New from Creative Technology Ltd is the Creative X-Fi Sonic Carrier, a high-end lifestyle ‘entertainment platform’ complete with 11.2.4 Dolby Atmos audio system.
Powered by a total of seven processors with 14 cores, the soundbar – for want of a better word – carries a 15.2 high-resolution audio system in an 11.2.4 (front, sub, height) speaker configuration that also happens to incorporate Dolby Atmos technology.
Furthermore, the Sonic Carrier features an advanced video playback engine that supports 4K (60fps) local and streaming video content, with room for future upgrades.
The X-Fi Sonic Carrier is equipped with three distinct wireless technologies that allow multi-room Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and a zero-latency speaker-to-speaker links to up to four subwoofer units, contained in an acoustically inert double walled enclosure, crafted on a CNC machined, finely polished and anodized aluminium chassis black.
“The X-Fi Sonic Carrier is the epitome of high-end home theatre and high-end audio systems, made for people who appreciate the finer things in life,” says Sim Wong Hoo, CEO of Creative Technology Ltd. “It redefines the boundaries of the state of the art in the category. It is truly a work of art.”
“We embarked on this mammoth project after being approached by many to design a super high-end audio system and the latest and greatest home theatre, loaded with all the bells and whistles you could imagine. There are only a few companies that possess the breadth of technology and know-how to qualify to attempt such a project. However, one must have the audacity and patience to undertake this challenge, as it is a super high-risk endeavour. And given that it is a very unique and ambitious project, besides our normal marketing programs, we are also exploring the use of crowdfunding to reach out to bold kindred spirits who embrace the same vision of riding with us in this new frontier.”
The X-Fi Sonic Carrier’s 11.2.4 audio system employs four upward-firing speaker drivers that reproduce the height information present in Dolby Atmos recordings by reflecting the sound off the ceiling and back down to the listener.
The ‘soundbar’ further incorporates Creative’s own EAX 15.2 Dimensional Audio processing algorithms to deliver what the manufacturer calls ‘natural, spacious and enveloping sound’ from legacy surround and stereo material. The resultant 15.2 signal is then individually DSP-processed, upscaled to 24-bit high resolution audio and finally reproduced through the 11.2.4 channels of the Sonic Carrier.
Eleven front and side-facing channels are complemented by the subwoofer, with the Sonic Carrier’s front and side-facing drivers spreading across the 55in width of its body, lending itself to pairing with TVs measuring 65in and up. (Bolstered further by its slim 3.5in profile.)
The system comprises 15 drivers in the Sonic Carrier main unit and a dual driver wireless subwoofer. Every driver in the system features low distortion motors and is also individually driven by a DSP-controlled amplifier boasting 800W RMS total system power.
In fact, the Sonic Carrier consists of 10 pieces of 2.75in Aluminium Cone Midbass drivers and five pieces of 0.75in wide dispersion Titanium Dome Super Tweeters. The super tweeters with extended high frequency response to 40kHz are well suited for getting the best out of high bitrate, high-resolution audio recordings. These drivers are arranged in an array with 11 front and side firing drivers, reproducing front and surround sound and four up-firing drivers.
The subwoofer is connected to the X-Fi Sonic Carrier via a zero-latency wireless speaker link. The subwoofer unit houses two subwoofer drivers in a push-push configuration, providing the same surface area and bass output of a single 10in driver, but with a much slimmer profile.
A dual flared, bifurcated port tube loads each of the drivers equally for optimal performance. Bass can be further reinforced by adding up to four subwoofers wirelessly, therefore averaging out response deviations.
The X-Fi Sonic Carrier is also compatible with high-resolution audio files; it will support playback up to 24-bit/192kHz audio in PCM and lossless formats. It also supports a wide variety of network audio protocols, popular online music services and has a built-in Android-based video playback engine.
Network audio protocols include AirPlay and Google Cast for audio, Miracast, Chromecast and DLNA.
Online music services include Spotify and Pandora, while its Android-based video playback engine supports up to 4K video content playback, as well as most popular online movie streaming services such as: Netflix, Hulu plus and HBO GO. The X-Fi Sonic Carrier is also VPN compatible, allowing users to watch their favourite content all over the world.
Further adding to its feature list is the inclusion of Advanced X-Fi Pro Studio, a suite of adaptive audio technologies focused on giving users a 24-bit audio playback that is further enhanced by Creative’s proprietary Xtreme Fidelity (X-Fi) algorithms. It works by analysing the audio signal to understand the spatial and dynamic nature of the program material, transparently enhancing the audio signal.
The level and extent of processing can be customised via software, available on PC, Mac, iOS or Android platforms.
Meanwhile, X-Fi HD Crystalizer intelligently remasters legacy audio material, freeing the audio from the constraints of the original, lower resolution mediums such as CDs and MP3s, conferring many of the advantages presented by high-resolution recording and delivery formats. It also upscales all outputs to 24-bit HD audio format.
The patented X-Fi Smart Volume technology works to address the problem of changing volume levels by automatically and continuously measuring volume and applying gain and attenuation to compensate for those changes. In fact, the manufacturer claims that X-Fi Smart Volume can actually look ahead of time at the incoming audio stream, determine the perceived volume level and apply gain or attenuation just in time to compensate for a source volume change.
X-Fi Smart Volume also includes a specially tuned Night Mode, designed to keep the dynamics of the audio track under control, i.e. it suppresses the loudness of an on-screen explosion.
Not stopping there, X-Fi Dialog Plus is said to enhance the voices in movies for clearer dialogue, allowing the listener to hear what characters are saying over the rest of the soundtrack and over ambient noise in the listening environment.
The X-Fi Sonic Carrier is also equipped with Room Calibration capability to intelligently adapt to the unique acoustics of any room it is in.
The X-Fi Sonic Carrier supports 802.11 b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, as well as Gigabit Ethernet, enabling streaming and multi-room content delivery. Beyond that, it supports a full range of inputs that covers the user’s every need with Bluetooth audio, network audio and video, two analogue inputs, two digital optical inputs, four HDMI 2.0a inputs, as well as four microSD card slots.
A prototype of the Creative X-Fi Sonic Carrier was demonstrated at CES, whereby the manufacturer revealed the $5,000 (£3,500) price tag (including the wireless subwoofer).
However, the Creative X-Fi Sonic Carrier is available for pre-order at a ‘crowdfunding-style’ price starting from $1,750 (£1,200) – excluding shipping and handling. This pre-order price will last until March 31, 2016 for a limited quantity only.
The X-Fi Sonic Carrier is slated to begin shipping in September 2016 and at present the manufacturer has plans to ship locally in Singapore and to the US, telling CE Pro Eu that it is evaluating its options to make this available in Europe.