Creative Sound Blaster X7

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Creative has some interesting products lately. They continue to innovate through design and audio quality.  Some creative products have more flaws than others. The X7 Is a USB DAC  that was designed for audiophiles and audio enthusiasts.Lets dive into the world of audio through the X7, and see if stands to be the biggest, baddest , and boldest Sound Blaster yet.

The specifications are as follows:

  • Audio TechnologySB-Axx1™
  • Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR)127dB (DAC)
  • Connectivity Options (Main)microUSB
    Microphone :
    Built-in Stereo Mic
    1 x 1/8″ (3.5mm) Mic In
    Line / Optical :
    1 x RCA Aux/Line In
    1 x TOSLINK Optical In
    1 x TOSLINK Optical Out
    Speaker :
    2 x Binding Post Passive Speaker Out (L/R)
    1 x RCA Line/Front Speaker Out
    1 x 1/8″ (3.5mm) Rear Speaker Out
    1 x 1/8″ (3.5mm) Center/Sub Speaker Out
    Headphone :
    1 x 1/8″ (3.5mm)Headphone Out
    1 x 1/4″ (6.3mm)Headphone Out
    USB HOST :
    1 x Type A USB Host Port – Device Audio Stream & Charging
  • Max Channel Output5.1 Channels, Stereo Amplified
  • Audio TechnologiesSBX Pro Studio, CrystalVoice, Scout Mode, Dolby Digital Technology
  • MicrophoneMicrophone Type: Dual-array Noise Canceling Condenser

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

  • Windows
    • Intel® Core™2 Duo or AMD® equivalent processor (2.8 GHz or faster recommended)
    • Intel, AMD or 100% compatible motherboard
    • Microsoft® Windows® 10 32/64-bit, Windows® 8.1/8.0 32/64-bit, Windows 7 32/64-bit, Windows Vista® 32/64-bit SP1 or higher
    • 1GB RAM
    • >600 MB of free hard disk space
    • Available USB 2.0/3.0 port (High Speed recommended with driver)

    Macintosh

    • Macintosh running Mac® OS X® 10.6.8 or higher
    • 1GB RAM
    • >600 MB of free hard disk space
    • Available USB 2.0/3.0 port (High Speed recommended with software)

    iOS

    • iPhones/iPads running iOS 6.0 or higher forBluetooth^
    • iPhones/iPads running iOS 6.0 or higher for USB Host Audio streaming via Lightning Connector 

    ^ Devices must support Bluetooth 4.1 (Low Energy) or higher
    Android

    • Phones/Tablets running Android 2.3 or higher forBluetooth
    • Phones/Tablets running Android 4.1 or higher for USB Host Streaming* 

    * Devices must support AOA2 USB Streaming

WARRANTY

  • 1-year Limited Hardware Warranty

Shipping

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This product was shipped with no damage , and boasts some powerful packaging, and is packed extremely well. The product has foam inserts to protect your investment. You can see the headphone stand neatly placed on top of the foam as the first item to unbox.

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The package contents included are:

  • Sound Blaster X7 Device
  • Quick Start Leaflet
  • WW Warranty Leaflets
  • 24V/2.91A AC-DC Power Adaptor and cable
  • RCA to 3.5mm Stereo Cable for Front Out
  • RCA to 3.5mm Stereo Cable (Female) for Line-In
  • microUSB Cable 1.5m
  • Headphone Stand

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The X7 comes with just about every outlet you can think of. No matter what Country your from they have you covered. Also the manual  is huge, it’s about the size of a map. It covers all the basics and connections on the X7 for easy identification and installation.

Design

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The Sound Blaster X7 is the ultimate upgrade for pro-gamers and audio enthusiasts. This unit is feature-packed with ultra High Resolution Audio (HRA), and acts as an external USB DAC with a powerful amplifier with low latency. It offers Bluetooth connectivity and a Dolby Digital decoder. The X7 was only created to provide the best audio experience ever.

The X7 best features:

“BIGGEST array of features for any Sound Blaster, including an unprecedented kickass built-in power amplifier, cross-platform connectivity, and Sound Blaster intelligent audio enhancement technologies.”

