Like most of you PC and along with it my office is almost like a living being, slowly evolving. Every year or two I’m changing out my video cards, my motherboard, even keyboards and mice. It’s weird though, looking back there are only a few things that seem to be very consistent, my desk and for the most part my speakers. Well when I was replacing my desk last fall I decided that I wanted to move from the Corsair SP2500’s to something new. Now keep in mind, the Corsairs sounded good as did the Klipsch’s that I have before that. So to continue to evolve I wanted to go a new direction. Well the timing was good as Creative Labs had just recently introduced their X7 and more recently their E-MU XM7 bookshelf speakers. I loved the X5 when I covered it and for a long time I even used it over the onboard on my PC but the X7 looked to be a much more fitting permanent option. Well I’ve been testing both the X7 and the XM7 speakers for a while now and we can finally sit down and go over what they are and how well they performed.
Review Samples Provided by: Creative Labs
Written by: Wes
Pictures by: Wes
|SBX Pro Studio||Yes|
|Amplifier Power Output||
Maximum Power Output
38W + 38W (4 ohm, 1kHz, 10% THD)2
27W + 27W (8 ohm, 1kHz, 10% THD)2
Rated Power Output
35W + 35W (4 ohm, 1kHz, 1% THD)2
20W + 20W (8 ohm, 1kHz, 1% THD)2
Headphone Amp Output Impedance
Total Harmonic Distortion
0.05% (1kHz, 4 ohm, 30W)2
2 Using bundled AC-DC adapter (24V 2.91A)
|Max. Playback Quality||
Stereo Direct playback sampling rates:
24-bit / 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192kHz
Surround playback sampling rates:
24-bit / 44.1, 48, 96, 192 kHz
16/24-bit / 44.1, 48, 96kHz
|USB Audio Streaming from Mobile Devices||
24-bit / 44.1, 48 kHz
16-bit / 44.1 kHz
|Max. Recording Quality||24-bit / 44.1, 48, 96, 192kHz|
|Max. Headphone Output||600Ω|
|Included Accessories||Headphone Stand|
|Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR)||127dB (DAC)|
|Connectivity Options (Main)||
Built-in Stereo Mic
1 x 1/8" (3.5mm) Mic In
Line / Optical:
1 x RCA Aux/Line In
1 x TOSLINK Optical In
1 x TOSLINK Optical Out
2 x Binding Post Passive Speaker Out (L/R)
1 x RCA Line/Front Speaker Out
1 x 1/8" (3.5mm) Rear Speaker Out
1 x 1/8" (3.5mm) Center/Sub Speaker Out
1 x 1/8" (3.5mm) Headphone Out
1 x 1/4" (6.3mm) Headphone Out
1 x Type A USB Host Port - Device Audio Stream & Charging
Frequency Response @ 192KHz (Stereo-Direct):
20 Hz – 90 kHz
|Audio Fidelity||Up to 24-bit / 192kHz|
aptX Low Latency
|Bluetooth||Bluetooth 4.1 (Low Energy)|
|Bluetooth Multipoint||Two Devices|
A2DP (Wireless stereo Bluetooth)
AVRCP (Bluetooth remote control)
HFP (Handsfree Profile)
|Operating Range||Up to 10m/33ft|
|Near Field Communication (NFC)||Yes|
|Included / Downloadable Software||
Sound Blaster X7 Control software
Sound Blaster X7 Control App
|Supported Operating Systems||
Mac OS X v10.6.8 and above
|Supported Smart Devices||
iPhones/iPads running iOS 6.0 or higher for Bluetooth^
iPhones/iPads running iOS 6.0 or higher for USB Host Audio streaming via Lightning Port
^ Devices must support Bluetooth 4.1 (Low Energy) or higher
Phones/Tablets running Android 2.3 or higher for Bluetooth
Phones/Tablets running Android 4.1 or higher for USB Host Streaming*
*Devices must support AOA2 protocol for USB Host Streaming
|Supported Gaming Consoles||
|Microphone Type||Dual-array Noise Canceling Condenser|
|Dimensions||147.0 x 150.0 x 130.0 mm (5.8 x 5.9 x 5.1 inches)|
Intel® Core™2 Duo or AMD® equivalent processor (2.8 GHz or faster recommended)
Intel, AMD or 100% compatible motherboard
Microsoft® Windows® 10 32/64-bit, Windows® 8.1/8.0 32/64-bit, Windows 7 32/64-bit, Windows Vista® 32/64-bit SP1 or higher
>600 MB of free hard disk space
Available USB 2.0/3.0 port (High Speed recommended with driver)
