Creative Sound Blaster Axx SBX10 £130
8th Sep 2012 | 08:30
The Axx swings in with some extremely clever tech, but does it have the audio chops for its price?
The first thing you'll notice about the Creative Sound BlasterAxx range is that it looks distinctly sci-fi, like a cross between the crystal structures in Superman's fortress and the control panel of a futuristic starship.
Actually, the first thing you'll notice is that it has a slightly silly name, but after that you'll notice the cool design thing. But it's not just the looks that feel like they're from the future here: when the Sound BlasterAxx performs its party tricks, it has the same kind of eye-opening effect as the first time we used an iPhone.
The feeling that you're seeing the way everything should be from now on. It's just a shame that the rest of it's a bit dodgy.
Let's take a step back for a second. Essentially, the Sound BlasterAxx is a Bluetooth speakerphone. You connect your iPad or iPhone to it over Bluetooth, and then you can use it for calls (whether that's phone, Skype or FaceTime), or to play music or to access voice apps, including Siri.
The first issue is the music part - the speakers are really just not good. They're shrill and grating at the top end, lacking any depth in the middle, and with a bizarre popping bass that sounds like the drivers are made from MDF.
Still, they're plenty adequate for phone calls, and the SBX10 can go really alarmingly loud (and there's a bigger one, the SBX20, in the range…).
The trick is in the phone calls part. Turn on the Voice Focus option using the touch controls on top and the Axx creates a kind of noise force field, cutting out any sound that doesn't come from a small cone immediately in front of it.
The Noise Reduction option, meanwhile, can cut out just about any ambient noise, even when it's really quite loud. They both work just astonishingly well. As we said, like using Multi-Touch for the first time, you just feel that anything that lacks these options just won't be right from now on.
Alas, there are other issues. The touch controls aren't that responsive, and the volume can be a little unreliable, sometimes firing itself up to its neighbour-annoying maximum for no apparent reason when you invoke Siri, for example.
And it certainly isn't cheap considering its lack of audio quality. As a speakerphone only, then, it gets our approval, provided you've got the cash to splash - it isn't cheap.
But let's say we're more excited about seeing the Axx's tech in other Creative products that we are about the Axx itself.