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Most laptops, PCs, smartphones, and gaming consoles come with mediocre sound cards that often don’t allow you to fully enjoy the sound of music, movies, and games. You can technically add a decent sound card if it’s a gaming PC, but that’s not the case for laptops. You can, however, improve the sound quality of your gaming console by adding an external sound card or an external USB audio controller with an amplifier. However, there are also full-fledged external sound cards for gamers, such as the Creative Sound BlasterX G6, which we will test this time.
The Creative Sound BlasterX G6 gaming sound card has an interesting history. It is the second product of a new generation with an advanced 32-bit 384 kHz DAC and a discrete Xamp headphone amplifier. The beauty of this gaming DAC/AMP is that no matter what headphones you plug in, whether it’s a high-end 7.1 surround gaming headset or cheap in-ear headphones, the difference in sound quality is distinguished.
Sound BlasterX G6 High-quality Desktop Gaming Amplifier Review
Sound BlasterX G6 Specifications
Audio Processor: SBAxx1 | DAC: Cirrus Logic CS43131 (32-bit resolution, up to 384kHz) | ADC: Cirrus Logic CS5361 | AMP: Xamp headphone amplifier | DAC/ADC dynamic range: 130dB/115dB | DAC/ADC non-linear distortion: 0.0002%/0.0006% | Compatibility: PC (Windows; Mac), PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch | Features: Advanced DSD support, 5.1/7.1 surround sound, game voice balance, scout mode, and various Sound Blaster audio enhancements | Product dimensions: (W x D) 111 x 70 x 24 mm | Weight: 144 g
Best playback quality DSP mode. PCM 16/24/32 bit/44.1, 48, 88.2, 96 kHz.
Direct mode. PCM 16/24/32 bit/44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192, 352.8, 384 kHz*.
DoP 24 bits/176.4 , 352.4 kHz.
* 384 kHz playback is only available on Windows 10 or later.
Maximum recording quality (microphone input) 16/24/32 bits/44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192 kHz
Maximum recording quality (optical input) 16/24/32 bits/44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192 kHz
Compatible with headphone impedance from 16 to 600 ohms.
Signal to noise ratio 130dB (DAC), 114dB (ADC)
Connectors 1 combo 1/8” line input/mini TOSLINK jack.
1/8″ combo line output/Mini TOSLINK jack;
1/8″ headphone or headset jack.
1/8″ external microphone connector.
EAX Advanced 5.0
Low latency audio codecs AAC, SBC, aptX
Bluetooth 4.0 support
Bluetooth multipoint profile (two devices). A2DP, AVRCP, HFP
Range up to 10 m
ASIO playback and recording
Microphone type Built-in microphone with device orientation sensor (portrait/album orientation)
Operating system Windows 7 / 8 / 8.1 / 10, Mac OS X v10.8 or higher
Compatible with PlayStation 4 / Xbox One / Nintendo Switch
The G6 sound card is packaged in a nice thick cardboard box. At the top of the box is various information. On one side, we have information about the discrete headphone amplifiers, with a separate amplifier for each channel. On the other side, you have pictures of the sound card. Underneath is the standard manufacturer information and the various connection options for the card.
In the box, you will find the Creative Sound BlasterX G6 speaker and a velvet stand. In addition to the device itself, you will also find
- A power cable
- Standard micro USB cable
- A 3.5″ optical cable
- A standard optical cable
Design & Ergonomy
The G6 gaming sound card is based on the previously popular E5 and G5 cards, which differ in terms of the battery and Bluetooth module. In addition, the G5’s built-in microphone has been removed. In other words, the G6 retains the features of the G5 but with new state-of-the-art hardware.
We particularly like the plastic case design, which is conveniently sized and doesn’t take up much space on your computer table or audio equipment shelf. It’s obvious why the manufacturer went with this – the focus is on gaming consoles, PCs, and laptops.
The case’s material is nice to the touch, and since it is gray, dirt is not a problem. The bottom is covered with a solid rubber that catches dust quickly. It’s a little disappointing that it doesn’t stand up on a table because of its rigidity.
Most DACs/AMPs use an analog volume knob to adjust the output volume without reference to a specific system or computer. It is convenient and thoughtful. Unfortunately, the sound card is not very stable on the table, making it difficult to adjust the sound.
For the PS4, the GameVoice Mix feature allows you to adjust the game volume smoothly and chat with team members directly on the G6 without having to pause the game or leave your screen. Adjust directly on the G6 without having to pause the game or leave its screen.
The output power transistors are housed in a large enclosure, so no heat sink is needed. It hardly heats up at all, even under heavy load. The wiring diagram, of course, is not the first one you see. This is a unique design with no gold-plated audio components with good sound quality achieved through the designer’s skill and experience. Beyond the entry-level and up to the more expensive quality designs, we see many similarities.
The G6 uses a Cirrus Logic CS43131 chip as its stereo DAC, supporting 32-bit audio with a sample rate of 384 kHz and a dynamic range of 130 dB. Compared to the AE-5 PCIe gaming sound card, the G6 has an advantage in that it has a separate Cirrus Logic CS5361 analog-to-digital converter.
With a dynamic range of 114 dBA and CG+noise = 0.0006% (-105dB), performance is smoother than a DAC. The G6 gaming sound card’s internal components use the same high-performance Xamp discrete transistor headphone amplifier as the AE-5 and amplify each of the two audio channels separately to increase sound detail across the audio spectrum.