Macintosh running Mac® OS X® 10.6.8 or higher
>600 MB of free hard disk space
Available USB 2.0/3.0 port (High Speed recommended with software)
iPhones/iPads running iOS 6.0 or higher for Bluetooth^
iPhones/iPads running iOS 6.0 or higher for USB Host Audio streaming via Lightning Connector
^ Devices must support Bluetooth 4.1 (Low Energy) or higher
Phones/Tablets running Android 2.3 or higher for Bluetooth
Phones/Tablets running Android 4.1 or higher for USB Host Streaming*
* Devices must support AOA2 USB Streaming
Sound Blaster X7 Device
Quick Start Leaflet
WW Warranty Leaflets
24V/2.91A AC-DC Power Adaptor and cable
RCA to 3.5mm Stereo Cable for Front Out
RCA to 3.5mm Stereo Cable (Female) for Line-In
microUSB Cable 1.5m
|Warranty||1-year limited hardware warranty|
|E-MU XM7 Specifications|
|Power Output||Max 60W per channel|
Woofer: 5” (132 mm) special combination diaphragm with oversized magnetic structure and shielding
Tweeter: 1” (25 mm) silk dome tweeter
|Dimensions||Each Speaker: 298 x 174 x 232 mm (11.7 x 6.85 x 9.14 inches)|
|Weight||Each: Approx 4.35kg|
|Included Accessories||2 x Soft Grilles, 2 x Speaker Cable 2.4m, User Manual|
|Movies / Music||Yes|
|Connector Type||Gold-plated binding posts|
|Color||Brown wood grain with metallic grey finish / Black wood grain finish|
2 x E-MU XM7 Passive Speakers
2 x Soft Grilles
2 x Speaker Cable 2.5m
|Warranty||1-year limited hardware warranty|
Well for starters I should point out that the X7 and the XM7’s are two completely different products, so even though Creative sent them out to be tested together they do come in their own packaging. Starting with the X7 the packaging has a large photo of the X7 across the front along with a large glowing X& next to it. Then of course they have the Sound Blaster logo up in the top left corner. The frst of the front mainly shows all of the different devices it will work with as well as a whole line of icons showing some of the key features along the bottom.
The right side of the box is used to show photos of both the front and back of the X7. They use these photos to number and list off each of the connection options as well as things like the microphone array on the front and the volume control on the front. Down along the bottom edge they also have a few photos from inside of the X7 to show that they went with audiophile grade components like Nichicon caps, Burr-Brown ADC and DAC, and even swappable Op-Amps.
Around on the back they have a smaller photo of the X7 and a section just to talk about where the X7 fits in the market. Then the bottom section takes all of those icons we saw on the front along the bottom and explains each one of them a little more.
Creative didn’t waste any part of their packaging, they made sure that even the last side has information that might help you decide if the X7 is for you. Here they have a short specification listing, well at least short compared to what we went with on the first page. They also talk about the mobile app and control panel software that you use to control the X7.
When you open up the box right at the top they have the wire headphone stand. Then beyond that the X7 sits in a thick casing of foam. Down at the bottom of the box was also a thick box packed full of all of the cables and adapters that you might need to get the X7 hooked up to the wide variety of devices it works with. I will break down everything that was inside in our next section.
Then of course you have all of the documentation. The X7 comes with a full user manual along with a few other documents. You get a small one asking for a like on Facebook and other social media, a warranty book, and also a paper that explains what international power cable options you have as well.
