Creative’s SXFI Air Gamer scores points for its versatility, as these over-ears can be used both digitally and analogue via cable, wirelessly and as an MP3 player via a microSD card. The sound and the RGB lighting can be adjusted with the help of an app, while the gaming headset’s CommanderMic ensures clear speech intelligibility. As a special feature, SXFI and Battle modes are also available in all operating modes.
These rather massive-looking over-ears come with two microphones and weigh 350 grams with the short NanoBoom microphone, which is intended for everyday use. When the CommanderMic is used for gaming, the weight increases to 360 grams. The Creative SXFI Air Gamer’s fit is tight rather than loose so that the headphones don’t slip even during an intermittent sprint when you’re on the move. Although the cups do not tilt or swivel, the design offers enough flexibility to accommodate adjustment. The headband size adjustment also covers a wide range from petite to extra large head sizes. However, unfortunately, the grid does tend to move, so the headband setting has to be readjusted regularly.
The manufacturer has opted for perforated leatherette for the generous ear padding, and this counteracts the heat build-up caused by closed over-ear systems. However, unfortunately, the Creative SXFI Air Gamer have very little shielding. As a result, ambient noise is rather weakly attenuated, while at the same time, the sound penetrates to the outside so that people in the immediate vicinity can hear.
All the Creative SXFI Air Gamer connections, buttons and touch controls are located on the left earcup. The system is switched on by briefly pressing and holding the power button, which is then used to activate and deactivate the RGB ring. The desired source can be selected directly via the headphones, which is a nice feature. The source button can be used to switch between Bluetooth, microSD card, USB audio and the GamerChat function, which enables parallel USB and Bluetooth operation. By pressing twice, the pairing mode for Bluetooth can be activated. The SXFI button switches between Basic, SXFI and Battle mode.
Further control is via the touch-sensitive earcup surface. While vertical swiping controls the volume, the horizontal axis is used to skip forward and back when selecting tracks. Playback can be controlled by double-tapping, and this is also used to answer and end phone calls, depending on the source used. Calling up voice assistants is done with a short press and hold. Double taps must be done quite quickly in order to be recognised correctly. Apart from that, the touch control reacts reliably and without noticeable delay.
According to the manufacturer, the gaming platforms PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and Android devices are all supported. In addition, the Creative SXFI Air Gamer can be operated on a PC or Mac, and also worked flawlessly on macOS. In addition to stereo playback, the surround formats 5.1 and 7.1 with a resolution of up to 24-bit/96kHz are available. With the help of an Apple Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter, it was also possible to use the device with an iPhone and iPad. A 1.50 metre long 3.5 mm audio cable, a USB-C to USB-A adapter and a USB-C copper cable are included, and with a length of 1.80 metres, these can also be used by tall people on a tower case without any problems. However, there is some cable noise, which applies to both variants, but apart from that, they seem to be quite high-quality. Not only is analogue use possible passively, but also when the headphones are switched on, which means that SXFI and Battle mode can be used.
In Bluetooth mode, the Creative SXFI Air Gamers achieved a runtime of 10 hours and 45 minutes at a higher volume and with active RGB lighting, which seemed quite low compared to the competition. Particularly since charging takes almost two and a half hours. On the other hand, the wireless range proved to be above average, with up to 14 metres being reached within an urban environment, and even over several rooms, the signal was reliably covered. However, these over-ears do not support high-quality audio codecs such as the AAC format or aptX, so you have to make do with the Bluetooth standard SBC. Wireless use is not recommended for watching films and series or mobile gaming, as the latency of the SBC codec can lead to a noticeable offset between picture and sound. Furthermore, we noticed that there was perceptible background noise.
The Creative SXFI Air Gamer can be used with a total of three apps. For mobile devices (Android and iOS), the SXFI Air Control app is available, and this offers direct access to the available input sources, audio settings and lighting effects via a dashboard. In the “Music” category, it is also possible to navigate through the contents of a microSD card. For sound adjustment, a graphic EQ is used, and this allows you to save your own settings as presets. In addition, there is a small selection of pre-configured EQ settings to choose from (“Cinema”, “Classic”, “Game” and “Pop”). However, the Creative app for the True Wireless in-ears that we recently tested Outlier Air V3 does not offer extensive gaming presets, this seems incomprehensible, and an update would be desirable. The sound settings are permanently active and saved on the headphones.
On a PC and a Mac, audio settings can be made via the SXFI Control App, which also enables activation and deactivation of the GamerChat function and adjustment of the RGB lighting.
However, if you want to create a personal SXFI profile, you must use the separate SXFI App (Android and iOS). Registration is required for this. The use of sensitive biometric data seems questionable in this context, as the use of a hearing profile requires that photos of the face and both ears are taken and stored on a server. However, no profile is required for the headphones’ SXFI mode, as the sound effect can also be used in the standard configuration.
