5,282-word post, approx. 16 min. read
- 5/2/20. Article Posted.
- 5/7/20. Added Video.
- 5/8/20. Added some photos and the SoundBlaster Connect Demo Video.
- 11/23/20. Added Fargo.
- 2/2/21. Article/link cleanup.
Big shoutout to the folks over at Creative for sending this demo unit in exchange for a review/video. I am not sponsored by them; just giving my thoughts and impressions.
Hey there friend, and Welcome aboard!!
Before we get into the Creative SoundBlasterX G6 Amp/DAC Review, grab a snack, sit back and relax because..
I’m Here to Help!!
(And sometimes ramble)
Table of Contents
Build & Features
Music, Film, Television, & Gaming
Every time I think I’ve found the one, another one comes along.
Now you may think I’m referring to women, and I am. Just kidding I’m not. I kind of am though.
One of my best friends from back in the day loved to tease me about my propensity to seemingly never luck out with women, find a good one, and actually keep her.
In other words, my habit of dating a lot of women and it never working out for various reasons.
“Well, at least you’ll have a chance for a little while … before it crumbles.”
Ouch. I thought you were supposed to be my friend. XD
If you go to 18:22 on the video below that’s where he says it but I can’t make out what he says after “you’ll” because of my drunk, obnoxious loud a**. I’m guessing it’s “have a chance.” It’s really the only thing that makes sense in context.
Mind you, he said that in the heat of a WWE 2k13 battle (what we all dubbed “Wrestle Jam”), and when I tell you it was heated, it actually got fairly nasty. Basically what I’m saying is that we all took it WAY too seriously.
It’s been about 6-7 years, and his quote has haunted me since the day he said it.
Because in a lot of ways he’s right. I’m 33 now, and I don’t have a girlfriend. I found love again in 2019, but it didn’t ultimately work out. Story of my life, right? I can’t even adequately put into words the frustration that I’ve felt over the last 15 years – waiting, hoping, and just feeling torn apart inside because I can’t seem to find that special someone, even though I’ve had 2 or 3 really significant loves.
Still: I really, REALLY like being single. Lol. Double-edged sword. I love my bachelor pad. I love not having a roommate. I love peace and quiet, and I value independence and freedom. It’s truly priceless to come home and not have to hear anyone or anything: No dogs, no babies, no dirty diapers, no nagging wife, no screaming 4-year-old, nothing.
Just the sweet, sweet sound of Super Mario Bros. Lost Levels, or some crispy vinyl, an engaging movie, some great music, the white noise of the cars whizzing by, the atmosphere of Fallout, an open window allowing me to hear the birds, etc. There really is nothing like it.
My response to him back then?
“Hey guess what? You crumble in every match.”
My best friend Brandon was awful at the game and we made fun of him constantly for it. He lucked out a few times and won a couple of championships (one as Kratos, and one as a cheating Chuck Norris, long story) and he did improve a lot. But he would get owned in the most hilarious of ways, and it sort of became a meme after awhile (He was something like 0-32 playing as the character He-Man). XD
Brah. Do you even video game?
If you want to see the clip I did from back in the day, I will embed it here. Don’t say I didn’t warn you:
The sad part about looking back on this is that our friendship was never the same afterward. We all would get so worked up over the game that it kind of boiled over into unnecessary rage at times. It was the definition of competitive.
Like, “we play for fake belts” competitive. It got completely and totally out of control to the point of absolute absurdity.
*Us to random strangers in a bar*
“Yeah, we’re going home to play WWE and wrastle for belts.”
Random Strangers: ???
This is kind of how it went after we told them:
I even made custom belts out of cardboard and painted them, awarding them to their respective winners in each category (World Title, Intercontinental, Hell in a Cell, Tag Team, Elimination Chamber, etc.) Yeah, we took it too far.
It was fun, but it was stressful. The project (seen above) was my farewell to 2k13 and all the drama that was caused by it. Though it was a blast to make and brings back good memories, it ultimately made us drift apart.
I think what happened was my friend got so sick of losing that it caused him to show a side of himself that none of us really knew existed. He’s a very quiet, unassuming, and reserved person for the most part. I think wrestling brought out some emotions in him that had been bottled up for a long time.