The packaging for the E-MU XM7’s was a lot simpler than the X7 of course. They shipped in a brown box with the E-MU XM7 branding on it but once I dug in I found that the real packaging was inside and bright white. It has the Creative branding up in the top left corner, the E-MU up in the top right and then line drawings of the speakers on the front. Next to the drawing they do highlight a few key features, namely the 5-inch woofer size and the 1-inch silk dome tweeter. All of the important information is actually over on the side of the box where they have a short specification listing, here you can get the speaker size, ohms, and wattage.
Inside both speakers sit in between two hard foam pieces as expected.
They are also wrapped up in plastic to keep them clean and they include a small manual. Inside they show how to hook up the speaker in case you don’t understand how that works and they have a page to show how to setup the XM7’s with the X7. That second part is a nice touch. In addition to that they also include two 8-foot speaker wires so you hopefully won’t have to pick any up when hooking everything up.
Photos and Features
Unlike the E5, E3, and E1 the X7 isn’t a portable device. It is just a little under 6 inches wide, 6 inches deep, and 6 inches tall. What is weird about it was the decision to go with a unique shape. Pulling back from my geometry days, the X7 is an irregular convex hexagon. Most equipment like this would be boxy and boring, the X7 is none of that. Officially they sell it in two different models, today I’m taking a look at the standard version but word is I will hopefully be revisiting the limited edition in the future as well. Basically the limited edition is white and has a higher wattage output thanks to the high-power power adapter (that also works on the regular X7).
Starting at the front of the X7 there is a lot going on. The biggest and most obvious feature is the large aluminum volume control up top. They trimmed it out in gold and if you press it in it also mutes everything. Just below the volume knob is a wide vent, they is actually for the built in array microphone. The E5 had a few small microphones built in but the X7 really steps things up with two beamforming microphones. They added this along with their CrystalVoice technology to allow for VOIP calls and teleconferencing without having to dig out a headset. There are also a few connections up front. On the left is a microphone connection and then the other two plugs are both for headphones. One is a normal 3.5mm connection like you would find on a laptop or mobile device and the other is a larger ¼ inch plug that you sometimes find on higher end audio equipment and headphones. Just above the headphone jacks are also a few buttons as well. The button on the left will turn the X7 on and off and also is used during bluetooth setup and the right turns SBX on and off. They both light up when active and the power button switches to blue when looking for bluetooth devices.
Moving around to the left side of the X7 there isn’t all that much going on here. You have the Sound Blaster X7 logo up on the top section and then tucked up under the edge is a USB port. This is a USB Host port to pull the audio that you are playing on your phone or other device directly on to the X7. It also helps keep that device charged as well.
The back of the X7 is where most of the action is. Starting up top there is a large vented area to let some of the heat out from the built in amp. Then below that we have all of our connections. In the center are the left and right side screw on gold plated speaker connections. Just to the left of that is the impedance switch for the speakers and to the right is the power plug. Down in the bottom right is the micro USB port, this is what you hook the X7 up to your PC or MAC with. Then you have optical in and out ports, this opens up audio options for a lot of gaming systems and also is a great way to integrate your PC audio in with a full stereo or home theater as well. Then you have RCA connections for a line in and a line out and rear and sub connections in the 3.mm format.
I mentioned earlier that the X7 has bluetooth, well on the right side above the logo they have slipped in an NFC reader to make syncing your device as quick as possible.
The bottom of the X7 has four small rubber feet and then a removable cover. When we pull the cover off we can see a little of what makes the X7 tick, specifically its high end caps. More importantly though the panel gives us full access to the four OP-AMPs. They are actually pairs, two are I/V Converters (dual op-amps) and the other two are Differential to Single-Ended Converters (single op-amps). Replacing the OP-AMPs can change the tonal characteristics of the X7. Creative went with New Japan Radio NJM2114D’s on the dual op-amps and Texas Instruments LME49710 on the single op-amps.