“BADDEST player in the arena of entertainment audio – with only the finest of the finest audiophile-grade components that deliver the absolute best audio performance. Get the best of the best – state of the art “Fine Gold” capacitors just to squeeze out that last drop of performance on top of the already superb audio quality. Indulge yourself with swappable op-amps to gratify your inner connoisseur for exquisite tonal characteristics.”

“BOLDEST – Dare to overcome mountains of obstacles to create an ultra premium audiophile-grade device and fuse it with such a mind-blowing list of features; and then compress all of it into one stylish compact trapezoidal prism that can be easily connected to the PC and just about anything else.”

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The X7 features the SB-Axx1 multi-core Digital Signal Processor (DSP) which is capable of voice processing, audio restoration, proprietary effects, and Dolby Digital 5.1 decoder. It has a special patented bus EMU32 which is capable of processing 32 concurrent audio streams. This allows the X7 to handle its multiple inputs and outputs. In addition the chip helps the X7 have audiophile grade playback from 5.1 configurations at up to 24-bit 192kHz.

 

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The X7 has a number of connections that make this truly versatile. It can provide smooth digital audio that preserves fidelity from the original uncompressed file on your PC/Mac. It accomplishes this through a high-speed USB 2.0 digital audio path providing super high-resolution audio. It is coupled to a powerful 100W built-in amplifier.

The rear connections include:

  • Power in
  • Left/Right speaker connectors
  • Impedance switch
  • 4x Right/Left analog RCA connectors , 2x line-in and 2x out
  • 2x 3.5mm rear jack line-in rear/ and c/sub
  • Optical out/in
  • Micro USB
  • Holes for headphone stand

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The X7 has a built-in headphone stand for easy headphone storage. This is absolutely fantastic, and as simple of a design as it is, is one my favorite features.

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The front connections and knobs include:

  • Power on/off button
  • Mic 2.5 mm jack
  • Headphone 2.5mm jack
  • Headphone 3.5mm jack
  • Volume knob for easy volume control / can also be used to power on/off the unit by pressing in

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The Sound Blaster X7 features a Burr-Brown PCM1794 127dB digital-to-analog converter (DAC) which supports high-resolution audio playback of up to 24-bit 192kHz when connected to PC/Mac, including 24-bit 88.2kHz and 24-bit 176.4kHz. THe X7 lets you experience cinematic true-to-life 5.1 channel playback with Dolby Digital. To provide an outstanding headphone listening experience, The X7 uses a Texas Instruments TPA6120A2 headphone amplifier Capable of driving high-end 600Ω headphones. The Sound Blaster X7  with its 127dB 24-bit 192kHz DAC  delivers powerful audio. The Sound Blaster X7 comes with superior class Nichicon “Fine Gold” capacitors, and only uses the highest grade of parts.

Sound Blaster X7 is amazingly customizable  and  features the option to swap op-amps. Op-amps play an essential role in amplifying the delicate analog signals and also influences the overall audio quality. Users may have their preferences for a certain tonal characteristic. With the Sound Blaster X7, you can easily swap the op-amps (available separately) to define your music’s tonal characteristics to your heart’s content.

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A high power, high-efficiency Class-D digital amplifier TPA3116D2 delivers up to 100W power (2 x 50W @ 4Ω*), allowing you to connect to passive bookshelf or tower speakers. The Sound Blaster X7 features an impedance switch to select between 4Ω and 8Ω to match your speakers to deliver the best audio performance. I tested the X7 with Creatives own E-MU XM7 speakers for a truly amazing audio. These speakers are designed to work perfectly with the X7. They also provide a nice thick speaker wire to connect the speakers to the back of the X7 for strong reliable connection.

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“The Sound Blaster X7 offers Bluetooth 4.1 with aptX® Low Latency and AAC codec support, letting you stream audio wirelessly and yet still maintain the fidelity of your music. aptX with Low Latency support allows you to watch movies and play games via your wireless devices, while ensuring audio synchronization. The Dual headphone outputs allow you to share your favorite tunes with your loved ones simultaneously!”

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The X7 also comes equipped with NFC support for connecting NFC compatible devices. This is a unique feature and comes in handy when you want to connect your mobile phone to the unit to transfer information. To use the NFC sensor just tap a compatible NFC device to connect to the X7.

