Creative X-Fi Sonic Carrier Soundbar at CEDIA 2017

best of cedia

Creative Labs is a an audio company that has traditionally focused on PC and gaming products. From headphones to sound cards to amps and speakers, the company has PC users covered. However, its products have rarely been seen as an option for home theater or for hi-fi playback in a modern living room. But, that is about to change thanks to the company’s radical X-Fi Sonic Carrier ($5800), an epic soundbar system that has been a long time coming and is soon to be released.

I’m not gonna let you read one more word without expressing what I think of this system: it’s revolutionary. If somebody asks me to name the best soundbar I’ve ever heard, I will no longer have any reason to hesitate. I’ll simply say, “Without any question, it’s the X-Fi Sonic Carrier from Creative; you know, the PC sound card company!” I might even raise an eyebrow right after I say that, for effect. And I’m sure the result will be a quizzical look, but I’d expect that from anyone who has not experienced what was in some ways the most impressive demonstration of psychoacoustics at the show.

So here’s the scoop: I demoed the soundbar twice. First in a standard CEDIA sound room, which is roughly the size of a bedroom, or maybe a Manhattan living room. Anyhow, inside that demo I heard a highly competent Atmos-enabled 3D immersive audio system. Simple as that. If we call it a soundbar, it will skew what people think it is I heard, which in reality was holographic and immersive and impactful and dynamic, etc.

According to Creative, this is a 15.2-channel system with 24-bit/192kHz resolution. Atmos is delivered in 5.1.2 channels, with enough immersion to say it rivals speaker-based Atmos-enabled systems. The sub is wireless, and housed inside the soundbar itself is one kilowatt of amplification. Meanwhile the subwoofer (or rather each subwoofer) gets 600 watts from dual 300-watt amps. And, being essentially the highest-end soundbar solution ever, it fittingly supports both firmware and hardware updates, so it won’t be obsoleted anytime soon. Even today, it sports HDMI 2.0a inpts and output with HDCP 2.2.

As I watched a Dolby Atmos clip of Kong: Skull Island, I marveled at how the soundbar itself did not—to my ears—appear to be the source of any of the sounds. The entire soundfield existed apart from the device creating it, which is the ne plus ultra of many audiophile experiences. I also enjoyed how Creatives SuperWide X-Fi Stereo processing took music, like “Fever” with Ray Charles and Natalie Cole, and made it sound like it was coming from a real stereo system, not a soundbar.

Bravely, Creative showed my how the SuperWide X-Fi processing made a YouTube trailer sound surprisingly immersive and expansive. I noted that I thought the effect was so good, that I would likely never turn it off. The quality of the holographic surround-sound the Creative X-Fi Sonic Carrier puts out is something I have not heard before from any soundbar. Oh, and the subwoofer. Wow. That’s easily the best wireless soundbar sub I have ever heard. What’s more, you can add up to four of them to an X-Fi Sonic Carrier (optionally, and at extra cost). Seriously.

Duly impressed, I thought I was done with the demo, when the folks from Creative asked if I’d take the outside demo. As in outside the booth, in the open show floor. And that’s when I lost it. With no walls and no ceiling, just a noisy open convention center, the X-Fi Sonic Carrier still created a 3D immersive audio experience. For real. I challenge anyone who ever encounters a similar demo to take it and tell me otherwise. My mind was completely blown, Creative has delivered sonic holography in a 2-piece solution so advanced, it even has 4K Android TV built-in, so that it can serve as its own source.

It’s worth noting that the cost of an additional subwoofer is $2199. And the truth is the power and precision of Creative’s wireless sub has a lot to do with the system’s impact.

30 seconds of the X-Fi Sonic Carrier playing “Hotel California” out on the open show floor at CEDIA 2017

You pay good money for this futuristic solution to bringing high fidelity home. Support for up to four wireless subs is unique to this soundbar. But what it does is so compelling, even though the demo happened at the very end of the show, I knew there was no choice but to give it an AVS Forum Best of CEDIA 2017 award.


P.S. I asked if I can get my hands on one to review. Because I love to get a taste of the future, and this thing is undeniably futuristic.