One of the most interesting features about the X7 to me is the optional integrated headphone stand. This is a great way to be able to keep your headphones safe and out of the way without taking up any additional space on your desktop. The mount slides into the back and is very solid. The wire hanger does not have any padding up top though and the wire design will most likely push into your headphones padding more than some other hangers.
When I dug into the packaging the box of all of the cables that come with the X7 can be a little overwhelming but when you split it up it all makes more sense. A large portion of the cables are all adapter cables for the power adapter, giving you hookups for just about any international location. They did include a few other cables as well though. For starters we get a five-foot-long USB to micro USB cable. They also slipped in an RCA to 2.5mm jack adapter cable and also a 2.5mm male to RCA cable that is perfect for hooking up sub to the X7. That cable was of especially good quality with the metal ends on the RCA side.
Before moving on to the E-MU XM7’s I did want to touch on the E-MU branding. E-MU started back in the 70’s as a synthesizer and MIDI keyboard company but was picked up in the late 90’s by Creative Labs. For the most part this has been a professional focused brand of Creative Labs with the exception some high end wood based audiophile headphones. The E-MU XM7’s are marketed on the official Creative Labs website unlike all of their other professional products and they are obviously designed specifically for use with the X7’s. At first glance they are a fairly normal pair of bookshelf speakers and are available in both black and in a lighter oak.
The front grill has a standard black mesh with the E-MU branding down at the bottom.
Looking down from the top we can better see the actual shape of the XM7’s. They look like standard rectangle book shelve speakers but the sides have a little shape to them on the front and back edges.
The back of the speaker has a vent up top in the center. Below that is a black sticker that shows the model name, that the speakers are made in China, and the wattage and impedance of the speakers (60 watts and 8 Ohms). Just below that are two screw down wire crimps with gold plating on the main studs and a transparent plastic on the screw down portion. This helps to make sure you have a good connection.
The bottom of the XM7’s has that same unique shape and to keep the speakers from sliding around the bottom also has four round rubber feet.
As expected for a proper speaker, the front grill is removable with a light pull to give us access to the speakers themselves.
I found it very interesting that they also put another E-MU logo down at the bottom of the speaker in the same location as the one on the grill but the most important thing here are the speakers themselves. The woofer is 5 inches in size and Creative lists it as a special combination diaphragm with oversized magnetic structure and shielding. What I noticed was the rubber surround and a very gloss black dustcap.
Up top we have a one-inch silk dome tweeter with a metallic like finish. If you look close you can even see me taking the photo.
Installation and Setup
While the X7 can officially work with nearly anything that you toss at it, seriously look at all of the devices supported in the specification list and on the front of the box, for my testing my plan was to mainly use the X7 and XM7’s with my PC. Because of that the installation of everything was simple compared to trying to get it hooked up to a game console and some of the other devices. To get things started I figured out where I would be putting everything on my desk. In this case I was replacing the Corsair SP-2500 where I had the two speakers sitting under my left and right monitors. Given that my 3+1 monitor setup takes up my entire desk I had to get a little creative. The two XM7’s were going under the left and right monitors, but to keep them from being blocked by the monitors I had to sit them on their sides. Then the X7 replaced the controller for the SP-2500’s just to the left of the monitor stands base.
To get things started I got out the correct power adapter cable for the X7 out of the whole collection of options and I started by getting it power. From there I needed to get the USB to Micro USB cable hooked up to my PC. Well with the location and how wide my desk is this was a bit of a stretch. The original cable would reach my USB hub but was very tight so I ordered a longer cord off of Amazon to get hooked directly into my PC. This was good because running through the USB hub or having the cable pulled so tight gave me some weird issues while I waiting for the replacement cable.
Next I needed to get the audio from the X7 out to the XM7’s, thankfully the XM7’s actually come with their own speaker wire. Obviously I didn’t need to much reach given that both speakers are on my desk so I measured out what I needed and cut the two cables to length. From there I had to decide if I wanted the silver or gold side of the cable to be the positive cable. From there I just had to strip the ends of the cables with a wire striper and hook everything up. Both the speakers and the X7 have the screw down locknuts to make sure the cable isn’t going to be loose, so all I needed to do was unscrew the locknut, slide the cable in the hole, then tighten the locknut down. I love that moving to this from something like the Corsair SP-2500 allows me to run cables to the length that I need rather than being locked into proprietary cables and having to layout your desk around the speakers.
