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Creative SXFI AMP Review (headphone adapter)

Juanrdp

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What are your views on the virtualization technology?

Curiously that dongle was the best showcase of the technology, on it it worked flawless from day1 and with a severe improvement of the audio.
After those dongle due the improvement of the audio i purchased also with Sxfi the Outlier Gold (even with the Sxfi tech in theory the improvement is not even close to the dongle, it just a very minor improvement and the live environment it creates is just a joke in comparison) and the SXfi Air for my child gaming pc that while not so bad as the Outlier it was not even close again with the dongle.

Early this year due the two previous experiences i test the Sxfi Theater (before purchasing it) and while not bad i found it again worse performing that the DAC and very expensive for the performance you get, btw i dont purchase it even it even with the discount xD

It's curious that the first Sxfi they released was way better in my opinion that any of the later items using the same technology.
 

Archaea

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Curiously that dongle was the best showcase of the technology, on it it worked flawless from day1 and with a severe improvement of the audio.
After those dongle due the improvement of the audio i purchased also with Sxfi the Outlier Gold (even with the Sxfi tech in theory the improvement is not even close to the dongle, it just a very minor improvement and the live environment it creates is just a joke in comparison) and the SXfi Air for my child gaming pc that while not so bad as the Outlier it was not even close again with the dongle.

Early this year due the two previous experiences i test the Sxfi Theater (before purchasing it) and while not bad i found it again worse performing that the DAC and very expensive for the performance you get, btw i dont purchase it even it even with the discount xD

It's curious that the first Sxfi they released was way better in my opinion that any of the later items using the same technology.

Do the later products use ear and face mapping like the Super X-Fi stick? I assume so? Maybe your pictures weren't as good for the calibration mechansim? I've played with my config and mapped a config for my wife and my friend and our individual configs all sound VERY different. I'm a big guy with a big head and I don't think my face fits the template very well because the virtualization for me is not very good. Frankly it sounds like a cheap 5.1 system in a small tile bathroom when I map it to my head.

The directional mapping, however, is very good, sounds convincingly come from behind you or from the side or from in front of you --- the placement works well playing back something like the Dolby Digital 7.1 Ball Bounce Demo, or any of the Dolby Digital audio demonstrations, but the sound quality as mapped to my ears/face is tin'ny and reverb'y and not particularly good. When I take it out of virtualization mode it's just a neutral DAC/AMP and works well for that. You can still apply manual EQ if desired without the virtualization.

For my purposes I've kept my unit for non dsp/virtualization mode use as a USB DAC for my computer headphone/headset gaming in standard amp mode. It works better than my onboard realtek sound card, and has less (no audible) line noise.

Someone asked if works with headsets/mic. Yes. It does. It's been a good device for me in that regard.

If you are lucky enough to have the algorithm work well with you unique head, ears, face - I've read many people really rave over what this product can do. Worst case you get a nice quality little headphone/headset DAC and use it without the virtualization features. I bundled this in shipping with my JBL CBT 70j-1 and 70je-1speakers that amirm recently measured, and I'm glad he had the chance to measure this too.

I've actually missed the little device while it's been away, so I guess that means I recommend it - even though I personally don't use it with the virtualization mapping. I don't know that Creative ever sold it through regular resellers like BestBuy or Newegg. I bought mine from the Creative store at launch after reading the glowing review from Mark Henniger of AVSForum.
Best of CES 2018: Creative Super X-Fi Headphone Technology | AVS Forum

It came initially bundled with a pair of Creative headphones, that weren't very good, IMO. I use the Super X-Fi instead with my Philips X2HR, which are my headphones of choice. I used it also with a pair of HDX-6XX from mass drop. Both headphones were powered just fine by the Super X-Fi. You do need to select the headphones you have in the software to help it map a generic EQ baseline to that specific headphone. There are many popular headphones to chose from in the list.
 
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bobbooo

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Hmm the unit I measured seems to not have that increasing noise at HF... strange

4B7RIaQ.png


BTW, crosstalk? I remember it being bad.

You remember correctly - looks like you measured the crosstalk at -45dB and -47dB into 16 and 33 ohms respectively.
 

Billy Budapest

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Measurements aside...

