Creative Sound Blaster X4 USB DAC Review

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Creative Labs are here with today’s offering, and it comes in the form of the Sound Blaster X4. A high-res 7.1 external USB DAC and Amp sound card with Super X-Fi and SmartComms kit that works on PC, laptops and consoles. Let’s crack on and see if the £129.99 asking price is worth it.

Creative Sound Blaster X4: Specifications & Features

SPECIFICATIONS

Weight
384g / 13.55 oz
Dimensions
130.5 mm x 130.5 mm x 40.6 mm (5.14 x 5.14 x 1.60 inches)
Dynamic Range (DNR)
114 dB
Audio Technology
Sound Blaster Acoustic Engine, Super X-Fi
Max. Playback Quality
Sampling Rate (Playback) :
Direct Mode:
Playback Resolution (Optical Out): PCM 16/24-bit / 48.0, 96.0, 192.0 kHz
Dolby Digital Live: 16-bit, 48.0 kHz
Playback Resolution (Stereo): PCM 16/24-bit / 48.0, 96.0, 192.0 kHz
Surround 7.1: PCM 16/24-bit / 48.0, 96.0 kHz
Max. Recording Quality
Mic-in:
16/24-bit / 48.0, 96.0 kHz, Line-in:
16/24-bit / 48.0, 96.0 kHz, Optical-in:
16/24-bit / 48.0, 96.0 kHz
Recording Resolution
Mic-in: 16 / 24-bit / 48.0, 96.0 kHz
Line-in: 16 / 24-bit / 48.0, 96.0 kHz
Optical In: 16 / 24-bit / 48.0, 96.0 kHz
Connectivity Options (Main)
1 x TOSLINK Optical Out, 1 x ⅛″ Rear Out, 1 x ⅛″ Center / Sub Out, 1 x 1/8″ Headphone / Headset Jack, 1 x 1/8″ Ext. Mic-in Jack, 1 x ⅛″ Front-out, 1 x ⅛″ Side Out Jack, 1 x USB-C port for PC / Mac, 1 x ⅛″ Optical / Line-in Combo Jack
Headphone Amp
Supported Headphone Impedance: 32–600Ω, High Gain: 150–600Ω (2.3V RMS @ 150Ω, 2.9V RMS @ 600Ω), Output Impedance: 10Ω, Low Gain: 32–149Ω (1.2V RMS @ 32Ω)
Audio Technologies
CrystalVoice
Scout Mode
Supported Operating Systems
Windows® 10 Ver 1703, macOS 10.15 and above, Windows® 11
Included Accessories
Optical Cable (1m / 3.28 ft), USB-A to USB-C Cable (2m / 6.56 ft)
DAC
Dynamic Range (Stereo): 114 dB, THD+N (Stereo): 0.001%
ADC
Dynamic Range: 104 dB, THD+N: 0.0017%
Power
USB Bus Powered, USB-C
Recommended Usage
Home Entertainment

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

Windows® OS

  • Intel® Core™i3 or AMD® equivalent processor
  • Intel, AMD, or 100% compatible motherboard
  • Microsoft® Windows 11, Windows 10 32 / 64-bit Ver 1703 or higher
  • > 4 GB RAM
  • > 4 GB of free hard disk space
  • USB 2.0 / USB 3.0 port

macOS

  • macOS X® 10.15 or higher
  • > 4 GB RAM
  • USB 2.0 / USB 3.0 port

PS5

  • Firmware Version 20.02-2.26.00.00-00.00.00.0.1 or later
  • Available USB port
  • Audio Balance feature requires a HDMI to Optical converter (not included)

PS4

  • Firmware Version 5.0 or later
  • Available USB port
  • Available Optical-out port (for Audio Balance)

Nintendo Switch

  • Switch OS 5.0 or later
  • Available 3.5 mm headphone port
  • Available USB port (in docking mode)
  • External USB Power (not included)
  • Voice communication is title-dependent

Android^

  • Android OS Version 8.0 or later
  • Device must have built-in Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) support

iOS^

  • iOS Version 12.0 or later
  • Device must have built-in Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) support

^Used as a remote controller for Sound Blaster X4 on PS5 / PS4 / Nintendo Switch only, does not support Bluetooth audio streaming

PACKAGE CONTENTS

  • Sound Blaster X4
  • USB-A to USB-C Cable (2m / 6.56 ft)
  • Optical Cable (1m / 3.28 ft)
  • SmartComms Kit Leaflet
  • Quick Start Guide and Leaflets
  • Warranty Leaflets

WARRANTY

2-year Limited Hardware Warranty

Product page: HERE

Creative Sound Blaster X4: Closer Look

Taking a look around the box, Creative has used a white gradient background with black accenting. Overall, the box provides clear marketing and looks great. The rear of the box is covered with multi-lingual information.

Opening the box, we see the X4 DAC AMP itself wrapped in a plastic cover, this cover is designed to be removed in an apple-esque one-piece design. Disappointingly though, the X45 was sat in a plastic clamshell. Another piece of plastic destined for the landfill! We’d really like to see this become card in the future!
Under the sound card, we find a whole bunch of documentation including a quick start guide.

Creative bundle an optical cable in the box, which is used to connect to a computer. This is also needed to use the Dolby Digital Live Encoding features built in.
A USB-A to USB-C cable is also included which provides power to the X4.

A good look at the top of the X4 and we can see a large wheel in the centre, the wheel has a LED ring around its inner and outside edge which indicates which mode it is in.
The wheel controls the volume of the headphones, speakers, and microphone if they are attached. The X4 DAC is covered in a plastic shell, with a nice dark grey metallic texture which looks great and feels smooth to the touch.
Along the bottom edge, we can see a microphone select button (labelled AUDIO BAL, a balancing mode), a MODE button (which enabled the sound modes including DIRECT MODE), and the SXFI button.
The rear of the X4 is a solid plastic base with 4 rubber feet in the corners providing non-slip stability, and they do an excellent job.

