Obsessed with technology?
Subscribe to the latest tech news as well as exciting promotions from us and our partners!
By subscribing, you indicate that you have read & understood the SPH's Privacy Policy and PDPA Statement.
Event Coverage
Hands-on: Creative Sound BlasterAxx
By Ng Chong Seng - 5 Jun 2012,5:55pm

Hands-on: Creative Sound BlasterAxx


Sound BlasterAxx = Sound Blaster + Wireless Speakers

Last week, Creative unveiled the Sound BlasterAxx series, consisting of a trio of USB-powered speakers designed for use with desktop computers and smart mobile devices. Under the hood, these multi-talented speakers use the new SB-Axx1, a multi-core audio processor that Creative has developed with mobile device support in mind. In addition to USB 2.0 connectivity, two of them - the SBX 20 and SBX 10 - support Bluetooth wireless technology for audio playback and voice functions. The most affordable (as well as the smallest in size) of the bunch is the SBX 8. It omits a few features found on its more expensive brethren, such as the dual-mic array (it uses a single directional mic instead), Bluetooth connectivity, and support for the new Creative Central app.

Earlier today, we were invited to Creative Resource, Creative's HQ in Singapore, to witness exactly what the Sound BlasterAxx series of speakers is capable of. Considering the abundance of speakerphones and mobile device-oriented speaker systems out in the market right now, would the Sound BlasterAxx turn out to be a revelation or a dud? Our interest was also piqued by Creative's claim of a special circuitry that enables 'big sound' and 'thumping bass' from a very small USB current draw. Is there any truth in it, or is it just some overzealous marketing speak?

With further ado, here's what you need to know about Creative's latest invention.


Hands-on Impressions

The Sound BlasterAxx speakers use backlit capacitive touch controls. You can adjust volume, effects, and answer calls directly from the speakers. But as you can see, it can be a dust and fingerprint magnet.

Round the back of all three speakers is a 3.5mm auxiliary stereo input jack that accepts audio source signals should your device doesn't support Bluetooth. It can also be used as a microphone input. Beside it, there's an stereo output jack for your headphones. When connected to the computer, it draws power from the latter's USB port.

Alternatively, connect a USB battery pack - you know, the kind that you use to recharge your mobile phone's battery? Here, a Sanyo Eneloop battery pack was used.

When dealing with calls, we were pretty impressed with the echo cancellation and ambient noise reduction performance of the Sound BlasterAxx. With Smart Volume and the dual-mic array, there's no need to shout even if you're at the other end of the room.

If you're on the computer, you can gain access to many sound and voice settings via the Sound BlasterAxx Control Panel. You can do things like record your Skype calls to the PC, record a Karaoke track and share it - just to name a few. You can also create profiles.

The free Creative Central app is available for both iOS and Android. It lets you pair devices and customize advanced audio settings (and there are many thanks to CrystalVoice and SBX Pro Studio).

While there are some UI differences between the Android and iOS versions of the Creative Central app, all the features remain intact.


In a Nutshell

During the press event, Mr. Sim Wong Hoo, CEO of Creative, repeatedly mentioned that moving forward, he wants Creative's products to be elegantly designed, and easy to use. There shouldn't be anymore 'kitchen sink' type of products - devices that try to cram too many features, and ended up confusing customers.

Overall, the Sound BlasterAxx can be said to be easy to use, especially if you aren't going to delve too deep into the software. As mentioned earlier, we are pretty impressed with the clear audio projected during phone calls. Even if you move about in the room, it will try to maintain the loudness of your voice. And thanks to Bluetooth wireless connectivity, if you've more than one Sound BlasterAxx, each placed in a different room, you can easily transfer the audio (be it music that's currently playing or a voice call) from one room to the other. Have an iPhone 4S and love to use Siri (and the like)? Instead of speaking to your phone, you can speak directly to the Sound BlasterAxx.

We'll reserve final judgment of the Sound BlasterAxx's music/movie audio quality until we've a unit in our lab. That being said, initial impressions are pretty positive. For a USB-powered device, the speakers do go pretty loud. When pressed about this special circuitry in the speakers, Mr. Sim mentioned that because this circuitry is very good at power conservation/management, it's able to provide the necessary power when the situation calls for it.

The three SBX models are priced at S$279, S$199, and S$129 respectively. The flagship SBX 20 will be available from mid August; the other two from end July.

Obsessed with technology?
Subscribe to the latest tech news as well as exciting promotions from us and our partners!
By subscribing, you indicate that you have read & understood the SPH's Privacy Policy and PDPA Statement.