I love pocket DACs. Sound Blaster X1 These Digital-to-Analog gizmos combine great digital conversion with a headphone amplifier that can deliver audiophile sound streaming Hi-Res audio from your smartphone using music services like TIDAL and Qobuz. Now Creative Technology has launched the Sound Blaster X1, a gadget that the company describes as the ultimate USB DAC and headphone amplifier incorporating the Sound Blaster Acoustic Engine technology.
Together with the multiple award-winning Super X-Fi Headphone Holography, a technology first showcased in Creative’s iconic SXFI AMP; this little gadget packs a lot of innovation into a device that’s about the size of a little finger. The Sound Blaster X1 serves up multi-channel and high-resolution audio and is powered by a high-end 128dB AKM4377 32-bit DAC and Ti/Burr-Brown INA1620 dual audio operational amplifier; the Sound Blaster X1 has some serious tech credentials.
The Sound Blaster X1 can work with a smartphone – well, it worked for me on my iPhone SE – but Creative claims it’s best used with a PC and Mac running Creative’s desktop app. The app can unlock access to the Sound Blaster Acoustic Engine that taps into a full suite of sound-processing technologies.
With Sound Blaster Surround Virtualization, users experience the depth and range of audio that can be applied to movies, music and games. In addition, CrystalVoice technology makes smart adjustments during conference calls with features like SmartVolume and Acoustic Echo Cancellation. There’s also SmartComms Kit which helps to reduce background noise and even automatically mutes users when they’re not speaking.
Alongside all those innovations, the Sound Blaster X1 has professionally tuned audio and gaming presets for an improved play experience. Scout Mode can detect subtle audio cues and makes them evident to the listener so they can stay one step ahead of their competitors.
Users can also use Creative’s Super X-Fi headphone holography which reconfigures headphone listening by recreating a realistic soundstage that you’d typically hear from a premium multi-speaker system. There’s also ear-mapping using the SXFI app, which can tailor the sound to suit the user’s ears.
Sound Blaster X1 Verdict:
I tried out the Sound Blaster X1 with my Mac running TIDAL’s Hi-Fi service. The sound was excellent. However, I wasn’t so impressed with the headphone holography feature. That’s not a criticism of Sound Blaster X1; it’s more that I can’t seem to get on with surround sound functions on headphones and prefer to listen to my music in regular stereo. That said, the surround function is impressive with movies or games, just not for classic albums that I already know well.
The Sound Blaster X1 is well made and features a handy volume rocker switch plus a play/pause button. For the money, this is a great little DAC/headphone amp packed with features that can offer a serious step up from the soundcard on a laptop or smartphone.
Pricing & Availability:
The Creative Sound Blaster X1 is available now and costs $69.99 / £64.95 / € 69.99.
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- Weight: 15g / 0.5oz
- Dimensions: 9.7 x 175 x 67mm / 0.4 x 0.7 x 2.6 inches.
- Impedance: 16 – 600Ω
- Audio technology: X-Fi, SmartComms Kit, Sound Blaster Acoustic Engine, Super X-Fi
- Max. Recording Quality
- Mic-in: 16/24-bit / 48.0, 96.0 kHz
- Playback resolution: PCM 16-bit, 44.1, 48.0, 96.0 kHz, PCM 24-bit, 44.1, 48.0, 96.0 kHz
- Recording resolution: Mic-in: 16 / 24-bit / 48.0, 96.0 kHz
- Platform: USB
- Connectivity options (Main): 1 x ⅛″ headphone-out jack (4-pole, CTIA).
- Audio technologies: SBX Pro Studio, CrystalVoice, Scout Mode, Audio Technology.
- Supported OS: Windows 10 Ver 1703, macOS 10.15 and above, Windows 11.
- DAC: AKM AK4377.
- THD+N: Up to -105dB or 0.00056%.
- SNR: Up to 115dB.
- Frequency response: 10 – 20,000Hz.
- Max sampling rate: 24-bit / 96kHz.
- Power: USB Bus Powered, USB-C.