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By David Susilo
If we step back in time to the ‘90s, there was nary a single PC that didn’t use Sound Blaster soundcard. At the very least, they used a licensed (or not) Sound Blaster-compatible soundcard. Yes, Creative’s Sound Blaster was THAT huge.
The Sound BlasterX G6 is a box that sits between your PC and wired headphones, connecting to the computer via USB and your headphones with the usual 3.5mm audio jack. There are also optical connectors for a console like my archaic PlayStation 3 if you want to also use it there.
The G6 is a combination hi-res DAC (Digital-to-Analog Converter) and headphone amplifier that plugs into your PC or gaming console, offering up dramatically better sound than what your rig provides on its own. It’s for audiophile gamers who want better sound quality than that offered by whatever sound card is embedded on their motherboard. In other words, it’s a high-quality external sound card. And it’s also a hi-res ADC (Analog-to-Digital Converter) for audio capture.
Under the hood, the G6 is built on a DAC that supports 32-bit/384kHz playback with a very wide dynamic range of 130dB. The two channels are independently amplified, which is ideal for gaming where the left and right channels might need to process significantly different audio loads. In the audiophile world, the use of discrete dual mono architecture results in zero crosstalk between the two channels, making the audio signal as pure as humanly possible.
In terms of aesthetics, all the LED backlights are diffused creating a nice glow without the eye-gouging brightness that usually accompanies computer peripherals. On top of that, the Sound BlasterX logo illuminates with a steady glow, a pulsating throb, or by reacting to the beat of music, and can be programmed via the desktop software through the full range of 16.8 million colours. That’s a lot of colours!
Setup on a PC is simply a matter of connecting the USB cable. But it’s also compatible, as noted, with consoles like the PS3 and PS4 (via USB and optical), Xbox One (optical), and Nintendo Switch (USB, naturally). One major drawback: Creative doesn’t include a power adapter, so you’ll need to provide your own if you’re plugging it into an Xbox.
At first, I pumped the sound through my Sony X1000m3 headphones, my reference headphones at $500 and lower. They have already proven their mettle with various reviewers from around the world. I first listened using the Sony ‘phones with my PC and laptop’s integrated audio. Not surprisingly, the G6 results in better sound from the headphones, although I thought they sounded pretty good to begin with. But adding the G6 let the headphones truly come to life when listening to music or watching videos.
I tend to prefer listening to music and movies “dry,” but the SBX cinema mode was definitely worth engaging. I felt centered in an expansive soundstage, and it never felt gimmicky – be it for music (from Sinatra to Def Leppard) or movie (from dialogue driven Darker Hour to effects-laden Valerian).
If you already own a decent pair of headphones or a pair of speakers and want to be amazed by how good they can sound with a bit of enhancement, the Sound BlasterX G6 is the way to go. But getting to add the SBX surround profile to your audio bag of tricks makes this external sound card worth the US$150.