From humble beginnings in 1981 in Singapore, Creative has become one of the most well-recognized names in the tech world today. In the incredibly wide range of digital products they offer, they have gotten some amount of notoriety recently for their DACs (digital to analog converters), as well as their sound cards.
To offer you better insight into which Creative product will give you the best bang for your buck, we are going to take a comprehensive look at each product and judge it on design, features, pricing, and overall improvement in sound quality. It should be noted that a DAC is not going to turn five-dollar headphones into 500 dollar Sennheisers, so make sure the accompanying equipment is also fairly good. Throwing a DAC on shoddy tech is a bit like throwing a fresh coat of paint on a recently demolished building.
The GC7 is the only product of the three that offers universal compatibility with all of its features. For that reason, I would recommend this product to those who play exclusively on consoles or want more on-hand customization with their sound, as this device offers plenty. Just be aware that it is the biggest product on the list and will take up a bit more space than the others. It will also set you back ~$20 more than the other options, if you are buying at MSRP.
The G6 has the best audio of the three and is much smaller than either product, making it a minimalist’s ideal choice. My biggest gripe with this sub-$150 product is that it doesn’t offer all of its features on any platform and this feels very much like a design oversight. For those who simply want a product to amplify their audio quality and don’t mind the more basic design, this is a solid product.
The X4 has a good, intelligent design that sits at the cheapest buying price, ~$20 less than the GC7. I would recommend this product to Windows users and the occasional Mac user that is okay with losing two key features. For those who find the GC7’s interface overbearing, I would push them to this product that feels like a much more tame creation, overall.
It’s not exactly a secret that these products are geared towards hardcore gaming enthusiasts, though an audiophile could in theory get a good amount of play out of them. Depending on which console or operating system you use in conjunction with these products, your list of features will vary wildly.
All listed specifications have been taken directly from Creative.
The GC7, unlike the other options, boasts that every feature it comes with can be used across all platforms. This means that regardless of if you are on a multi-screen computer or a Nintendo switch you can utilize Virtual 7.1, Dolby Digital, Voice Changers, Game to Voice volume adjustment, different audio modes, and more. This is nice considering several Creative DACs have received complaints about not being compatible with certain systems in the ways consumers wished they would be.
This product can output 120 dB of dynamic range and 24-bit/192 kHz of high-end audio. Additionally, it can be used with headphones that reach up to 300 ohms. While it doesn’t offer as much as the G6, the universal audio features it solely can brag about are worth considering before immediately disregarding the GC7.
The G6 is going to give you the most bang for your buck when it comes down to purely audio quality. It comes with 130 decibels of dynamic range and can put out 32-bit / 384 kHz of audio which is a notable improvement from the GC7, especially when considering its ability to work with headphones up to 600 ohms (if those specifications are to be believed, some critics have expressed doubt about this).
The X4 does fall a bit behind its competition when looking purely at the technical specifications of its sound quality. Speaking on the audio quality this item possesses up to 114 decibels of dynamic range and can output 24bit/192kHz audio playback. It can work with headphones with an impedance of 32 to 600 ohms.
Verdict – The G6 for pure audio quality edges out the competition, though all three products are very close to one another in this category.
Design & Durability
A DAC is typically going to sit somewhere on a desk or entertainment hutch and is most efficient when it doesn’t further clutter a surface that is prone to having a few items on it as is. The overall design is going to be optimized to make adjusting volume settings (along with several other options) relatively painless, especially since these products are designed with competitive gaming in mind. None of these products are water-resistant and should be kept away from nearby liquids.
All three of these products are unbelievably light and even though they all are made of a plastic casing, a drop or two should do little to no damage thanks to their feathery mass.
The GC7 resembles a turntable made for a housecat more than any traditional-looking DAC, though its design is still excellent in my humble opinion. The low-light illumination of this product is not only attractive to the eye but practical. The illuminated dial on the volume and game/voice mixer allows you to see exactly where you have placed each, with each programmable button lit up as well. If an effect is on through the control panel the text on the button is illuminated, which helps those who keep the lights off at night.
My biggest gripe with the design of the GC7 is its plastic casing which somehow makes a $150+ product feel much cheaper than it is. I would have preferred something a bit more weighty in my hand as well, like the X4, though admittedly this is a very minor gripe. The GC7 weighs 9.9 ounces and sits at 6.81 x 4.49 x 1.85 inches.
The G6 is a far less complicated interface that offers an adjustable game/voice knob and little else. This isn’t as bad as it sounds, as much as some might enjoy micromanaging their sound every few minutes, others might like to put it on a preset and forget about it. For those that enjoy a less convoluted experience, the G6 is an excellent alternative that weighs and takes up less space than either of its competitors.
The G6 also has its own minor amount of LED lighting in the X (you can customize the color through the app) on the top of the device as well as an illuminated volume wheel so you can adjust it regardless of how well lit your environment is. The G6 is the smallest product by far, weighing just a hair over 5 ounces and taking up 4.37 x 0.94 x 2.76 inches of space.
Lastly, the X4 feels like the healthy middle ground between the two products. It offers some amount of customization through its topside controls that include a volume knob, microphone mute, adjustable equalizer modes, and a Super X-FI “Battle” mode button. Despite being a touch shorter than the GC7, it has a weightier feel to it that I personally really enjoy. The volume knob has a LED of blue, green, and orange colors that pulses when the audio is muted, and each button has an LED perimeter as well.
