So Creative Labs claim that the SXFI Air gamer will deliver “ Movie sound like you're in a cinema, Music like you're at a live concert and Games like you've dropped into a battlefield “. And while I was very intrigued going in, I was also very sceptical. So what better way to find out if these claims are true than to try the Creative Labs SXFI Air Gamer headset for myself.
These are some pretty big claims from Creative Labs and coming in at only $209.95 at the time of this review, if these claims are in fact true, these could well be the best gaming headset on the market.
Out of the box the build quality is really nice, it's almost completely plastic construction is surprisingly sturdy. Weighing in at 335g it's not the lightest headset you're going to find, however the way the ear cups isolate allows for enough comfortable clamping force that you never really feel the weight of them on the top of your head like you do with some headsets. The leather earcups are large and very plush and due to their pinhole design they are surprisingly breathable for an all leather ear cup. I love the look of the SXFI Air, they look surprisingly good for a gaming headset and are somewhat reminiscent of the official Xbox Series X/S headset. Featuring an LED light ring on each cup adds a little personality to the otherwise very sleek and classy looking headset.
There's one cool feature that I want to mention straight off the bat and one that honestly I don't think I'll ever use, but it's unique enough to talk about. That is the addition of a micro SD card slot on the left earcup. Like I said, with music being so readily available and accessible these days I don't know who would use this feature, however if you are so inclined, you can load up a microSD card with music, pop it in and away you go, completely untethered from any other device. I am yet to test any other headset that does this so kudos for originality. Speaking of this unique way of listening to content, it would be remiss of me not to mention just how many ways in fact the SXFI Air will connect to different devices. In fact, it has the most connectivity of any headset I've tested. It has Bluetooth 5.0, USB-C , 3.5mm headphone jack and of course that MicroSD card slot making it the most versatile “wired” gaming headset on the market in my opinion. All that is missing is some form of low latency wireless USB dongle and it would be truly limitless.
In the box the SXFI Air Gamer comes with two microphones, one boom mic for gaming and a low profile mic for general usage and taking phone calls while connected to a mobile phone via Bluetooth. Both of these mics actually perform really, really well. In fact out of the box, the boom mic picks up almost zero background noise which I usually have to do some tinkering to get my mics to this same level of noise cancellation. This boom mic also sounds really good. Probably slightly too warm for my liking, but clear and concise all the way. The low profile mic performs similarly in terms of voice quality however doesn't quite do as good of a job of blocking out fan noise and wind etc. as the boom mic, which is to be expected considering the boom mic has a foam windbreaker attached. Overall these mics are great and perfect for almost any use. Even as an entry level podcaster or streamer in a pinch.
Now let's talk about the SXFI Air gamer's selling point, and that is that Super X-Fi headphone holography itself. Here's a little explanation of what SXFI technology does according to the SXFI.com website.
How it works:
Super X-Fi is computational audio; it uses complex algorithms and computationally intensive techniques to custom fit audio, for every individual, through a sophisticated Head and Ear-Mapping process. This is done by simply taking three photos of your face and ears with your phone. Hundreds of anthropometric parameters are extracted from the features of the head in high precision using real-time image detection and analysis. An artificial intelligence (AI) engine then uses these parameters along with the dynamics of the targeted headphones, and synthesises them with a multidimensional map of the desired room acoustics. Using the synthesised map, Super X-Fi recreates the natural expansive audio soundstage, for headphones, to give a magical listening experience custom made to each individual’s unique physique.
Now on paper, the SXFI technology should be a game changer, but how well does that convert to real world sound? Short answer, excellently. Long answer, The SXFI technology not only makes every sound you're hearing seem extremely crisp and natural, but it also does an excellent job of creating an incredibly large and powerful soundstage. Never before have I felt more immersed in the world of whatever it is I am listening to from the audio alone. I can close my eyes and I feel like I am immediately dropped right into the centre of whatever vast world I am playing in. Distant sounds actually sound really far away, and things that are supposed to be close sound really close. It did in certain circumstances end up sounding a little echoey, which is a bit off putting, especially when watching movies with big action but for the most part it was good. It's a difficult sensation to explain because a lot of headsets do something similar, but for me, nobody else does this better. At least not anywhere near the price range the SXFI Air gamer is situated. For positional audio which is super important for games like Call OF Duty and Fortnite etc. I had a bit of a mixed experience. While overall the positioning of enemy footsteps were clear and accurate, I did notice it to be a little harder to detect the height of the enemy. It sometimes sounded like enemies were on the same level as me when they were in fact above me etc. But in terms of direction, it was pretty damn good.
Battery life on the SXFI Air Gamer is pretty average coming in at just 10 hours or so. I got around 11 hours of playback before mine died but haven't tried turning off the LED’s to see if that gives a little boost.
Bluetooth performance is excellent. I tried it with mobile devices, Nintendo switch and my PC and all of which performed very very well with little to no lag whatsoever thanks to that Bluetooth 5.0 support. In fact, I noticed only a marginal difference between Bluetooth performance and wired performance in most cases, which is excellent.
Probably the biggest downfall for the SXFI Air gamer and in fact the whole range of SXFI headsets is the app support and setup. To set up the SXFI feature you need to download the relevant apps on mobile and take photos of your head from three different angles. This requires the help of a second person, which isn't a huge deal, but a little time consuming. The apps themselves are pretty poor. They are clunky, difficult to use and are just an overall bad experience. Oh and did I mention that you need to download 2 different apps to get full functionality from your headphones? Because you do, and they're both as bad as each other. Now once this scan is complete the headphones will automatically sync with the app and do whatever it has to do. However, this is the most time consuming headphone setup I've experienced and takes around 5 minutes and happens every time you want to change anything and requires your phone to be in the app and idle while this is happening.
Overall, the Creative SXFI Air Gamer is a damn good headset. It has more connectivity options than you can shake a stick at, it creates one of the most impressive sound stages of any “gaming headset” and it has some features that no other headset on the market has. So for its price, it's absolutely a headset I'd recommend. The microphone quality is up there with the best and this versatile headset packs a punch in terms of sound quality. There's not much more you could ask for. If you're buying it purely for gaming, there's definitely better headsets out there, however, there's not a lot better in this price range.