{Disarmed} Creative SXFI Carrier, analysis: the spectacularity with which it virtualizes Dolby Atmos leaves this soundbar as one of the best on the market

Creative SXFI Carrier, analysis: the spectacularity with which it virtualizes Dolby Atmos leaves this soundbar as one of the best on the market

In 2019, the soundbar market reached a volume of more than $ 5 billion, and according to the Global Market Insights consultancy it will continue to grow at a rate of 3.5% per year for at least five more years. If so, in 2026 it will have an approximate volume of 6.5 billion dollars . These figures reflect with overwhelming clarity that users are interested in sound bars.

Using them we can improve the sound quality of our television in a tangible way without investing too much money (although some are not at all economical). And, in addition, installing them is much easier than deploying a multichannel sound system that will at least force us to accommodate five speakers for the main and effect channels, and a subwoofer .

The challenge soundbars face is to virtualize surround audio with a credibility as close as possible to that offered by a multi-channel audio equipment

The challenge soundbars face is to virtualize surround audio with a credibility as close as possible to that offered by a multi-channel sound system, which is undoubtedly the best option if our budget and the space we have available allow us to access it. And achieving it is not easy. In fact, most of it fails, but this Creative SXFI Carrier hasn't.

I don't want to be overly enthusiastic, but honestly, this is the best soundbar I've reviewed so far. I have tried more expensive ones, like, for example, the Bang & Olufsen Beosound Stage that I reviewed last year, which is very good, but not as good as this Creative proposal. In this article we will see that it is not perfect, but, objectively, its sound is at a difficult level to match . This is how the new SXFI Carrier spends it.

Creative SXFI Carrier: Technical Specifications


features

ACOUSTIC ARCHITECTURE

Topology 7.1

Soundbar: 3 soft dome tweeters + 4 midrange speakers

10-inch diaphragm wireless subwoofer

SURROUND SOUND VIRTUALIZATION

Dolby Atmos

Dolby TrueHD

Dolby Digital Plus

Creative Super X-Fi Headphone Holography

Creative SuperWide Technology

frequency response

25 Hz to 20 kHz

maximum power delivery

Soundbar: 250 watts

Subwoofer: 200 watts

operating range for bluetooth devices

Up to 10 m

bluetooth operating frequency

2402 to 2480 MHz

supported bluetooth profiles

A2DP

supported codecs

SBC

connectivity

2 x HDMI 2.1 inputs, 1 x HDMI 2.1 output, 1 x TosLink optical digital input, 1 x 3.5mm auxiliary input, 1 x 3.5mm subwoofer output, 1 x USB-C, 1 x SXFI USB- output A and 1 x 3.5 mm headphone output on the front panel

wireless connectivity

Bluetooth 5.0

dimensions

Soundbar: 880 x 128 x 76mm

Subwoofer: 225 x 430 x 450mm

weight

Soundbar: 3.6 kg

Subwoofer: 12.8 kg

price

999.99 euros (free SXFI Theater headphones)

Soundbar with Dolby Atmos speaker system, wireless subwoofer and Super X-Fi Headphone Holography

Soundbar with Dolby Atmos speaker system, wireless subwoofer and Super X-Fi Headphone Holography

Retail Price in Creative € 999.99
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It is surprising how compact it is, but its finish has room for improvement

This soundbar is unusually compact . With a length of 88cm, a bottom of 12.8cm, and a height of 7.6cm, its dimensions are clearly more restrained than most high-end soundbars designed for audio processing. Dolby Atmos .

Yes, this is definitely a high-end device both for its sound quality, which we will investigate in the next section of this review, and for its price. And the fact is that the 999.99 euros that Creative asks us for it places it out of the reach of users who are not willing to invest so much money in a sound bar.

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That it is reasonably compact is an advantage when it comes to locating it , but the moderate measurements of its enclosure could give away that its speaker endowment is not ambitious. Nothing is further from reality. This SXFI Carrier incorporates three soft dome tweeters and four midrange drivers.

The location of each of these drivers has been chosen with a primary strategy: to use wall reflections in the most efficient way possible to get them to recreate an enveloping sound field around the listening position.

This soundbar aims to use wall reflections effectively to recreate an immersive sound field around the listening position.

