Creative Super X-Fi review: A ‘holographic audio’ eargasm

sfi 4

Few things in technology are guaranteed to bring you actual joy, but Creative’s Super X-Fi just might qualify for that list.

In short, the Super X-Fi distills decades of audio work into a tiny, portable dongle no bigger than a USB thumb drive that transforms smartphone, laptop, or PC audio with “holographic audio,” according the company.

While that sounds like a lot of superfluous ad copy, we have to admit that after weeks of using the Super X-Fi, the company is on to something. We’d almost believe Creative’s claim that it has found the “holy grail” of audio, but we’re disinclined to recall the Quest Knights just yet.

sfi pixel2dongle 1

Gordon Mah Ung

The Super X-Fi (right) is the size of a finger but offers far more advanced audio than the Google Pixel 2XL audio dongle (v1) on the left.

Getting started with the Super X-Fi

The Super X-Fi features a USB-C port on one end, a standard 3.5mm analog jack on the other, and features volume, shuffle, and a single control button on its surface. A tiny LED changes state from green to orange to let you know if it’s at work or not.

To get started with the Super X-Fi, you first download an Android app though the GooglePlay store. You then take pictures of your head which is analyzed by Creative to pick the perfect audio profile for your particular head shape.

This is necessary because so much of how we hear sound is determined by the timing differences of audio arriving in our ears, and the shape of our head and earlobes plays a large part of it.

sfi ear

IDG

The Super X-Fi app scans your head to determine what is optimimal for you.

Besides profiling for your head, you also pick from a set of listed approved headphones in the app, or set it to “generic” for either headphone or in-ear. The headphone profiles are fine tuned by Creative to make the most of each pair’s sonic characteristics and fit style.

Creative actually has an even more optimized approach for mapping that uses in-ear microphones to precisely model audio for your head while frequency sweeps are run on a surround system. Obviously, this isn’t something that’s currently feasible for your average consumer. But we can say that in demonstrations of the Super X-Fi mapped using the in-ear microphones, we had a tough time distinguishing the Super X-Fi from a decently high-end Dolby Atmos system.

For now, the head scans using a phone camera are the next best thing.

Having that extra information is how Creative distinguishes the Super X-Fi from all other spatialized audio solutions. Creative expects its algorithms to get even better still as it adds more scans to its growing database.

sfi couragejack

Gordon Mah Ung

On one end is a USB-C port, and on the other is a 3.5mm jack, which many companies have banned from phones.

Inside the Super X-Fi

Crack open the Super X-Fi and you’ll find an AK4377. That’s a 32-bit, 768KHz digital analog converter from acclaimed audio company Asahi Kasei Microdevices. The other chip is Creative’s Super X-Fi chip. The company is pretty secretive about what the Super X-Fi does exactly but we’d guess it relies on such technologies as Creative’s Crystalizer, CMSS, and dozens of other audio patents the company has in its war chest.

Yes, true audiophiles who pursue the highest-resolution FLAC or DSD files will scoff at Creative’s bag of audio techniques as gimmicks or magic tricks, but in our listening experience, the Super X-Fi was nothing short of phenomenal.

Super X-Fi and music

With stereo content over a good set of headphones or in-ear earphones, most music is rendered as if a singer or band is inside your skull. In fact, we’re so accustomed to this John Malkovich feeling that switching on the Super X-Fi may throw you off for a second or three.

If you keep listening though, you’ll eventually realize you’re just not used to the sound of a band in front of your head, where they would be if they were performing for you.

If we were writing Creative marketing lines, it would be easy to say that the Super X-Fi is like having a personal audition by musicians.

Using whatever wizardry Creative has summoned from its library, there were times when the difference was stunning. It had us combing through our collection for more music to re-experience.

superxfi 2

IDG

With the Super X-Fi in Windows, you set the OS to output as discrete 7.1 audio, which the dongle then reassembles positional audio from.

Super X-Fi and games

Want to feel like you have an advantage in a multiplayer shooter? Want to be further immersed further in an open world? Plug that Super X-Fi into your PC and enjoy a 5.1 setup at the comfort of your desk with no pesky speakers or wires to worry about.