What are your views on the virtualization technology? It caused quite a stir when it was announced and sent the share price up +500%, and then shortly after release it had strange trading behavior (that dip at 2019 which triggered an investigation which found nothing as usual).

cWGFm5i.jpg


Now with benefit of hindsight we know that feature failed to penetrate the market, but how would a trained listener rate the feature?
Actually, a somewhat similar computational audio technology did penetrate the market, albeit through a different manufacturer—Apple. The AirPod Pro’s do a “spatial audio” trick that pretty effectively recreates surround sound, at least for 5.1 and Atmos recordings. There is a microphone inside the AirPods that is pointed into your ear canal and its measurements are incorporated into the noise reduction and spatial audio algorithms.
 

rxp

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Apple's doesn't look at your pinnae shape at all and doesn't aim to project the sound from a far field speaker. I've tried both and for me it's no where near the same. It does work well for tablets/phones though. But not sitting far away from a TV for example
 

ishouldbeking

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It came initially bundled with a pair of Creative headphones, that weren't very good, IMO. I use the Super X-Fi instead with my Philips X2HR, which are my headphones of choice. I used it also with a pair of HDX-6XX from mass drop. Both headphones were powered just fine by the Super X-Fi. You do need to select the headphones you have in the software to help it map a generic EQ baseline to that specific headphone. There are many popular headphones to chose from in the list.

Did it come with the Aurvana Live SE by chance? I seem to remember that being offered as a combination at one point.

The Aurvana live isn't to everyone's taste, but it's an interesting little headphone featuring Foster/Fostex biodynamic drivers. They have weirdly small cups, cheap build quality, and non-detachable cables, but they have a cult following for the outstanding bass response and decent overall tuning, often described as a budget Fostex THx00 with the same fat biodynamic bass slam. The Aurvana Live is a close sibling to the E-MU Walnut and the Massdrop x E-MU Purpleheart, just with plastic cups instead of wood (and better measurements, less bloated bass, and lower sale price than the wood variants). The SE was a slightly refined retuning with less aggressive bass , supposedly specifically tuned for Super X-FI use. I haven't heard the SE but they're going for $50 on the Creative site and I really want to snag a pair.
 

Billy Budapest

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Apple's doesn't look at your pinnae shape at all and doesn't aim to project the sound from a far field speaker. I've tried both and for me it's no where near the same. It does work well for tablets/phones though. But not sitting far away from a TV for example
True, Apple’s spatial audio technology attempts to situate sounds in 3D space around the listener and does not try to emulate a “far field” speaker. I’m not sure why someone would want that, anyway. Apple’s computational audio algorithms including HRTF do rely on measurements taken by the microphone aimed into your ear canal—I’m not sure where you are getting contradictory information. It also incorporates a stable image regardless of head-position and tilt through accelerometers in the AirPods.
 

Archaea

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Did it come with the Aurvana Live SE by chance?
That's them. I wasn't a fan at all. Post 122.
Creative Launches Super X-Fi Amp | Page 4 | [H]ard|Forum

They were small cup size, (on ears), cheap, and sounded poor compared to my Phillips SHP9500 and Sennheiser HDX-6XX at the time. They seemed to me like generic $25 headphones from any retail store.
I pretty immediately sold them on eBay after just an audition or two. They were not something I could reconcile with the little cult following I had read about.

169176_upload_2018-10-31_23-43-6.png
 

wwenze

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I've honestly seriously doubted the whole 3D pinnae personalization blah blah since day one.

Because there is an easy counter-argument for the importance of the pinnae personalization - Just curve your hands and place it onto your ears to make a bigger ear. How much does that change the sound? Not really, yea? Good music still sounds good. And the amount of deformation the virtualization did to the sound is no where close to measuring variance caused by inaccurate pinnae personalization..

And really, if you want to throw that into the equation, then shouldn't you also start asking, which pinnae shape is the best? Is Beethoven's ear better than ours? If that's the case shouldn't we try to simulate the sound reaching his ear instead?

Actually, a somewhat similar computational audio technology did penetrate the market, albeit through a different manufacturer—Apple. The AirPod Pro’s do a “spatial audio” trick that pretty effectively recreates surround sound, at least for 5.1 and Atmos recordings. There is a microphone inside the AirPods that is pointed into your ear canal and its measurements are incorporated into the noise reduction and spatial audio algorithms.

