With most phones ditching the 3.5mm headphone jack, it has been a long time since a reviewed a pair of headphones with a cable.
The Creative SXFI TRIO differs from most, being one of the few options on the market that are USB-C. The cable doesn’t make these affordable earphones either, priced at £125 they cost more than the superb Creative Aurvana Trio Wireless I reviewed recently.
However, these are not your average pair of earphones, wired or not. The Super X-Fi Gen2 technology promises that users can expect greater accuracy in personalisation and a better all-round audio experience.
Super X-Fi uses computational audio to personalise the headphone experience based on how you hear sound to give you the most optimised and realistic listening experience.
What that means is, when listening to music with Super X-Fi, you will feel as if you were in the same venue as the artist. Hear the same expanded soundstage like you were at the live concert.
For movies, Super X-Fi is capable of transforming them into a full-fledged, cinematic audio experience. Hear sounds and accurate positional audio cues like they were coming from speakers all around you, including the subwoofer, even though you’re wearing headphones.
And for gaming, Super X-Fi transforms all your headphone gaming content into a full-blown immersive cinematic audio experience.
It will even optimise voice content such as phone calls/zoom meetings, podcasts and audiobooks giving voices a natural, lifelike quality where you will feel as if the person was in front of you.
Moving beyond Super X-Fi, the earphones are the same as the wired Creative Aurvana Trio (with these effectively being the successor to them).
You have the same hybrid triple-driver system which is capable of providing the outstanding audio quality I experience on the Creative Aurvana Trio Wireless but then with the audio customisation of Super X-Fi
With these being USB-C the audio processing is done via the earphones themselves using the Super X-Fi UltraDSP chip which should guarantee the same quality of audio regardless of the phone or other device you may be using. This ends up being similar to the £100 SXFI AMP plus wired Aurvana Trio, but for less money and a more convenient package.
There are a couple of caveats, the earphones and amp are now integrated into one, so there is no swapping over earphones. The earphone pieces themselves are no longer detachable either, so if you end up damaging these, nothing will be reusable. The DAC on these doesn’t quite match the spec of the dedicated SXFI AMP, but it is close.
Normally, there isn’t really any setup process with earphones; these are different. Technically you can just plug them in and away you go, but that wouldn’t make the most of them.
You will need to download SXFI app, which you will require you to create a profile. With these earphones, it should auto-detect them, but other Creative earphones you can manually select what you use for the app to optimise the sound.
Then you need to do a head mapping! This helps the earphones adapt the audio based on your physical characteristics. Doing this by yourself is not easy; you need the camera to map the front of your face but then side on for both of your ears. You can do this by yourself with the selfie camera. One ear scanned quickly, the other took about 10-minutes of me moving the camera and my head around before it scanned properly.
Ideally, another person will do it for you, using the normal camera.
One advantage of having to have an account to use the app is that you can switch the earphones between the devices, and it will retain your head mapping data.
USB-C compatibility with phones like Huawei
One minor issue is on some phones such as the Huawei P40 Pro or P30 Pro, the phone will nag you about it not be certified. Also, it could be the USB-C port of my phone, but I found the P30 Pro to be quite eager about disconnecting the earphones too. Switching to the Realme X50 Pro, I had no issues.
I am 50/50 on how I feel about the Super X-Fi processing with music, it depends on the genre you are listening to really. It definitely does give the audio a live concert feel for some tracks, it brings the vocals forward with a slight echo and applied for a 3D sound rather than a flat stereo. To do this, it, therefore, ends up pushing some lower frequencies back.
For acoustic music this works well, making the vocals clear and giving that immersive live audio feel.
For more synthetic music, the effect was mixed, some tracks had a mild positive effect, but then others I was less fond. Get Your Shirt by Underworld & Iggy Pop felt like the bass was pushed too far back. For Prodigy Firestarter, the bass was retained, but there was a slight echo applied to the vocals, with it hard for me to tell which sound profile I preferred.
