Creative have become one of my favourite audio peripheral manufacturers in recent years. From the Pebble – an unbelievably great value set of PC speakers – through to the SXFI Theater headset‘s fantastic audio experience, they know how to make audio come alive. I was therefore pretty excited to check out their latest offering, the Soundblaster G3; an external DAC that’s designed to quickly and easily upgrade the quality of your console’s audio. It absolutely does that, and more.
The Soundblaster G3 is a little black plastic box with a USB-C connector on the end of a short cable. There’s no bells, and certainly no hint of even one whistle. It’s so light that when you take it out of the box you’re likely to think that they’ve forgotten to put the innards in, but fortunately you’ll soon discover that they haven’t.
That USB-C connector means that it’s immediately good to go with the Nintendo Switch and it feels as though that’s been Creative’s primary focus when putting the G3 together. The light box and short cable mean it’s easy to attach while playing on the go, offering a distinct and obvious upgrade to the console’s audio output without adding much extra heft to the console.
As standard, the G3 has two EQ modes, activated by the giant button in the centre of the unit. Slightly confusingly, there’s no light when the G3 is in default mode, while a white light indicates you’ve switched to the Footsteps setting. This shifts the EQ around to highlight higher frequencies so that you can catch somebody sneaking up on you in PUBG or Call of Duty, and in practice it definitely does the job, though at the expense of listening to anything else.
Luckily, if you’re not the sort to be stretching your hearing to the limit in order to pinpoint footsteps or exceedingly far-off gunfire, you can hook your G3 up to Creative’s bespoke mobile phone app, available for iOS and Android, or use it with the nearest PC (with a USB-A convertor included) or Mac and start tinkering with pretty much everything.
In here you can change both the default and secondary sound profiles, giving you the option of genre specific or game specific set-ups. Along with profiles for some of the biggest games out there – Overwatch, Fortnite, League of Legends and more – you can create your own custom profiles and settings as well, all of which are stored in the G3 for use on whatever system you’re going to hook it up to.
The mobile app connects via Bluetooth to the G3, and again you can change EQ profiles, alter the volume, and access other functions like mic monitoring via a simple touch interface. I did find, as with the SXFI Theater, that the app can be a bit finicky about connecting and altering settings, but it seemed to settle down after the initial install and a restart of my phone.
The G3 has physical controls too, which will keep you gaming without sending you off to find your mobile. Alongside the central profile button and a switch for mic muting there are control wheels for volume and your microphone level. A second selector switch turns the volume control into a mix wheel, letting you get the balance your friends and the game, which is handy if one turns out to be actually interesting. They’re all simple and intuitive to use, though once again, the light build means they feel a long way from being part of a premium piece of kit.
The Soundblaster G3 isn’t exactly priced to be that, though. At £50, some people may find the idea of a console DAC a frivolity, while PC audiophiles will be well aware just how much a decent DAC costs. The G3 strikes a balance between functionality and value, and if you’re serious about experiencing your console audio, or indeed your PC or Mac audio, at its best, then it’s ideal.
The downside to the way the G3 is setup is that it’s only going to be suitable for those who sit right next to their chosen device. It’s can offer a huge advance for PS4 audio, but it’s not going to be much use if you sit two metres away from it on your sofa with an extra-long audio cable running across the floor. It’s less of an issue if you’re at your PC or taking the Switch out and about, but you need to consider if it’s going to be the right fit for you.
The key thing is the G3’s exceptional audio, and the versatility and ease with which you can customise it. Creative have put together the perfect audio package for console and desktop gamers, and it will lift everything put through it to another level.