does it fare overall especially for the very thing it’s meant to do, gaming?
Pretty good to be honest. Overall, a package of plentiful connectivity options, the SXFI enhancements for gaming and media consumption, tuning customization, and microphone quality makes it a worthy contender for the wireless gaming headset space. Battery life could be better though, coming in at 10 hours average. However, the pros balanced out the cons and if sound tuning quality is not your top concern, consider picking up the SXFI Air Gamer for your upgrade.
Purchase the SXFI Air Gamer from this link : Creative SXFI Air Gamer
Review unit provided by Creative Technology Ltd
A combination of excellent connectivity options and SXFI magic makes this a headset to consider for your purchase.
- Hardware and Equipment 9
- Sound Quality 7
- Value 7