Creative Super X-Fi Headphone Amplifier - $60 - AVSForum Best of Cedia 2018

quiktake

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I hate the phone app requirements. The PC app on the Microsoft store crashes immediately. Make sure to download the full Windows PC client from creative.
I don't like the effect on my Shure earbuds. It's much better on my Massdrop/Sennheiser HD6XX but it can be a bit hissy in the treble when listening to certain voices in youtube videos. I'll leave it mostly on. Like other's have stated, it makes a nice little portable amp without turning on the 3D sound. I feel a bit more oomph in my earbuds over my laptop soundcard. Not much of a difference over my Creative Titanium HD card.
 

Zarathustra[H]

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On the X3 and X4, does anyone know if you can output the Super X-Fi surround magic via the line out and use a different headphone amp?
 

maro

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In for a refurbed X3

Limited PCIE lanes prevents me from using my SBZ card, onboard sound is adequate and I don't miss the CreatveLabs bloat but I preferred SBZ sound - perhaps this USB solution will satisfy me. Thx again for the heads up
 

Zarathustra[H]

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In for a refurbed X3

Limited PCIE lanes prevents me from using my SBZ card, onboard sound is adequate and I don't miss the CreatveLabs bloat but I preferred SBZ sound - perhaps this USB solution will satisfy me. Thx again for the heads up

I did something similar. I have plenty of PCIe Lanes to spare (That's the only reason I went with Threadripper). For the longest time I was using my old X-Fi Titanium HD just for the optical output to my external DAC, as I did not want to use the Realtek junk on board. Their drivers are really hit or miss under Linux, which is my primary desktop OS. (I keep Windows around just for games)

When I upgraded to a Schiit Bifrost 2 a few months back, their USB implementation has finally become good enough that I no longer feel the need for optical, so I yanked the board out. I didn't need the lanes, but it provides some more space for airflow in the case I guess. No need to crowd the GPU, even though it is water cooled.

I'd like to pick up an X3 or X4 to try the Super X-Fi surround feature everyone is talking about, and only use it in Windows for games (I'd probably keep the Bifrost plugged in and disabled in windows, and blacklist the Creative device under Linux, so each only loads the DAC of my choosing for each OS.

I have some reservations though.

Firstly there is the could account / data mining bs I've already mentioned in this thread, so I am not going to revisit that. I guess I could always create a one time throwaway email and use that. Still annoying as hell, and I'd prefer not rewarding companies that take this approach with my money, but it is what it is.

Second is that I vaguely remember seeing somewhere that Super X-Fi only works on the 3.5mm headphone output. I'd really like to send it out over the RCA outputs to my Schiit headphone amp instead. I mean, it is a better amp, but I'm sure the amp in the Creative unit is fine for games. It's just annoying to have to disconnect my custom "balanced" XLR headphone cable every time I switch to a game... That's really annoying.


PXL_20211006_171903572.jpg


I know... First world problems.

But still!
 
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Edgar

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Would the X4 be better than my FiiO E10K? I remember back then when xfi came out. They had a crystalizer setting that imo made my music sound better. Is this sort of the same thing?
 

Zarathustra[H]

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Would the X4 be better than my FiiO E10K? I remember back then when xfi came out. They had a crystalizer setting that imo made my music sound better. Is this sort of the same thing?

I briefly used the crystallizer on my X-Fi Titanium. I thought it was junk. It might have improved the sound of poorly encoded mp3's a bit, counter acting the compression artifacting, but with a high quality source it did nothing. For games, you'd want this style of DSP processing to improve sound, but for music, you really want the unmolested source bits as close to their original form as possible. Running something like the "crystalizer" on them is counter-productive.

I can't speak to your question of DAC quality between the X3/X4 and the FiiO E10k. Firstly I haven't heard either, but secondly those types of DAC comparisons tend to devolve into golden-eared audiophile nonsense, so I'm not sure I'd trust them even from someone who has experience with the two.

