With the in-house Super X-Fi technology, which wants to blow an optimal surround sound experience into the ears of listeners, Creative was able to receive plenty of prizes at the CES 2019 and is expanding the series accordingly. The SXFI Theater for 199.99 euros is now a wireless variant that relies on the largely latency-free 2.4 GHz technology and wants to provide you with optimal surround sound thanks to audio holography. Not all areas of application benefit from this, however.
As with previous models in the SXFI series, you can expect solid workmanship and a rather subtle look. Matt black without large flourishes is the order of the day, only one configurable LED ring on each ear cup provides optical highlights, if you want that. So if you want to leave the booth with your headset, you don't have to worry about being laughed at.
The headset weighs a whopping 346 grams (with microphone) and the head cushion looks a bit narrow-breasted. However, it is not uncomfortable to wear thanks to the thick and soft ear pads with imitation leather cover, which absorb the weight well and also do not unduly wear glasses on the biscuit. We could not feel any painful pressure points for several hours.
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The equipment is impressive and basically has everything you need. The USB dongle for wireless transmission can optionally be plugged directly into the PC, but a USB extension with a small docking station is also included. The USB charging cable is connected to the headset via Type-C and can also be used either on the PC or the docking station. If you want to use the headset on a gamepad or mobile device, you will also find a sufficiently long jack cable in the pack.
The controls are all on the left ear cup and are quite well separated. Also included are the SXFI button, volume control wheel, microphone button, jack connector, Type-C connector, power switch and a connector for the included detachable and pleasantly good microphone. Its microphone arm is easy to position thanks to the wire mesh, and commendable was also thought of a pop protection made of foam.
Thanks to its USB dongle, the SXFI Theater can be used wirelessly on a PC, MAC, PS4 and Nintendo Switch. Xbox users have to be satisfied with the jack cable on the gamepad. Due to the better configuration options thanks to software, we recommend using a PC and MAC, especially since the USB dongle also uses Super X-Fi technology, which massively enhances the sound compared to the rather unspectacular analog sound. If you also use your headset a lot on the gamepad or mobile devices, you will find better alternatives.
The battery life catches the eye. When the lights are off, it takes between 25 and 30 hours before the theater has to go back to the power source. There is no permanent charge indicator, but you can determine at the push of a button whether your headset still has enough juice. The range of the 2.4 GHz transmission is around ten meters and thus essentially corresponds to the usual standard. An (optional) BlueTooth connection is not possible with this model.
The 50 mm neodymium drivers of the headset work with the usual 20 to 20,000 Hz with an impedance of 32 ohms. As already mentioned, the sound does not knock our socks off with analogue use or with Super X-Fi switched off. But if you activate the effect and calibrate the audio holography, the sun truly rises. However, this only works in wireless mode, since the responsible DSP is hidden in the USB dongle.
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However, the SXFI app is required for calibration (available free of charge for iOS and Android). With a cell phone camera you practically carry out a head and ear measurement, which individualizes the sound image. Alone, it is a tedious task to snap your own ear, so you should leave the job to a buddy. After registering, you can chase the profile you created in the cloud and download it at any time, on the PC with the SXFI Control Software.
The effort is worth it. The calculated positioning of the sound sources comes much closer to “real” surround sound than the usual virtual surround for headsets. The result is an enormously wide all-round sound image with excellent directional perception, which lets the muscles play strong in both films and games.
We also like the mix very well in Super X-Fi mode. The basses are present but not too dominant, the highs clear and powerful, the mids assert themselves well. Thunderstorms like Battlefield or Call of Duty give you a really nice feeling in the middle and the sense of direction helps to locate any opponents quickly and precisely. Movies or series also benefit enormously from Super X-Fi, there is actually a "like in the cinema" feeling. In the control software you can also create your own equalizer settings and switch between stereo, 5.1 and 7.1. Thankfully, Creative has finally done without semi-cooked presets.
That sounds like a great all-round headset, but when it comes to music, opinions differ. Concert or live recordings certainly benefit from the increased spatial perception and the overall balanced mix. In the case of studio recordings or vocal-intensive acoustic pieces, however, the theater weakens, mainly because the surround calculation creates unsightly reverberation effects and the vocals sometimes go down a bit. Without Super X-Fi, however, the headset sounds rather banal. It's just not an audiophile headset, but, as the name suggests, is primarily intended for entertainment media.
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