Where to buy: Creative
Price: $149.99 – Or Region Equivalent
Creative’s new Sound Blaster X G6 is a product custom built for those gamers that want to boost their competitive skills and enhance their gaming experience. It’s a sound card for console gaming – but how does it do? Firstly, a run-through of my set-up. My Xbox One X is hooked up to my TV, and all sound from that goes to a sound bar via Optical out. My headset of choice is the Polk 4Shot, which admittedly is getting a little long in the tooth at this point.
While the G6 is aimed at PC gamers primarily, or at least those that play at desks (unless you have a long cable for your headset), it is compatible with the Xbox, PlayStation and even Nintendo Switch – for a Multiplatform gamer such as myself, that’s a big deal. That said, this is an Xbox site, so I’ll be focusing on that platform.
The device itself is small enough to be concealed in an entertainment centre or on a desk, but feels robust enough to be thrown into a laptop bag too. It has a non-slip bottom, and the rest has a lovely brushed aluminium feel. It is worth noting, however, that the unit does not come with an AC adapter – if you don’t have any USB ports in your setup you’ll have to provide your own.
Setup is fairly straightforward – I plugged my Soundbar into the G6, and then plugged the G6 into my TV via an aux cable. There are plenty of ways to connect things, but I felt connecting to my TV would be the best course of action so that I wouldn’t have to constantly plug it into other consoles. Once powered up, it has a nice little red LED indicator and a the volume wheel is illuminated in white or red depending on whether you’re adjusting headset or chat volume.
Before popping the headset into the unit, I wanted to test out its capabilities with my sound bar system. My Xbox One X is my media hub as well as my primary games console, so I’m often watching Netflix or Blu-Ray movies on it. When watching a movie, I’ll often find that there is a disparity between the volume in an action scene vs the volume of dialogue – despite constantly changing sound bar settings. The G6, through “direct mode” has fixed this in impressive fashion. It has amplified the sound via my sound bar impressively, almost making me jump the first time I connected it. On “Scout Mode”, it feels like having a small surround sound setup in the room.
That said, you’re not here for movies. How does the G6 improve sound during gameplay? To test the gaming applications of using this to amplify my sound bar, I played a handful of matches on perennial rivals PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite Battle Royale, as well as Call of Duty WWII. The difference is night and day – in all three games, the sound of footsteps becomes directional, as does gunfire and explosions. In fact, the gameplay advantage was borderline transcendent – turning me from a relative novice to being able to locate enemies based on audio cues alone, particularly in WWII.
This was improved even more when using a headset – on multiple occasions, I was able to lurk around a corner for an enemy, kill them quickly, and then turn to face another that was coming from the other direction. The tense last stand of PUBG and Fortnite is still tense, but being able to hear where distant gunshots are coming from was very helpful – in fact, it was only my own slow reactions that prevented me from finishing higher than third in both.
Unfortunately, there is one glaring omission for the G6 – chat. Because of the way the Xbox One deals with chat, the G6 is unable to offer the functionality. As a result, it makes it a hard product to recommend for those that often use a headset to communicate with friends or team mates. Creative are currently looking into other options for allowing this, but as it stands it’s a glaring omission.
That said, for those that play solo most of the time, you’ll find a lot to love with the G6 – if you’re like me and use a sound bar or speaker system, you’ll love the directional audio for both movies and games. If you’re playing with a headset, you’ll be impressed by how it’ll support your competitive gameplay, but won’t be able to trash talk to those you test it out on.