The Creative SXFI Air Gamer headset is like the swiss army knife of headsets. There is no input it cannot handle, there are no features it doesn’t have, and at $150, it’s hard to think of any other wired gaming headset that packs in so much. It has a USB-C connection, a 3.5mm headphone jack, Bluetooth 5.0 compatibility, two microphones, several types of virtual surround sound solutions, and - for some reason - a microSD card slot.
But being feature-rich is only part of what the SXFI Air Gamer does well. The two 50mm drivers pack a punch, with a full-body sound and surprisingly large soundstage for a closed-back gaming headset. Its holographic virtual surround sound solution, however, lands somewhere in the middle.
Creative loudly and boldly claims “captivating movies, lifelike music, and mind-blowing games” on the box, but the surround sound effect doesn’t always deliver on that front, and distorts the sound a tad too much to really benefit positional audio. Not to mention that it’s annoyingly difficult to set up and configure.
That said, even as a stereo headset only, the SXFI Air Gamer is still worth a look, and provides wide compatibility and excellent audio that easily punches above its price tag.
Price and availability
The Creative SXFI Air Gamer headset is available now, priced at $149.99.
Design and Features
Made from hard plastic, the SXFI Air Gamer features a distinctive design from traditional gaming headsets, but has enough ‘gamer-ish’ highlights so you know what you are getting into. It adds a bit of flair with full RGB lights around the earcups (which can be cycled from solid blue to rainbow to off), and has ‘Super X-FI Headphone Holography’ slogan repeated around the circumference to really drive home the technology powering the headset.
To Creative’s credit, the design is rather tastefully done. A lot could have gone wrong here with the RGB lights and the abundance of text around the headset, but it’s subtle and blends away fairly well with the rest of the design. And since the RGB lights can be turned off, you can safely wear it outside without drawing unnecessary attention towards yourself (unless you want to...which is also okay, really).
The most eye-catching aspect of the SXFI Air Gamer are the enormous and generously padded earcups. Although not made of memory foam, the padding is super soft and the perforated protein leather wrap feels nice to the touch. Another aspect that we appreciate is that the swivels are built into the earcups, rather than being supported by additional prongs from the headband. It’s a small design touch but really adds to the overall appeal and cleans up the design lines quite well.
With such healthy earcup padding, naturally comfort is expected to be good. But here’s where things take a turn for the worse. The headband has absolutely no padding whatsoever. You can literally feel the steel band if you touch it, which quickly causes discomfort (more like a burning sensation) on the top of your head after an hour or two of wearing the headset. The plush ear cups can only carry the weight so much - and they do feel nice initially with a light-to-medium clamp force - but as the cushion gets compressed, the headband support kicks in and the lack of padding hurts the overall comfort. For a headset meant for long hours of gaming, this is a major oversight.
As we mentioned before, SXFI Air Gamer is packed to the brim with ports and features. It is compatible with every type of device known to man, from USB-C connection for PC/PS4/PS5/Nintendo Switch, to 3.5mm and Bluetooth 5.0 compatibility for mobile devices. It also has a microSD card slot if you want to carry your music independently from any device.
There are also two microphones at your disposal. By default, the headset comes pre-installed with the NanoBoom Mic which sticks out less than 0.5 inches from the left earcup. This can be swapped with the CommanderMic which has higher fidelity and is meant to be used during gaming.
There are no inline controls, thankfully, with all of the buttons and ports packed neatly onto the left ear cup. From the front, you have the power button, which also cycles the RGB lights. Then you have the microphone port, the USB-C and 3.5mm port, a ‘Source’ button to cycle between the different connections, the microSD slot, and finally, the SXFI button which cycles between off, SXFI on, and SXFI Battle Mode.
You might have noticed the absence of volume controls, but that’s because the headset has relegated those duties to the touch controls implemented on the left ear cup. Sliding up or down on the surface controls the volume, while double tapping on it plays or pauses the media, and so forth . It works relatively well, and has good sensitivity against accidental touches.
The headset comes with a 3.5mm cable, and a kevlar-coated USB-C cable (with a USB-A adapter) but it is simply too short to be used with consoles if you are sitting at a distance. Pairing the headset with Bluetooth is fairly simple - first select the source as Bluetooth, and then hold the Source button for a few seconds to start the pairing. We found the pairing timer to be quite short, and sometimes devices simply couldn’t find the headset, so being quick is required.
Speaking of Bluetooth, the SXFI Air Gamer also supports a feature called ‘Gamerchat’, which is a fancy way of saying it can take dual audio sources simultaneously, namely USB-C and Bluetooth. This allows you to set up Discord on your phone for communication, while receiving game audio from the console or PC you are using.
Setting up the SXFI Air Gamer for the virtual surround sound, or even changing the EQ settings will require you to download the SXFI App from the iOS or Android store.
To set up the Holography virtual surround sound, the app requires pictures of your face and ears which, according to Creative, optimizes the surround effect specifically for you by using mathematical prowess and computer magic. Unlike the Nuraphone, which maps the innards of your ears by pinging different sounds into them, this is a completely software-based algorithm.
Trying to take the pictures yourself is difficult, unless you possess unusual dexterity, so requesting someone else to do it for you will be far easier and less frustrating. If you insist on doing it alone - as we tried to do it once - it is easier in front of the mirror or with the webcam turned on.
Once you perform the scan, the app will immediately sync with your headset and transfer the necessary data and settings to it. Unfortunately, this process is incredibly slow and takes up to five minutes, and the transfer happens every time you launch the app after disconnecting your headset from the mobile device. If you are on an iPhone, you will need to keep the screen on and the app loaded for the process to successfully complete, locking you out from using the phone while the transfer happens.
