Huge hexagonal Sound BlasterAxx speakers are powered from standard USB port
By Paul Ridden
June 4, 2012
Creative Technologies is a company immediately recognized for its Sound Blaster computer sound cards, but its product catalog also includes headphones, webcams, mobile digital media players and wireless speakers. The new Sound BlasterAxx speaker systems bring at least two of those worlds together into a stacked stereo hexagonal speaker tower with wireless connectivity and touch control. Despite claims of booming, room-filling sonic output capabilities, all of the units are powered by the USB port of any device with a free port.
The Sound BlasterAxx system comes in three flavors, two of which are Bluetooth 2.1-enabled to give music stored on iOS/Android smartphones or tablets a wire-free way to escape the built-in speakers on such things. Mobile device users can control unit functionality via a Creative Central app (available from Creative's website, the App Store and Google Play Store) or from the backlit capacitive touch controls on top.
PC or Mac control is made possible through the BlasterAxx Control Panel (available from Creative's website). Creative says that specially-developed circuitry allows the Sound BlasterAxx to deliver best-in-class amplified audio playback for music, movies, games and voice communications despite being powered from just a PC/Mac/laptop/tablet USB port. When operating as a standalone speaker system for mobile devices, it can be powered by any certified USB power adapter, though.
They get their name due to the inclusion of Creative's new SB-Axx1 multi-core audio processor chip, which draws heavily on the Sound Blaster audio legacy to massage and enhance the source audio using technologies like SB Smart Volume, SB Crystalizer, SB Surround, SB Bass and SBX Pro Studio Surround technology. The Sound BlasterAxx features a patent-pending "stacked stereo" speaker design incorporating two-speaker drivers angled to provide stereo separation, so you only need one unit - not two separate speakers - and a bass port around the back.
An omni-directional dual-microphone array positioned above the logo on the front has been designed to deliver tip-top voice quality for smartphone and hands-free VOIP applications. Leveraging the company's CrystalVoice technology, the microphones can focus on the user's voice, cancel out background noise and make use of smart volume to automatically maintain a consistent volume level even if the user is walking around the room. There's also echo cancellation and digital voice synthesis, allowing users to have some fun disguising their voices.
The flagship Sound BlasterAxx is the 4.32 x 3.81 x 15.75-inch (109.8 x 97 x 400.2 mm), 4.18 pound (1.9 kg) SBX 20. This monster speaker unit has a Bluetooth pairing button around the back, above the 3.5 mm aux-in, headphone out jack and USB 2.0 port, and is scheduled for an August release for US$199.99.
The SBX 10 is also Bluetooth-enabled but is a touch smaller and lighter at 3.56 x 3.16 x 11.6 inches (90.6 x 80.3 x 295.7 mm) and 1.76 pounds (0.8 kg). This model is available a month earlier than its bigger brother for $149.99.
The baby of the family is the SBX 8. There's no wireless capability included with this 2.53 x 2.24 x 6.53-inch (64.4 x 57 x 166.1 mm), 0.66 pound (0.3 kg) model, just USB connectivity. Like the SBX 10, this one's scheduled for a July release for $99.99.