SXFI and Battle mode
In SXFI mode, the manufacturer’s own audio holography for headphones is used, and this is supposed to enable spatial listening similar to what you would experience with a multiple speaker system. In this mode, the Creative SXFI Air Gamer’s virtual stage shifts from the head into the room using the SXFI technology, and this can lead to different results depending on the content. For example, bass-oriented music styles often sounded tinny and strange because the bass range definitely loses substance and pressure. Computer and video games, films or ambient music, on the other hand, can benefit from the increased spaciousness. Even in surround formats, the SXFI mode offers an interesting listening experience with a completely different way of perceiving backdrops and individual signals, which has its appeal and increases the fun factor of these headphones.
Battle mode is tailored to first-person shooters and noticeably amplifies the lower frequency range. At the same time, the stage moves closer to the head so that despite the increased width, the sound impression is more direct. In this respect, the bass foundation comes more into its own with action-packed gaming fare, although this can also result in a degree of dullness, as the upper registers seem lowered. Nevertheless, voices, footsteps or gunshots can be located quickly, so it does have its advantages.
Speech quality of the microphones
The Creative SXFI Air Gamer’s small NanoBoom microphone is an unobtrusive option for outdoor activities, but it does not offer convincing speech intelligibility. While the amplification of one’s own voice is very loud and tends towards overdrive, the other person’s voice is unusually quiet and rather muffled. The problem with this is that the user hears themself due to the emission of sound from the over-ears when the volume level is increased. In this respect, the NanoBoom microphone is merely a stopgap solution for quiet environments.
The CommanderMic, which has an integrated pop shield, provides much better voice quality. In addition, according to the manufacturer, the SXFI InPerson microphone technology that is used is able to distinguish voices from ambient noises so that these can be suppressed. In practice, this works quite well. Although background noise is perceived by the party on the other end, it is muffled during speech in such a way that it does not impair the intelligibility of clear speech. The other side of the conversation is still reproduced quietly but can be turned up when using the CommanderMic so that the person can be easily understood.
The GamerChat function is intended for platforms that do not have their own communication options for teamwork, such as the Nintendo Switch. Here, the Creative SXFI Air Gamers connect to the console via USB cable and in parallel to a smartphone via Bluetooth in order to make it possible to communicate via a chat app. The volume is controlled on the devices themselves. It is also possible to make phone calls via the headset during a gaming session, and the other party is also heard spatially, as the SXFI mode is automatically active when using the gamer chat function and cannot be switched off. This is not a disadvantage; indeed, it enhances the call quality, as it allows the other party to be understood even better.
The Creative SXFI Air Gamer’s tuning has a bright rather than dark sound image with a present mid-range and treble presentation, but it does not come across as sterile or cold; rather, it has a slight warmth. Even in Basic mode, the stage seems quite spacious and open, and everything from subtle to multi-layered soundscapes, rhythmic textures and effect backdrops in computer or video games and films benefit equally. Voices are presented clearly and spatially with these over-ears, making for an appealingly lively and not at all artificial sound; this gives a certain foregrounding effect to the narrator’s voice, dialogue or vocals but does not appear obtrusive.
However, I did notice that the splashy treble presentation tends to exaggerate sibilants and harshness as the volume increases. I would recommend lowering the mid-high range, especially for stereo reproduction of modern music styles, as this makes the sound much more harmonious beyond moderate volume levels. While the bass reproduction via wireless seems rather dry and has a slim, wiry low bass, the lower ranges sound distinctly more full-bodied in wired mode. The low-frequency reproduction did not appear massive or bulky but was crisp and defined.
The Creative SXFI Air Gamer can be criticised for their low battery life, the lack of high-quality audio codecs and perceptible background noise when used wirelessly, which means that these headphones do not offer a convincing performance in Bluetooth mode. As a wired gaming headset, however, these over-ears in combination with the CommanderMic give a good account of themselves. Especially since the SXFI technology ensures a listening experience with a high fun factor during films in surround formats via headphones. Currently, the SXFI Air Gamer are available from Creative for €109.99, which represents good value for money.
- Can be used digitally and analogue via cable, Bluetooth and MicroSD card
- App connection with (sound) adjustment options
- Good operability
- Speech intelligibility via CommanderMic
- Supports surround formats 5.1 and 7.1
- High Bluetooth range
- Unstable size adjustment of the headband
- Cable noise
- No AAC, aptX
- Perceptible background noise (especially via Bluetooth)
- Low battery life in Bluetooth mode
- Ear couplingOver-ear
- Transducer principledynamic
- Frequency response (headphones)20 - 20.000 Hz
- Weight without cable348 g
What's in the box
- Mini jack cable
- USB-C cable
- USB-C to USB-A adapter
- NanoBoom Mic
- BT codecs: SBC
- BT version: 5.0
- BT profiles: A2DP, AVRCP, HFP