My friend Thomas had his moments as well. After my character Sub-Zero kicked out of a record 17 or so pins on his way to recapturing the Intercontinental Title for the 3rd straight time, Thomas got pissed off in a way that I had never seen before. He is generally very friendly and upbeat, so watching him slam down a beer bottle on the coffee table and curse the game was semi-jarring, to say the least.
I was equally as bad, as I remember one instance being so furious that I basically just got up and left.
“Screw you guys! I’m goin’ home!” -Eric Cartman
I have a more fiery/passionate personality, and it most certainly showed from time to time. Nowadays I’m more mellowed out, but I digress.
Richard? He was mostly too drunk to care lol.
His character Rick Rude and my Snake Plissken had some really competitive battles for the World Title, but I think he kept his emotions in check better than the rest of us.
I seriously got off track, but it felt right and natural to spill that, so whatever.
Originally I was talking about Amps and women. Lol. Let’s get back to that.
The G6 is an example of an Amp that came along and made me re-think my solid stance on the FiiO K5 Pro, much like an amazing woman can come along and cause you to change your stance on love and the infinite amount of possibilities that it can bring.
The K5 Pro
The K5 is an Amp/DAC combo that can do basically anything in a home studio and/or home theater type of environment. It’s an extremely valuable asset to have if you’re listening to music or gaming, as it works in a variety of ways. Instead of talking about it again (for the millionth time and boring everyone), I’ll just link you here: iFi Zen vs. FiiO K5 Pro vs. JDS ATOM vs. Bravo Ocean!
And here’s a screenshot of a motion graphic I designed as well:
The G6 is similar to the K5 in that it also works in a myriad of ways and becomes a valuable asset in the studio as well as in your living room.
Build, Aesthetic & Features
First off, the G6 is light but still seems robust, resembling something out of Blade Runner. If Harrison Ford were to listen to music during his downtime, this amp would certainly be the gadget he’d use to do it with. 😀
There’s a nice pad on the bottom that prevents it from moving around too much, and I find it really pleasurable to the touch.
It’s got a brushed aluminum look but is mostly built of plastic. There’s a black stripe running vertically down the center, with the SoundBlasterX Logo engraved in the middle.
The color of the X can actually be modified to your liking as well, adding to the nerdiness! Just download the SoundBlaster Connect app for your desktop.
SoundBlaster Connect Demo
Note: You can’t see it in the video because I didn’t know about it yet, but if you hover over the line with your mouse, it will turn into a small pen. Now you can actually draw out the FR response however you like! It’s pretty amazing. Once you’re finished drawing, let go. Now the line will be modified according to whatever you drew, and it’s incredibly precise. So cool!
On the front, there’s a volume potentiometer that feels nice to turn. You can press it in once to mute, or hold it for 2 seconds to cycle between the headphone input and the mic input. You’d obviously use mic mode if you’re gaming with something like a V-Moda Boom Pro, Ant Lion Mod Mic 5, etc.
On the back, there’s a micro USB input for your console/PC, a combo line/optical input as well as a combo line/optical out!
Pretty neat. This basically means you can use it with almost anything. Let’s take a look:
- Console gaming. The great thing about the G6 is that it’s truly plug-and-play with a PS4 via USB, and that’s it. You don’t need to worry about a separate power source/brick, and you don’t need to worry about an optical cable. With the K5, you did. Both the K5 and G6 are instantly recognized by your console though. A very welcome feature for us lazy folk who hate having to go into settings.
While I find it cumbersome to transport the K5 from my living room to the studio/bedroom, with the G6 I don’t. I have 2 micro USB cables for each room. When I want to move it, I just unplug and re-plug. It’s nice and simple. No hassle. Takes about 20 seconds.
With the K5 Pro, I have to unplug the power brick, unplug the optical cable, and move it to my room. Then I have to re-wire the power brick PLUS plug it in via USB to get it re-recognized on my PC. Very time-consuming if you want to switch back and forth.
First-world problems, I know.
I would say pick a spot for the K5 and leave it there. For me, it’s going to be mostly chilling on my entertainment center once I get it built.
