Creative's promising new PC soundbar has a sound card built in

Creative Sound BlasterX speaker and soundbar, out later this year.

Creative Sound BlasterX speaker and soundbar, out later this year.

One of the most extravagant pieces of technology I saw at CES 2016 was Creative’s X-Fi Sonic Carrier, a $5,000 colossus of a soundbar with 17 drivers across an 11.2.4 configuration. It’s not a soundbar in the traditional sense, thanks to side- and up-firing drivers that support Dolby Atmos surround, an absurd array of connectivity options and seven dual-core processors inside to handle Creative’s sound processing. It’s clearly a home entertainment system device, though, not something you’ll have sitting on your PC desk. So why bring it up? Because Creative’s taking that DNA and applying it to a much more practical device that could happily sit underneath your monitor: a new BlasterX sound bar, due out later this year.

Creative gave us an exclusive look at a new pair of stereo speakers and sound bar coming to its BlasterX line, likely this summer. The speakers, dubbed Project Kratos, are a 2.1 80 watt system and subwoofer with a planned $99 price point. To fit into the gaming space, the sub will have some underglow RGB LED lighting, but the big draw is the wooden enclosures for the speakers. Most low-end and gaming speakers use plastic bodies, and Creative says wood will help give them a much nicer sound stage.

But the really interesting piece of audio gear is Project Avenger, a soundbar with accompanying sub. Yes, it’s a soundbar, and no I’m not crazy for saying this one is interesting. This particular soundbar actually has the guts of a Creative sound card buried inside it. Its innards are the equivalent of a ZX sound card (which costs about $100). It’s hard to convince people to buy sound cards these days, since motherboard audio hits that “good enough” point for most gamers, but Avenger may be able to win people over by outperforming the competition.

Creative Sound BlasterX soundbar

Moving the sound card tech outside the PC via USB at least frees up PCIe space, and should make for some great audio processing and options on Avenger. The system is still in development right now—the unit we saw had its mid drivers pointing downwards and tweets on the sides, but those mid drivers are going to move to the top in the final product. The X-Fi Sonic Carrier’s Dolby Atmos three dimensional audio offers a clue as to why those drivers will be firing upwards.

Creative’s shooting for a $250 price point for the BlasterX soundbar, which sounds a bit high to me, but that integrated Creative processing may give it an edge over similar PC audio gear. It’s also got some nice touches like wraparound LED lighting and a display in the front grille for changing settings, and an overall low enough profile to fit comfortably underneath a monitor.

And one last detail on that absurdly over-the-top X-Fi Sonic Carrier: it may cost $5,000 on release later this year, but early buyers are getting it for a deal. As of this writing, it’s sitting at a price of $1750, with the price set to increase with every 100 units sold.

Wes Fenlon
Senior Editor

Wes has been covering games and hardware for more than 10 years, first at tech sites like The Wirecutter and Tested before joining the PC Gamer team in 2014. Wes plays a little bit of everything, but he'll always jump at the chance to cover emulation and Japanese games.

When he's not obsessively optimizing and re-optimizing a tangle of conveyor belts in Satisfactory (it's really becoming a problem), he's probably playing a 20-year-old Final Fantasy or some opaque ASCII roguelike. With a focus on writing and editing features, he seeks out personal stories and in-depth histories from the corners of PC gaming and its niche communities. 50% pizza by volume (deep dish, to be specific).