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You can also connect mobile devices to the USB host for easy connectivity. The X7 has more connections than I have ever seen. It’s basically a small computer that provides superior audio processing and an array of multiple connections that provide alot of versatility.

Software

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If you though the features included on the X7 were great, then lets look at the software. It has mobile apps, and a main program that can control all the best features of the X7.

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Before you start using the X7 your going to want to upgrade to the latest firmware which can be downloaded here. You will also from that same page want to grab the latest software and drivers for your operating system.

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When setting up your software for first use you will be asked a number of question to set up your device. This is useful and you should pair your setting with your current setup. I was sent the E-MU XM7 bookshelf speaker to test with the unit, and they sound superb. During setup it asks you to select your speakers, and I chose the E-MU XM7 set. This is nice because the software will configure the speakers for you automatically as they are Creative products. They are fine tuned pretty well out of the box, but you can configure them further to your liking if you’re a audio enthusiasts. I will be testing both headphones and speakers to capture the full potential of this unit.

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The SBX Pro Studio page provides detailed settings for fine tuning Surround / Bass/ and the Crystalizer, as well as crossover frequency. There are also options for Smart Volume control, and Dialog Plus. There is a nifty sound demo included to really showcase the full potential of the X7’s audio power. You have at the bottom of the software your main volume control and speaker/headphone switch button. You can create custom settings and select your profiles as well.

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The profile tab allows you to control and select different profiles for your X7. You can create up to three custom profiles, or use one of sever built-in profiles Creative has added.

Creative has several built-in profiles for different gaming styles:

  • Adventure and action
  • Driving simulation
  • First person shooter
  • Specific games even have built-in profiles like Dota/ Call of Duty/ Counter-Strike Global offensive

They offer several more to fit really anyone’s style of gaming.

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Having Fun with CrystalVoice After configuration:

Click Test and speak into your microphone to hear how your voice sounds with CrystalVoice applied. Readjust as desired.

CrystalVoice FX: enables the speaker’s voice to be altered with a variety of effects, which can be used to enhance the tone of the speaker’s voice, create interesting accents or to sound like a completely different person.

CrystalVoice Smart Volume: automatically adjusts the loudness of the speaker’s voice to maintain a consistent volume level. This makes it convenient for the speaker to converse normally, regardless of whether the speaker is close to or far away from the microphone.

CrystalVoice Noise Reduction: enables the speaker to be heard clearly over background noise by constantly monitoring the environment and eliminate the unwanted noise that interferes with the conversation.

CrystalVoice Acoustic Echo Cancellation: eliminates echoes and enables the speaker to listen to the other party clearly. Echoes are a common problem present in voice communication systems that disrupts conversations by making it difficult to hear the other party.

CrystalVoice Focus: creates a zone and suppresses noise outside it to enable the speaker within to be heard with amazing clarity. Multiple microphones are used to focus, enhance the speaker’s voice, and eliminate sounds outside the zone.

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The scout mode tab offers proprietary software that allows you to hear your enemies from further away. This gives you a distinct tactical advantage in your games.You can create several hotkeys for your games to quickly turn this feature on or off. I tested this feature in Counter Strike Global Offensive, and you really can hear footsteps of your enemies louder than having this feature disabled.

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The speakers/Headphones section allows you to configure your device to your heart’s content. It even offers a calibration and polarity tab to fine tune your audio experience. Choose between normal or high gain option for more powerful audio devices. You can also select between headphones and speakers here as well. If you are using SPDIF this is the place where you would select the option to enable/disable this feature. Once you have everything set the way to want you can run the Test button to hear the difference. Direct mode is used for USB Direct Mode, this provides the purest form for your audio. With this feature on your mode monitoring, and microphone effects are by-passed until the device is disconnected from power. Also be careful when choosing between Normal and High Gain as this could damage your equipment if it does not match the specified level.

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Besides stereo mixing the SB X7 provides playback of 5.1 surround channels from both USB and SPDIF. You can mix the volume levels to your liking here and make sure the levels are to your liking and balanced.

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The equalizer allows you to create custom settings as well as several preset profiles.