Important note: For Xbox users, you WILL have to utilize the supplied optical cable to get it fired up.
If your source is something like a Blu-ray player, just utilize the line in on the G6 as well.
- PC Gaming. This is just as straightforward. Plug it into your PC, fire up a game, and shut up. LOL. You’ll love the way it looks on your desk too!
- Mobile listening. Also, use the line input on the G6. I was able to get it to work with my Android, but keep in mind if you use a 3.5mm to 3.5, it still needs bus power. Very important. If you want to be all “American” about it, you can use a micro USB to micro USB, because freedom and stuff. This will drain your phone’s battery quicker but is still a viable option on the go. Also use the line in for something like a Nintendo switch or other portable media player (DAP, etc.)
- Speakers/Separate Amp. Use the line out function to hook up to separate speakers that have line-in or RCA in! With the latter, you’d just use an RCA to mini.
In The Box
To support all of that, we’ve got a USB Type-C Cable, Optical/Line hybrid cable, as well as the Amp/DAC, a Startup guide, and some other miscellaneous paperwork.
The possibilities are pretty much endless because auxiliary (or 3.5mm line) is just about the most common way to connect various types of devices.
I would have liked to see the inclusion of a high-quality 3.5mm interconnect and micro to micro in the box though. The hybrid 3.5/optical is cool, but you can only use it if there’s an optical port available on any given device. 3.5 to 3.5 is a lot more convenient and should have been included as well given how versatile this amp/DAC is.
Lastly, the Amp/DAC is perfect for Gaming if you ALSO like to play competitively with a mic. Let’s take a gander:
Common Headphone/Mic Setups
- If you have a gaming headset (more consumer, think Turtle Beach) with a built-in mic, you would just plug the headset into the left side and use mic mode (red).
- If you have gaming headphones (more audiophile, think SHP9500) with a V-Moda Boom Pro, you would still just plug into the left side. The boom pro plugs into the 3.5mm jack (replacing the stock cable) on the 9500’s ear cup, and the other end runs into the Amp.
- For Gaming headphones (more audiophile) with an Ant Lion Mod Mic, you would plug the headphones into the left side and the mic into the right side of the G6.
- For gaming headphones (more audiophile) with an Ant Lion Mod Mic Wireless, just plug the headphones into the left side.
In addition to all that, you’ve also got some options on the side of the unit that in my opinion really make it stand out from other Amps & DACs.
“That rug really tied the room together man.”
This is perhaps the biggest selling point of the G6 for gamers. Scout mode allows you to hear detail with such pinpoint precision that it’s almost uncomfortable. Soundstage gets better, and everything opens up considerably to the point where directional cues become much easier to discern (footsteps, gunfire, reloads, etc.) Related: What is Soundstage? [Detailed Explanation]
It basically puts a magnifying glass on everything, revealing it to you on a more intimate level. Not only that, but sounds are incredibly distinct and have an element of clarity that simply astounds me.
With a good set of headphones, this sentiment only gets stronger.
The great thing about Scout Mode is that it also works great for just listening to music if you tend to like your sounds spaced out as I do.
For competitive gaming, I’m not sure how much more you could ask for. Like a great girlfriend/wife, Scout Mode is a keeper! (notice a running theme in this article) 😀
SBX & Gain
This mode toggles surround profiles on and off and sound especially great with a Genre like Jazz and a headphone like the Philips SHP9500 or K702. Jazz is difficult to replicate effectively, but the SoundBlasterX with a more open headphone does the job admirably.
In addition to that, we’ve got a pretty sweet gain switch that will help power some more demanding headphones. You can also take it over some sweet jumps. 😛
Creative claims you can drive headphones up to 600 Ohm, and I don’t doubt it for a second. This thing is power personified. It’s f’ing INTENSE.
In fact, I would advise you to be really careful with this monster. It’s libel to slap you across the face if you’re not careful.
For headphones about 150 Ohm and under, keep it on low gain. An example would be my Philips SHP9500; it doesn’t need much power.
This is because the 9500’s have a low impedance and are very efficient. Instead of boring you with specifics, here are some good resources if you’re a bit new.
