In a departure from its traditional sound cards, Creative has just unveiled a line of Bluetooth speakers with built-in mics, called the Sound BlasterAxx range. Yes, these are the pun-heavy ones we anticipated last week, but now we have a lot more detail. There are three different sizes of speaker, but only the larger two (the SBX-20 and SBX-10) are Bluetooth -- the smaller and cheaper SBX-8 must be tethered. All contain the new SBAxx-1 hardware processor, and even the SBX-20 can be powered over USB from a mobile device (with sufficient current output) or a power pack. The speakers are designed to bring Creative into the Internet Age with a number of voice-enhancing features for video chat apps like Skype. These include highly-focused directionality and noise reduction, to frame out peripheral sounds, and also Smart Volume, which automatically adjusts audio levels as you move closer to or further from the mic. This same processing technology is also claimed to assist with voice-recognition platforms like Siri when you use a Sound BlasterAxx speaker to communicate with your device instead of its regular microphone. There's also some quirky stuff like comic voice effects, just in case you're not embarrassed by how you sound on a mic already. The SBX-8 and SBX-10 will be available in the UK from early July for £80 and £130 respectively, while the flagship SBX-20 will arrive in August for £180.
Update: Now with added gallery and video after the break!
Sound BlasterAxx hands-on
Creative Unveils the Sound BlasterAxx™ - A Whole New Generation of Sound Blaster to Dazzle the New Mobile Networked Generation
Advanced Audio Technologies Coupled with Intelligent Wireless Speaker and Smart Voice Communication Technologies Bridge the Multiple Worlds of PCs, Macs, iPhones, iPads, Android Phones and Tablets with a Simple Elegant Device
Sound BlasterAxx SBX 20
Besides seamlessly supporting the PCs and Macs, the Sound BlasterAxx is also designed to work intelligently with smart devices including the iPhone, iPad, Android phones and Android tablets, providing the best of all worlds. The Sound BlasterAxx leverages Creative's vast audio engineering expertise to provide best-in-class audio playback for music, movies, games and voice communications. To support the intelligent audio applications on these smart mobile devices, the Sound BlasterAxx also features advanced Bluetooth wireless audio connectivity and a high-quality dual-microphone array.
"After selling 400 Million Sound Blasters, I was staring at an irony that few realised – they all don't make sound! It was probably due to the hassle of installing Sound Blaster inside the PC; can you imagine the horror if one needs to further install some speakers inside? Today we face a whole new generation of users, who have busy and fast-paced lifestyles. They demand elegant, simple and hassle-free solutions. My ultimate challenge was how to design a whole new Sound Blaster for them. Sound BlasterAxx ushers in a whole new generation of Sound Blaster and marks a paradigm shift for the brand – for the first time ever, we have created a Sound Blaster that not only produces awesome audio, it actually listens to you and your audio environment. This paradigm shift unlocks a whole new world of useful and exciting applications," said Creative Chairman and CEO Sim Wong Hoo, creator of the Sound Blaster.
"Sound BlasterAxx provides absolute freedom, total control and convenience from just a touch on their mobile devices, enabling users to completely customise their listening experience for music, films and games. We have designed it to also deliver stunning voice quality with smartphone and Skype hands-free calls through adaptive communication technologies that can cancel ambient noise and focusing the microphone-array for accurate voice pick-up. If you like, you may even change your voice when calling others," continued Sim. "Plus it's amazingly simple to use. Installation is as easy as inserting a USB dongle – just simply insert-and-go, nothing else. And it requires virtually no power – in fact, I've banned the unwieldy power adapter together with its cable and plugs! This not only saves money for the users, it's a small but meaningful contribution towards saving the environment." "Audio has never been so simple, so elegant, so fun, so engaging, so dramatic and so magical" continued Sim.
The Sound BlasterAxx stands above the rest in appearance as well as performance. Elegantly designed in the form of a hexagonal tower with backlit capacitive touch controls, it allows users to access key functions at a touch. The Sound BlasterAxx utilises a unique patent-pending "stacked stereo" speaker design that incorporates two-speaker drivers angled to provide stereo separation. When combined with SBX Pro Studio Surround technology, it delivers awesome room-filling sound from a compact one-piece device powered by only the tiny USB current. Special circuitry enables very low power consumption but large amplified power output from a PC or Mac USB connection. This all-in-one design eliminates the need for a two-speaker system with all the messy wiring, microphones and unwieldy power adaptors along with their plugs and cables.
The Sound BlasterAxx also works standalone when used with mobile devices. It can then be powered by any certified simple USB power adaptor.
The Sound BlasterAxx is powered by the new SB-Axx1™ (Sound Blaster "Axxelerated" multi-core audio processor chip) which inherited all the desired features and technologies of the legendary Sound Blaster series, and boosted by an array of additional technologies and features to tackle the challenges of the new market defined by the new mobile networked generation. This means that for the first time, a single audio enhancement solution bridges every major audio and communication platform and network; for example the PC world, Mac world, Mobile world, Tablet world, the Wi-Fi network, Bluetooth, the PSTN system, the LAN, the WAN, etc. Each of these worlds has its own unique complex requirements.
