Creative Sound Blaster X4 Review – An excellent external soundcard but not much different than the X3

Creative Sound Blaster X4 External USB DAC / Soundcard Review Rating

Summary

I like the Creative Sound Blaster X4 a lot, it ticks all my boxes. Multiple inputs, multiple outputs, including 5.1, user-friendly on-device controls and generally good performance all around for a reasonable price.

Overall
85%
85%
  • Overall - 85%
    85%

Pros

  • Well featured DAC/soundcard with multiple inputs and headphone/5.1 output
  • Smartcomms works well
  • Software processing and gaming orientated features make it stand out from a regular DAC

Cons

  • High output impedance for headphones will have a negative effect on low impedance IEMs/headphones
  • SXFI set up process is a bit annoying

Page 2 covers the Smartcomms kit, price and alternative options plus the overall rating

Launched last month, the Creative Sound Blaster X4 is a tweaked version of the popular X3 DAC, which integrates the new Smartcomms Kit that has featured on several of the recent Creative products.

Sound Blaster X4 vs X3 Specification

Creative Sound Blaster X4 Hi-Res 24bit/192kHz External USB...
  • 7.1 DISCRETE SURROUND WITH SUPER X-FI AND DOLBY...
  • IMPROVED COMMUNICATION WITH SMARTCOMMS KIT AND...
  • CONNECT WITH EVERYTHING - With a newly added...
  • EASY ACCESS TO ALL CONTROLS - Pick between three...
Sound Blaster X4 Sound Blaster X3
Dynamic Range (DNR)114 dB115 dB
TechnologySound Blaster Acoustic Engine, Super X-Fi
CrystalVoice, Scout Mode
Sound Blaster Acoustic Engine, Super X-Fi
CrystalVoice, Scout Mode
Music PlaybackPlayback 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
Playback Resolution (Stereo): PCM 16/24/32-bit / 48.0, 96.0, 192.0 kHz
Playback Resolution (Optical Out): PCM 16/24-bit / 48.0, 96.0, 192.0 kHz
Surround 7.1: PCM 16/24/32-bit / 48.0, 96.0, 192.0 kHz
Dolby Digital Live: 16-bit, 48.0 kHz
Recording ResolutionMic-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
Mic-in: 16/24-bit / 48.0, 96.0, 192,0 kHz
Line-in: 16/24-bit, 48.0, 96.0, 192.0 kHz
What-U-Hear: 16/24-bit, 48.0, 96.0, 192.0 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
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″ Line-in Jack
Headphone AmpSupported 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)
Supported Headphone Impedance: 32–600Ω
High Gain: 150–600Ω (2.3V RMS @ 150Ω, 2.9V RMS @ 600Ω)
Low Gain: 32–149Ω (1.2V RMS @ 32Ω, 1.5V RMS @ 150Ω)
DACDynamic Range (Stereo): 114 dB, THD+N (Stereo): 0.001%Dynamic Range (Stereo): 115 dB, THD+N (Stereo): 0.0004%
ADCDynamic Range: 104 dB, THD+N: 0.0017%Dynamic Range: 104 dB, THD+N: 0.0017%
SoftwareCreative App with Smartcomms KitSound Blaster Command for Windows

From my limited bit of research, dropping the 32-bit support won’t make any difference. 24-bit already goes beyond what we can hear, nor will there be any benefit in 192.0 kHz vs 96.0 kHz for the recording resolution.

Set up & App

The Creative Sound Blaster X4 uses the Creative App rather than the Creative’s Sound Blaster Command of the X3. This seems to be their main app moving forward, and all my recent reviews have used it.

Ideally, you want to use the USB connection to your PC

Both the X3 and X4 work with PC, PS4, PS5 and Switch. You will need to use the optical-out port for the PlayStation consoles.

In Use

I predominantly use speakers for my day to day use, especially if I am just listening to music while I work. I will switch to a headset for gaming that involves chat and then of course, the inevitable zoom calls.

For speakers, I am currently using the Edifier R2000DB, and I also used them with the Mitchell Acoustics uStream One. For my headset, I use the EPOS Sennheiser GSP 601.

This has outputs for 5.1, which is quite rare for an external soundcard/DAC I think it is only Creative that have this functionality, with this, the X3 and the X7. I don’t have a 5.1 active speaker arrangement in my office so I was unable to test this.

With my multi-monitor arrangement, I will occasionally watch TV/movies on the Nvidia shield, and therefore I need multiple inputs.

So this product works well for me overall.

I am a big fan of volume dials, giving you easy control over your volume, and this is one of the reasons why I returned the Sound BlasterX G6  in favour of my FiiO K5 Pro, because of the big knob. Just like the X3, this has a nice large easy to access volume dial that you can press to mute. Again, if using via USB this will integrate with the system volume.

As much as I like the app free experience of the FIIO, the Creative App allows better control of how things sound. I can bypass software processing all together or tweak things to my liking with the acoustic engine.

This also has various gaming tweaks, such as sound profiles for specific games and scout mode, which tries to improve ambient noises from footsteps and the like. It does seem to help a little, but I am not a good enough gamer to make any difference with my performance.

Overall, the sound quality is excellent. It is superior to the onboard audio of my MSI MEG motherboard, and I would say the performance is comparable to FIIO that I have been using the past few months. I also prefer it to the Creative Sound Blaster Z SE, though I mainly just prefer the convenience of an external DAC vs an internal soundcard.

SXFI

One of the unique features of this DAC/soundcard is the Super X-FI.

This requires an additional app to be installed on your mobile, which is needed because you need to use the camera on your phone for head mapping.

There is also a Windows app available on the Windows store. The Windows app doesn’t allow social logins, so I had to reset my password rather than use my Google account to log in. Though I don’t think the Windows app does anything useful, as you have already done everything on your phone.

The whole process is very convoluted.

Thankfully I had already mapped my head from my Creative headphones review, so I was able to use this profile for the X4.

Ideally, you want a Super X-Fi certified pair of headphones to make the most of the sound processing, but there is quite a large range of compatible headphone profiles within the app.

The SXFI performance is good; it opens up the soundstage for a more immersive experience.

Last update on 2021-08-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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