...and if you want that comparison, you probably are not going to find it. I took a quick glance at Head-Fi. There are some mentions of the X3, but nothing concrete. Generally the gaming and audiophile communities are so far apart that they don't cross compare products. You'll probably find audio enthusiasts that will poo-poo Creative without even using their products, and even if they did a side by side, they are so biased against Creative that it likely will not be a fair comparison.

The closest I've found is this section on Techpowerup:

As I've mentioned earlier in the review, the Creative Sound Blaster X3 doesn't look like much, mainly because of its plain, plastic construction. However, once you start digging through its features, you'll start to forget about its unimpressive exterior, and once you hear how it performs, its aesthetics will become a distant memory. First of all, the built-in headphone amplifier provides a healthy supply of power for any gaming headset on the market, but also a wide range of higher quality hi-fi headphones. I had absolutely no issues reaching high listening volumes on any pair of headphones I connected to the Sound Blaster X3. When I wanted more volume than I was getting, I simply switched the amplifier to high gain and that was it, "problem" solved. This thing likes to be pushed hard and successfully stays under control at any gain and/or volume setting. There are no audible hints of noise or distortion even when you crank it all the way up.


I'd describe the overall sound character of the Sound Blaster X3 as clean, snappy and exceptionally lively. Regardless of what I used it for, be it music, movies or games, it kept me entertained and fully immersed. It delivers a powerful, deep, full-bodied bass, fairly detailed and crisp, although not super analytical, highs, and a well-balanced, extremely pleasant mid-range. When I first received the Sound Blaster X3, the last thing I expected was to be inclined to pair it with headphones like the Sennheiser HD 660 S or Oppo PM-3, with both of them costing around five times more than Creative sound card. That's exactly what I ended up doing, though. For a $120 sound card with a staggering amount of useful features, the Sound Blaster X3 sounds downright fantastic.


They aren't necessarily an authority on sound though.
 
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TheToE!

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Seems like a good deal. Anyone with headphones using onboard sound needs to jump on this. I'd be in, but not sure where i'd ever use this thing!
 

Bankie

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On the X3 and X4, does anyone know if you can output the Super X-Fi surround magic via the line out and use a different headphone amp?
I just tested and XFi does not work through the line out (the software will not allow you to enable it) but it may if you plug it in through the headphone out jack. I don't have another amp to test that though.
 

Furious Nerd

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They totally should release a "XFi only" version. Super X-Fi *is* a hardware thing after all - just strip out the dac/amp parts so it will allow it to be integrated into other hifi systems just for that effect 👌
I have an existing amp and dac.. want to have the S-XFI effects.. but not going to replace my current system for the possibly inferior X3/X4 dac and amps
 

Furious Nerd

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I just tested and XFi does not work through the line out (the software will not allow you to enable it) but it may if you plug it in through the headphone out jack. I don't have another amp to test that though.
Try just enabling it using the dedicated hardware key on the device. I seem to remember the xfi mode worked and the button allowed toggling it on/off (even without the software and even drivers being installed!) on my system for the 30 days I had the X3.
 

Bankie

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Try just enabling it using the dedicated hardware key on the device. I seem to remember the xfi mode worked and the button allowed toggling it on/off (even without the software and even drivers being installed!) on my system for the 30 days I had the X3.
The SXFi button toggles between the Headphone Out and Line Out with a long press. A short press of the button toggles SXFi on and off when outputting to Headphones but does nothing if Line Out is on.

The hardware buttons were the primary reason I originally picked up the X3 (The Schiit devices and most other DAC/AMPs require you to unplug the Headphones to switch to speaker output and I just wanted to a toggle).


Here are the button functions if anyone is interested:
1633602943429.png
 
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The SXFi button toggles between the Headphone Out and Line Out with a long press. A short press of the button toggles SXFi on and off when outputting to Headphones but does nothing if Line Out is on.