I would consider that as a totally different technology. And one with basis for believing it would work, too.

I mean it is effectively a feedback loop... something that I have wished for audio electronics to finally include the human ear as part of.

And everything else, is just math and how you want to DSP the sound. I wouldn't be surprised if it can go 20-20kHz flat in a sine sweep if it wanted.

Creative's case... I have no idea what is their aim. And for a company with no room-correction products - which are commonplace technologies today, yet they did not even include that in their $8000 soundbar - to suddenly release room simulation technology, this does not inspire confidence.
 
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ishouldbeking

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That's them. I wasn't a fan at all. Post 122.
Creative Launches Super X-Fi Amp | Page 4 | [H]ard|Forum

They were small cup size, (on ears), cheap, and sounded poor compared to my Phillips SHP9500 and Sennheiser HDX-6XX at the time. They seemed to me like generic $25 headphones from any retail store.
I pretty immediately sold them on eBay after just an audition or two. They were not something I could reconcile with the little cult following I had read about.

View attachment 119760
Yeah, I'd imagine they're tonally on the other end of the spectrum from the SHP9500 and 6xx. I wonder if the retuned SE model tampered with the bass too much and killed the fun of the originals. The build is definitely janky. Alas.
 

ZolaIII

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@ishouldbeking and @Archaea Creative Aurvana SE are actually Aurvana Live, Denon AH-D1001 (however there is small difference in sound between Live and AH-D1001 [see wavelet/EQ APO EQ's for those]) those are actually Foster reference design. While those are same from out side and pretty much from inside it seams somehow Creative did something wrong modifying the Aurvana SE as people say other two sound much better (still a bit like tube with things on top of each other [that's why Creative called them Live:confused:]).
Edit: SHP9500 sounds about the same as Superlux HD-668B so we won't discuss how that's actually better.
 
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rxp

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I've honestly seriously doubted the whole 3D pinnae personalization blah blah since day one.

Because there is an easy counter-argument for the importance of the pinnae personalization - Just curve your hands and place it onto your ears to make a bigger ear. How much does that change the sound? Not really, yea? Good music still sounds good. And the amount of deformation the virtualization did to the sound is no where close to measuring variance caused by inaccurate pinnae personalization. This is separate to what sounds good. You actually got a sound stage (not the ones headphone nerds talk about, the real type!) but then the room/tonality is what determines if you like it or not. Even your sight does. Hearing is a multi sensory experience (see the Impulcifer thread here for more details)

I don't think that's the aim of pinnae correction, to improve the sound per se. It's to virtualize loud speakers in Creative's case, or in something even more advanced like the PS5's binural engine, it's to virtualize natural sounds. Yes, inaccurate personalisation messes with the image, some of my photos of my ears with the SXFI clearly don't localize well. But it's an easy fix - play things like Atmos test tones.


And really, if you want to throw that into the equation, then shouldn't you also start asking, which pinnae shape is the best? Is Beethoven's ear better than ours? If that's the case shouldn't we try to simulate the sound reaching his ear instead?

I don't think so - your pinae is the best shape because your brain knows it so uses it localize sound. The brain is also plastique - when boxers or wrestlers loose their pinae shape due to cauliflower ear they don't suddenly lose their ability to localize sounds. It adapats.

Creative's case... I have no idea what is their aim. And for a company with no room-correction products - which are commonplace technologies today, yet they did not even include that in their $8000 soundbar - to suddenly release room simulation technology, this does not inspire confidence.

Room correction doesn't have a great deal to do with speaker simulation, outside of the obvious applications of DSP in both cases. There's a well established technique of convolve binural sweeps to impulse responses that even a single chap working on his own did (Impulcifer author). The difference with creative is they just used machine learning to create associations with pinnae shape and those responses. It works under the assumption that similar looking ears transform sound waves to the ear canal in similar ways. It's not perfect and there are other methods that work - i.e. PS5's. Many companies have the tech, I've emailed DTS in the past and they do also but won't roll it out because it's a UX issue. They prefer the simplicity of drop down menus.

Other companies that I know do it include: Waves with their more advanced plugin and Sony.
 

Juanrdp

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Do the later products use ear and face mapping like the Super X-Fi stick? I assume so? Maybe your pictures weren't as good for the calibration mechansim?