For anything above 150 Ohm and/or about 97dB Sensitivity and below, you’ll want to use high gain.
Fortunately for us, this bad boy has heaps of power and gets freaking LOUD asf. Like, hide your kids hide your wife loud.
If this Amp were a person, it would be like Will Ferrell on steroids.
“We’re going streaking!! Through the Quad!! Come on everybody!!” LOL.
With the HD600, I’m only at 22/100 on high gain right now (a comfortable listening level). That’s a ridiculous amount of headroom. You can imagine how powerful this thing is and could certainly drive pretty much any headphones. Add to that, high gain isn’t even that necessary with the 600’s. I could comfortably drive them to loud listening levels on low gain just the same.
But wait, there’s more!
X Amp feature
This is a second huge selling point and likely contributes to the intense, clean, and loud sound you’re getting. The X Amp inside basically means that each channel (left and right) is amplified separately.
So if you’re gaming and there’s a loud sound on your left (like an explosion), the amp doesn’t compensate by using some power from the right channel. All sounds are given equal treatment. This is great for consistency and balance.
- Source(s): Tidal Hi-Fi, Spotify Premium, Playstation 4, Netflix and chill dog.
- Headphone(s): Philips SHP9500, AKG K702, AKG K612, Sennheiser HD600
- Support: Up to 32-bit/384kHz
The G6 is an Amp + DAC rolled into one, so you won’t have to worry about purchasing a separate DAC to go along with it. You may also refer to it as an external soundcard. What is a Soundcard?
What the heck is a DAC, you ask? Well, that’s a big can of worms that I’ve talked about ad-nausea. Beginners Guide: What is a USB DAC?
Here’s a video:
What is a USB DAC?
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The cool thing about the G6 is that it has an output impedance of 1. What is Output Impedance?
It’s not entirely warm sounding, but it’s also not too cold and sterile like you’d get with something like a Magni 3 (in the neighborhood of 0.2 Ohm). It strikes a nice balance between warm and cool and sounds phenomenal with the SHP9500.
A low output impedance ensures consistency across various impedance loads (so it’s very important), but I’m finding that I really like the G6’s “Just shy of neutral” sound.
It helps to tame down the upper mid-range/low treble of the 9500, which can sometimes get out of line and sound essy.
I’m not a huge proponent of “Synergy”, as I think it’s an overblown term, but in the case of the 9500 and G6, it definitely applies.
I can mostly listen to the headphone without feeling like I have to switch songs and stuff. Keep in mind that at the end of the day, the DAC is a distant 4th on the hierarchy of importance (source file is infinitely more important, followed by the headphones’ sound signature) regarding how your music will sound, but good matching with regard to Amps and headphones does have some effect.
Just remember that it STILL comes down to the song, how it was recorded, mixed, mastered, etc. That’s just basic sound engineering and will never change.
An example would be a female’s voice sounding “essy” on multiple Amps and multiple headphones. That’s a recording flaw. It has nothing to do with the DAC or anything else. The headphones and amp may only magnify those mistakes.
Still, the G6 mixes balance and cleanliness with a touch of warmth, and it sounds wonderfully detailed to boot.
It works great for film as well, as I found myself watching more Netflix than I generally would otherwise. Put simply, it became hard to even consider using anything else; I started to prefer the G6 over my beloved K5 Pro because of how open and clear everything became.
With the G6 and a headphone like the AKG K612/702, you really get a sense of the subtle detail apparent in movies. I started to hear faint things going on around me, to my left and right, to the back, and even vertically!
With gaming, it was more of the same.
I mentioned the reload phenomena in my Fallout 3 vs. New Vegas vs. Fallout 4 article, but Bethesda’s sound design really took center stage with Fallout 4 in particular. For as much as people bag on the company for some questionable business decisions over the years, they really get a lot of things right in their games.
Sound is most certainly one of them.
I think the combination of a headphone with good imaging (K702/K612), the open, detailed quality of the G6, and the great soundscapes present in Fallout 4 are part of the reason why I never wanted to leave my couch. The ambiance of playing the game with all music off is truly something to behold here. I gamed so much in fact that I unlocked the Uncharted 2 Platinum trophy on PS4. If you’re unfamiliar, this basically means that I won ALL THE TROPHIES.
