With a hefty price tag of S$7999 (or about US$5800) excluding shipping and installation charges, the Creative X-Fi Sonic Carrier probably has had many people being somewhat taken aback, exclaiming “WHAT!?! ARE YOU SERIOUS?!”. 😱
Giving the fact that the average market price for an off-the-shelf Home Sound System or a Home Theater System for a single soundbar cost plus sub-woofer (you know, that thingy which makes the “booms“) is roughly around S$2k, the Creative X-Fi Sonic Carrier would no doubt stick out like a sore thumb on the price point. 🔊
That’s like almost 4 times the price of an average locally purchased 4K “smart” TV. In my case, 15 times the price of my Xiaomi Smart TV 4A (55″) which I imported directly from the good ol’ land of China to Singapore. 💁🏻♀️📺
No, Singapore is not in China lah.
My journey to this monster began with how sulky the inbuilt sound system in televisions is. Every single time I attempt to watch a movie, I can literally feel the sound frowning at me. It’s like a frail old lady trying her best to vocalize each note out of speakers which are way too tiny.
I mean – it works but it’s just plain lousy. I wouldn’t mind streaming my Hong Kong dramas via YouTube on it, but when comes to movies or Netflix, it’s simply a pain in the
ass ears to listen to such crap. Not to mention, most movies were designed with awesome sound, and I felt I wasn’t doing the audio crew justice by mutilating their work.
Sometimes, when you’re watching or streaming a 5.1 (or above movie) on your crappy inbuilt speakers, you will realize that you keep needing to change the volume in order to make out the voice of the characters amidst the background noise. Well, that’s due to your speakers doing a horrible job mushing the background effects together with the voice into a single channel – and then playing it to you.
Basically, the sound gets mashed together not properly, when it really shouldn’t have been in the first place.
Looking for the right one…
Being a typical Singaporean, I started off with a
cheaper simpler solution which is using the newly-launched Google Home Max that we already had and linking two sets to create a wireless stereo pair. Well, after all the Google Home Max’s speakers were great with music – so they should at least work fine with movies, right?
Yea, movies started having a little more depth, but then these problems arose:
- The Google Home Max’s Bluetooth connection keeps unpairing itself away from the television (or simply refusing to connect), making it a hassle to re-pair it over again and again.
- There is a slight delay due to latency due to the Bluetooth connection. Think of it as seeing a gun being shot, and then hearing the gunshot about half a second later.
P/s: The Google Home Max was designed as a smart “home assistant” speaker, and also to sound great with Internet-streamed music. It’s totally not supposed to be acting as a soundbar in the first place – it lacks the necessary proper ports! 😅
After some market research, we narrowed the shortlist to 3 of the latest Dolby Atmos soundbars. They are the:
- LG SJ9 Dolby Atmos Sound Bar, at S$1888 retail price, and the
- Sony HT-ST5000, at S$2799 retail price
- Creative X-Fi Sonic Carrier, sibeh expensive retail price
The LG SJ9 made it to the list because of its lowest price-point, and small form-factor. On the down-side, it has extremely limited HDMI ports (to be precise, just ONE input and ONE output) which makes it definitely not future-proof. Then again, looking at how LG has a track record of abandoning their (home audio) products rather quickly – it wouldn’t take long for it to be obsolete, anyway.
Well, my LG H5 multi-room speakers were abandoned (in terms of firmware updates) by them even when they’re still selling it in major retailers. 😒 But I must admit that LG’s phones and washing machines are good.
The Sony HT-ST5000 made it to the list by being the direct opposite of the SJ9 – it has quite a number of HDMI ports which makes it kinda future-proof, and many promised firmware updates.
…but then again, the Creative X-Fi Sonic Carrier has literally close to everything but the kitchen sink, and outdoes both without a blink! 🚰
So why Creative X-Fi ® Sonic Carrier™?
…because the Creative X-Fi Sonic Carrier simply blows everything away.
For starters, it supports both DTS:X and Dolby Atmos out-of-the box, and Creative keeps pushing out new firmware updates every few weeks which can be applied via OTA (Over-the-air) updates.
And then, if you actually take a demo of the Sonic Carrier in person, you will hear Creative’s SuperWide X-Fi technology that literally blows you away…. just like how Creative blew the world away back in the 1990’s when they created the SoundBlaster sound cards for your computers.
Oh, and also, the X-Fi chip is the one that made their stock go up like what, 6 times?
Yes darling, your computer wouldn’t have had any decent sound if not for Creative – and it’s created made in good, ol’ Singapore. By the way, Creative also invented the MP3 Player, but was blatantly ripped-off not too long after. 🎶
Anyway, I’m neither an audiophile nor anywhere can I differentiate my musical notes, but as a layman, I was super impressed by the audio experience the moment I heard the demo in person.
Not all is perfect…
Having the latest technology and the coolest hardware, the Sonic Carrier’s interface still seems like it’s stuck in the last decade.
The user interface, after just two minutes of usage, makes you go “wahlao eh!“. The accompanying Android system interface is horrid, requires so many button presses to navigate, and sometimes even a keyboard (which fortunately, comes free). It is probably a geek’s heaven, but sucks for daily use.
It absolutely cannot be compared with the ease of use from a purpose-built system like the Nvidia Shield TV.
For example, Netflix played (well, Creative said it would) using their inbuilt Android system – but the stream selected was of a significantly lower quality it should be – not even 720p?! Probably, the app thought that we were streaming as mobile/tablet thus the quality, and meddling with settings and experimentation were required to get it working correctly. 🤦🏻♀️
For me, it’s not really that big of an issue as we have the Nvidia Shield TV – so we just simply linked it up and use the Shield TV as the main media player to access my media collection and Google Chromecast instead. For some strange reason, Chromecast (Google Cast) didn’t come out of the box as Creative claimed.
Worth it or Not?
So, it’s always the age-old question of whether the product is worth the price-tag….
Probably not for the retail price tag of S$7999. As much it’s really THAT GOOD, but the price point is really too painful a pinch. But, if you catch it with IT Show discounts or friend-referral discounts, you can knock about S$2-3k off the retail price.
I was lucky to manage to get a huge discount off the retail price, and hence for me, this was an amazingly good deal!
Well, it’s a little difficult to do an audio-performance comparison with just one soundbar, so….:
In my next post, I’m going to pit the Creative X-Fi Sonic Carrier against the LG SJ9 in a head-to-head test…. in my very own 3-room flat. *drum rolls*