Yes, all of three use the head and ear mapping (with the Pc headset you need first to make the mapping on a phone with an app, and then configure with the same account the driver on the Pc, it's not very user friendly) and i think that all of them where well configured, because i tried to use the same mapping as the dongle, create a new mapping, rinse and repeat.... and in the end with older or new mapping while the amp worked flawlessly the rest did't work so well.
 

Juanrdp

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Did it come with the Aurvana Live SE by chance? I seem to remember that being offered as a combination at one point.

Yep, that was the initial bundle.

The Aurvana was a mediocre headset, very bad construction materials, cheap plastic and small size (well, im used to a Beyerdynamic Dt1770 and to an old Akg770 that both have nice hear cups) but at least very lightweight.

What was surprising was the step ahead that those cans have with the Sxfi tech on of the dongle, they just take a whole step ahead from mediocre sound they just become a decent level sound. Probably the best improvement of any of the headsets that i listened with those amp.
 

rxp

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True, Apple’s spatial audio technology attempts to situate sounds in 3D space around the listener and does not try to emulate a “far field” speaker. I’m not sure why someone would want that, anyway. Apple’s computational audio algorithms including HRTF do rely on measurements taken by the microphone aimed into your ear canal—I’m not sure where you are getting contradictory information. It also incorporates a stable image regardless of head-position and tilt through accelerometers in the AirPods.

The source generating the sound is in the ear canal. It can't know the pinnae shape. A circumaural headphone could potentially do that, but the microphone would need to be inside the ear canal ala a binaural mic. It does indeed have head tracking. The research shows (a NASA paper, you can google it I think) that with synthetic HRTF's head tracking helps externalize the image. When you simulate a real HRTF head tracking isn't so important it's very obvious where sound is coming from. Remember we're talking point sources in 7 channels. We're not talking trying to localize the sound of a bird or something in the real world where head tilting/panning is extremely important for pinpoint localization . That's what the majority of research looks at from what I've read. Not simulating 7 loud speakers.

Samsung is also doing what Apple is on their latest Galaxy Buds btw.

Far field speakers is definitely something you want if you want to lay back and watch a projector or TV in a living room. I use it daily! The reason you'd want that is when your sighted in a real room a near field surround system sounds off - your brain is perceiving images from your eyes and ears as decoherent so it sounds wrong. You can get used to it though, with enough listening in my experience.
 

DualTriode

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“This is with the output adjusted to 2 volts. Performance is pretty good with distortion below threshold of hearing at -115 dB. Signal to noise ratio/dynamic range falls in the same bucket:”

@amirm,

If you would please, I believe that we need the second video on the dB.

In this review the test output is 2 volts at 1000HZ. The FFT plot shows an amplitude scale labeled in dBrA. 0dBrA is 2volts. This amplitude scale shows everything as a ratio to the 2volts output voltage.

dBrA is ratio, compare this to that kind of number. Apples

0dB SPL, the threshold of hearing at 1000Hz, is an absolute kind of number. Oranges

No relationship is shown between dBrA and 0dB SPL the threshold of hearing at 1000Hz.

Thanks DT
 

wwenze

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Of course there wont be a relationship, because that's the job of the earphone or speaker to translate voltage into sound pressure. And the sensitivity of that varies.
 

amanieux

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you were not even curious to try the sxfi effect ? do you have an opinion on these hrtf computational audio software algorithms that tries to reproduce speaker sound on regular stereo files and limits the "in you head" sounstage effect of heaphones and iems ?
 
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Sadly creative is using a proprietary format for the hrtf instead of a simple hrir.wav or at least a sofa file.
The sxfi effect does not work very well for me, so I'm hoping for the option of a real measurement like creative offered at ces or in singapur for a while.
Except the realiser and the jvckenwood xp-ext1 are there any standalone devices providing convolution?
Bearing this in mind, the sxfi amp is an exceptional and powerful peace of hardware capable of convolving 7(.1) channels, but runs way below his best in most cases.
Even if it would have been hacked, I assume encryted files nobody would understand and this will leave the amp as a closed "black box", which is a shame.
The files are also stored on the smartphone for the sxfi-app and everybody can check them at least on a rooted smartphone.
 
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