Creative Wants to Reinvent the Headphone Experience with Super X-Fi
There’s nothing as basic as the headphone listening experience when it comes to consumer technology. The design and implementation has been around for years in its current form, and though there are hundreds, if not thousands, of manufacturers out there creating product it all boils down to that same basic principle: audio is bottled up and spit out through a driver places millimeters from (or shoved inside) the users ear.
That’s less than ideal, and in some ways downright painful. Don’t get me wrong, there are countless headphone makers out there who’ve made the listening experience an elite one. But with how amazing our other audio experiences have become over the years, it was time that someone took the next step and attempted to reinvent the headphone.
And that’s exactly what Creative is doing with their Super X-Fi headphone amp.
I had the unique opportunity to demo the product—from initial setup through a number of different content experiences—in Las Vegas for CES 2019. And to say I was blown away would be the understatement of the show.
Explained simply, Super X-Fi is a headphone amp that reverses the claustrophobic feeling of listening to music or movies on your headphones. Prior to listening to any content, Creative’s team set me up with a personalized experience on their new portable headphone amp. The process involved taking pictures of my left and right ear, and face. The reasoning, according to Super X-Fi marketing and PR manager Eugene Chong, has to do with the impact our ears and facial structure have on how we perceive audio. One of the biggest mistakes headphone makers make, Chong said, is that they approach their products as if it’s a one-size-fits-all kind of world. Sure, we wear our headphones the same way from person to person. But research has shown that the specific contours of our ears and the bone structure in our faces impact how we hear sound.
So, with the 3D mapping complete, along with a more detailed mapping provided by the Creative team’s demo, I got to experience the impact of the SUper X-Fi amp on the headphone experience.
Essentially what the amp does is it turns the listening experience from one where you feel like your ear is pressed up against a loudspeaker, to one where you feel like you’re in a room with a kick ass surround system set up. Creative describes this as holographic audio. The closest thing I can compare this to is if you’ve ever strapped on a pair of open-back headphones. You get that open air sort of listening experience that makes it feel like the audio playback is happening generally throughout the room rather than bottled up and shot into your ear. It’s a totally different way of hearing content.
What closed the deal on the impressiveness of the tech, though, was a demo of a single-channel classical music clip. Listening to the song with the amp turned off resulted in the type of headphone experience that you’d expect. The sound came through crisp and clear but it was loud and somewhat flat. With the amp activated, this mono track turned into something that felt like a live performance happening in the room, or at the very least like I was listening to a turntable that was hooked up to some powerful bookshelf speakers. Super X-Fi brought the audio completely to life in a way that practically gave me goosebumps.
Super X-Fi works with any pair or in-ear or over/one-ear headphones and can connect to a number of audio sources including phones, computers, and portable gaming consoles. For the optimal experience, though, Creative has a list of certified headphones that it said is continually growing. The Super X-Fi amp is available now for $150.