*Updated as of 27th August 2013 - Originally published as a preview article on 19th August, we've since completed all our tests and updated the article to a full review, complete with ratings. For those who've read our article previously, you can jump direct to our Performance and Conclusion pages.
Creative earned its reputation on the back of making excellent sound cards for the PC. In recent years they may have expanded their core business and added peripherals such as speakers and headphones to their product lineup. But the standout Creative products in our opinion have always been the ones which leverage their prowess with digital circuitry to provide audio. For proof, you only have to look at the Creative Recon 3D Wireless Gaming headphones which excelled thanks to the USB sound card bundled with the cans.
Building on their headphones range is the new lifestyle oriented Evo series that's designed to look as good as it sounds for the the purpose of gaming and music listening. While there are a few variant in the Evo line-up, we'll be trialing the top of the line model, the Evo Zx in particular. One of the differentiating elements of the Creative Evo series is that the company has built in audio processing capabilities directly within the headphones which helps the Evo Zx provide the bulk of its features.
Before we take a look at the special features of the Evo Zx, it might be prudent to take stock of the aesthetics and the standard specifications of the headphones. On first appearances, the red and black color scheme projects a strong gaming-cred image (no surprise, since the colors match that of Complexity Gaming, an e-sports team which Creative sponsors), while still pleasing enough for anyone interested in a modern, though techie-inspired headset. From a certain angle and elements present on the Evo Zx, some might even say it drew inspiration from the Iron Man franchise. Once the headphones are powered on, the "core" of the ear-cups glow red or blue depending on the mode selected, which resembles the glowing core in the center of Tony Stark’s chest.
It is quite obvious that Creative is going for a trendy approach with the aesthetics of the Evo Zx. To further augment the lifestyle aspects of the product, the Evo Zx has been made portable as well. The headphones can be folded flat for the purposes of storage. While there is a reduction in the footprint of the headphones, we have seen better implementation of the fold flat design element on other cans. Not forgetting that the primary function of the Evo Zx is to deliver quality sound, Creative has fitted it with 40mm drivers.
The construction of the Exo Zx feels quite solid even though plastic is the primary material used in construction. Its headband is assembled from three pieces and offers individual adjustment options for both the left and right sides. Free swiveling ear-cups have also been provided for the purposes of comfort. On the whole, Creative's Evo Zx certainly gives off the air of a well-designed and decently implemented product.
The Creative Evo Zx has the most complete set of connectivity options we have seen on a pair of headphones for a very long time. The staple option of connecting via 3.5mm is available, or you could opt for digital music playback via USB.
However the Evo Zx is meant to be used primarily as a wireless pair of headphones. The device comes equipped with Bluetooth version 2.1 with enhanced data rate. This means it can be paired with any A2DP compatible device such as notebooks, smartphones and tablets. Support for Apt-X and AAC codecs have also been included to help increase the quality of Bluetooth playback which is a lossy transmission format.
The headphones come equipped with a 3.7V, 1500mAh lithium ion battery to power the Bluetooth module and other circuitry with the headphones. Creative states that the headphones have a rated battery life of close to 8 hours. When the battery runs dry, you can still continue to use the headphones to provide audio via 3.5mm analog audio connection.
Lastly, the Evo Zx also comes equipped with NFC technology to fast track the Bluetooth pairing process. The NFC tag is located in the right ear-cup and does indeed help reduce waiting times for Bluetooth pairing in our trials. While this motion was designed to be executed while having the headset and smartphone in your hands, it gets awkward if you were to hold your smartphone up to your headphones when you're already wearing them. Nevertheless, the option to pair devices via NFC is a boon.