The Creative SXFI Gamer headset is entering a crowded field – it's vying for your money with several other Creative products, for a start – but it's combination of features and comfort might just be enough to persuade you that this is the best headset for you.
It's well built, it's comfortable, and it provides one of the best audio experiences around, across music, movies and games. That audio experience is helped by a Creative app or two, which can try and tune the sound of the cans exactly to the contours of your ears.
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It's a neat trick, and while it's difficult to say exactly how much it helped, we've certainly got no complaints about the end result. The Creative SXFI Gamer doesn't seem to get quite as heavy and as hot as some other comparable headsets either, which is a definite bonus.
The only missing ingredient here is wireless Bluetooth connectivity – if you're going to rely on this pair of cans then you're going to have to use the 3.5 mm audio or USB-C cable to fit them to your computer, smartphone or tablet. Here's our full Creative SXFI Gamer review.
Creative SXFI Gamer review: design and setup
At first glance, the Creative SXFI Gamer headset doesn't come across as the most premium bit of hardware, but take a closer look and this is a very well-built device. It's understated, but in a good way, with plenty of soft rubber and foam and an easy-to-adjust fitting. The RGB lighting around the sides of the cans is tastefully done, and you can customise the colours of the lights through the macOS or Windows app. A button on the side of the headphones gives you limited lighting control as well.
Alongside the lighting switch and the 3.5 mm audio jack and USB-C connections, we've got a simple volume slider, a mute button, and a toggle switch for the SXFI mode that gives you your virtual surround sound effects. The bundled audio cable, USB-C cable and CommanderMic microphone all have a quality, premium feel to them and worked well during our testing.
As with other headsets in the SXFI range, the Gamer uses Creative's special Super X-Fi 'audio hologram' technology to create a more immersive feel – putting you in the middle of a battlefield in a game, for example, or giving you the impression that you're at a gig when you're listening to music. To get this set up, you need to give Creative pictures of your ears and head shape through the iOS or Android app, which then get synced to your personal profile in the cloud so you can use them on your desktop or laptop too.
We're not sure if Creative realises this, but taking a carefully aligned photo of both of your ears with your phone is actually very tricky – go and give it a try if you don't believe us. You're probably best off getting a friend or family member to do this for you, but we just about managed it with the help of a mirror. Once this is done, the rest of the setup process is simple and straightforward.
Creative SXFI Gamer review: features and audio
We're pleased to report that the Creative SXFI Gamer coped admirably with everything that we put it through – music, movies and games. Audio is crisp, clear and rich, with details retained well even at the quietest of volumes. The headphones are light enough to stay comfortable through a whole working day too, which isn't something we can say about every model we've tested.
The SXFI technology works very well too. Rather than blasting audio straight at your ears, it tries to create a more ambient, atmospheric effect – it's definitely noticeable when you switch it on, and as far as our ears could tell it works in a very clever way, though we're not sure we prefer it in every scenario. It does change the feel of your music tracks, for example, which you may or may not like.
The 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound modes work really well, provided you've got the games and audio sources to support them properly. We've tested quite a few surround sound headphones down the years, and based on our testing of the Creative SXFI Gamer, the effects here work as well as any of its competitors. Overall, it's a really impressive and immersive experience for your ears, without ever overloading them – you can live happily in your own private world, at least as far as sound goes.
The accompanying Creative apps you can download for free give you access to equaliser settings and customisation options for the lighting around the sides of the ear cups – you've got some 16 million colours to choose from, so it's not difficult to find something that matches your personal brand. The desktop app did occasionally lose connection with the headphones, but we didn't have any major problems.
Creative SXFI Gamer review: price and verdict
In terms of both pricing and features – atmospheric sound but no Bluetooth, for example – the Creative SXFI Gamer tries to hit a sweet spot somewhere in the middle ground for high-end gaming headphones. On the whole, the device is a big success as far as we're concerned, and definitely when it comes to the sort of immersive audio you can get through this headset.
There is the lack of a wireless option as we've mentioned, and the setup process can be a bit frustrating, and we noticed one or two bugs in the software, but the Creative SXFI Gamer still ends up with plenty left in the credit column at the end. The actual sound experience is great, and more comfortable than we were expecting – this is a headset you can wear all day (or all night).
The special Super X-Fi technology is great for the most part, though we didn't always have it switched on in the end. If you want to feel right in the middle of the action while you're gaming, or you want a bit more of an immersive audio experience while listening to music or watching movies, then get this headset on your shortlist.
One of the ways that the headset appeals is in its versatility: you can use the Creative SXFI gamer with Macs, PCs, Android phones, iPhones, Xboxes, PlayStations and Nintendo Switches, so you're pretty much covered as far as far as personal audio goes. If you can live with its limitations and its price – £114.99 direct from Creative – then you won't be disappointed with the sound and the ways you can tweak it.