REVIEW – Since headphone ports on mobile devices are a dying breed, I’ve been using a cheap adaptor for my iPad Pro, which uses USB-C but no headphone jack. And no, I don’t like using Bluetooth! Today I get to try the Creative Sound Blaster X1 USB DAC.
What is it?
The Creative Sound Blaster X1 USB DAC is a super compact device that upgrades your audio quality instantly to high-resolution playback with its built-in AKM 4377 DAC, coupled with the Ti/Burr-Brown™ INA1620 dual audio operational amplifier.
What’s in the box?
I could not help but notice the box had a cutout for the silica “do not eat” pack.
- Creative Sound Blaster X1 USB DAC
- USB-C cable
DAC: 24 bit, 96 kHz
Audio: 115 dB DNR
Impedance supported: 16-600 ohm
Ports: 1 x USB-C port for PC, 1 x 1/8″ Headphone / Headset Jack
Design and features
This thing is tiny. On one end, a 1/8th” headphone jack. The other end of the Creative Sound Blaster X1 USB DAC sports the USB-C that goes to your source device.
This diagram explains what all the buttons and LED indicators are for. Apparently, there’s a mic control but I do not believe the microphone is onboard the X1.
Tap the Super X-Fi button once to toggle the sound effect. Orange is off, and green is on.
I was most interested in finding a headphone adapter for my iPad, so that’s what I tested. This is an iPad Pro 12.9″ and the Sennheiser HD 6xx, which has a listed impedance of 300 ohms.
Compared to the usual generic cheap USB-C to headphone adapter, the Creative Sound Blaster X1 USB DAC provided much more volume headroom. I felt I could crank the sound far beyond my comfortable listening limits.
Activating the Super X-Fi function provides a somewhat “wider” sound stage, or immersive effect. I’m not a fan of these features, but you might like it.
It’s worth noting there is a PC/Mac application that lets you customize the settings of your X1. Since I’m only using this for an iPad, I did not test this.
What I like
- Short USB-C cable included
- Handles higher impedance headphones (up to 600 ohms) with ease.
- No separate app required
What I’d change
- You may or may not care for the Super X-Fi Sound effect.
I don’t care about fancy settings or apps. I just wanted a headphone amplifier in the smallest possible size that could drive my 300 ohm Sennheisers with ease. I think I found it in the Creative Sound Blaster X1 USB DAC.
Where to buy: Creative
Source: The sample of this product was provided by Creative.
3 thoughts on “Creative Sound Blaster X1 USB DAC and headphone amplifier review”
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So, what was the sound quality like through the device?
Definitely felt like I could go louder vs. el cheapo adapter out of the iPad. Hard to say “better” but at least when it was louder, it was still very clear. The special processing effect isn’t my thing, however.
Creative Labs sent me one of these, they can even power the DT880 600 ohm’s to loud enough levels, but not enough headroom for preamp or replaygain. The stereo mode is really good, and the 5.1 is excellent for gaming without the SBX stereo effect which sounds cheesy. The SFXI is horrible, just hit the switch on it to try it and you’ll know what I mean.
I did a line out to a JDS Atom and it worked well for more power, there’s no gain or line out setting in the software. You really don’t need to install it at all, in Windows you switch it from stereo to 5.1 or 7.1 and it’s easy. The 7.1 wasn’t good, but it probably depends which game you play, so it’s worth a shot, but the 5.1 is my favorite.
Most people will need either a USB A to C cable or adapter, and a Y splitter for a lot of headsets. It doesn’t replace the Soundblaster G6, but it does a LOT of things as good or better.
The downside is there’s no ASIO driver, and it only works in Wasapi push, not event (pull) and exclusive in Foobar was a problem too with the software installed. Shared was perfect though, which is what most people will use.
Get one and the DT770 250 ohm and you’re all set. I’m listening to it now and gaming today in Destiny 2 and the MMX300 is a good combo as well with the splitter (also you can get the volume really loud since those are 32 ohm). The Sennheiser PC37x is also really fun with this thing (I buy and sell equipment so I have stuff to try coming in all the time).