While I was able to get the X7 and XM7 speakers setup without installing anything. To take full advantage of all of its features you do need to jump online and download its software. The software is a little hard to find but you can find it on their support website or HERE. Once there you should also grab the latest firmware as well to make sure your X7 is up to date. So the software pack includes a few programs but really it all comes down to the “Sound Blaster X7 Control Panel”. In the control panel you first go through a quick setup wizard that will ask if you plan on using speakers or headphones (or both), then from there it prompts for things like high impedance headphones as well as asking specifically if you are using the XM7 speakers. The last question asks if you have setup the X7 with their high wattage power adapter, if you do they will turn up the wattage on the X7 for you. Once through that you are dropped on the main page of the software.
The program has its main menu down the left side with all of your settings on the right. Down I the bottom left corner we have a volume control on every page and you can flip between your headphones or speakers on the fly. If you go up in the top right corner, you can also find a dropdown menu where you can get into a few other options including running the setup wizard again. Our first option page is the SBX Pro Studio, if you guys had the chance to check out our previous reviews of the E1 and E5 you would have seen this as well. This is where you can turn on as well as tune a few different audio boosts. Personally I prefer my audio to be mostly untouched so I avoided using this on my day to day use, but I did get into it a little in my performance testing and will talk about that later.
The next page is the CrystalVoice page. This page combines the settings for the microphone array on the front of the X7 along with their CrystalVoice tuning that is the microphone equivalent of the SBX Pro Studio that spoke about in the last paragraph. Specifically, you can get into echo reduction and tune out background noise as well as tune the microphone arrays focus to cover the whole room or what is directly in front of it. I was especially impressed though that you have an EQ option for the microphone, you rarely have the option to tune that at all.
The next page is Creatives “Scout Mode” a gaming specific mode that you can turn on that will tune your in game audio to focus on footsteps and gunshots to hopefully be able to help pinpoint where the person. The idea is to gain a bit of an advantage before they hear your footprints as well.
Next is the speaker page. Here we can finally get into your audio experience a little. Specifically, here you can help the software understand what speaker setup you are using. By using the XM7’s there is an option directly for them and when you use them they give additional options to select if you want an energetic, neutral, or warm sound from them. Here you can also tune a power subwoofer if you are using one with the XM7’s as well. This page also has tabs up top to let you calibrate your speaker location. That page lets you input how far the speakers are away from you on each side to have the best audio experience even if you aren’t centered in between the speakers. The polarity option up top will test the speaker wire polarity and give you the option to invert the output if you have your speakers wired up wrong. The best option in my opinion though is the direct mode option that basically hard wires your speakers, avoiding any tuning at all to give you the purest output possible.
The headphones page is nearly bare compared to the speakers page but we do have a direct mode option just like the speakers. The only other option here is the ability to turn on high gain mode for headphones that have an impedance of 600 ohms.
The cinematic page should be renamed the Dolby page because all you find here is the option to set how much work the Dolby dynamic rage control will be doing. You can set it to full, normal, or down to a night mode.
It might sound crazy but I think what I liked the most about the X7 software was to have quick access to a full mixer unlike the basic mixer built into windows and into most software. Here you can change the overall volume of course, but below that you can tune or mute each input that the X7 has including the USB host and Bluetooth options. Beyond that, each input can be selected and you can tune the left and right side balance. They even included the microphone array here, you control how much of the microphone array you hear over the speakers/headphones, that is why I have it muted of course. Then down at the bottom you can expand the recording mixer as well where we have all of these options again but with all of the recording inputs.
The last page is simple and right to the point, you can turn on the EQ. With it on you have a dropdown list of standard settings or you can set it to your preference and then save it as an option as well.
