The Headphones With The World’s First 3-D Surround Sound

Home-grown Creative Technology’s SXFI Air is a mind blow for audiophiles.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Home-grown Creative Technology’s SXFI Air is a mind blow for audiophiles. And it takes phone calls, too.

"Turn this on for 3-D sound. Use the left ear cup (or the app) to forward and rewind. "

"Choose from more than 16 million colours on the SXFI app to customise your RGB colour ring."

Regular cans pretty much shoot sound waves into the ears through tinny speakers. Top-tier ones produce more modulated or equalised sounds, though the delivery can still feel… claustrophobic. But, as The Blow Monkeys sang, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Like every player in the headphone industry, Creative Technology’s CEO Sim Wong Hoo has been on a crusade to achieve the “holy grail” of fauxsurround sound; he has been at it since the 1990s. After more than 20 years of “engineering sweat, tears and grit, the feat is finally realised in the SXFI Air headphones”, says Sim.

He calls the sound they produce “holographic” or “3-D”. Translation after we copped a pair: Music seems to come from outside the headphones, as if from a multi-surround speaker system – and it’s glorious, organic, immersive and weirdly magical (albeit magic created with $140 million worth of R&D). Like Yo-Yo Ma is playing his cello in the room – just for you.

The breakthrough SXFI tech is complemented by, well, another breakthrough: its app, which you download after you get the headphones. What the AI does is determine the best surround-sound experience for your unique profile after you have mapped your face and ears (by taking pictures of them) for it. Thereafter, connect through Bluetooth, play, and wait for magic. Not connected to a device? Music can be played offline via a micro SD card loaded with your tunes.

The industry has already given its collective thumbs up to SXFI Air: It took 14 Best Of awards at CES 2019 in Las Vegas.

It can also take phone calls through its built-in mini microphone, though you may not necessarily want your boss shouting at you in 3-D audio.

“We are on the verge of a universal game changer in the way people experience expansive and lifelike audio,” says Sim. “This paradigm shift will elevate mankind’s appreciation of audio.” SXFI Air, in black or white, is $219 at https:// – NVP