Online games like Destiny 2Battlefield V, and Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 worked like a dream and provided a level of feedback that made us feel as if we were cheating. When you can accurately place a sound without any visual feedback and respond to it, it becomes a game changer. Did it make us a better player? No, it’s not magic. But it did give us a deeper sense of our surroundings than we’d experienced before. The Super X-Fi will also pass microphone data as well, for when you are teaming up with your buddies.

The spatialized sound even increased the immersiveness of single-player games like The Evil Within 2DOOM, and Red Dead Redemption 2 (gasp—a console game). Yes, the Super X-Fi also works with the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch, but not on the Xbox One due to current restrictions from Microsoft.

We’ve been using the Super X-Fi primarily to play games for two months and it’s become a must-have. In situations where a dedicated 5.1 sound system isn’t an option, the Super X-Fi is the next-best thing whether you’re playing on a TV or PC.

And for those who are worried about Creative drivers, have no fear, this is plug-and-play—meaning you can’t blame the company anymore if your build locks up mid-match!

Super X-Fi isn’t perfect

Be forewarned, the Super X-Fi is not perfect by any stretch. As we said, there will be times when you’ll be floored by just how good the Super X-Fi sounds. But there will also be times when it’s just meh, or even just wrong. Maybe a pinch too much reverb, maybe the vocals are processed out as a little too thin. Android users will also be annoyed by the device asking for permission to access the Super X-Fi (Creative says it’s a security limitation imposed by the OS).

There also isn’t much customization in how much depth you can add to the spatialization. In future iterations we’d love to see the ability to push the “speakers” out further, or adjust how much reverb is in the space with you. Fine-tuning like this can further trick the brain to accept you are indeed listening to speakers in the space with you.

Fortunately, in situations where the Super X-Fi’s processing isn’t working for you, you can click a button on the device to switch it off. You’ll still get the benefits of a 120dB SNR, 32-bit AKM DAC, which is likely a big improvement over anything built into your phone or laptop, or the generic dongle that came with your phone.

[“source=pcworld”]

Want to be creative? Follow these simple tricks

1/10Want to be creative? Follow these simple tricks

“Oh I am not that creative”- we all must have heard this sentence a number of times. And if you are someone who thinks that being creative is not everybody’s cup of tea, then let us break this myth for you.

Nobody is born creative, the art of thinking out of the box is an acquired one. Let us put this straight that everyone is creative in their own way.

Actually calling yourself non creative is a toxic mentality to have. Creativity is often understood as a way of thinking that is different and unique. You have to first make yourself believe that you can do anything, and then take the right steps to do it.

2/10Creativity differs from person to person

The reason why you think you are not that creative is because you are in all likelihood comparing yourself with others who are famous. You cannot compare yourself to Pablo Picasso or Lady Gaga; they are good at what they do and you may be great at what you do.

And as is rightly said “if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

So if you truly want to be creative do not do these 8 things:

3/10Consider your work is done

Never consider your job as finished. Once the deadline approaches, we finish our work and consider it done and do not revisit it again. But if you are a creative soul, you know deep down that a project is never completed. Every time you revisit that particular work, you come up with a different alternative, to make it better.

4/10Think your idea is original

Nobody sprouts ideas on their own, so no idea is an original one. Every single person needs some sort of inspiration and that source of inspiration could be anything. You just need to be a little observant so keep looking for new ideas. You never know when you’ll come across something magical.

5/10Stay Comfortable

Some people are not creative because they do not look for things out of their comfort zone. Creativity will never come to you, you have to continuously keep searching for a new source of ideas. A true artist is the one who pushes his boundaries and gets out of their comfort zone. A truly creative person will be ready to take risks and willing to make mistakes.

6/10Compromise your style

Never surrender yourself in front of others’ opinion. This is one of the hardest things to do. People may often ask you to compromise your ideas in return of a nice reward, but you have to be firm on your decision. It is you who has to decide what is most important.

7/10Learn to accept rejection

In order to be creative, you need to be brave. Embrace your mistakes and learn to accept rejections. It is obvious that when you will step out of your comfort zone and try new things, people will tell you not to go that way. They would criticise you for your decisions, but you need to be brave to follow your heart and not be afraid of their comments.

8/10Never waste your time

If you want to be creative, never waste your spare time. Doodling is something that increases your productivity. Engage yourself in different kind of activities. More you absorb information, more creative you become.

