Creative’s SXFI Trio combine the hybrid triple-driver system of the Aurvana Trio with the audio holographic options of the Super X-Fi Headphone AMP in the form of compact in-ear USB-C headphones designed to be versatile all-rounders for working, studying and playing.
Since many smartphones these days lack a 3.5mm audio jack, the SXFI Trio are designed as an alternative for use with the USB-C port of Android devices. However, Creative points out that most Samsung phones have limited microphone compatibility. Apple’s iOS devices are not officially supported, although the SXFI Trio can be used with an iPad or iPhone via a Lightning to USB 3 camera adapter. In this case, however, the microphone is not supported. For use on a laptop, these headphones come with a USB-A to USB-C adapter, which worked perfectly on a MacBook Air. These in-ears can also be operated on a Sony PS4/ PS4 Pro and Nintendo’s Switch via an adapter. They are not intended to be used with a PC, as the cable is 1.20 metres which is obviously too short for use with a tower case.
Speaking of which: The weak point of these in-ears proved to be the rather perceptible cable noise that occurs above the splitter as soon as contact is made with clothing or skin. This does not affect playback when in front of a laptop too much, but it does when using a smartphone on the go. Especially since even the cable clip supplied doesn’t completely solve the problem, as the thinner, housing-side strands themselves react to wind, which limits the outdoor suitability of the system quite a bit. However, an advantage of the SXFI Trio is that it comes with six different sizes of ear tips, which make it possible to make very good individual adjustments. The wearing comfort is correspondingly high, and this does not change even after several hours of use.
The miniaturised Super X-Fi Headphone AMP named “SXFI Wire” has been reduced in size by 40 per cent, according to the manufacturer, and it has an integrated 3-button remote for device control. While the middle multi-function button controls playback and is used to answer and end phone calls, the volume can be adjusted using the separate plus and minus buttons. However, there is no track selection, so you have to skip forward or backwards on the playing device. The built-in SXFI effect can be switched on via a fourth button; this is supposed to enable spatial listening via headphones like with a multiple speaker system, so a small LED signals whether the technology is active. Another practical feature is that the microphone is not located in the amp housing but in a separate place much closer to the mouth, and this has a very positive effect on the call quality giving good intelligibility.
Despite the small format, the integrated headphone amplifier has power and offers volume reserves that can be used with an appealingly low level of distortion. Spoken content was sufficiently amplified on a MacBook Air at a level of 20 per cent, while beat-oriented music started to create a party atmosphere at a setting of 40 per cent. At full load, even traditional classical recordings were able to reach a high room volume. In addition to conventional stereo playback, the SXFI Wire also supports 5.1 and 7.1 surround formats with a resolution of up to 24Bit/96kHz.
The free SXFI app for Android and iOS devices offers the option of updating the headphones via firmware updates. In addition, sound adjustment can be made with the help of a small pre-set selection or your own EQ settings. Personalisation of the so-called audio holography is also possible by creating an individual profile. However, the handling of sensitive biometric data seems questionable, as the use of a hearing profile requires that photos of the face and both ears are taken with the help of instructions, and these are then stored on a server. However, if you do not wish to create a profile, you still have the option of using the standard version of the sound effect.
In contrast to Creative’s pure earpiece systems without an amp, such as the Aurvana Trio Wireless or Outlier Air V2, the SXFI Trio have the advantage that the audio effect can be applied through the SXFI Wire not only to local files, but also to streamed content from Netflix, iTunes or Amazon Prime Video. In the process, the SXFI technology shifts the listener’s virtual stage away from the head and into the room, which can have drastic effects depending on the source material and is more suitable for films, games or ambient sounds than for modern music styles. Bass-oriented productions, in particular, sound decidedly bizarre, as the low-frequency range seems to literally dissolve, while cinematic soundscapes can benefit from the increased spaciousness, even if the presentation loses treble components compared to the basic sound.
The SXFI Trio is based on the Aurvana Trio’s tried-and-tested hybrid 3-way system, so each side uses one bio-cellulose dynamic woofer and two BA drivers for the midrange and treble. And although the manufacturer advertises these headphones as having “digital sound”, which is often perceived as cold and sterile, the warm-toned sound signature of the previous model is unmistakably in evidence. The tuning is also quite enjoyable and offers a powerful bass response that reaches down deep and has substance, but it doesn’t seem overloaded or dull, instead the sound is defined. The mid-frequency range is also energetic and appears tidy, clear and detailed at the same time, so that, for example guitar fingerings are perceptible in the background. Due to the clean reproduction, voices are also easy to understand, although sibilants can be perceived as a little sharp and tend to have a certain harshness at higher volume levels. At the same time, the upper registers come across as present and crisp rather than restrained or soft, especially since there is no noticeable drop in the high frequencies.
The SXFI Trio from Creative are recommended as a wired alternative for use with Android devices with USB-C ports and laptops, offering powerful listening pleasure with clear voice reproduction for movies, audiobooks and music as well as gaming. One shortcoming of these compact in-ear USB-C headphones, however, is the presence of cable noise, which limits their outdoor use. However, these comfortably fitting headphones score points with support for their surround audio formats 5.1 and 7.1 as well as good speech intelligibility when making calls.
- Comfortable, adjustable fit
- Clever, compact combination of in-ears and headphone amplifier
- Low-distortion volume reserves
- Support 5.1 and 7.1 surround formats
- Speech intelligibility during phone calls
- Clearly perceptible cable noise
- Cable too short for use with PC
- Ear couplingIn-ear
- Transducer principledynamic + 2 balanced armature drivers
- Frequency response (headphones)8 - 30.000 Hz
- Weight with cable30 g