Users of headphones or headsets with jack connectors might know the problem: The on-board sound card of the motherboard delivers noise, the colleagues in Teamspeak and Discord only hear hissing or the sound is much too quiet. An alternative sound card can solve all these problems. But not everyone has space on the motherboard or the possibility to change the sound card in the laptop or console.
With the Sound Blaster X4, Creative, a well-known manufacturer in the audio field, offers a successor to the USB sound card Creative Sound Blaster X3. The X4 can be connected not only to stationary PCs, but also to laptops and consoles. With an integrated headphone amplifier and many other features, this is supposed to ensure good sound quality. But is this true? We want to find out in our test.
Scope of delivery
The Sound Blaster X4* comes in a lightly foam-padded package. In addition to the sound card, the package also includes the following:
- 1x optical cable
- 1x USB-C to USB-A cable
- Quick Start booklet
- Warranty booklet
Technical details and features
The technical details of the Sound Blaster X4 can be found in the following table:
|Product name:||Creative Sound Blaster X4|
|Channels||Up to (virtual) 7.1 surround sound|
|Features||Various software features, RGB lighting, rubberized bottom|
|Dimensions||130.5 x 130.5 x 40.6 mm|
|Price||€ 144.99 *|
Noticeable from a technical standpoint compared to its predecessor is the removal of the 32 bit sampling rate and the 1 dB lower dynamic range. Otherwise, the Sound Blaster X4 looks similar on paper to the X3, albeit slightly heavier and minimally larger.
Connections and Exterior
Externally, almost nothing has changed compared to its predecessor. In terms of color, this time the focus is on a lighter gray. Furthermore, jack sockets for headphones and microphone as well as an illuminated volume control can be found on the front. The four-pin headphone output can also be used for a headset. In addition, the microphone mute, mode switch as well as SXFI can be accessed directly.
The power supply via USB Type C is on the back. When connecting the sound card, either USB can be used directly or a Line IN input, which has now been placed a bit lower compared to the predecessor. In addition, there are four line-outs as well as an optical output at the back.
The sides of the sound card are clean, which allows for clean looking cabling.
The four feet are rubberized. Thus, the sound card stands non-slip on the desk.
Software and RGB
If the Sound Blaster X4 is operated on a Windows computer, the Creative app can be used. With this software, various settings can be made.
- Device: Various functions around sound improvements and optimizations.
- Playback: Basic settings around playback devices.
- Recording: Analog of the playback, only for the input.
- Settings: Software, firmware and general settings.
In addition to the above settings, the volume as well as the output device can be changed quite easily and centrally. A login is not required, thus purely optional.
Important to point out are the updates. With an older firmware and app version, the CPU load was very high on a test system (up to 11% on a Ryzen 3600). This problem no longer occurs with the latest update from May 2022.
Using the X4 on other devices comes without the Creative app. On a MacBook, the external sound card was recognized directly without any problems. Operation on a console also took place without any problems. Thus, a multi-talent as far as input sources are concerned.
Now we come to the most important part of the test report: the quality of the sound. For this, the Sound Blaster X4 is powered by a Beyerdynamic DT880 with 250 ohms*. The microphone in use is a Modmic v5*.
In order to evaluate the sound quality, Creative’s USB sound card is compared with an Asus Xonar Essence STX and an on-board sound card (Realtek ALC887). Please note: the comparison of the sound quality is a subjective feeling and everyone can feel differently.
In our test, the setup faced several tracks from different genres on Spotify at the highest quality (320 kb/s). In addition, everyday gaming use was tested. The Sound Blaster X4 delivers better sound quality than the cheap 10€ sound card in every respect. In direct comparison to the internal Asus Xonar Essence STX, almost no difference could be determined. Overall, Creative’s external USB solution was completely convincing.
The Sound Blaster X4 can also convince in terms of recording quality: The recordings sound slightly better and clearer compared to the Essence STX. The feedback in Teamspeak and Discord is consistently positive.
Creative Sound Blaster X4 review conclusion
The Sound Blaster X4 USB sound card from Creative can convince in our test. Technically, however, the X4 is almost identical to its predecessor. The features should be sufficient for most users and the workmanship is flawless. The Sound Blaster Connect software offers many setting options to adjust the sound to personal needs. In our test setup, the sound quality was convincing.
The price can be seen as an actual point of criticism. For € 144.99 * the USB sound card can be had. However, the market for USB sound cards is not huge and a feature set like with the Sound Blaster X4 can almost only be found at Creative itself. For owners of a Sound Blaster X3 or Sound Blaster G5 / G6, the change to the new generation is not worth it. However, if you use a slightly higher-quality headphone with an onboard sound card and ideally also want to improve the microphone quality, you can take a closer look at the Creative Sound Blaster X4.