9/10Challenge yourself

Try to challenge yourself every day, this helps a lot. Try some creative exercises, this will help you to think quick and creatively. You can also try painting and colouring.

10/10Look to nature for answers

Creativity never comes to those who lock themselves in a closed room. Look to nature for some ideas. Invest your time in nature as it is one of the best sources of inspiration.

[“source=timesofindia.indiatimes”]

Artist enjoys creativity of watercolor

Artist enjoys creativity of watercolor

I met Caleb Quire via local musician, Fleming Moore, several months ago out at one of the “Black Water on the Ashley” music nights in Summerville. Originally from Jacksonville, Florida, Caleb has lived in South Carolina since he was a small child.

Regan: Where are you from and what brought you to Summerville?

Quire: According to my parents, I spent a couple of my early years in Jacksonville before we made the move to North Charleston and slowly, but surely, found our place in Summerville. Some of my best childhood memories are biking up to Guerin’s Pharmacy with my brothers in search for snacks — so I’ve known Summerville as a hometown since I was young.

R: Did you study art in college or are you mostly self-taught?

Q: Yes and no. I studied graphic design in college and use a lot of that knowledge and influence in all my artistic projects. However, I did not seek out any other art classes outside of school and basically bullied my way around with the help of books and determination until I got to where I am now.

R: You paint with watercolor; you draw (pencil & charcoal); you do graphic design (logos, block printing), photography and video. What is your favorite medium to work with and why? Favorite subject to draw?

Q: I have the most experience drawing with a pencil and with charcoal but I truly enjoy watercolor the most at this stage of my career. I like being able to play with colors in such a special way that other painting mediums cannot give you. I feel I am barely tapping into what I can do with watercolors and enjoy challenging myself to be better. My favorite subject to draw or paint would be the quirks of people. I am fortunate enough to paint a lot of pups and cats which keeps me smiling all day long but I do love the challenge that painting people offers.

R: Your new endeavor of housedrawnstudio.com is unique. Talk about that.

Q: I teamed up with a good friend of mine, Paul Smith, to provide a complete gift that holds great significance. Our House-Drawn Team hand-draws, inks, and colors, the homes of your childhood; or, it might even be your very first house. We mat, frame, wrap, and box the Masterpiece and ship it to you. Homes hold so much emotion and it is a great reminder of the good times when seeing that Masterpiece on your wall. You can go to HouseDrawnGifts.com to learn more.

For more information, go to CalebQuire.com.

Q: I’m just in the beginning stages of a new watercolor series that sprung on me out of nowhere and I’m really excited about all of the creative juices I’ve got swimming around in my brain with that one. I am also starting to play around with block printing and apparel which will be something we will all see more of come this spring and summer.

R: Any art showings, courses/workshops, festivals, or other art events planned?

Q: I do not have any guaranteed showings or events planned but you can expect tutorial videos and painting walk-throughs coming out soon. It has been a long time coming but who doesn’t need a Bob Ross-inspired watercolor painter? As most people know, Bob Ross is a famous oil painter who created easy going and happy painting episodes on “The Joy of Painting” (from 1983 to 1995) on PBS-TV — way before I started art as a kid.

[“source=journalscene”]

9 Ways to Be More Creative in 2019

Salvador Dali in Figueres, Spain, circa 1900. Photo by Kammerman/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images.

If your New Year’s resolutions include improving your fitness routine or diet, being more creative should be on your list, too. With advantages ranging from greater brain function and productivity to better mood and memory, creativity can help improve your life at work and home. Anyone can benefit from the nine exercises listed below, whether you’re seeking fresh inspiration for your art practice or just looking to improve your problem-solving skills in 2019.

Take a free online art class

It’s never been easier to take an art class. From your phone or computer, you can dive into lessons and videos covering everything from the basics of analog photography to the history of Egyptian art. Free online classes and MOOCs (massive open online courses)—which you can find through websites like Class Central, Skillshare, and Coursera—allow you to access weeks- or months-long courses in various creative fields. Many of these curricula allow you to work at your own pace, and some are even offered by prestigious universities.

