Creative Sound BlasterAxx SBX 20 Design
What makes all this functionality intriguing is the Creative Sound BlasterAxx SBX 20's form factor. At 40 x 11 x 9.7cm in size and 2.6kg in weight, this sizeable hexagonal tower looks like a Roman pillar... snapped off a Cylon battleship. It is light enough to be easily carried around the house or to the garden and its screw-in base keeps it more stable than the design would suggest. Build quality is functional, but durable with a fabric grill covering the speaker on all sides and a matching piano black base and top, the latter of which features an array of touch sensitive controls.
The reason for this is the Creative Sound BlasterAxx SBX 20 doesn't come with a remote control. This is odd for such a multi-functional product, but Creative squeezes in toggle buttons to make/end a call, mute (voice or music) and trigger SBX effects, noise cancellation and Voice Focus. The obligatory touch sensitive volume control is also there, but it is a little laggy. Noticeable by its absence are playback controls with Creative preferring this to be done via the source and this works well enough, though the iPhone app only supports playback of the official Music player which is frustrating for users of Spotify, Rdio and other third party apps.
Creative Sound BlasterAxx SBX 20 Performance
So, having packed in so much functionality and endless proprietary audio enhancement technologies what could go wrong? Unfortunately, a lot and the issues stem from the drivers. Although Creative doesn't divulge detailed product specs, given the Creative Sound BlasterAxx SBX 20's ultra low power requirements, we can't imagine they're particularly powerful - they certainly don't sound it.
Even with the SBX effects on and bass frequency profiles cranked up, when playing music the Creative Sound BlasterAxx SBX 20 still sounds tinny and hollow. Bass is woefully lacking and, while there is plenty of treble, the midrange is weak removing much of the depth. Unsurprisingly the SBX 20 also isn't particularly loud restricting it to close range listening experiences and anything from more than a few metres away feels distant. For gaming this problem is exacerbated given the not so subtle focus on low frequencies in many titles. This is definitely not the system to use with Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.
Where the Creative Sound BlasterAxx SBX 20 is far more successful, is hands-free calling. While dependent on a decent mobile signal, voices do indeed sound clear and the noise cancellation works well. In some instances it is also highly convenient to have audio mute automatically and be replaced the ring tone of your phone then the voice of the caller before seamlessly returning to music/gaming duties. At other times, however, it is invasive (particularly when you want to screen calls) and if you're blasting your audio prepare to be blasted when the caller starts speaking too, leading to a lot of volume adjustment back and forth between applications.