Once you get past it, you will be able to tweak the EQ (or select from a few presets), access its built-in music player and manage your profiles. Thankfully, any EQ tweaks you do are carried over across all connections (and not just Bluetooth), so you can maintain a similar sound signature across all media. However, if you want to use different EQ presets for different kinds of media, you will have to prepare to wait as it does the personalization process once again.
Creative also offers a PC app called the SXFI Control but it requires you to first set up the headset on the mobile app, and then use the mobile app to sign in to the PC app. Once you sign in, it will - you guessed it - download the personalized profile from the headset, and this happens - wait for it - every time you launch the app. Thankfully, this process is rather quick and takes only a few seconds.
The PC app has a few extra settings like changing the RGB colors, selecting different sound modes like Stereo, 5.1 and 7.1, and more. We are not sure why these features couldn’t be on the mobile app itself, and at this point, we are too afraid to ask.
Using two 50mm drivers, the SXFI Air Gamer delivers excellent audio quality. In its default mode, the sound is crisp and full, the bass extends nicely (but never overpowers), and the mids are clean and punchy. However, they do possess the classic Creative sound signature of having slightly noisy and sibilant treble which can be fatiguing after some time. It can be blunted somewhat by EQ’ing but we never quite got rid of it. The sharp treble is great for detail retrieval, but in some games and movies it can be quite irritating.
The soundstage is surprisingly large for a closed-backed headset (but less so than a true open-back like the Sennheiser HD598), and offers a relatively natural-sounding audio reproduction. In Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, the environmental sounds had a nice sense of space and distance, while the dialogues and the chaotic action was delivered in full force. Positional imaging is fairly decent, too. In Warzone, we could decipher the horizontal positioning accurately, however vertical positioning was less effective where we could spot the general direction of the sound but not its exact position.
Turning the SXFI surround sound on, the result was a mixed bag. In some games and movies, the sound would have a proper, clear expansion and fairly decent detail retention, but in others the sound would spread out incoherently with suppressed mids and carved out highs. When it works, the effect is akin to having two small stereo speakers encased inside the earcups, with an artificially large soundstage. It’s not particularly bad per se, and in games it works fairly well if you want a more airy sound signature, but it doesn’t quite sound natural for movies and music. It also doesn’t seem to help positional accuracy all that much either, and in fact, it might even reduce it in favor of giving the audio a ‘cinema-hall’ like effect.
The SXFI Battle Mode, Creative’s much touted surround sound effect designed specifically to give you an advantage in shooters, works similarly, too. It attempts to reduce the bass frequencies while accentuating the highs to make enemy footsteps and gunfire pop, but that doesn’t necessarily help in audio positioning which is the true key factor. In the end, we simply turned off SXFI for most of our media consumption, as the headset is quite capable of holding on its own in the regular stereo mode, while still giving a decent surround sound feel to the audio.
Bluetooth performance was great on mobile devices, and average while watching movies when connected to our LG C9 OLED TV. On mobile, the sound was loud and rich, much like how it is when connected to a wired source. However, when connected to our LG C9, the volume was low by nearly 30% and the headset didn’t seem to have enough amplification to spruce up the sound (this was with stereo and 5.1 sound mixes). This could very well be because the TV isn’t outputting enough volume via Bluetooth, but it is important to note here if you are planning to use the headset in a similar fashion.
The headset has a battery life of about 10 hours, and charges relatively quickly. Another important note to make here is that while the headset works without battery power over the 3.5mm connection, turning the headset on definitely provides more volume and a fuller sound.
With two microphones to use, Creative gives you the option to transform the headset from one that will not look out of place during a video call, to one that is meant for games and streaming.
The smaller NanoBoom Mic captures clear audio, but has a lot of buzz and noise in the background. Here’s a sample of the mic recorded on a Windows 11 PC using the default Voice Recorder app.
Then we have the CommanderMic, which captures audio in the highest fidelity and clarity compared to the other one. The large mic has a built-in pop filter, and the boom arm is malleable enough to be positioned where you want it to. Here’s a sample of the mic recorded on a Windows 11 PC using the default Voice Recorder app.
The audio quality is excellent, and it is one of the better mics we have seen on a gaming headset. It’s clean, full-bodied and does a decent job of cancelling out outside noise. However, it does have a good amount of compression, so it may not be the best option to be used on a live stream.
Should I buy the Creative SXFI Air Gamer?
Buy it if...
You’ve got multiple devices
With USB-C, 3.5mm headphone jack, and Bluetooth, plus the Gamerchat feature for communication, there is nothing the SXFI Air Gamer cannot handle, making it one of the most widely compatible gaming headsets out there.
You want all-around excellent audio
Creative brings its audio prowess to the table here, equipping the headset with two powerful 50mm drivers that are tuned to provide excellent response across all frequencies and a large soundstage for a great surround sound-like experience in games and movies.
You want quality microphones
The headset features two microphones, with the most noteworthy being the CommanderMic. While not broadcast quality, it is one of the best microphones on a gaming headset.
Don’t buy it if…
You’re concerned about comfort
The SXFI Air Gamer might look comfortable with its plush ear cup padding, but it’s the headband that lets the team down. With barely any padding there, the headband proves to be distractingly uncomfortable after a few hours.
You don’t want to deal with multiple apps
The SXFI Air Gamer requires no less than two apps - one for mobile, and for PC - to have complete access to all of its features. The mobile app is especially annoying to set up and use.
You want excellent virtual surround sound
While the SXFI Holography-based virtual surround sound isn’t entirely bad - when it works properly - it is nothing to write home about. It expands the soundstage but doesn’t necessarily improve imaging or the tonality of the audio.