If you’re committed to getting the best audio out of your console or your PC, you’ll want a DAC, a digital-to-analog converter. While desktop gamers have the option of popping in a top-level soundcard, the rest of us need to turn to an external DAC to help deliver those sweet gaming sounds to you with all of the clarity and depth a game’s audio team intended. Creative impressed us with their G3, an ultralight, ultra-portable console DAC, but now we’re checking out the Sound BlasterX G6, a fully-featured, top-of-the-line external DAC that will level up your audio on any device.
Getting technical, the Sound BlasterX G6 is a high-resolution gaming DAC and USB sound card with a headphone bi-amp. It plays host to Dolby audio, supports hi-res audio at up yo 32bit/384kHz resolution and lives up to the brand name by capable of pumping out an eye watering 130dB. It looks and feels like a military-grade solution. Every aspect of this small device feels robust and well-made, with its brushed gun-metal housing and a tactile and weighty central volume wheel giving the immediate impression that this is something much more than an audio luxury.
The G6 will work with a number of different devices, offering USB connectivity for the PS4, Nintendo Switch and the PC, while it’ll take an audio input from anything with an Optical Out, allowing you to take a feed from either your Xbox One, surround sound system or most modern televisions. In the case of the PS4 you can use dual optical and USB connections to take full control of your game/voice mix via the G6 rather than having to dive into the menus.
Power comes from a standard USB-A to micro-USB connection, though there’s not an included USB power supply for those formats that don’t take a USB feed, and it’s also a very short cable, especially if your set-up doesn’t involve sitting right up to a screen. The front of the unit houses two 3.5mm sockets, one for a headset or pair of headphones and one for a separate microphone, directly supporting PC headsets with dual cables. Meanwhile the rear has a pair of Line In/Optical In and the returning Out sockets if your set-up supports them.
Besides that, a trio of controls line one side of the G6, with buttons to access the Scout Mode – a footstep-enhancing audio option perfect for FPS and Battle Royale players – a toggle for the Sound Blaster’s main ‘Acoustic Engine’ processing, and a switch that flips between high and low gain. Besides that the volume wheel also houses a button input, that you can use to switch between headset output and microphone sidetone.
If you’re not using a desktop it takes a little getting used to the G6’s button functionality, as both the Scout Mode button and the central volume wheel perform secondary and even tertiary functions, with a change in lighting indicating what you’ve currently got selected.
You can take more detailed control via the Sound Blaster Connect software for PC. While a Mac will happily support output through the G6, there’s no OS X version of the software which is a disappointment for Apple users and you’ll need to find a suitable Windows platform if you want to get the best out the G6.
The Connect software is impressively full featured, and it opens up a wealth of additional options for you to indulge in. You’ve got a wealth of different EQ settings, covering your base gaming, music and movie needs, some broad genre set-ups, as well as providing a number of presets for the most popular games out there at the moment, including PUBG, Overwatch and Fortnite. You can even alter the lighting of the X on top of the G6 with a full range of RGB lighting to choose from, allowing you to match it up to all your other bits of colourful kit and set it to pulsate, react to music or stick with a good old fashioned solid colour. This was perhaps the most surprising feature I discovered, and it’s a truly premium little addition that shows that Creative really have tried to cover everything.
The biggest draw, however, will be the option to shift between stereo and virtual 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound. I can be left a little cold by virtual surround sound, and so many providers simply don’t have the know-how to provide something that’s truly immersive. That’s not the case with Creative, and the 7.1 surround sound you have access to through the G6 is amongst the best options I’ve come across. It adds just the right degree of spacing and detail to have you believing you’re actually in the middle of Warzone’s arena, surrounded by enemies on all sides. Combined with the Scout Mode, my performance in PUBG was undeniably enhanced by being able to accurately track where my foes were running to, even if it still ended in my being gunned down due to my woeful aim.
Listening to music via the G6 is nothing short of breathtaking. Combining an Ultra HD music source like Tidal or Amazon Music HD, alongside a decent quality headset – in this case Steelseries’ Arctis Pro – allows you to hear the true potential of the G6, turning out an incredibly crisp and clear audio signal that will have you picking out details from music that most sources would miss out on. Billy Talent’s tight guitar play has never sounded better, while Jimmy Eat World had me air-drumming in glee. Where some outputs would allow the details to be lost in an inconsistent mush, the G6 helps you to catch every single strum and snare.
That extends to any content you see fit to consume, and movies and TV shows are shown in their best light, giving both soundtracks and dialogue the chance to shine. Trigger’s new anime BNA sounded perfect via the G6, with Sumire Morohoshi’s vibrant delivery coming to the fore over Mabanua’s incredible score. Similarly a quick jaunt to a galaxy far, far away caught every facet of John William’s iconic work, while the buzz and crackle of each lightsaber blow in Rise of the Skywalker brought the action to life in a wholly new way.
This does not come particularly cheap. The G6 tips the scales at a hair below £130, so it is a fairly substantial purchase. However, its broad range of functionality, and stellar audio output means it more than warrants consideration for your setup, even if you’ll probably want to use some longer cables.