Creative SXFI Carrier soundbar review: A terrific Dolby Atmos with one caveat


Creative SXFI CarrierSource: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central

In the living room, I’ve rotated between a dozen TVs in the last five years. I’m now using Xiaomi’s amazing Mi QLED 75, which does a lot of things well: the picture quality is excellent, it runs Android TV, and it has all of the networking choices I need.

The audio system has remained the same in that time: Logitech’s THX-enabled Z906. I bought these almost five years ago, and they still work great for movies, TV shows, and music – I have a Chromecast Audio connected to the Z906 and use it as a Cast target. I wanted the Wharfedale Linton a few years ago, but there wasn’t enough room for the floor-standing speakers, so I opted for a good soundbar instead with Dolby Atmos.

The SXFI Carrier from Creative is that soundbar. This is Creative’s second Atmos soundbar, following the 15-driver behemoth known as the Sonic Carrier. It also costs five times less than the Sonic Carrier, making it a relative bargain at $999.

The SXFI Carrier also has a lot going for it: seven driver units, a wireless sub with a lot of bass, and Creative’s proprietary SXFI virtualization technology. At $999, the soundbar competes with high-end Atmos alternatives from Sonos, Sony, and Yamaha, so let’s take a closer look at what you’re getting and whether you should buy it.

Creative SXFI Carrier

Creative SXFI Carrier

Bottom line: With seven devoted drivers and a wi-fi sub with a 10-inch motive force, it produces improbable sound that makes your TV displays and flicks come to existence. Combine that with a powerful construct and HDMI 2.1 connectivity, and also you get a high-end soundbar that holds its personal in opposition to its opponents.

The Good

  • Amazing sound
  • Wireless sub has elegant bass
  • Easy to arrange and use
  • HDMI 2.1 connectivity
  • Six other modes for motion pictures, TV displays, and track
  • Does a perfect activity with Dolby Atmos

The Bad

  • No Chromecast integration
  • Cannot upload rear surrounds
  • Limited EQ customization

Creative SXFI Carrier: Price and availability

Creative SXFI Carrier

Source: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central

The SXFI Carrier was first released in Asian countries at the end of last year, where Creative has a strong brand cachet, with demand outstripping supply in the first few months. It was released earlier this year for $999 in North America, and Creative and a few distributors sell it directly. It is now available in India at a price of 99,999 rupees ($1,340).

Creative SXFI Carrier: What you’ll be able to love

Creative SXFI Carrier

Source: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central

Let’s start with that moniker. Creative’s surround sound technology is known as SXFI, and it is pronounced Sex-Fi. Aside from the odd nomenclature, the SXFI Carrier delivers on the basics: the soundbar has seven integrated speakers and a 10-inch wireless sub offers room-shaking bass.

The SXFI Carrier appears excellent in entrance of your TV, and it has the entire stressed out connectivity choices you need to ask for.

The design isn’t too out of the ordinary; it’s black with a mesh grille across the front, and it doesn’t draw too much attention to itself. The build quality is solid, with a 3.5mm socket on the front and controls on the top for volume adjustment, changing modes and switching between sources, and turning the gadget on and off.

The soundbar doesn’t take up much space, measuring 880 x 128 x 76mm and weighing 8lb (3.6kg). I was apprehensive at first that it wouldn’t fit in front of the Xiaomi Mi QLED 75, but it fit well.

The SXFI Carrier’s biggest feature is its simplicity. The soundbar and wireless subwoofer are included in the kit, and installation is as simple as putting the soundbar and wireless subwoofer into wall outlets and connecting an HDMI connection from the soundbar to the TV.

The wireless sub is paired to the soundbar out of the box, so as soon as you plug it in, it will detect the soundbar and connect to it. You’ll need to use Creative’s mobile app for initial calibration that lets you adjust the sound for your room. After you set it up, you’ll be using the bundled remote for changing modes and toggling between sources.

The SXFI Carrier has everything you’re looking for in terms of connectivity. You’ll find two HDMI inputs and an HDMI output with eARC, and you get all the benefits of HDMI 2.1, including variable refresh, ALLM, 4K at 120fps, and HDR10+ as well as Dolby Vision.

You also get optical, 3.5 in, USB-C, and Bluetooth 5.0. There’s no Wi-Fi connectivity here, but you can use the soundbar to stream music from your phone over Bluetooth. In the month that I used the subwoofer, I didn’t see any issues with connectivity between the subwoofer and the soundbar, but there is an option to connect both via a wired connection over 3.5mm.

Creative says it worked with Dolby to tune the drivers on the SXFI Carrier, and that is immediately evident once you start using the soundbar. It has a 5.1.2 configuration with two large drivers oriented toward the ceiling, three front-facing tweeters, and two side-mounted drivers that provide a lot of width.

Creative SXFI Carrier

Source: Creative

The two primary drivers are angled, and this allows for the environmental Atmos effect that distinguishes the SXFI Carrier from other soundbars. Creative says it relied on Dolby’s hybrid two-way acoustic design to direct a portion of the frequency band to these drivers so that they can be used for more than omnidirectional sound.