In more aggressive rock or metal tracks, these issues were more pronounced. It significantly reduces many of the bass elements in order to highlight the vocals. In Stoopid by Snot and I Will Be Heard by Hatebreed it feels like some of the aggressive energy is lost with the weakened bass.
Of course, this is all dependant on your personal preferences, I am personally not a big fan of live music in general, the mids and highs of many instruments tend to be too harsh for my ears.
You can, of course, switch the Super X-Fi on or off, you can also tweak the EQ to be more bass or treble prominent.
With the Super X-Fi off you get the same superb level of audio quality as the Creative Aurvana Trio Wireless. The triple drivers are cable of offering deep, resonant bass without sacrificing the accuracy or clarity of higher frequencies.
Movies & Gaming
For both gaming and watch TV or movies, I found there was a noticeable improvement. For a start, with it being a wired connection, you don’t have the same latency issues as Bluetooth earphones, nor do you have to sacrifice quality to bring the latency down such as aptX LL.
Like all SXFI products, SXFI Trio supports up to 7.1 channel audio, so for surround sound movies, you will end up with a superior multi-channel experience compared to most earphones.
The processing features I found detrimental to some music genres benefit movies. I often find vocals can be hard to clearly make out in certain scenes. Quite often I end up in that scenario of continually turning up and down the volume based on what is going on due to the imbalances in frequencies. This helps bring the vocals upfront while still retaining the bass frequencies in explosive action scenes.
The same applies to gaming, I am not a massive gamer, but it does seem to make certain elements such as footsteps or gunfire more clear. I doubt it improved my gaming performance, but I suspect that is due to my limited skills more than anything
Price and Alternative Options
These are currently priced at £125 with the only availability via Creative.com. Normally I would list a range of products that directly compete, but there is nothing out there that does everything these do exactly.
For USB-C headphones, there are not really any premium options that I can find that would compete with these. You could, of course, just buy a 3.5mm to USB-C adaptor and pair that up with any high-quality pair of earphones.
If you don’t care about the additional sound processing, or the low latency high resolution benefits a wire has then the Creative Aurvana Trio Wireless are cheaper and superb.
Your likely best alternative would be to pair up a good pair of wired earphones with a portable DAC. The SXFI AMP has a slightly better specification than the built-in amp of these and gives you the flexibility to choose whatever earphones you want. However, with it costing £100, a decent set up will cost considerably more than these. The HIDIZS Sonata HD DAC is probably the best affordable alternative option at just £42.99, but then you still need some good earphones.
Even though most of the industry is shifting towards Bluetooth, it is not always the best option in all scenarios, it is just more convenient.
The Creative SXFI TRIO combines a DAC and a high-quality pair of triple driver earphones for a reasonable £125. If you can cope with the hassle of a cable these will outperform most if not all similarly priced Bluetooth equivalents, without suffering from lag or needing to worry about the battery.
I mainly listen to music on earphones, and I am not totally sold on the Super X-Fi processing here. However, it is optional and customisable. I do find it beneficial in both games and movies.
Overall, these are a superb pair of earphones and look like a particularly attractive option when comparing against a DAC+earphone combo in terms of price and convenience.
Creative SXFI TRIO Triple-driver In-ear USB-C Headphones Review Rating
Overall - 85%
A superb pair of wired USB-C earphones offering improved audio quality thanks to a built-in DAC vs 3.5mm equivalents and zero latency that Bluetooth introduces, while being cheaper than buying a separate DAC and earphones.
The Super X-Fi audio processing is unique to Creative, I found it beneficial in both movies and games, creating a more immersive experience and providing clear dialogue where other earphones can sound muddled.
Superb audio quality
Integrated DAC + earphones are cheaper and more convenient than separates
Wired audio benefit from no lag and no battery concerns
Cables feels antiquated in a world of Bluetooth
Super X-Fi is not always the best in music