Well just like the mobile DAC the X7 also has its own mobile app, this is especially great if you aren’t using the X7 for PC audio like I am. With a mobile app you can dig into settings for the X7 while listing to mobile audio as well as audio for a home theatre or console gaming setup. To get it up and running on Android (it also works with iOS) you need to install the Sound Blaster X7 Control app as well as a background app called Sound Blaster Services. You can find both on google play.
Once everything is all setup the X7 Control app opens up with two pages of options to pick from. Each option for the most part matches a page on the PC program as well. This isn’t really a big surprise given the app is there to give the same control to everyone who isn’t using the X7 with a PC.
To put the X7 and the XM7’s to the test I have been using the setup at my desk for a few months. This means I tested it while working as well as gaming. The reason testing while working is important is because day to day I work while listening to music or with a movie or TV show on in the background. A lot of my testing was done using Pandora but Creative did send over a trial of Tidal, a lossless music streaming provider. On top of all of that testing I did test with my own lossless files as well. So how did the combination perform? Did it out perform the Corsair desktop speakers that it replaced?
Well the easy answer to that is a huge yes, going from the SP-2500’s that performed well to the X7/XM7 combination was night and day. For starters going with the X7 and XM7 combination took up a lot more space on my desk, this could have been avoided a little if I wasn’t running a low sitting monitor stand that forced me to turn the speakers on their sides. Of course this wasn’t exactly space I was using every day as the speakers do sit behind my monitors. The audio performance was an even bigger change. The SP-2500’s sounded good but listening to the X7/XM7 combination was crisp, clear, and had a much better range on the high end. On top of that even with the lower powered X7 I never really needed more power or could push the XM7’s to their limit. Really the only noticeable change that was a downside was that while the XM7’s had good bass, they lacked the chest pounding lows that a dedicated sub provides. It’s a good thing that the X7 supports adding a sub, I will be looking at adding one soon to add a little to the experience.
I mentioned the combination having a lot of power but to put things in perspective. With my old setup I would run the windows volume all the way up and day to day would have the corsairs at about 1/3 volume turning them up to at least half way when jamming. With the X7/XM7 combination you only use the windows volume setting, but at most day to day I could run it at 16, turning it up to 20 (out of 100) when kicking it up. This was a huge change initially, I felt like I could hardly turn them down in fact but I quickly adjusted. On the fly volume changes were easy with the large metal volume knob on the front of the X7. Pushing the volume button in to mute on the other hand was difficult, the X7 would just slide across my desk every time.
On top of the good performance with the XM7’s that were designed to work with the X7, I spent a lot of time testing it with a nice pair of headphones as well. For my testing I used V-MODA Crossfade M-100’s and with the X7 pushing them the audio quality was even better than the XM7’s, especially on the low end. To turn my M-100’s into a headset I used the V-MODA boom microphone kit plugged into the X7 and at times I also just went with the microphone array in the front of the X7. The combination of the X7 and the M-100’s with a boom mic was especially effective with friends in TeamSpeak commenting that I sounded like I was sitting right next to them, something they have never said in the past with any other microphone. The microphone array wasn’t as effective as it did pick up noise from around the room, especially the mechanical keyboard between me and the X7. That said the array sounds good, much better than a lot of other cord free setups.
While I mostly used the X7 with my PC. I really came to appreciate the flexibility that it offers. Especially when wanting to play audio from my phone or tablet. Syncing via bluetooth was quick and easy by using NFC and once synced the audio quality was better than expected although still limited by the bluetooth platform. Playing via the host USB option was much better, basically turning my tablet into a music controller and keeping it charged at the same time.
I mentioned earlier that I typically prefer to run a mostly pure audio experience. That said I couldn’t exactly test the X7 without trying out some of the options on the SBX Pro Studio. While I prefer a raw sound I will admit toying with the crystallizer and bass settings I was able to improve a little on the lack of bass of the XM7’s. The bass setting is actually a great feature, here we can set the exact crossover frequency that our speakers start to have issues with the bass preventing the X7 from pushing bass to the speakers that could cause damage or more importantly cause distortion. The crystallizer option is a little cheaper cleaning things up and just adding a little more to the highs and the bass from what I can tell. The smart volume option could also be useful, it helps prevent sudden volume changes, especially when set to night mode.