Talk about no life.
It took me quite a while to sit down and write this review, and I think in large part that has to do with just how immersive an experience the G6 can provide. It’s almost like you’re completely shutting out the real world, and all that’s left is you inside the game environment.
This happened to me watching Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as well. There are some really emotional moments towards the end of the movie, and the combo mentioned above only amplified that sentiment. Haha! I made a pun!
The incredibly intimate experience brought me to tears as the credits rolled, and in large part that’s due to the G6’s excellent rendition of the sound and dialogue, whether that be with Scout Mode, SBX, or otherwise.
With films like The Talented Mr. Ripley and Mystic River, the tension was so heightened that I found myself kind of squirming around in my seat a lot.
“The suspense is terrible! I hope it’ll last.” -Willy Wonka
I think oftentimes, headphones get a bad rap.
A lot of purists and audiophile snobs swear by speakers, and there certainly is merit to that. There’s truly nothing quite like a good 5.1 surround sound setup, but I find myself freaking out more at a good headphones’ ability to provide near-perfect imaging and Soundstage, to the point of me constantly ripping them off and looking around in bewilderment.
“Did that sound come from ground level?” “It sounds like someone’s walking outside on the gravel.”
I live on the second floor and I could have sworn there were times when I thought the sound was coming from the left of me and down, or to the right in the next apartment, or in back of me. In rewinding the movie I found that not to be the case. It actually came from inside the headphones!
I think the reason it’s so cool is because of the illusion. In reality, a headphone really shouldn’t be able to do that if you think about it. That’s what surround sound is for. The fact that a small driver in a headphone can achieve such grand results is truly a testament to how far technology has come.
Fallout 4 is infamous for these directional cues, making me think someone is knocking at my door or shuffling around outside. It can be frightening at times in the dead of night when everything’s mostly quiet and you hear a sound that could in theory have come from beyond the scope of a small apartment.
What the G6 did was it came along and put a magnifying glass up to all of that, so instead of just freaking out a little, you can now wet yourself too!!
Click to see the G6 in action!
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Here I’m just going to provide some quick A/B tests with the G6 vs. various other Amp/DACS I have in the studio.
For the sake of consistency and simplicity (as well as an even playing field), I tested the G6 with SBX and Scout Mode OFF. All tests were done with the Sennheiser HD600 running Tidal Hi-Fi and Spotify Premium. Related: Tidal vs. Spotify [Definitive Guide]
I usually spend the first couple of minutes getting the levels on each DAC the same so my impressions aren’t skewed towards one or the other based on volume (which a lot of people unknowingly do lol). “ZOMG IT’S LIKE SO MUCH BETTER!!” Nah bro the volume was higher. XD
Then I go back and forth exhaustively. If there’s a difference, I will note it. If there is none, I try a new track to see. If still nothing after a few tracks, I write it down. If some differences manifest, I also take note of them.
It’s also important to re-calibrate from song to song because of, you guessed it, the way a song is recorded. It varies from track to track and artist to artist (something we really harped on earlier).
What I listen to
Whatever the h*ll I want. Lol. No, I mostly stick to tracks I’m familiar with and try to test out a few different genres as well. For this test, I didn’t feel like listening to anything other than what I listened to. Sue me.
*/Bold = Highly Recommended
- The Japanese House – Clean
- UMI – FRIENDZONE
- Chon – Nayhoo
- Emily Krueger – Stuck*
- Kevin Garrett – Factor In*
- Cabu, Maribelle – After 9
- HONNE – No Place Like Home (feat. JONES)*
- Chelsea Cutler – You Are Losing Me*
- Kev Brown – Albany*
- Zoology – Unravel*
- Cosmo’s Midnight – Snare (feat. Wild Eyed Boy)
- Emily Rowed – Pinball*
- Klyne – Ecstacy
- Golden Vessel – Shoulders (feat. Mallrat and Elkkle)
- MF DOOM – Potholderz (feat. Count Bass D)*
- 9th Wonder – BlueFroSoul!!!*
- 9th Wonder – BreadWonderSoul!!*
- Alkaholiks – Read My Lips
- DRAMA – Forever’s Gone (Listened to full Album GALLOWS, 2016)*
G6 vs. iFi hip-dac
It seems as though the hip-dac puts some meat on the song vs. the more airy, clear sound of the G6. It’s a subtle difference but is noticeable on certain tracks.