The SXFI Carrier is the first soundbar to leverage this design, and it works astonishingly well. Creative noted that it had to strike a balance between delivering a product with a diminutive design while still offering enough drivers to produce a dynamic sound.

With seven drivers and a wi-fi sub that provides numerous definition, the SXFI Carrier sounds completely improbable.

Despite having half the number of drivers as the $5,000 Sonic Carrier, the SXFI Carrier is capable of producing a lot of sound. The wireless sub adds a lot of detail, the height channels are perfect for Dolby Atmos content, and the drivers on the sides are great for surround sound.

The end result is a wonderful soundbar for watching movies and TV shows. When streaming Dune, the SXFI Carrier really shined, accurately presenting the exotic soundscape and adding a lot of depth to the dramatic battle sequences. The wireless sub emphasised the low-end exceptionally effectively, bringing a lot of rumble to action sequences, while the vocals shone through with clarity and richness.

There are six different audio settings to choose from, and each one alters the sound in a significant way. By default, I set it to movie mode, which is perfect for watching movies and TV shows. The bass isn’t particularly strong out of the box, but you can use the remote to increase the low-end frequencies, which adds a lot of detail.

When I’m trying out new TVs or audio gear, I turn to Our Planet, and the SXFI Carrier did a great job of producing an omnidirectional effect. The soundbar also holds its own when it comes to streaming music, albeit Creative’s SXFI has a clear advantage. You can effortlessly connect a headset to the soundbar and take advantage of the built-in microphone.

Creative SXFI Carrier: What wishes paintings

Creative SXFI Carrier

Source: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central

There are a few omissions among Creative’s accomplishments. Wi-Fi isn’t available on the SXFI Carrier, and wireless is restricted to Bluetooth 5.0. So you won’t be able to cast music to it using Chromecast, and you’ll have to use a Chromecast Audio if you don’t want to rely on Bluetooth.

There’s no Wi-Fi receiver right here, so you do not get Chromecast connectivity.

I asked Creative why there’s no wireless connectivity, and the product manager for the SXFI Carrier noted that it was a conscious decision to not add a Wi-Fi receiver. Doing so would have reduced the budget for the drivers, and with Creative focusing on the sound quality as the differentiator, it wanted to add the best drivers to the SXFI Carrier.

Furthermore, Creative noted that most smart TV brands already have Chromecast or other wireless streaming options anyway, and that it wasn’t going to offer anything meaningful in this area. So it decided to forgo the Wi-Fi receiver in favor of better driver units.

Another missing feature is EQ customization. Most of Creative’s products offer a lot of customizability when it comes to sound, but because the brand worked with Dolby on tailoring the sound for each of the six modes it offers on the SXFI Carrier, it said that it wasn’t able to offer EQ customization.

It is for this reason that it isn’t offering the ability to add rear surrounds; doing so would have meant tweaking the balance of each mode, so it decided to not offer the feature.

Creative SXFI Carrier: The festival

Sonos Arc Review

Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central

The Sonos Arc is the obvious choice if you’re searching for a high-end soundbar. Sonos is the industry leader in multi-room audio, and the Arc provides Dolby Atmos sound in a tiny package. It lacks a wireless sub, so you won’t get the same degree of bass and sub-bass depth, but it’s simple to set up and operate and comes with Wi-Fi access.

Creative SXFI Carrier: Should you purchase it?

Creative SXFI Carrier

Source: Creative

You should buy this if …

  • You want Dolby Atmos sound in an integrated package
  • You need a high-end soundbar with a wireless sub
  • You want sound quality that’s among the best in this segment

You shouldn’t buy this if…

  • You need Wi-Fi connectivity and Chromecast integration
  • You want the ability to add rear surrounds down the line
  • You’re looking to customize the EQ to your tastes

Creative isn’t going after market share with the SXFI Carrier. It knows that the market for a high-end Dolby Atmos soundbar is still in its infancy, but by getting in early, it is able to carve out an early lead. By partnering with Dolby on the driver design and customizing the audio modes, it is also able to offer a differentiated product.

Sure, having to connect a Chromecast Audio or an Echo device to stream music is inconvenient, but the sound quality is well worth the effort. This is where the SXFI Carrier really shines, as its small size betrays the massive volume of sound it can produce.

Is it, however, worth $1,000? It’s a wonderful choice if you care about sound quality and want an integrated solution with Dolby Atmos. It’s not three times as excellent as my Z906, but it’s a lot easier to set up and use, and I’m really impressed with the sound quality it generates.

Creative SXFI Carrier

Creative SXFI Carrier

Bottom line: The SXFI Carrier makes it simple to get a Dolby Atmos soundbar up and running. It creates excellent sound with seven dedicated speakers and a wireless sub with a 10-inch driver, bringing your TV shows and movies to life. When you add in a solid build and HDMI 2.1 connectivity, you have a high-end soundbar that can compete with the best.

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