Overall and Final Verdict
So it’s important to remember that today we are taking a look at two different products even though both were tested together. When I started my testing I set out to find out if moving to the X7 with a pair of bookshelf speakers would be a major improvement over some of the high end PC audio solutions. The short answer to that is a resounding yes, the X7 and XM7’s performed great and the difference between them and past PC speaker setups was night and day. I did find that the pair was lacking a little on the low end when compared to the two 2.1 setups that I had used previously but adding a powered sub would help in that department. Beyond we proved that the PC speaker setups on the market are lacking and that to go high end like our PCs going with an X7 and something designed for studio use is a much better option.
The XM7’s performed well but really it was the X7 that stood out to me during all of my testing. For the most part I think I could replace the XM7’s with a lot of different speaker setups, some that cost a lot less even, but I don’t think there is anything else like the X7 on the market. There are DACs and amps that will get you a similar audio experience but the X7 stands out because of its connection options. Not only can you hook it up to a PC via USB like I did for testing, but it has everything needed to integrate other audio components, to use it in a home theatre, or even hooking up your game consoles. I would love to see a future model have HDMI pass-through to pick up audio easier in those setups but beyond that you can’t ask for much more. Add to all of that the mobile connection options though and the X7 is on its own. You can use NFC and connect via bluetooth or if you prefer a hard wired approach you can use your device as a USB host for the best possible audio quality.
The X7 works well at my desktop audio solution but I think for people using a laptop who like to come home and have the best possible audio experience the X7 is really going to work for you. If you are lazy you can just have your laptop sync via bluetooth but you will lose audio quality, but with both Mac and PC support hooking up via USB is going to give you a proper audio upgrade on a laptop, something that you can’t exactly just pop a new sound card into.
Beyond the performance when using speakers, the X7 has the built in headphone stand and full support for high impedance headphones for audiophiles who need power to push their high end headphones. Really I only had a few issues with the X7. For starters I would love to see a volume indicator for the volume control, it’s okay when using the X7 with a PC because it shows the windows volume setting but when using it with other devices there is no indication of how far it is turned up. I would also like to see larger rubber feet on the bottom, when trying to mute the volume by pushing the volume knob in I would just slide the X7 across my desk. I also think that an input indicator and way to select them on the device would make it a better all-around device. The software is nice, but having to go into it to flip between devices isn’t always the best option.
The E-MU XM7’s individually are a good pair of speakers. In testing they had especially clean mids and highs. Being a bookshelf speaker they are very versatile and can be used as office speakers as I used them or to fill out sound anywhere around your house. Multiple times in my coverage today I have mentioned that they lacked a little on the low end but let me be clear, this is only in comparison to 2.1 setups that have a powered subwoofer. Individually they still sound great and they do have enough bass to rattle things around when pushed, but there is only so much that can be done in a bookshelf form factor with five inch woofers. The other issue I had with them was in their price point, there are a few good budget bookshelf speakers that could fill the same role as the XM7’s. For example, the Pioneer SP-BS22-LR’s or bookshelf speakers from Dayton Audio. That said what helps the E-MU XM7’s in this situation is the work they put in making sure the X7 and the XM7’s work perfectly together. In fact if you are looking to pick up the pair you can save $140 right off the top by buying the X7 and XM7’s together, that’s enough to change the price discussion completely.
So would I recommend going with the X7? Well let’s be clear, this is an expensive option and I think most people are looking at PC speakers that cost a lot less than what the combination of the X7 and XM7 cost together. But if you are looking for a versatile setup that is going to go with your new triple Titan X build this is a great option. I know I plan on keeping the X7 and XM7 for a long time. I plan on adding a powered subwoofer to add a little immersion when watching movies and playing some games and if I had my pick I would be running the X7 Limited Edition to have even more power when pushing the XM7’s. But until then you will find me jamming away while working.