The front edge has 3.5mm microphone and headphone jacks which are used to connect headsets.
Taking a look at the rear, we can see the LINEOUT options, which are used to connect external (up to 7.1) speaker setups, a LINE/OPT IN jack, SPDIF connector, and the USB Type-C power connector.

A closer look at the Soundblaster X4 when it’s powered on. The LED ring is clearly visible with a blue colour. This shows that the volume wheel will adjust the sound.

It will turn while when in the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) mode, which is reserved for device control and Super X-Fi profile uploads only. Audio streaming is not available.

The Red colour on the left adjusts the volume of the microphone via the wheel.

The buttons at the bottom change colour depending on their settings:

  • Orange is Direct Mode (pictured), which disables all audio effects in favour of direct sound from the game or music.
  • Green is SXFI mode, which enables the SXFI gaming profiles.
  • White is Onboard mode, which is for music.
  • Purple is Movie mode, which is for movies.
  • Blue is Footsteps mode, which is a footstep enhancer mode while gaming.

Finally, there is the Audio balance feature where you press and hold the microphone control button to activate and de-activate:

  • Turn the knob left to decrease the volume level of Audio Source 1, and increase the volume level of Audio Source 2 (SPDIF Interface) simultaneously.
  • Turn the knob right to decrease the volume level of Audio Source 2 (SPDIF Interface), and increase the volume level of Audio Source 1 simultaneously.
  • The Audio Balance feature is available on PC, Mac, PS5, and PS4 only. An HDMI to Optical converter (not included) is required to access Audio Balance on the PS5.

Creative Sound Blaster X4: Software

The Soundblaster X4’s software package is well laid out and easy to use. Starting on the DEVICE page, we can see a lot of different audio options. Let’s take a closer look at them.

Sound Mode gives you the option to change the SXFI, Acoustic Engine, and Equaliser options. SXFI I covered in detail in the SXFI Air Gamer Headset review, so take a look at that to see the options.

Acoustic Engine allows you to change the levels of Surround, Crystaliser, Bass, Smart Volume, and Dialogue. Click the photo to get an explanation of what they all do at the bottom.

SmartComms Kit enables and disables Voice Detect, NoiseClean-out, and NoiseClean-in options. These basically remove background noise coming in and out to help make the overall sound presentation better.

CrystalVoice adds and removes options that affect how your microphone sounds to people you’re playing online with or working with via online meetings.

Scout Mode is a gaming feature designed to improve how you hear footsteps, speech, and weaponry handling (like reloads) which could help give you the edge over opponents. You can also assign a hotkey to quickly enable and disable it, which is awesome!

The Mixer tab gives you full control over the playback, recording, and monitoring devices used.

The Playback tab gives you control over your headphones and speakers via lineout. Including their output gain e.g. normal 32-149 ohms and high 150-600ohms, as well as the audio quality e.g. 24-bit, 192000Hz.

The recording tab is much the same, but for the attached microphone in the 3.5mm jack.

Finally, the Settings tab. Which is where you check for updates to the X4 device as well as the Application.

Creative Sound Blaster X4: The Verdict

To test, I used my Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO headphones. These 250-ohm cans require a fair amount of power to get the best out of them, so a quality DAC AMP is really needed. The X4 has a high gain output (150-600 ohm) so that was selected as the 990 PRO headset falls under that bracket.

Music performance:

I grabbed my go-to mixed genre playlist which gives me a good mix of music frequencies. I’m happy to tell you the X4 performs well with well-balanced sound delivering good highs and mids with punchy lows across the board. Overall, they provide the DT 990 PRO with plenty of power.

Gaming performance:

Gaming performance is again well delivered and the virtual 5.1 & 7.1 surround sound implementation worked very well too. Giving me excellent situation awareness in FPS titles such as Hell Let Loose & Call of Duty: Warzone, as well as driving games like Assetto Corsa Competizione, the games you’ll typically find me playing.

Creative Sound Blaster X4: Final Thoughts

The X4 is well laid out and easy to use. With just the right amount of physical buttons, which complement the software package, instead of having to exclusively use it, and once set up properly, you’ll rarely find that you need to use it at all.

I really like the Creative SoundBlaster X4, and it could be the overall best solution for my particular scenario. If you use a combination of speakers and headphones, this is an ideal solution, plus I’m a big fan of volume wheels! Oh, it’s also directly integrated into Windows.

At £129.99, the asking price is fair too. Offering a complete solution for PC and Mac setups. It’s also great for laptop users and its size makes it great for taking on the go. The X4 also has support for the latest and greatest consoles from Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo!

Overall, this is an excellent external soundcard that is reasonably priced, is fully recommended by us, and has made it into my setup for the foreseeable future.

Big thanks to Creative for sending over the Sound Blaster X4 for today’s review.

What’s Hot:

  • Well-featured DAC/AMP with multiple inputs and headphone/7.1 output.
  • Software processing and gaming-orientated features make it stand out from a regular DAC.
  • Great price!

What’s not:

  • Still not a fan of the SXFI implementation.
  • A generally high impedance will negatively affect low-impedance headphones.

Related Reading:

Creative Sound Blaster X3 USB DAC Review

Creative SXFI AIR GAMER Headset Review

EKSA E900 Gaming Headset Review

Genesis Radon 720 Headset Video Review

Asus TUF Gaming H3 Review

 

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