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CNET First Look
Sound Blaster X7 amplifier is just as odd as it looksThe Creative Sound Blaster X7 offers a ridiculous number of features for the price and sound quality is generally very good -- but its appeal is limited.
[MUSIC] Well, sound cards have pretty much gone the way of the Dodo. There's still a market for a high quality sound on laptops, and even some desktops. The Creative Sound Blaster X7 is a curious beast. It's a USB sound card that also doubles as a stereo amplifier, plus enables you to record to a PC as well. Oh, and it has bluetooth and the smartphone app. At $400, it certainly packs in a lot of features, but is this something you might need? Build quality's only barely acceptable, sadly. For a while it looks pretty sitting on the desk top. It's too lightweight, it moves around on the desk when you plug things in, and the buttons scrape when you push them. While it has the outputs for surround sound, and [UNKNOWN] Dolby Digital, it's really designed to be used as a stereo device with a 100 watt stereo amplifier built in and two headphone outputs. Meanwhile hooking up surround sound means you would have to forego the amplifier altogether. And in this case you'd be better of just paying for a cheaper card. [UNKNOWN] a line in, as well as a digital optical input. And these can be used to listen to consoles or even your tv, as well as record to the PC. Unfortunately, there's no remote, and there's also no input selection. So everything, including the Bluetooth input, will play at once if you let it. However, the smart phone app does offer some control over sound settings and volume. Being able to use the device to play bluetooth music while the PC is off is also handy. Sound quality is as fine as other Sound Blaster cards, which is to say is very good. And the amp is even good enough to drive speakers worth up to $600 or $700. Of course you'll find the more modest speakers, like for example, the $300 audio engine P4 will make a better match. You can also consider the EMUXM7 speakers. And I would personally only use them with this amp, as it has a specific EQ setting to tame the overly bright treble. Is this sound card better than a dedicated USB amp at the same price? No, but if you're looking a desktop amp slash sound card that will also record to a PC, Say, if you're a musician or a [UNKNOWN], then the X-7 is pretty niche, but also pretty capable. This is [UNKNOWN] seen at dot com.