The hardware buttons were the primary reason I originally picked up the X3 (The Schiit devices and most other DAC/AMPs require you to unplug the Headphones to switch to speaker output and I just wanted to a toggle).


Here are the button functions if anyone is interested:
View attachment 401092
That is really too bad we can't use a separate dac and take advantage of the tech, don't see how they would lose out with the ability to do so, we have to pay for the whole thing either way.
 

maro

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The refurb deals are nice but the important difference with Archaea's original post is that it is $59.99 for a NEW (not refurbished) Super X-Fi headphone amp, which seems to be a pretty amazing price.

In an effort to avoid further derailing the OP I am going to post the Creative Labs refurbs since some of them seem like good deals in their own right.
 

bigddybn

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Got mine today. Was going to be happy just having a decent USB headphone amp with an EQ but this thing is actually pretty impressive. Can't really describe the sound other than very wide. I usually don't like sound gimmicks but I don't want to turn this one off.

Smaller than it looks in the picture for sure. About the size of a PEZ refill. If you know how big that is then congrats, you're old. Like me.
 

SixFootDuo

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From my reading the X4 is just an X3 + a 3.5" microphone port with noise cancellation.

Up to you if the extra 10 bucks is worth it.

Got mine today. Was going to be happy just having a decent USB headphone amp with an EQ but this thing is actually pretty impressive. Can't really describe the sound other than very wide. I usually don't like sound gimmicks but I don't want to turn this one off.

Smaller than it looks in the picture for sure. About the size of a PEZ refill. If you know how big that is then congrats, you're old. Like me.
It's actually specialized hardware and not a gimmick. When these came out back in 2018, they were kinda pricey, I think maybe $180 - $200?

This, the X3 and the X4 are all fantastic pieces of hardware. Everyone seems to agree so. I love watching YouTube live music now, sounds incredible.
 

Furious Nerd

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Damn y'all are making me almost want to put away my dedicated amp and dac and get one of these again for S-XFI... but I'm already in a sunken cost fallacy here 😂 I'll have to live life without SXFI
 

bigddybn

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It's actually specialized hardware and not a gimmick. When these came out back in 2018, they were kinda pricey, I think maybe $180 - $200?

This, the X3 and the X4 are all fantastic pieces of hardware. Everyone seems to agree so. I love watching YouTube live music now, sounds incredible.
Whatever type of magic sauce they are using it certainly does sound good.
 

Furious Nerd

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X3 came in today, I do not hate it!
The Super XFI effect really clicks with you once you give it some time, too. At first it sounds just weird and different, like you're in an aquarium or something. But things will sound so flat when you turn it off, after a while of listening with it on!
 

Zarathustra[H]

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Smaller than it looks in the picture for sure. About the size of a PEZ refill. If you know how big that is then congrats, you're old. Like me.

That's definitely not the case for the X3 and X4. Curiosity got the better of me, and even though I hate that you have to register, create an account and use an app to get it working, I decided I wanted to hear it for myself, so I ordered an X3. This thing is definitely MUCH larger than I pictured it being after seeing the pictures. Like 3-4 times larger.

1634164084669.png
 

igl00jx

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That's definitely not the case for the X3 and X4. Curiosity got the better of me, and even though I hate that you have to register, create an account and use an app to get it working, I decided I wanted to hear it for myself, so I ordered an X3. This thing is definitely MUCH larger than I pictured it being after seeing the pictures. Like 3-4 times larger.

View attachment 402858
That's huge! Pictures make it look way smaller than what's on your desk.
 

Zarathustra[H]

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Well, I just set the thing up.

Took pictures of my face and ears and selected the headphones I am using from the frozen list.

Then I went in to the play ack section, set the headphones to Virtual 7.1 surround and started the test.

I was hoping to be wowed, but unfortunately I wasn't.

To me front left, side left and rear left all sound EXACTLY the same.

