First listen: a speaker set with a full sound card and dual microphones for real-time background noise cancellation
Creative has announced the launch of its latest range of wireless speakers, the Sound BlasterAxx. The range includes three speakers of varying sizes, prices and features. Each speaker unit consists of a pair of stereo speakers stacked on top of each other and a pair of microphones positioned at the top, which allows them to apply precise directional effects to your voice inputs.
They also all have the Sound BlasterAxx audio processor, an integrated sound card with features similar to Creative’s Sound Blaster Recon3D USB sound card. The processor gives the Sound BlasterAxx speakers the power to handle real-time audio processing of both the audio it puts out and the sound it picks up through its integrated mics. If you’re using a Windows, Mac OS X, Android or iOS device, you can control the sound card’s features via an application, but the speakers don’t rely on drivers to work and have their own bank of touchpad controls at the top.
The SBX 20 is the flagship model, capable of kicking out a surprising amount of volume for something which is powered via USB. You can also power it via mains USB adaptors and it’s worth noting that connecting it to a one amp USB3 port rather than a 500ma USB2 port produces more volume. The speaker isn’t ideal for gaming, as its vertical design means that the stereo speakers can’t produce any useful directional sound, but it still sounds remarkably good for what can – despite its relatively large dimensions of 410x91x91mm – still be regarded as an upgrade for your laptop’s integrated audio capabilities. Admittedly, at an RRP of £180, it’s certainly an expensive upgrade.
If you’re not feeling quite that flush, the smaller, cheaper SBX 10 has exactly the same features. It’s bus-powered, has an integrated sound card and – like the SBX 20 – can be used as a wireless Bluetooth speaker. It doesn’t support the higher-quality AptX codec, but its A2DP Bluetooth audio support makes it easy to associate with your phone or tablet. You can even use a Bluetooth phone or tablet as a remote control when the speaker is playing audio from a physical USB input. The SBX 10 is set to cost £130.
Finally the SBX 8 is the smallest and cheapest speaker in the range at an RRP of £80. It still has an integrated sound card, dual microphones and 3.5mm mic and headphone ports to connect headphones or an external mic. However, it lacks Bluetooth support.
As well as providing the same kind of on-chip audio processing as the Recon3D, the Sound BlasterAxx has a few features that are specifically designed to worth with the speakers’ dual microphones. Its noise cancelling capabilities are the best we’ve heard, cancelling out white noise such as that produced by printers and even hairdryers. Smart mic volume adjustment does a reasonable job of transmitting your voice at a level volume, even as you move towards and away from the mics. Perhaps the most useful, as well as one of the most impressive, features is the Sound BlasterAxx’s Voice Focus, in which you configure a sweet spot that encompasses a triangle of space in front of the speaker and cuts out any sound which occurs outside it. You can adjust this acoustic beam to pick up sounds at a variety of angles, so your bubble of sound can be personal or large enough for the whole family to take part when you’re talking on Skype.
All three speakers will be available in mid-June, and while they’re on the expensive side, we’re definitely looking forward to getting some quality time with Creative’s latest tech.