Since the SB-Axx1™ chip is so powerful, flexible and programmable, it is able to adapt quickly and seamlessly to any new audio scenario in these multi-faceted and connected worlds.
With an astounding suite of audio technologies in the SB-Axx1 chip, Sound BlasterAxx delivers dramatic enhancements to two of our fundamental daily activities in the intricate new world of audio: listening and talking. These technologies include:
SBX Pro Studio™ enhances the world of LISTENING with Awesome Playback:
The fully customisable SBX Pro Studio™ set of technologies dramatically improves audio playback for music, films and games – delivering unprecedented levels of personal audio realism from a compact one-piece device.
• SBX Crystalizer™ - Enhances audio for music and movies by restoring details in the high and low frequencies
• SBX Surround™ - Delivers an immersive personal surround sound experience
• SBX Smart Volume™ - Solves the problem of abrupt volume level changes in music, movies and games by intelligently applying gain and attenuation to deliver consistent volume levels; includes Night Mode™ to reduce the impact of explosions and bursts of sound so as not to disturb others after hours
• SBX Dialog Plus™ - Enhances the intricacy of the human voice in movies and games, allowing the listener to hear the dialog clearly
• SBX Bass™ - Fills in the missing low frequency tones and gives that 'extra punch' for a better entertainment experience
CrystalVoice™ Technology enhances the world of TALKING and Communication with crystal-clear hands-free voice and video conference calls:
The Sound BlasterAxx design also integrates a high-quality dual-microphone array which leverages SBX CrystalVoice™ technology to dramatically improve voice quality for hands-free phone calls or video-conferencing calls. Voice Focus ensures precisely targeted voice pick-up, while Noise Reduction enables clear conversations without background noise interference. Smart Volume gives users the freedom to walk around a room during phone conversations while the listener experiences clear, consistent volume levels.
• Acoustic Echo Cancellation - Eliminates the echoes in a hands-free conference call
• Noise Reduction - Enables the person speaking to be heard clearly over background noise by constantly monitoring the environment, eliminating unwanted noise that interferes with the conversation
• Smart Volume - Automatically adjusts the loudness of a voice to maintain a consistent volume level. This makes it convenient for the speaker to converse normally, regardless of whether the speaker is close to, or far away from the microphone
• Voice Focus – Envelopes the user in an audio shield that blocks out unwanted voices or noises, enabling only the user's voice to be heard clearly
• VoiceFX™ - Enables the alteration of the user's voice with a variety of effects: create interesting accents, or enable someone to sound like a completely different person, such as changing one's voice from male to female, or monster, or robot, and much more
The whole suite of technologies on the Sound BlasterAxx can be controlled from the PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android phones and tablets. Sound BlasterAxx Control Panel lets users fully customise and control their audio experience from a PC or Mac. The Creative Central app lets users do the same from an iPhone, iPad, Android phone and tablet – with a newfound wireless convenience.
In a nutshell, Sound BlasterAxx makes the two fundamental activities of talking and listening simple again.
About the Sound BlasterAxx Series
The Sound BlasterAxx will be introduced in three models: the SBX 20 and SBX 10, which are Bluetooth wireless-enabled, and the SBX 8, which will connect to a PC or Mac via USB for use on a desktop.
Sound BlasterAxx SBX 20
Premium Wireless Sound BlasterAxx for Smart Devices
• Works wirelessly with Bluetooth-enabled devices
• Application support for iOS, Android, PC and Mac
• Innovative acoustic ID utilises a stacked stereo design that directs sound to fill the room
• Voice Focus with dual-microphone array
• Premium speakerphone encompassing noise reduction and voice focusing technologies to improve communications
• Hardware-accelerated SBX Pro Studio and CrystalVoice technology
• Control buttons embedded in a backlit touch-sensitive panel
• Aux-In connectivity for wired connection to audio playback devices
• 410 x 91 mm form factor
Sound BlasterAxx is also available in the following models:
Sound BlasterAxx SBX 10
Best-in-Class Wireless Sound BlasterAxx for Smart Devices, PC and Mac
• This model incorporates all functions of the SBX 20, except it is smaller in size
Sound BlasterAxx SBX 8
Ultra-portable Sound BlasterAxx for PC and Mac
• Smaller in size than the SBX 10 and is designed to be the perfect companion for PC and Mac
Pricing and Availability
The Sound BlasterAxx SBX 20, priced at GBP 179.99, will be available in Aug 2012. The Sound BlasterAxx SBX 10, priced at GBP 129.99, and the Sound BlasterAxx SBX 8, priced at GBP 79.99 will be available in July 2012. Stockists include http://uk.creative.com/ and Amazon.