Sound is as important for your sensorial experience as touch and vision - and the Sound BlasterX G6 does a good job of taking this experience to new levels.
When I received my desktop - a business-class server - two things were missing: a good video card and an audio output. I solved the first problem by procuring a discret video card, which worked a treat with my Windows 10 install.
In terms of sound, my initial requirement was really simple: I needed something to use with my headphone/mic combo, mostly used for conference calls with occasional gaming sessions at night. My first step was getting a generic USB-based sound processor, which worked as in I plugged my headphones and I had sound input/output. But that was it - nothing fancy. I used that combination for both my conference calls and for gaming with some results - nothing fancy. But I didn't really know what I was missing until I received the Sound BlasterX G6 for this review - and what a difference it makes.
First is the sound improvement. Thanks to its Dolby digital decoding and virtual 7.1 surround sound this 32-bit/384kHz, 130dB Digital Audio Converter (DAC) makes a huge difference when compared to generic sound cards. You can notice this when taking part in a conference call, but even more so on demanding experiences such as videogames (and my current go to game is Borderlands 3).
The Sound BlasterX G6 will work with your Windows 10 install out-of-the-box using the generic audio drivers, with nothing else needed - it is even powered via its USB connection. But to fully achieve the sound experience you will need to install its own drivers and the Sound Blaster Connect software. With this combination you are able to completely control the Sound BlasterX G6, including turning on and tweaking the surround sound, equaliser and other features - including customising a light show that illuminates and pulsates the stylised "X" on top of the unit in sync with the music and sounds going through the sound processor or using a colour-cycle.
Using the Sound Blaster Connect application you can select different sound profiles, uniquely tuned by sound engineers for different games and applications, including "Music" and "Movies". There is a generic Gaming profile supplied and other profiles designed for different game and styles. You will find individual profiles for Call of duty, Counter-Strike and DOTA2 as well as a generic FPS profile - this the one I use for my Borderlands 3 sessions. Using special processing you are able to hear in-game dialog very clearly as well as directional audio cues such as steps and talk behind you - even with headphones, thanks to the virtual 7.1 processor. You can use any profile as is or customise it to your own preferences - including a button to simply reset the profiles to their default settings in case you decide to revert changes.
A single control wheel controls both the audio and mic volumes - click for a few seconds it to switch between one and another. You can plug separate headphones and mic to individual 3.5 jacks, or use the 3.5 input on the left side for single audio/mic jacks.
Creative says the secret for the great sound is in the individual audio channel amplification, promising to drive in-ear monitors, all the way up to studio-grade headphones (from 1 ohm up to 600 ohm). I currently use a pair of Logitech gaming headphones and can say it's very satisfying.
The Sound BlasterX G6 can be used with pretty much any device - not necessarily USB only thanks to its line/optical in and out jacks, accessible from the back of the unit. You even get a mini TOSLINK cable in the box so you can plug it directly to other sources - this means you can use it with Windows machines, MacOS computers, gaming consoles such as Xbox One, Switch and PS4, as well as other sound sources such as TV and sound systems.
You have the option to set the Sound BlasterX G6 to Direct Mode, unlocking the 32-bit/384kHz format, which is a big step up from the standard 48 kHz mode you have by default. Just be mindful by turning on Direct Mode you lose access to the microphone input.
You can also have sidetone on or off - according to your preference (and control the volume via the sound wheel mentioned above). A series of LEDs on the side of the Sound BlasterX G6 will give you visual feedback on its current status and settings.
I did find a problem with the mic not working out of the box. Basically every time a sound started the Sound BlasterX G6 would switch to Direct Mode, muting the mic. After a few searches I found the newer firmware installed on the box by default had some bugs. To test this I downloaded a previous version of the firmware, put the Sound BlasterX G6 in debug mode and loaded the firmware (you have to put in debug mode because the Sound Blaster Connect won't allow you to downgrade firmware). And yes, this fixed the mic problem, so be warned you might need to check this when first installing it.