Where Does Quality Audio Come From?
For some obscure reason people think that the quality of the audio that they’re listening to is completely a result of the type of headphones being worn (earbuds or on-ear or over-the-ear). The truth is far from that, because while headphones play a strong part, there’s also the quality (i.e., resolution) of the audio being generated. And that generation is coming from the device that is playing that audio — in most cases now being a mobile device, which is to say a smartphone. But the reality is that it’s the electronics taking that digital audio file and converting it so that the headphones can accept and play the sound for the person wearing them. This is the province of the DAC (digital audio converter) and it seems a lot less attention is paid to it as compared to video. So in the age of a smartphone — specifically Android smartphones — you can pore for hours over specs in a bid to try and get the best DAC in the phone, or you can go a more successful route by getting Creative’s SXFI AMP Super X-Fi Headphone Amp
It’s The Hardware
Now obviously what the AMP can do initially relies on its hardware — what the electronics inside can handle. So the DAC (128dB) that takes the analog sound now beefs it up through digital, with the specs (not to bore) being on the high end so that the resulting sound is of a high-definition even when using studio-grade headphones. Plus we’re not just talking about stereo, but also a virtual effect for 5.1 multi speaker sound along with 7.1 (the first number being the total “speakers” the ear apparently hears with a form of directionality) and the second being the bass generated (a subwoofer appearing in reality).
The SXFI in the name refers to the proprietary Super X-Fi audio technology Creative has put together. At its most simplistic, it is a way to personalize the listening experience — done through the app interlinking with data taken from pictures of your ear done earlier. Not pervasive, nor spooky but necessary since X-FI uses head and ear mapping. Keep in mind that the audio content doesn’t have to be “X-Fi” compatible,” because all the effort is being done to the audio that is now going to the headphones.
Sound Gets A Lot Better
So how much of an improvement is using this amplifier going to make? A lot, as it turns out. The virtual surround effect in general creates a more immersive sound field that drives the listener to have more perception in what is being played, while the enhancement in the audio’s quality highlights the mid ranges so that they are less likely to be drowned out by the higher frequencies. Or you could just say it makes that which is playing clearer and more akin to what the audio engineer back at the studio had fiddled with in the first place. Plus the all-important bass effect has the necessary “low” quality without being muddied or minimized.
Time For The Setup
If one wonders why the “set up” part of this overview didn’t come first, it’s because it’s too simple to make anything out of it. A cable goes into the output for the device providing the audio and the other end goes into the AMP. Then the headphones plug into the output on the AMP and that’s it (not taking into account using the free app and the head/ear mapping conducted). Guess it’s a good time to mention that the AMP itself is pretty tiny (being about the length of an index finger and weighing in at a measly .5 ounces and so can fit into the pocket along with the phone easily enough (if you do this try to avoid scratching the screen because the AMP isn’t plastic but the more durable aluminum). There are controls on its surface but not many — an on/off button, volume up/down buttons, a play/pause button and that’s it. Also a LED to let you know it’s on.
The SXFI AMP isn't confined to working only with Android phones (and by extension, tablets one would assume). It is fully compatible using it with headphones with computers (desktop and laptops) running MacOS and Windows — there not being any drivers to load.The same goes for the PlayStation 4 and the Nintendo Switch. Even iPhones can get into the act — although a series of adapter dongles need be used which kind of makes it a clunky proposition Priced at a retail of $149.99, further details can be had by going to https://us.creative.com/sxfisupport/sxfi-amp/iphones