The hip wants you to enjoy the music more (it’s warmer), while the G6 prefers you to be a bit more analytical about it. The hip seems to have a thin layer of syrup over the top of the music. Like Aunt Jemima! It’s good you like!
For the most part, though these 2 are actually really similar sounding.
G6 vs. E10K
The G6 and E10K also sound very similar, but the E10K may be slightly cleaner sounding overall. It’s a very crisp sound, perhaps a bit more neutral overall than the G6. Emily Rowed’s voice on “Pinball” sounds ever so slightly more sterile, forward, and abrasive on the E10K, which echoes sentiments from past comparisons to other DACs. The E10K is still a fantastic Amp/DAC and holds its own vs. its higher-priced competitors and brothers though.
G6 vs. FiiO K3
The G6 and K3 sound even more similar than that of the E10K, simply because the K3 is a bit more polished than the E10K was.
If the E10K had a hint of grain, the K3 cleans that up, sounding more professional and high-end. Keep in mind the difference is very subtle, given that the K3’s output impedance is very similar to that of the G6 (1 vs. 1.04)
G6 vs. DragonFly Red
The sound of these is also pretty similar, almost identical actually. If the hip-dac could be a smidgen warmer than the G6, The Fly may be a tad more open and airy in some instances, but by and large, you’d be hard-pressed to find a huge difference here.
The DragonFly claims an output impedance of less than 1 Ohm, but we’re not really sure what that means exactly. If I had to guess, I would say it’s not as close to zero as something like a Magni, Objective 2, or ATOM, but also not awfully close to 1. I would peg it somewhere in the middle (maybe 0.5 – 0.7).
G6 vs. FiiO K5 Pro
The K5 Pro to my ears sounds a bit warmer and more smoothed over than the G6, but it’s subtle. It’s not flabby or loose, it’s just more relaxed and laid back. It’s like that eyes glazed over feeling when you’re high as a kite. XD
Still, because the G6’s output impedance is 1 vs. 1.2 for the K5 Pro, the difference between these guys still isn’t that significant. In reality, they actually sound more similar than you would think!
G6 vs. iFi Zen
I want to say that the Zen has a slightly crisper overall sound than the G6. The G6 seems just a bit glazed over, like a Krispy Kreme Doughnut. It’s warmer and a bit “hazier” sounding. This makes sense since the Zen has an output impedance of less than 1, while the G6’s is right at 1.
Again, the differences are subtle in passing. In other words, I really don’t care. It’s almost unintelligible and I dare someone to say otherwise. This entire test has only proven to me once again that DACS are super unimportant and overrated in the grand scheme of things. I just so happen to have a lot of them at my disposal because that’s what companies have been sending me. Not complaining. It’s fun but very telling. Before I go off on a rant…
While both are extremely versatile, I would recommend the G6 first if you’re a gamer/avid film buff, and the K5 Pro second.
If you’re more likely to mix and match Amps & DACS, and also need something for your turntable, studio monitors, and/or plan on keeping it in one place and not moving it (like I will be doing), I’d recommend the K5 first and the G6 second.
The K5 Pro also gives headphones a bit of a warmer and more smoothed over flavor vs. the crisp attack of the G6. The differences are still pretty subtle though.
Just know that the G6 is THE gamer’s choice hands down. Like Spacers Choice. Is good you like!
Interested in the K5 Pro?
Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this Creative SoundBlasterX G6 Amp/DAC Review!!
Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!
Is the G6 worth YOUR hard-earned dollar? I would love to hear your thoughts. Until next time…
All the best and God bless,
Can’t decide which headphones to purchase? Interested in a complete buyers guide outlining over 40 of the best options on the market? Click on over to the best audiophile headphones to learn more!!
Music, Film, Television & Gaming
More to come! Keep in mind I listened to a lot of music, but it was mostly individual tracks rather than full albums. I will be demoing some more albums in the future though. 🙂