Front right, side right and rear right also sound exactly the same.

Just to make sure I am not missing something I went in to the SBX profile, selected the "surround" dial and turned it all the way up. Still can't tell any difference over normal stereo :(

I've tried closing my eyes and focusing on the sound and i don't pick up any effect at all. All the lefts sound the same, and all the rights sound the same.

I'm starting to feel like this is a load of snake oil.

Edit:

Just to make sure, I fired up a recent title I was playing (Crysis Remastered) and did some rubbing around.

I THINK i can tell a little bit more positional audio, but it is tough to tell.

The sound is real tinny compared to what I am used to with regular stereo headphones though.

I am going to test a few more titles before I decide whether or not to return it.
 
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Archaea

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Well, I just set the thing up.

Took pictures of my face and ears and selected the headphones I am using from the frozen list.

Then I went in to the play ack section, set the headphones to Virtual 7.1 surround and started the test.

I was hoping to be wowed, but unfortunately I wasn't.

To me front left, side left and rear left all sound EXACTLY the same.

Front right, side right and rear right also sound exactly the same.

Just to make sure I am not missing something I went in to the SBX profile, selected the "surround" dial and turned it all the way up. Still can't tell any difference over normal stereo :(

I've tried closing my eyes and focusing on the sound and i don't pick up any effect at all. All the lefts sound the same, and all the rights sound the same.

I'm starting to feel like this is a load of snake oil.

Edit:

Just to make sure, I fired up a recent title I was playing (Crysis Remastered) and did some rubbing around.

I THINK i can tell a little bit more positional audio, but it is tough to tell.

The sound is real tinny compared to what I am used to with regular stereo headphones though.

I am going to test a few more titles before I decide whether or not to return it.
Play something Dolby Digital 7.1 with it engaged. Not Stereo.

Open up your Sound options
1634192233712.png


Right click on the SXFI amp and select configure speakers:
Chose 7.1 Surround:
1634192253735.png


Now engage Super X-Fi mode on your headphone amp.

and play a true 7.1 clip back using a media player than can do so like MPE-BC X64 or VLC
https://sourceforge.net/projects/mpcbe/
https://www.videolan.org/

Here is an example Dolby Digital file for you to test with. The Dolby Digital 7.1 Bouncing Sphere demo:

You should absolutely be able to tell directionally where the sound is coming from and it should sound outrageously different than standard stereo headphone mode, or vastly different than the Super X-Fi mode disengaged.

Mine sure does.
 

Furious Nerd

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You don't need a 7.1 enabled app at all, it shouldn't matter and you should hear a huge night and day difference in audio in any music or game.

Def don't need to strain or "try" to pick out differences, it should be *very* obvious. Not sure why it's not working for you. Keep messing with it!
 

Falkentyne

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Well, I just set the thing up.

Took pictures of my face and ears and selected the headphones I am using from the frozen list.

Then I went in to the play ack section, set the headphones to Virtual 7.1 surround and started the test.

I was hoping to be wowed, but unfortunately I wasn't.

To me front left, side left and rear left all sound EXACTLY the same.

Front right, side right and rear right also sound exactly the same.

Just to make sure I am not missing something I went in to the SBX profile, selected the "surround" dial and turned it all the way up. Still can't tell any difference over normal stereo :(

I've tried closing my eyes and focusing on the sound and i don't pick up any effect at all. All the lefts sound the same, and all the rights sound the same.

I'm starting to feel like this is a load of snake oil.

Edit:

Just to make sure, I fired up a recent title I was playing (Crysis Remastered) and did some rubbing around.

I THINK i can tell a little bit more positional audio, but it is tough to tell.

The sound is real tinny compared to what I am used to with regular stereo headphones though.

I am going to test a few more titles before I decide whether or not to return it.

Did you actually enable super x-fi mode?
It's possible to have 7.1 selected but still have super x-fi mode off.
 