The Sound BlasterX G6 DAC & AMP is fantastic for gaming as it has been designed from the ground up, focusing on high-quality sound output. In addition, by using new circuitry and high-quality components, engineers have achieved an impressive 0.0002% reduction in distortion in the DAC and 0.0006% in the ADC.
Modern digital converters incorporate several interpolation filters. Since this feature is very easy to implement, it was implemented in the AE-5 and then in the G6. In this way, Creative’s card is not inferior to external USB DACs, where separate physical controls usually switch the filters. The filter’s effect is almost audible and is only noticeable with higher-quality hardware. Don’t bother looking for noticeable improvements here, as you won’t hear any significant changes.
The Sound BlasterX G6 sound card can be used on consoles without any extra effort, but drivers and utilities must be installed on a PC. Of course, this is just in case you want to use all the features. This utility is called “Sound Blaster Connect 2” and can be downloaded from the manufacturer’s website.
At first glance, it looks like a mass of colors and graphics, but you get used to it. The middle is a ready-made profile provided by Creative. Again, though, it’s up to personal preference whether you like them or not. But most gamers will probably be satisfied.
- The Sound component of the Acoustic Engine tab allows you to improve the overall sound. You can adjust the bass, as well as the parameters of Creative’s famous enhancer, Crystalizer. If you want to adjust the frequencies to your liking, you can use the 10-band equalizer. The settings you make can be saved as a preset.
There are also presets for today’s most popular online games, giving you a wider range of options. In addition, you can adjust the sound card modes, microphone settings, voice changes, backlight settings and enable virtual surround sound. In short, this is an area for experimentation.
- The Microphone section allows you to adjust the microphone volume and balance. In contrast, the Clarity section allows you to enable and adjust microphone noise reduction, game echo effects, smart volume, and voice amplification.
- In the last tab, you’ll there’s a sweet treat for those who like to play with their voice and modify their accent, as there’s a set of filters to change the tone, timbre, and tonality of your voice. There are filters for male and female voices, children’s voices, demon voices, etc. It’s a lot of fun, but it can get boring in the long run.
As far as surround sound goes, the G6 headphone gaming amplifier has a hardware Dolby Digital decoder that decodes the 5.1 signal from the console. There is a Dolby Audio icon on the card itself and on the front panel. While some of this technology has nothing to do with AC-3 compression, it does include automatic audio level adjustment and dialogue enhancement. Overall, the unit sounds good.
Creative positions the G6 card is ideal for connecting to the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. That’s why the card was first introduced in Japan: you can use the built-in Dolby Digital decoder card to connect the G6 to your console via the optical digital input, use a better DAC and headphone amplifier via the USB input (possibly in stereo mode), or an analog cable into the line input and use only the amplifier.
The Sound BlasterX G6 gaming sound card has a 3.5 mm stereo jack on the left side that can be used as a line and optical input, analog output, and a micro USB connector for power and data transfer. The inputs and outputs work via a 3.5mm mini-jack connector and a 3.5mm mini-TOSLINK optical cable.
There is a large, convenient, chunky volume knob and two stereo jacks on the right side, one for headphones and one for a microphone. All connectors are gold-plated. The volume knob can be turned continuously in both directions and has an illuminated inner edge (which can be disabled by software).
The drawback of the G6 is the power adapter. For use with the console, you need an extra adapter to run an external device. This problem could be easily solved if a universal USB adapter could provide sufficient power, but unfortunately, Creative does not offer such an accessory. In addition, for the Sound BlasterX G6 to function as a desktop gaming sound card, it must be permanently powered from the micro USB port.
After using the Sound BlasterX G6 for gaming, listening to songs, and watching movies, we found that the Sound BlasterX G6 significantly improved the sound of our reference headphones. The built-in amplifier is also very powerful. Not only was the maximum volume significantly increased, but the soundstage was maintained. I could hear all the subtle sounds and the high frequencies seemed to be amplified in the air.
The SBX’s audio processing effects, including Sound Blaster Connect 2 presets, make any type of music enjoyable and rich, not to mention special sound effects in movies and game scenes. Suppose you’re looking for a richer sound experience in virtual combat. In that case, you can take advantage of multi-channel virtualization and scout mode to unlock a narrow range of playback frequencies and amplify the slight thuds and squeals of weapons in games.
From a technical standpoint, this sound card can do just about anything, as it is the perfect tool to satisfy any musical ambition when it comes to getting the sound right, whether in music or games. So you don’t get lost in genre selection, all the features you need are built into this clever little gaming amplifier.
Sound enhancement technologies such as Crystalizer and Dolby Virtual Surround are ultimately a matter of personal preference. We recommend that you try all the settings yourself to find the one that best suits your music and games.
In the Soundblaster Connect 2 software, 90% of the settings are for games and movies. It is best to listen in “Direct” mode for music, where all settings are disabled. Note that the microphone does not work in “Direct” mode.
With the launch of the Sound BlasterX G6, Singapore-based Creative remains the undisputed audio specialist, offering high-quality home solutions at an affordable price. Versatility, flexibility, adjustability, a rich set of features, compelling technical fundamentals rarely found in devices costing twice as much, and support for headphones and headsets make the PC amplifier an exceptional solution for gamers in the audio space.
The Sound BlasterX G6 is an attractive external sound card designed for gamers with a headphone amplifier to improve audio quality. But it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth the price. At the end of the day, it’s only a matter of personal preference.