Stop procrastinating

It’s a common misconception that all people who routinely put off their work are procrastinators—and that creative geniuses like

and

were famous for this type of behavior. However, if you leave an assignment until the last minute knowing full well that you’ll still be able to get your work done—and done well—your actions are more accurately described as “purposeful delaying.” True procrastinators, on the other hand, end up producing work that’s worse not just in quality, but in terms of creativity, as well.

Some helpful strategies for kicking your procrastination habits include working during the times of day when you’re naturally most productive, breaking down big assignments into more manageable tasks, and minimizing distractions while you’re working, like turning off your phone.

Start a drawing routine

Drawing is not only an accessible means of creative expression, it can also help you process emotions and enhance your memory—in fact, a new studyfound that drawing is more effective than writing for memory retention. Like anything, you’ll need to make it part of your routine in order to stick with it and improve your skills.
One way to start is to keep a sketchbook, which you may choose to fill with depictions of your surroundings, travels, friends, or simple

you can assemble from household items. The beauty of a sketchbook is that you don’t have to worry about making mistakes, and you can keep it to yourself, like a diary.

Meditate

Meditation has long been utilized as a means to tame anxiety and tap into creativity—and countless artists and other creatives have caught on. Take, for instance, filmmaker

, who is largely responsible for growing enthusiasm around Transcendental Meditation (TM), and performance artist

, who follows a form of focused-attention meditation (FA).

In its various forms, meditation has been found to improve skills that are key to creativity, including observation skills, divergent thinking (the ability to come up with many novel ideas or solutions to a problem), and convergent thinking (the ability to find connections between different things). If you don’t know where to begin, consider a meditation app, like Headspace or Calm.

Eat more fish and walnuts

Researchers believe that you can optimize your diet for greater creativity—and unsurprisingly, the recommended foods are staples of a healthy diet. They include fruits and vegetables, which contain creativity-boosting flavonoids; fish, walnuts, and other foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which heighten brain performance; as well as bananas, almonds, and seaweed, which contain tyrosine, an amino acid that’s been linked to convergent thinking. To be clear, this approach won’t work overnight, but rather through a long-term diet.

Broaden your dating pool

A recent research study found that the deep learning that occurs during a romantic relationship with someone from another country may contribute to creativity. For one experiment, researchers worked with a group of students enrolled in an international MBA program over the course of 10 months, and tested their creativity at the beginning and end of the program; those who had dated someone from another culture had “superior creative performance.” Other experiments supported these findings, showing that the depth of a relationship correlates with a person’s convergent and divergent thinking.

Sleep smarter

While some studies have found that creative people don’t sleep well, adequate sleep is recommended for boosting the cognitive functioning that creativity requires. Both a full night’s sleep and power naps have been shown to help with idea generation;

and Thomas Edison were known to regularly nap for this reason.

Getting enough sleep at night, however, is particularly important for creative problem-solving. A study published in June 2018 suggested that both REM and non-REM sleep play a role in enhancing a person’s creative thinking. A previous study found that when people had a full eight hours of sleep before trying to solve a problem, as opposed to staying awake, nearly triple the number of participants were able to solve the problem. One of the easiest ways to become a better sleeper is to develop “sleep stability,” meaning going to bed and waking up at the same time every day (even on weekends).

Take more museum trips

Researchers working at the intersection of arts and medicine have proven that the seemingly dissimilar fields are mutually beneficial—even when it comes to the simple act of viewing an artwork in person. This year, studies reported findings that patients stand to benefit from doctor-prescribed museum visits, and likewise, doctors can learn crucial observation skillsthrough carefully examining art. If you’re wary of a fatigue-inducing museum trip, make a plan to visit one exhibition or gallery, or even just one work of art—this approach is also a good one if you’re planning on seeing art with children.

Spice up your cooking or baking rituals

If making art is not your cup of tea, perhaps you find food more accessible. Cooking invites just as much room for experimentation as art, and for many artists, like Olafur Eliasson, the ingredients, science, and ethics of food can spur fresh ideas and lead to fruitful, communal meals. While the alchemy of baking may seem to leave less room for improvisation, devotees of The Great British Bake Off and Instagram users will know well that there’s no shortage of innovative bakers and pastry chefs pushing confections into the realms of art.
[“source=artsy.net”]