Creatives Small Audio Tower
The SBX8 is a 57mm hexagon in cross-section and about165mm tall. Five faces are covered with black cloth and the remaining one to the rear, where the connections and the “port” to improve acoustic properties are located, has a matt black finish. In addition to the micro-USB, there are two 3.5mm sockets -- one for headphones and the other for aux/mic. in. The touch controls are on the top, slightly angled, surface which has a polished black surface.
The Quick Start guide tells one to go to creative.com to download the Sound Blaster Axx Control Panel -- all 61.6MB of it. Although the speakers worked satisfactorily out of the box even before installing this software the control panel, once installed, provides a wide range of settings. Having chosen from Music, Movies or Gaming one then has a choice of more detailed settings. For example, the Movie choices are Dynamic Boost, Night Mode, Loud Mode or Clear Dialogue. One can also adjust audio characteristics using a 10-band graphic equaliser.
Other settings included those for the microphone as well as for the mixer facilities for different inputs. Overall, the user is spoilt for choice. While I feel that the majority of users will not make use of the full range of adjustments and options available, I found that that it was basically easy to use and, for a unit of its size, gave reasonable sound quality for the various items of music that I tried.
Correspondingly, the microphone sound was satisfactory and noise reduction can be switched in when there is background noise. Overall, the SBX8 was very convenient and effective when using it for Skype. I just stood it on the table alongside my laptop and was in business in just a few moments and could easily adjust the volume using the “slider” on the top of the unit.
In addition to the SB Control Panel I found that Creative Alchemy had been installed. This, it explains, is to restore hardware acceleration audio so that you can enjoy EAX and 3D audio when playing DirectSound3D games in Vista or Win7.
While the SBX8 appears to be solidly constructed, I did feel that the speaker units under the cloth covering could be vulnerable to damage. Consequently, I would be reluctant to take the unit on my travels even though I use a reasonable quality laptop bag. Nevertheless, I feel that it would be very suitable for those using their laptop in their home because of space limitations. Here, the small size and convenience makes the SBX8 come into its own
The list price of £79.99 is in line with what one would expect for a premium product. However, at the time of writing it was available on Amazon for £65.33.
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