For musicians, podcasters, and live streaming, audio is a critical component. You need to make sure that all your audio levels are consistent, and that voices can be heard loud and clear. Most times, that means investing in quality hardware, specifically a decent audio mixer to bring everything together, which can often cost a lot of money.
That’s where the Creative Sound Blaster K3+ comes in handy. It’s affordable, offers multiple inputs, and features excellent options for musicians and broadcasters. It’s compact enough to carry around anywhere, and doesn’t require a PC to be able to function, making it a truly versatile piece of equipment.
You get a decent level of control with your inputs here, as well as studio-level control over reverb, autotune, bass, and treble. It’s hard to believe that all of this is packed into something so compact, but the Sound Blaster K3+ hides plenty of other tricks as well. Its only real drawback is learning how to control everything through its physical knobs and buttons, but in time this will come naturally to you.
Price and availability
The Sound Blaster K3+ is available through Creative’s website directly, as well as on Amazon. It’s priced at $139.99 (around £105, AU$185), which is a very affordable price point, given the features on offer.
The Sound Blaster K3+ is a fairly compact mixer, and sits flat on your desk with rubber feet underneath so it doesn’t move when you’re adjusting things. We would have liked it if there was option to prop it up a bit, as it becomes difficult to read the buttons if you’re not looking directly down at the mixer.
In the front of the Sound Blaster K3+ is where you have two XLR combination inputs, as well as a ¼” input for a musical instrument, and two ¼” headphone jacks.
At the rear you have left and right channels for input and output, microUSB power, and mobile I/O for connecting to a smartphone audio jack. There’s also a ground terminal, which we highly recommend you utilize to avoid annoying audio humming when recording with sensitive microphones.
The number of dials and buttons can seem a little bit overwhelming, but with practice you’ll be able to quickly adjust what you need. The mixer is essentially grouped into four ‘zones’, which control different aspects of the mixer, and what you hear. At the very top are two 7-segment LED displays, which are the only feedback you’ll get when adjusting the mixer settings and certain levels. There’s also a dial to adjust reverb delay and autotune, depending on what’s selected.
Just below that is where you’ll control your inputs, including adjusting bass and treble as well as volume levels for your microphones. We don’t quite like that the volume for microphone 2 and the guitar input are controlled by a single knob, so any volume adjustments will apply to both inputs.
The Voiceover button is handy if you want the Sound Blaster K3+ to automatically reduce the music volume when you speak, similar to what a DJ would do while playing music. The +48v button allows you to apply phantom power to a microphone if required, and you can connect both XLR and TRS microphones to either of the two jacks.
The soundboard button is a slightly odd one – there are six built-in sounds that you can trigger, such as applause, gunshot, laughter, or…a crow? The only one we can honestly see anyone using is the applause or laughter – the others just sound odd. What’s a bit unfortunate is that these are baked into the mixer, and can’t be changed in any way. It’s a real shame, as being able to quickly play custom audio clips or effects would have been a huge bonus.
Lastly, the right side allows you to toggle what you hear in your headphones, as well as turn off or on the various mixing effects being applied. You should know that even if you have no effects selected and the mixing button is on, your voice will sound slightly tinny, so it’s important to only turn this on when you want reverb or autotune.
Setup is painfully simple, and the Sound Blaster K3+ is easily recognized by Windows or Mac machines. What’s better still is that you don’t need a PC in order to use the mixer – it can easily run off a powerbank, so you could then connect it to a phone for better audio for a live stream or video recording. Just make sure you’re using the correct aux cable to connect to your phone, depending on your manufacturer.
Once set up, the Sound Blaster K3+ is an excellent audio companion. We used a Rode NT1-A microphone for our recording tests, and the recordings came out crisp and clear every time. Here’s a quick audio sample:
Similarly, using the Sound Blaster K3+ to record singing was equally pleasant. Here’s another recording clip, with a bit of reverb directly added in from the mixer:
The autotune effect is certainly an interesting addition to have, but not really one that we imagine a lot of people using, unless they’re trying to sing Cher’s ‘Believe’. For Twitch streaming or podcasting, the Sound Blaster K3+ is fantastic, and with practice will make it easy to adjust levels and settings on the fly. There was also no noticeable delay when listening via the monitor ports, so whatever is going into the mixer will immediately be heard via the headphone jacks.
Our one problem with the Sound Blaster K3+ when it’s in use is how it’s easy to forget what setting you’re currently on, because the LED displays aren’t capable of showing anything other than numbers. So you’ll stare at the mixer and try to figure out if the number being displayed is the amount of reverb being applied, or a particular soundboard effect. This is something that will only come naturally with practice, so expect to spend a lot of time memorizing things before you feel at ease with using this mixer.
Should I buy the Creative Sound Blaster K3+?
Buy it if…
You’re a streamer or produce music
The Sound Blaster K3+ is perfect for live streaming or recording vocals, and its portability echoes this. Set it up, plug in a power source, and you’re ready to record in minutes.
You want finer audio control
With the ability to adjust treble, bass, and reverb right on the mixer, you’ll spend less time trying to manipulate these in post-processing, and can focus on capturing clean audio instead.
Don’t buy it if…
You want more inputs
If you’re looking to record with more microphones or instruments, then you’ll have to fork out the extra cash for a bigger mixer than this one.
You want a custom soundboard
Unfortunately, the six preset sounds on the Sound Blaster K3+ can’t be changed, so you’ll have to play your own content some other way.