It’s been a few weeks since we reviewed the Soundcast Melody 8-way omni-directional Bluetooth speaker. The sound produced envelops an entire room with incredible surround performance. But many will have to donate an organ to afford it. You can imagine my surprise to find a speaker of equal caliber in a smaller form factor and touting a significantly reduced cost of entry.
The Creative Sound BlasterAXX Axx 200 Intelligent Wireless Sound System is a know-it-all, do-it-all overachiever of the first order. This unit, that stands barely a foot high, is a full NFC-capable Bluetooth speaker with conference calling, karaoke, and microSD card support. It supports PC, Mac, iOS and Android devices. The companion mobile app (iOS and Android) further extends the functionality with a host of features to enhance movies, music and games. But can anything be completely perfect?
The Axx 200 comes darn close. This stylish 8-sided speakers is less than a foot tall and weighs less than 1kg. It ships with the main speaker unit, USB charging cable, manual and USB/AC adapter. The top of the speaker is slanted down toward the user and reveals–when powered on–an illuminated touch screen control panel. Bluetooth pairing is indicated by the blue LED found on top front just below the touch panel. The sides are covered in a single sheet of meshed metal. Within are two speaker drivers angled to face in different directions to help with position and surround.
The Sound BlasterAXX Axx 200 offers up a ton of onboard control functions. We have the Power button at the top, along with full playback/pause/track skip functions following below that. You can also mute the mic, which also works to shuffle tracks found on a MicroSD. Audio listeners can initiate voice or playback recording, and activate megaphone functions for karaoke.
Toward the bottom you find the Port Tube, which help push out the enhanced bass. Below that is a MicroSD card slot which instantly turns the Axx 200 into a portable audio player for music or voice recordings. The unit has a USB port for charging other mobile devices. Microphone, headphone and miniUSB charging ports round out the connectivity options at the bottom. The mic jack doubles as a Aux-in for other portable music devices.
With all those features and doohickeys to fiddle, the Axx 200 is no boring Bluetooth gizmo. Firstly, it can be paired either via the traditional Bluetooth method. Set the speaker in a pairing mode by holding the Power button down for a few seconds. Then find the product name in your list of Bluetooth devices on your PC or mobile device. You can also tap an NFC-enabled device to the side of the Axx 200 where NFC is listed. It’s simpler but does require you to be close to the speaker.
From here we highly suggest downloading the Creative Sound Blaster Central app for iOS or Android devices. Yes this is the same set of utilities used to manage sound functions and features on the Creative Sound Blaster EVO Zx Bluetooth headphones/headset mentioned in our holiday headset editorial. The software is a really interesting and surprisingly intuitive way to manage virtually every function and feature the Axx 200 has to offer. The app serves up mirror copies of the top touch control panel and all the physical buttons and switches found on the back. The audio controls mentioned above are all there to play with on your mobile device. You can also manage surround sound, audio processing enhancements and a bevy of audio customization settings. It’s a powerful little app conveniently replete with instructional videos to help you get the most out of your Sound Blaster Axx 200.
Creative has packed much and more into the Axx 200 without sacrificing the audio fidelity. We ran this one connected to a laptop for games. It performs with the punch of a Sound Blaster sound card–with or without headphones. Outdoors is also no exception. Audio is top notch and crystal clear, yet lacking some of the heft it had in more enclosed areas.
Supporting MicroSD, the Axx 200 makes a premium MP3 player. Toss in a MicroSD card packed with your favorite tunes and press Play on the back of the device or with the mobile app. Pair this with the mic and recording features for an easy way to capture amateur recording sessions. It also works to simply record music from Pandora or other playback device, as it plays through the Axx 200 speaker.
The awe behind the aural delights is the SB-Axx1 quad-core audio processor. Creative’s SBX Pro Studio and Crystal Voice technologies are at the helm to utilize this proprietary audio processor. Each of these can be managed with the Creative Control Center app. SBX is for audio in movies games and music. This area of the app if feature rich. You can tweak surround sound, dynamic range of audio sources, enhance voice sounds in movies, enable Studio Smart Volume for enhanced level balancing and more.
Crystal Voice is also a mainstay for current Creative products. It’s a tool comprised of a number of features to enhance the system’s 4-way microphone by eliminating echoes that muddle your gaming or VOIP chat sessions. It reduces background noise and of course CrystalVoice FX can alter your voice to sound like an alien, a snarling beast and a lot more fun voice sounds.
I’m struggling here to find the flaws in Creative’s new Sound Blaster addition. If decisions were made based solely on the audio performance, then this unit is easily worth is relatively low price point. Music melts into a flowing rich stream of room filling audio. Low bass tones are perfect–not undermining the other tones. Midranges and high tones extremely well balanced. If the unit is placed in a corner, then listeners can better appreciate the system’s Beamforming technology, which blankets a wide area in its audio emitted away from the speaker. The width can be adjusted and functions as a pocket where virtually all surrounding noise is cancelled out. This makes the unit great for indoors and out.
This is an amazing device. Most audio aficionados will want more than one. Sacrificing your blissful tunes so the kids can play games with their voice, or so the wife and friends can indulge in embarrassing karaoke sessions, is not an option. Get your own. I’m not wasting the speakers massive 15hr of battery (5200mAh) life on anything but Justin Bieber and Celine Dion (kidding!) Besides the Axx 200 makes a great mobile sound card to breathe new life into your games. There is a PC version of the same software available for iOS and Android.
The Creative Sound BlasterAXX Axx 200 Bluetooth speaker system is a marvel. With a fine tooth comb I was able to uncover a single flaw. While paired audio will cut out as you jump from one phone app to the other. However, the Axx 200 does more than any good speaker has a right with the performance to match. Phone calls, music, games, karaoke, voice recording and MP3 player… If this is not on your Christmas list this Holiday season then you’re not serious about Bluetooth.