In reality, this strategy is not new. It is used by many other sound bar manufacturers because it is the only way to credibly virtualize surround audio using a single point source of sound wave emission.

When they propagate through the air and collide with the walls or other objects in the room in which we have installed the sound bar, a part of the acoustic energy of the sound waves is absorbed by the object in which they impinge, and another part is reflected . Precisely these reflections help the soundbar to give us the feeling that there is a speaker in a place in space where, in reality, there is nothing.

However, this is only one of the ingredients in the recipe. The acoustic design and technology of this soundbar have been developed jointly by the engineers of Creative and Dolby, and, interestingly, they have used psychoacoustics and neuroscience to stimulate our brain and make the sound field as immersive as possible. .

In the article that I link here we explain in great detail how this strategy works, but very broadly it consists of processing the audio in order to "trick" our brain into believing that the sound that our ears pick up comes from places to around us where there is actually no loudspeaker .

Creativecarriearchitecture

Each of the seven speakers that this soundbar incorporates is driven by an independent class D amplifier that, in turn, is controlled by a DSP (Digital Signal Processor) in order to ensure that each speaker always works within your comfort zone . Reproducing the low end is responsible for a wireless subwoofer equipped with a 10-inch diaphragm, which we will explore later.

The combined RMS power of the soundbar amplifiers and the 'subwoofer' amounts to 450 watts, but this electronics manages to deliver peaks of 900 watts, according to Creative

The combined RMS power of the amplifiers that drive the soundbar speakers is 250 watts, and the RMS power of the unit that drives the subwoofer speaker is 200 watts. According to Creative, the set made up of the sound bar and the subwoofer exhibits a frequency response that ranges from 25 Hz to 20 kHz .

Creativecarriertweetercentral

Everything we've seen so far clearly reflects that the design of this soundbar from an acoustic point of view is ambitious. Its endowment of speakers is generous, and the amplification on paper seems to have adequate power delivery, but we come to one of the sections in which, in my opinion, this soundbar has room for improvement: its finish .

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It's not badly built, but the plastic Creative has used to build the soundbar enclosure doesn't convey robustness. It is the type of polycarbonate that fits well in a sound bar that costs a fraction of what they ask us for this SXFI Carrier, but for a 1000 euro product I think we should ask for higher quality plastics . In this area, the B&O Beosound Stage soundbar that I told you about in the first paragraphs of this review gives a good overview of this Creative proposal.

Creativecarrierdolbyatmos

In the following photo we can see how Creative has solved the physical connectivity of this soundbar. The three HDMI connectors (both input and output) implement the 2.1 standard , and it is a success. It also has a TosLink optical digital input, an auxiliary input in 3.5 mm jack format and a subwoofer output, among other connections (we have collected them all in the specifications table).

The only thing I miss about this soundbar in the realm of connectivity is the presence of one or two additional HDMI 2.1 inputs

On the front panel we have an additional 3.5 mm jack headphone output, although, as we will see in the next section of the analysis, both devices can also communicate wirelessly. The only thing I miss about this soundbar in the realm of connectivity is the presence of one or two additional HDMI 2.1 inputs . The only two that it incorporates may fall short if you have, for example, a couple of video game consoles and a Blu-ray Disc player.

Creativecarrierconnectivity

Its virtualization of surround sound clearly places it in the first division

Often during the analysis of an audio device the first sensations, what you perceive during the first minutes of listening, clearly reflect what that solution really offers you . What is your level. For the first time, a sound bar has managed to make me turn to the side as soon as I started my tests, surprised at having had the feeling that I had really heard an effect on my left and with a perception of the distance consistent with what I was seeing in the movie. This is how this SXFI Carrier spends it.

The precision with which this soundbar resolves positioning in the horizontal dimension is astonishing

I'm not going to beat around the bush, or walk around with warm cloths: this is the soundbar that best virtualizes surround audio of all the ones I have analyzed so far. The precision with which it solves the positioning in the horizontal dimension of virtual sound sources is astonishing. Its performance in the vertical dimension doesn't strike me as that convincing, but even so, the soundstage it manages to recreate around us is surprisingly immersive.

