Creative Sound Blaster X1 Review: The Perfect Tiny DAC/Amp!
Updated: Apr 13
One of my biggest complaints about Creative’s Super X-Fi Ready products is that, well, it only works with onboard songs and the like. In this day and age of music and movie streaming, it’s a real disadvantage. Now, there’s this tiny DAC/amp that will allow you to get Super X-Fi with everything, while still providing enough power for your IEMs. That’s awesome.
Let’s talk design first. It’s a small box, and inside, you just get the tiny Soundblaster X1 stick along with a USB-C to C cable, and that’s about it. The Sound Blaster X1 is 6.7cm long, or pretty much exactly the length of my index finger. It’s 1cm thick and about 1.75cm wide. That’s tiny, like, really tiny. Look at my typical DAC/amp, the FiiO QC3 in comparison. I know which one I’d rather bring out in my pocket.
The chassis is made of metal, but it’s a really thin shell. Regardless, the build quality is fine.
You get four buttons on the front, a big button that toggles Super X-Fi on or off, volume buttons and a play/pause button. What people might be a bit miffed about is that this only has a single-ended 3.5mm out. Personally, I think tradeoffs had to be made to keep this small, and a 3.5mm out is the most common plug after all, so no knocks on Creative here.
Inside, Creative has stuffed an AKM AK4377 DAC inside, a TI/Burr Brown INA1620 amp and it can work with Windows PCs, Mac PCs, iPads, Playstation consoles and even your Nintendo Switch. Very sensitive IEMs have had some issues with being plugged directly into the Switch for a while, and with this, that issue is, well, a non-issue. More than that, this works very well with Android phones, but it refused to work with my iPhone. I tried using the USB-C to lightning cable that came with my FiiO QC3 and yeah, it wouldn’t work. I have seen reviews online that said they could get it to work with an iPhone though, but yeah, iPhone users, just a heads up, seems kinda hit or miss. Regardless, Creative doesn’t advertise this as being able to play nice with iPhones, so yeah.
There’s technically no software needed to use this, but I do have the SXFI app that basically takes scans of your head and ears to kind of customise your Super X-Fi profile. You can technically just do it once and then it’ll be saved on-board the X1, so that’s nice.
So let’s talk sound. Creative claims these can power headphones up to 600ohm impedance, and while I don’t have any with me to really try it out, I’m… a little sceptical. If you’ve tried this with high-impedance headphones, let me know how it performs. For most IEMs and headphones though, it certainly does give a boost off the bat. I do have to note though, that I felt the device actually coloured the sound of the earphones with a little more warmth than normal. It’s not a very big deal, though, and I generally prefer things to be a bit warmer, so that’s good for me.
But what you might really want, is the implementation of Super X-Fi, and I have to say, I’m not a big fan of using Super X-Fi with music. With movies and games though, it’s awesome. Super X-Fi tends to push the vocals too far back for music, but when you’re using it with movies and games, it opens up the soundstage much wider and it’s just an all-round better experience.
Creative Soundblaster X1 Price
The Sound Blaster X1 might not be the best DAC/amp for audiophiles, and it might not be the cheapest DAC/amp around, but it straddles the line between both with some pretty enticing points. It’s affordable, for one, at just S$99 or US$69.99. It’s incredibly small and pocketable too. It gives you the ability to use Super X-Fi with everything. And it works with so many things. Whether you want to plug it into your PC, your MacBook, your iPad, your PS5 or your Nintendo Switch, it all works. It’s a great little DAC/amp that’s affordable and gives plenty of power for most IEMs and headphones out there. Good job Creative.