The Creative SXFI Trio might just be the smartest looking pair of in-ear headphones I’ve ever seen. That’s a pretty hard thing to achieve when we’re talking about earbuds that barely measure a centimetre across, yet Creative has managed it.
It’s all thanks to each of the black earpieces being topped off with a copper disc that adds a flash of sleek modernity, while the in-line SXFI controller is not just the most solid-feeling example you could imagine, it packs all of Creative’s virtual surround sound tech into a tiny package. If you’re ready to be impressed by a pair of earbuds, then the SXFI Trio is prepared to shine.
As you’d expect from the name, the SXFI Trio houses all of the clever SXFI gubbins that help to provide the backbone of the headset’s audio output. We’ve reviewed two of Creative’s SXFI-touting headsets before – the Theater and the Gamer – and in both instances we came away impressed by the audio tech and Creative’s comfortable and attractive designs. There’s a little bit less work to do on the comfort front, but Creative has still clearly poured all of their attention into the Trio in the same way they have for their over-ear headsets.
The Super X-Fi tech is labelled as headphone holography, a lovely alliterative pairing that doesn’t really mean all that much in terms you can understand. What Creative has aimed for via this virtual surround sound setup is for movies to sound like you’re in a cinema, music to sound like you’re at a live concert, and for games to sound like you’ve dropped into a battlefield. They add depth and an expanded soundstage that aims to put you at the centre of the action, no matter what you’re listening to. The key thing is, the SXFI technology works, and often to startling effect.
The SXFI Trio jumps straight to the top of the new technology tree by featuring a USB-C connection. There’s a USB-A adaptor included in the box if your PC or Mac is a little behind the times, but in terms of gaming it’s aiming for the Nintendo Switch and your Android mobile phone. While the latest console controllers boast a USB-C socket, they’re currently unable to output audio via them, and there’s no indication that they’ll ever be able to. Similarly, while the PS5 does have a USB-C socket on the front, the Trio’s short cable renders the idea more or less useless.
You’ll need to hook it up to your mobile and download the SXFI app before you can begin your journey into holography. As with the other SXFI-touting headsets, your first task is to take pictures of your ears and your head. While it’s amusing to try to take these yourself, it’s best to try to find another human being to do it for you. This creates an audio profile based on your own skull and the shape of your ears, customising the sound to the way you personally hear.
I have to admit I’m a largely an over-ear headphone champion. In-ear sets and earbuds are for the gym, or a light travelling bag, so they’re rarely my first choice. My first few interactions with the SXFI Trio out of the box weren’t set to change my mind; incredibly accurate, but almost overly so with the SXFI audio powered up, and light on bass for my preference.
However, that was before tried out each of the six sets of earbud tips that are provided, in an effort to find the perfect audio seal. In the end it was the 11mm ones that turned out to be my sweet spot, and with the Trio firmly implanted in my ear canal, they suddenly started to make a whole lot more sense. That top-end accuracy is balanced by natural-sounding and realistically weighted bass. If you’re looking for overwhelming, teeth-rattling bass, this isn’t it, but if you want to hear music, movies and games in a natural way, the Trio does a fantastic job.
The SXFI app allows you to natively play music you have stored on your device, but most importantly it also lets you set the EQ for your SXFI device. There’s a few presets built around Cinema, Game and Pop, but you can fully customise it to fit with exactly what you’re looking for, whether through the simple Bass and Treble sliders, or by manipulating the EQ waveform itself. I soon settled on a setup I was happy with, and I’ve spent most of this review tapping along to Rage Against The Machine, Gunship and the Haven soundtrack while annoying everyone around me.
That’s fine though, since the SXFI Trio boasts distinctly useful passive noise cancellation, assuming you’ve got a good acoustic seal in place. It’s so good that my wife has just had to ring me from the next room since I can’t hear a word she’s saying, so if you’re looking to cut yourself off from either your loved ones or a house replete with annoying neighbours, it’s well worth considering the Trio.
In the box you’ll find the aforementioned array silicone ear tips, and a little rubberised pouch to keep the earbuds safe when you throw them into your bag. It’s all fairly unassuming, but neat and tidy in and of itself. If you like fancy boxes, Creative has seen fit to put a magnetic seal on this one, making it all feel like you’re getting a premium product, and you certainly are with a retail price of £124.99.
The technology on hand here makes that feel worthwhile though. The Trio is fitted with the same SXFI chip as their other headsets, and thanks to that you’re privy to beautifully detailed audio, all sent your way via the triple driver system they’ve somehow squeezed into the earbuds.
Beyond that, other details like the copper highlights and the Kevlar cabling ensure that you’ll find little to fault. Even with the SXFI processing turned off, the Trio is a great sounding pair of earphones, but you’ll likely find that you stick with Creative’s virtual surround sound option, thanks to just how natural it sounds.
The Creative SXFI Trio is available from uk.creative.com. Our readers can get 20% off with the code TheSixthAxis at checkout.