Archaea

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You don't need a 7.1 enabled app at all, it shouldn't matter and you should hear a huge night and day difference in audio in any music or game.

Def don't need to strain or "try" to pick out differences, it should be *very* obvious. Not sure why it's not working for you. Keep messing with it!
You are wrong. And I’m happy for you because your experience is about to get that much better. Try the demo track I linked with your setup now, and then follow the steps I recommended, and play the same track again. The difference will be incredible.

Don’t believe me? Well then perhaps you’ll believe Creative. The sound control panel should be set to 7.1. All games should be set to 5.1 or 7.1. The software has that much more information to work with in 7.1 mode and the difference in true 7.1 content vs stereo mode is incredible.
https://img.creative.com/support/sxfi/product-guide/Creative SXFI AMP Setup on Microsoft Windows.pdf?_ga=2.177549859.729597225.1634214358-554366078.1632501756
 

Bankie

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You are wrong. And I’m happy for you because your experience is about to get that much better. Try the demo track I linked with your setup now, and then follow the steps I recommended, and play the same track again. The difference will be incredible.

Don’t believe me? Well then perhaps you’ll believe Creative. The sound control panel should be set to 7.1. All games should be set to 5.1 or 7.1. The software has that much more information to work with in 7.1 mode and the difference in true 7.1 content vs stereo mode is incredible.
https://img.creative.com/support/sxfi/product-guide/Creative SXFI AMP Setup on Microsoft Windows.pdf?_ga=2.177549859.729597225.1634214358-554366078.1632501756

In his defense he may be talking about the X3. When you set the speakers to 7.1 with the X3 it just outputs to the speakers at 7.1 and not the headphones. On the headphones you have to enable Virtual 7.1 Surround in the Sound Blaster Command application. If you're watching a movie it does help with the rear imaging quite a lot but if I'm just watching Youtube and playing games I prefer just keeping it set to SXFi and Stereo.
 
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quiktake

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I find rear and side surrounds pretty distinct. Front channels seems a bit higher in front of me and a bit echoey but still inside my head rather than directly between my ears. The center channel always sounds like it is coming from my forhead, a bit high and forward. Voices definitely seem well projected compared to standard stereo, but bad recordings can be a bit raspy if the mic is to close to the speaker like in most YouTube videos.
 

Zarathustra[H]

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Did you actually enable super x-fi mode?
It's possible to have 7.1 selected but still have super x-fi mode off.

Two green Lead's on front of unit suggests I did.

The biggest difference I could tell between SXFi mode and not Al mode was that everything sounded tinnier and further away, i didn't feel like I got more of a surround experience.
 

t1337duder

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I'm starting to feel like this is a load of snake oil.
Welcome to the audio world.

Having said that, I get a kick out of watching people fall for the same rebanded gimmicks over and over. In the end, if you're not spending the vast majority of your audio budget on your headphones (or speakers, which I prefer), then you're doing it wrong. Anything involving DAC's that are supposed to massively transform your audio experience are obvious snake oil. But like I said, it's fun to watch people submit themselves so masochistically to advertising.
 

Zarathustra[H]

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Welcome to the audio world.

Having said that, I get a kick out of watching people fall for the same rebanded gimmicks over and over. In the end, if you're not spending the vast majority of your audio budget on your headphones (or speakers, which I prefer), then you're doing it wrong. Anything involving DAC's that are supposed to massively transform your audio experience are obvious snake oil. But like I said, it's fun to watch people submit themselves so masochistically to advertising.

Well, to be fair, their claims are at least feasible sounding.

Using fancy DSP processing to mimic how the human brain is able to attain 3d positional audio with only two ears sounds at least plausible. filtering the sound to account for the frequency impact from absorption and and minute delay as part of it passes through your head.

The part that makes less sense to me is that you can estimate the differences in these variables from person to person by just taking pictures of their ears and face. If anything a full 3d MRI would make more sense, but that would also make the product impractical.