The profiles included are:

  • Acoustic
  • Classical
  • Country
  • Dance
  • Flat
  • Jazz
  • New age
  • Pop
  • Rock
  • Vocal

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Creative also has an APP for both Android and iPhone to control the X7 remotely. Both these apps are well designed and provide all the control the regular software offers.

Testing

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I wanted to test Overwatch and CS go to truly show off the ability of the X7. The X7 advantage is going to be tested in both games. I will test scout mode individually, and will also listen to some individual music, and watch a movie to test the full experience.

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My test bench is as follows:

  • Motherboard- AsRock z170 Gaming k6+
  • CPU: Intel Core I7 6700K
  • Network Card- netgear AC 1200 USB
  • Cooler- CoolerMaster Pro 240
  • Memory- Anarchy X 16GB DDR4 2800MHz
  • Video Card: Nvidia GTX 1060
  • Storage- PNY CS2210 480GB / Samsung 950 pro m.2 512GB
  • Power Supply- bequiet! Dark Power Pro 11 1000W
  • OS: Windows 10 x64 Pro
  • Audio- Creative H7 and X7 with E-MU XM7 speakers

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Counter Strike Global offensive really adapted well to scout mode. I did have a competitive edge when it came to hearing m enemies sooner. The directional audio is well situated to handle what direction footsteps were coming from. Overwatch did struggle a little as this game isn’t specifically geared towards footsteps. I did hear subtle ques from enemies behind me, which would count as a competitive edge.

Hear the difference:

Effect off:

Effects on:

 

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I tested the high gain microphone provided with the H7 through the X7, and it sounded extremely clear. I used tests like Skype, and Ventrilo. Masking your voice with Voice FX is really fun and a nice extra feature Creative provides in the blaster x software.

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Music, movies, and games all sounded as expected with the X7. You can expect a bit more fidelity when selected the proper movie or music profiles Creative provides in the Blaster X7 software. I testing various songs, and movies with the different profiles. I found using the build in profiles provided the best listening and viewing experience. The X7 when finely tuned sounds unlike any sound card on the market. It is a true audiophiles dream, and even out of the box with the shelf speakers sounds amazing. The X7 also takes full advantage of its own features and sounds amazing in surround mode.

Conclusion

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There are very few negative things about this DAC. The X7 truly stands out as one of the best audio experience I have ever tested. I would say that price is going to be the biggest hurdle, but for those in the market for the ultimate audio experience on a PC, it’s well worth your investment, especially if you’re a hardcore audio enthusiast looking for the best. The X7 is beautifully designed with the high-end features and sound fidelity. There is not a part about this unit that doesn’t make you feel like your money was well spent. You can expect superior sound quality, and even exchangeable OP-AMPS.

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The X7 delivers the best audio performance you could ever imagine . The USB DAC is plug and play, and is easily configured through Creative’s software suit. The ability to swap between different OP-AMPS makes the X7 extremely versatile for any situation, as well as offering nearly endless connectivity options. I highly recommend you buy the X7 if you absolutely love high-end PC gaming or home entertainment. You can use this either on your computer or even as a home entertainment system for the best listening experiences. This will even bring your gaming console to life with the E-MU XM7 speakers. You can find the Creative X7 on Amazon right now for $400.

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Creative Sound Blaster X7

2 thoughts on “Creative Sound Blaster X7

  1. Chris says:

    With the exception that it doesn’t give you the /MUCH NEEDED/ option of switching your center channel and subwoofer. My subwoofer audio is playing out of my center speaker and center audio playing out of my subwoofer and unlike nearly every other soundcard/software I’ve used before this, it just doesn’t have that option. I’m running the new Gigabyte Z270X Gaming 7 motherboard with Sound Blaster Pro Studio, which is a very similar bit of software, and no where in it is the option to switch the two outputs. With the limitation of relying on a single port for center channel and subwoofer, every other soundcard that I’ve used provided the option to switch between the two, aside from Sound Blaster. As nice as it is, it’s sorely lacking in what I would consider a must-have in the viability of a PC soundcard. What a joke.

  2. Chris says:

    Even my previous cheapo Realtek onboard soundcard provided this function, automatically making it leagues better than this.

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