This product like all the products unfortunately comes with that same cheap-feeling plastic encasing that lessens the overall quality of an otherwise well-made item. It weighs out to be 1.4 pounds and measures 5.14 x 5.14 x 1.6 inches.
Verdict – The X4 feels the best to hold onto and is very uncomplicated while still being aesthetically clean. I could see folks also really enjoying the GC7’s litany of buttons and control knobs if they like more customization options at their immediate fingertips.
Features & Software
All three of these products are stuffed to the brim with a wide variety of features, though unfortunately for some items they do not offer universal cross-platform support for every feature. To save our comrades still fighting in the senseless and bloody console wars, I will be specifying which features are present across all consoles and operating systems and what are exclusive to (mainly) Windows, so bear with me here.
The GC7 is starting this category with an inherent advantage due to the fact that from all accounts its features are universal across all compatible platforms. How they managed this for the GC7 and not their other products I’m not entirely sure, but it certainly helps the GC7 stand out above its competitors. It also possesses optical in/out ports, headphone gain, line in/out ports, platform switch, 3.5mm ports and an LED indicator of which platform is being utilized.
Moving to the G6 we have to look at a few features that are not universal across all platforms. For Switch users, you will not be able to utilize virtual 7.1, Dolby Digital, game/voice adjustment, “direct” mode, and the Sound Blaster command software.
Playstation users (both four and five) will not be able to use direct mode or the Sound Blaster command software. Xbox will be unable to use game/voice adjustment, sidetone (allows you to hear yourself through your microphone), direct mode, and the Sound Blaster command software.
Finally, Windows users will be unable to use the game/voice adjustment along with Mac users who also can’t access the Sound Blaster command software. Now that I have given everyone a collective headache, let’s move on to the universal features of this product. The G6 offers Xamp discrete headphone bi-amp (can support very low impedance headphones and amplifies each individual headphone) as well as 3.5mm ports for both headphones and microphones
Lastly, the X4 also has some incompatibilities across the platforms worth considering. Switch users lack 7.1 virtual surround sound, Dolby Digital, audio balance, smart comms kit, crystal voice, scout mode, and the acoustic engine. Playstation users will lack virtual 7.1, Dolby Digital, smart comms kit, crystal voice, scout mode, and acoustic engine. Sadly, Xbox seems to be incompatible with this DAC. Mac consumers will lack a smart comms kit and Dolby Digital while Windows gets every feature of the product (if you are using Windows 10 or above)
The X4 has two 3.5mm inputs for the microphone and headset, optical in/out, line in/out, and an interesting LED feature of the volume knob. Simply speaking, the light in the middle changes from green, blue, and orange depending on which source has the highest amount of emphasis, which is very unique and thoughtfully designed.
The accompanying app that comes with these products is sufficient at what it’s meant to do, offering adjustable equalizing options, further customization as well as software updates. You can get the app for both your personal computer and mobile device, though they are roughly the same product with a slight change in the user interface.
Verdict – GC7 pulls away with its universal features that span the width of all platforms.
The Importance of a Good DAC for Your Audio Experience
Perhaps you’re wondering: why all this fuss about DACs? What’s so special about these devices, and why would anyone invest in one?
A digital-to-analog converter (DAC) is a device that converts digital audio information into an analog signal that can be sent to a headphone or speaker. In essence, DACs take the 1s and 0s of digital music files and translate them into the electrical signals that headphones or speakers need to produce sound.
Most digital devices like computers, smartphones, and gaming consoles have built-in DACs. However, these are often not optimized for high-quality sound production, which is where external DACs come in. They do a better job at preserving the quality and depth of the original recording, providing an enhanced audio experience that’s richer and more immersive.
For gamers and music enthusiasts, a good DAC isn’t just an accessory—it’s an essential component of their sound system. And when it comes to DACs, Creative’s offerings are known for delivering high-quality sound and reliable performance, making them a popular choice.
These products are all sufficient in what they were meant to do, but unfortunately, if you are a consumer looking for a product to use with a console or Mac platform, you are limited in options. Because of this, for non-Windows users, you should absolutely go with the GC7. Otherwise, it comes down to personal taste, though it should be said the G6 does offer the best sound among the three products. The X4 is ideal for PC gamers looking for a small, innocuous piece of tech that gets results.
Does the Creative Sound Blaster X4 support all gaming consoles?
No, unfortunately, the X4 does not support all gaming consoles. It lacks compatibility with Xbox, and certain features are not available on other platforms like the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation.
Can the Creative Sound Blaster GC7 be used with any operating system?
Yes, the GC7 boasts universal compatibility across all platforms, making it a great choice for those who use different systems or want more flexibility with their DAC.
Why does the Sound Blaster GC7 cost more than the other two options?
The GC7 offers universal compatibility with all of its features, which is unique among the three DACs. This added flexibility is a major factor in its slightly higher price.
How do I choose between the GC7, G6, and X4?
Choosing between these three depends on your specific needs and preferences. If you want the best audio quality, go for the G6. If you want a DAC that works well with any system, the GC7 is your best bet. And if you’re a PC gamer who prefers a smaller, simpler device, the X4 would be a great choice.