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Speakers

Is Creative's X-Fi Sonic Carrier Atmos sound bar worth $5,800?

The Creative X-Fi Sonic Carrier is a tremendously expensive Dolby Atmos sound bar, but does it have the performance to back up the price?

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Sarah Tew/CNET

When it comes to high-end sound bars I had to wrack my brain to think of anything that approaches the $5,800 Creative X-Fi Sonic Carrier in price. (Pricing outside the US wasn't mentioned but that price converts to around £4,225 or AU$7,330) Maybe Paradigm, or Bowers and Wilkins. Surely GoldenEar has something?

It's safe to say there has been nothing like the Sonic Carrier before.Creative may be known as a PC brand, but it does have a history in sound reproduction: from its pro offshoot E-Mu to its audio arm Cambridge SoundWorks. It also has made a number of budget sound bars, including the Katana, but none like this. The built-to-order Sonic Carrier is polarizing. It has flashing RGB lights! It has 1,000 watts of power. And a massive subwoofer!

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Ty Pendlebury/CNET

But if you look past the bling, you get to the roast beef in this deli sandwich. It might look like plastic in the photos but put your hand to it and you'll realize it's CNC machined aluminum. The company says the enclosure is double-walled and acoustically inert.

As a Dolby Atmos sound bar, this speaker features 11 forward- and side-facing drivers plus a pair of 2.25-inch upfiring drivers with matching 1-inch tweeters. 

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One is a refrigerator and one is a subwoofer.

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

Next, that thing on the ground? This is not a wireless subwoofer, it's a blinged-up filing cabinet! OK, OK --. it is a sub, and you can turn the effect off. (Creative gets asked that a lot.)

Other features include:

  • 4 HDMI inputs including one port on the front
  • Wi-Fi with DLNA, Miracast, Chromecast, Spotify Connect and Tidal plus Netflix, Vudu and HBO Go
  • DTS:X support forthcoming
  • Two optical and two analog inputs

Want to do a bit of karaoke? The front of the unit includes two microphone inputs. Those flashing lights will finally come in handy!

Ears on 

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Sarah Tew/CNET

I heard several demos of what the Sonic Carrier can do including the widening effect of its SuperWide X-Fi mode. The company played a mix of canned demo material and actual movies. The Dolby Atmos material was actually quite impressive for a system without rears. Overhead effects sounded like they were firing from above me (as long as I didn't turn my head). However, like other systems of this type, the effects didn't stretch to the back of the room in the same way a dedicated surround system can. 

Strangely, the most exciting demo shown was the compressed YouTube trailer for "Fast and the Furious". It didn't offer Atmos effects, but it really showed what the sub was capable of. As a bus-size wrecking ball totaled all of the cars in its path, the sub gave off a series of deep, controlled booms. The whole room seemed to be filled with explosions, the sound of glass breaking and tires squealing.

If you're looking to buy a nearly six-grand sound bar -- sight unseen --there are plenty of people who will recommend what you should buy instead. Would I buy it? Not likely. But that's not the point of this product: it appeals to those who want something loud both visually and sonically, and who don't want to do much besides plug it into the wall socket. 

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