Creative’s Super X-Fi Headphone Amp is ultra-portable but supports high impedances up to 600 ohms and is powerful enough to drive high-impedance headphones on mobile devices. The Super X-Fi technology can also be used to create a personalised, spatial sound experience for games, movies and music listening via an app.
This small amp is no bigger than a dongle or lighter, weighs only 15 grams and is made of an aluminium alloy, which makes it look quite robust. The workmanship and the anodized, matt black surface also give the impression of high quality, and connection-wise there is a 3.5 mm audio output and USB-C input port. According to the manufacturer, a wide range of Android devices, Windows, Linux and macOS systems as well as the game consoles PS4, PS4 Pro and Nintendo Switch are all supported – however iOS devices are not officially supported. In addition, an Android smartphone or tablet with camera functionality is required to create a custom head-mapping profile for the amp. However, those who already have an SXFI profile through the use of headphones or other devices with Super X-Fi certification can access it by transferring the profile to laptops and desktop systems using the SXFI Control App.
Drivers are not required for the DAC, although the conversion of digital to analogue signals is done by AKM’s AK4377, a high quality converter that requires little space and is also used in devices like the Fiios mobile Hi-Res Player M5. Audio formats supported are classic stereo playback in 2.0 as well as surround mixes in 5.1 and 7.1 with a resolution of up to 24Bit/96kHz. Data transfer benefits from a low-jitter, asynchronous USB connection that reduces frequency fluctuations. The performance of this amp is remarkable in view of the extremely handy format; in particular, smartphones and tablets receive a significant increase in output, making considerable reserves available. As a result, professional studio headphones or other high-impedance headphones can be used with mobile devices while on the move, on flights or train rides. At the same time, the DAC is ideal for upgrading the sound output of notebooks or computers that are usually equipped with simple onboard sound chips.
For convenient playback control, the amp has an integrated 3-button remote control. A good feature is the middle Play/Stop button, which protrudes slightly so that it is possible to feel it even without visibility or in the dark. In addition, it is possible to jump to the next track with a double click, while jumping back a track is done with a triple press. Separate plus and minus buttons are used for volume control. A fourth button can be used to switch the Super X-Fi technology on and off, with a green LED indicating whether the function is active.
Not only is the output power of this headphone amplifier impressive, but also, from a sonic point of view, this amp convinces with a precise, detailed and transparent reproduction. The sound image appears bright rather than dark, and has present, well-resolved trebles with clear contours that neither sound biting nor show unpleasant harshness. The reproduction of voices also has a high degree of clarity, which has a positive effect on spoken content. What is missing is a certain impulsiveness in dramatic scenes, but this doesn’t mean that the voice reproduction is dull or lifeless. Objectively, I also perceived the bass very precisely; the low bass range seemed a little more reserved than its counterpart in the high frequency range. As a result, the low frequencies do not necessarily appear full-bodied, but agile, powerful and defined. All in all, there is nothing to complain about in terms of sound quality and the versatile application possibilities make this small amp a practical all-rounder.
Super X-Fi technology
The free apps for mobile devices (Super X-Fi App) and Windows as well as macOS systems (SXFI Control App) offer equalizers for personal sound adjustment. There is also the option of a so-called holographic sound experience, which is intended to provide spatial audio like that of a multiple loudspeaker system. The individual profile required for this is based on photos of the face and both ears, which are created via smart phone or tablet during setup with the help of a tutorial. In addition, the spatial representation can be adapted to your headphones if the model used is available. Once the SXFI profile has been loaded onto the amp, the sound effect can be (de)activated at any time during playback, allowing a direct A/B sound comparison. Especially since spatial listening can also be used on game consoles if the profile has been transferred to the amp beforehand.
The difference in sound can be considerable, depending on the source material, as the virtual stage is placed deep into the room. However, the results seem to be quite ambivalent, since treble and bass components are lost. The low frequency range in particular seems to dissolve in the large reverberation chamber, which is why hip-hop or electro with a low frequency range sometimes sounds strange and unfamiliar. High-quality alternative productions can also be problematic, sometimes giving the impression of a school band in a garage. On the other hand, classically inspired film music, ambient textures or even experimental jazz will certainly profit from this open expansiveness. However, the spatial representation impairs the sound quality, which is why, to me, the overall musical benefit seems limited. In my opinion, the added value is much greater for gaming or movies.
A big advantage of Creative’s Super X-Fi Headphone Amp is the flexibility it offers, as this extremely handy headphone amplifier is a powerful mobile solution for Android smartphones and tablets that can also be used to enhance the sound output of laptops and computers. While the audio holography of the Super X-Fi technology did not convince me musically, movies, computer and console games can benefit from the spatial sound experience.
- Ear couplingAmplifier
- Impedance16 ohms - 600 ohms
- Weight without cable15 g
What's in the box
- USB-C connection cable
- USB-C to Micro-USB adapter
- Android phone required to load personalized head-mapping profile into the SXFI AMP
- Compatibility: Windows 10 Creator's Update (ver. 1703), macOS 10. 13 High Sierra, Linux, PS4, Nintendo Switch, mobile devices (Android 7.0 and higher only)
- DAC: AKM AK4377
- Supported input format: 2.0/5.1/7.1 channel, 24 Bit/96 kHz
- Max. Power: 425mW (16 ohms), 370mW (32 ohms), 51mW (300 ohms), 26mW (600 ohms)