Creative Zen X-Fi 16GB - Creative Zen X-Fi

By Jonathan Bray



Our Score:


For serious testing, however, I switched to my reference headphones - a pair of Grado SR325's and, feeling a touch contrary, I kicked off my listening tests with the Gypsy Kings and their live recording of the track, Quiero Saber. It's a largely acoustic track with lots of Spanish guitar and a typically difficult-to-recreate live ambience. I immediately noticed that the X-Fi has excellent clarity at the top end, which helped to recreate the atmosphere of the live venue, but had a tendency to sound flat elsewhere in the sound spectrum, which led to a bit of a clattery, clashy sound.

This effect was magnified when I moved on to classical and then to more complex material. Loading up some metal and H.I.M.'s popular And Love Said No, and it's clear that the X-Fi lacks the oomph and smoothness that the iRiver Lplayer has, with vocals and electric guitars sounding a little shouty. Turning the bass boost on helps to butter things up a bit, but this also casts a bit of a veil over the sound, masking some of the all-important details. Creative's much-touted X-Fi sound enhancements don't do much either: X-Fi Crystalizer enhances the top end but compresses the sound elsewhere; X-Fi Expand has the effect of putting the music into a padded cell and making you listen from the outside.

It's not awful sound quality by any stretch of the imagination, it's just a little disappointing given the price of the player and the calibre of Creative's other digital music players. Moreover, it places the X-Fi just below both iPod's nano and iRiver's Lplayer for me in terms of overall quality.


Despite this, though, the X-Fi remains a highly impressive player. It's absolutely crammed with features - some useful, some not - has good storage capacity and its memory expandability allows it to challenge even some hard disk-based players. Sound quality is good, if not outstanding.

But whether it can be viewed as a good deal or not depends entirely on whether you already have a pair of decent noise isolation headphones or not. If you haven't invested yet (shame on you!) it's a decent package; if you already own a pair of Sennheisers or Shures, however, £150 for a 16GB player (even one with so many features) looks a little overpriced.

Overall Score


Scores In Detail

  • Value 6
  • Sound Quality 7
  • Features 9
  • Design 7


August 24, 2008, 11:19 am

Looks like a poor man's Archos really...


August 24, 2008, 11:31 am

Well Mr Bray...

This might well be a first, as I 'pretty much' agree with your review, only differing with your opinion regarding the control layout, which I (personally) find unnecessarily convoluted and counter-intuitive, and the (still) abysmal SDHC card implementation.

It's a decent effort by team Creative, but they still need to work on the annoyingly low output volume and over-all 'feel' of the player to be seriously competitive.

Mikko Lahti

August 24, 2008, 4:14 pm

"DaHarder said: ...annoyingly low output volume"

Headphone amp anyone?


August 24, 2008, 9:29 pm

yeah, dude. i use a chumoy amp, same case a the "fire in the head" column from TR. brilliant bits of kit, never leave home without it, literally.

anyway, how does the sound quality of this compare to the original zen?


August 25, 2008, 12:24 pm

What's the firmware on the zen xfi? I just realised that they have a latest firmware ver1.03.01 said to improve the sound with x-fi. How does it sound? From what I understand the x-fi expand seems to be more for movies just the x-fi cmss3d on their x-fi sound cards.

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