Technology is always improving and it is worth at least trying.

I also think there might be an element of this tech that works on some people and not on others. Have a roughly typical head? More chance in getting it working. Have a more atypical size or shape, probably less chance. I've also always been able to hear a higher pitch than most people. In many cases I can hear dog whistles and ultrasonic welders. They make me cringe when others walk by undisturbed. I can't help but wonder if they just drop the frequencies that make the sound natural to me.

So there are lots of variables. I don't know if their tech works or if it is all placebo in those who have bought into it, but the effect sounds at best pretty minimal to me.
 

Archaea

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Well, to be fair, their claims are at least feasible sounding.

Using fancy DSP processing to mimic how the human brain is able to attain 3d positional audio with only two ears sounds at least plausible. filtering the sound to account for the frequency impact from absorption and and minute delay as part of it passes through your head.

The part that makes less sense to me is that you can estimate the differences in these variables from person to person by just taking pictures of their ears and face. If anything a full 3d MRI would make more sense, but that would also make the product impractical.

Technology is always improving and it is worth at least trying.

I also think there might be an element of this tech that works on some people and not on others. Have a roughly typical head? More chance in getting it working. Have a more atypical size or shape, probably less chance. I've also always been able to hear a higher pitch than most people. In many cases I can hear dog whistles and ultrasonic welders. They make me cringe when others walk by undisturbed. I can't help but wonder if they just drop the frequencies that make the sound natural to me.

So there are lots of variables. I don't know if their tech works or if it is all placebo in those who have bought into it, but the effect sounds at best pretty minimal to me.
FWIW, I thought this product was junk when it came out (Super X-FI headphone amp as per what this thread is about) and have multiple historic posts saying it was junk. I was a pre-order purchaser, so had it from the beginning. But as I mentioned previously, the steady stream of firmware and software updates along the way have really made some positive differences to the 3D quality to where now I recommend the product instead of berating it. Make sure your pictures of your ears and face are good. I have my wife take mine so the angle is perfect and it works better for me that way too I think.
 

Falkentyne

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Two green Lead's on front of unit suggests I did.

The biggest difference I could tell between SXFi mode and not Al mode was that everything sounded tinnier and further away, i didn't feel like I got more of a surround experience.

This problem is usually from you taking a bad ear/head picture.
Did you do it yourself or did someone else do it for you?
it's always best to have another person do it so they can get the proper angle on the camera.
I sent my head pictures to Creative awhile back (long before Gen 2 calibration) and they told me my pictures were atrocious and they corrected the images for me and saved it on my profile. Sounded much better after that.
 

Zarathustra[H]

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This problem is usually from you taking a bad ear/head picture.
Did you do it yourself or did someone else do it for you?
it's always best to have another person do it so they can get the proper angle on the camera.
I sent my head pictures to Creative awhile back (long before Gen 2 calibration) and they told me my pictures were atrocious and they corrected the images for me and saved it on my profile. Sounded much better after that.

I did take my first set of images myself using various angled bathroom mirrors to help me aim.

I had my partner in crime take a second set, but for whatever reason it never showed up in the desktop app. I wonder if it is having trouble syncing or something...

I'm going to have to try again before I give up on this thing.
 

Archaea

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I did take my first set of images myself using various angled bathroom mirrors to help me aim.

I had my partner in crime take a second set, but for whatever reason it never showed up in the desktop app. I wonder if it is having trouble syncing or something...

I'm going to have to try again before I give up on this thing.
Make sure it has the newest firmware too.
 

Zarathustra[H]

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Make sure it has the newest firmware too.

I've already done a firmware upgrade.

I wish there were a way to turn off the obnoxious blue light ring around the volume knob. I have some lightdims, but I'm not sure I can cover something shaped like that...

The fact that Creative in their wisdom decided not to include an on/off switch is a little annoying.
 
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