Plus, you're not comfortable with just Dolby Atmos-encoded soundtracks; it also performs very well with Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital Plus audio. Its sound is precise and detailed. Even visceral at times . The responsible of this sound impact is to a large extent the subwoofer because it manages to deliver a firm and forceful low end. I don't know if, as Creative claims, it really gets down to 25 Hz, but it certainly fulfills its role in a resounding way.

Creativecarriermovies

The experience that this sound bar offers us with video games is as enjoyable as the one it offers us with movies and series. Listening to the audio of an Xbox Series X or a PlayStation 5 (I have tried both consoles) through it is a real joy . So definitely yes; Everything that I have concluded in the previous paragraphs fits like a glove with the games.

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To recreate multichannel sound, I still prefer a dedicated multichannel audio system because it is the only option that manages to restore a completely immersive sound space, but the performance of this soundbar is outstanding . It would be my option if my budget allowed me to access it and I did not have the necessary space to install a multichannel equipment with 5.1 topology, or, better yet, 7.1.2 (to be able to enjoy Dolby Atmos sound in a convincing way).

Creativecarriervideogames

In the following photo we can see the remote control that Creative gives us together with the SXFI Carrier. It is simple and compact, but it allows us to act on the behavior of the soundbar in an intuitive way , which is what it is all about, so I have nothing to object to.

Creativecarriermando

I have already talked about the performance of the subwoofer , but before going any further I would like not to overlook that I like its construction better than that of the soundbar. Its 12.8 kg of weight reflects that it has a magnetic motor of a certain size. And, in addition, the absence of corners in the enclosure helps to prevent the appearance of standing waves inside.

I also think it is important to point out that the wireless connection between this subwoofer and the soundbar is completely automatic and transparent for the user, which will undoubtedly be appreciated by those who do not feel entirely comfortable installing sound equipment.

Creativecarriersubwoofer

Creative engineers have not left a single loose end. And this soundbar offers us a solution that we can turn to when night falls and we want to enjoy convincing multichannel sound without disturbing the neighbors: use headphones . All we have to do is connect our headphones, whatever they are, to the 3.5 mm jack on the front, and that's it. Super X-Fi technology takes care of the rest.

If we want our experience to be as satisfactory as possible, the ideal is to connect a headset with Super X-Fi certification and low latency to the soundbar.

This innovation recreates surround audio in a very successful way in traditional stereophonic headphones, but if we want our experience to be as satisfactory as possible, the ideal is to connect a Super X-Fi certified low latency headphones to the soundbar.

During my tests I have used the SXFI Theater of Creative itself that you can see in the following photograph, and I really liked them for the credibility of the surround sound field they recreate, but we will investigate them in more depth in the specific analysis that we are preparing.

Creativesxfitheater

Creative SXFI Carrier: xiaomist.com's opinion

This sound bar has been a true discovery. I've had the opportunity to test it thoroughly for several weeks using several different sources, and it has left a mark on me that I won't easily forget. The quality that is worth considering is, without a doubt, the credibility with which it virtualizes Dolby Atmos , Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital Plus audio. It's hard to get used to how amazing its sound is if you don't listen to it.

The best thing about this soundbar is the credibility with which it virtualizes Dolby Atmos audio

I also like that it offers us HDMI 2.1 connectivity (it would have been a serious mistake to settle for implementing the 2.0b standard), and how careful the construction of the subwoofer is . But, as we have seen, it is not perfect. A couple of more HDMI 2.1 inputs would have come in handy, and above all, in my opinion the finish of the soundbar should be more careful.

A 1000 euro device should not only enter through the eyes and ears; also by touch. And here this SXFI Carrier has room for improvement. Still, my assessment is firm: this is the best soundbar I've heard so far. And not only of its segment. Of any price. Promised.

Soundbar with Dolby Atmos speaker system, wireless subwoofer and Super X-Fi Headphone Holography

Soundbar with Dolby Atmos speaker system, wireless subwoofer and Super X-Fi Headphone Holography

Retail Price in Creative € 999.99

This soundbar has been provided for this test by Creative. You can consult our policy of relations with companies .

More information | Creative

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The Creative SXFI Carrier news , analysis: the spectacularity with which Dolby Atmos virtualizes leaves this soundbar as one of the best on the market was originally published in xiaomist.com by Juan Carlos López .

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