It is ironic that in an audiovisual medium such as video games, people often talk so much about graphics to always relegate sound to the background, when it is not completely forgotten. We tend to have in mind the next 4K resolution TV for our home console or that new gazillion hertz monitor, but we rarely stop to think about what we would gain by investing in good headphones or mid / high range speakers, for example. not to say in a dedicated sound card or in devices designed to improve the standard audio capabilities of our console or computer. Perhaps it is time to start changing this bad habit, and perhaps the latest from Creative is the perfect gateway to start taking more care of the sound part in the equation of our gaming equipment.
The Sound Blaster G3 is a small external sound card (although it would be more correct to call it a portable DAC amplifier) with USB-C connection, compatible with PC and Mac but especially designed to be used with a PlayStation 4 (using the USB-C adapter to USB-A included in the box) or a Nintendo Switch. It has a 3.5mm input for headphones, a 3.5mm input for a microphone and a hybrid lens (line or TOSlink). On one side we find a control wheel and a switch to choose if we want the wheel to calibrate the audio mix or volume, and on the other side a volume wheel for the microphone and a switch to mute it completely. Finally at the top we have a large button to activate and deactivate the “Enhance Footsteps” mode, which we will talk about later.
In basic terms, the most interesting thing is the audio quality offered by its internal chip, which with 24 bits and 96kHz is higher than that used by current consoles and any integrated computer sound card. Given that the amplifier for the G3 headphones has a range of 16 to 300 ohm, with a dynamic range of up to 100 dB, if combined with good quality headphones (in my case I have carried out the tests with an AKG K712 Pro ) we will obtain a much sharper and cleaner sound than usual. But perhaps what will attract the most attention for the average user is the Sound Blaster Acoustic Engine, a technology that provides virtual 7.1 surround in any stereo headphones that we connect to the DAC and that substantially improves the positionality of the sound with a very successful surround effect.
For gamers, the Sound Blaster G3 includes two very specific functions. The first is Game Voice Mix, which allows you to calibrate the volume of the game and the chat in a similar way to the popular MixAmp on Astro helmets. It may seem silly, but it is very appreciated to be able to vary so quickly and so intuitively, with a couple of simple physical buttons, the balance of the volume between the sound of the game and the chat, as well as the volume of the microphone, without the need for pause the action or enter the audio menu to move sliders and find the desired setting. The other is the aforementioned “Enhance Tread” mode, which does exactly what its name says. I’m not a big fan of this type of EQ, which tends to overdrive the bass to emphasize the treble, but it is undeniable that it is effective and offers a real competitive advantage, by allowing the player to more precisely locate the position of enemies in any first person shooter or multiplayer title.
I was also pleasantly surprised to see that the Sound Blaster G3 is a fully plug & play product. Beyond the possible noise of cables, especially if we use the DAC in a PlayStation 4, the entire configuration process is extremely simple and clear, and in the case of connecting to a computer it does not even require the installation of drivers. It is recommended, in any case, to use the Sound Blaster Command software, which we can install natively on PC and Mac or on an iOS or Android phone – which we will connect via Bluetooth – if we use the G3 on a console. Command is a fairly intuitive app, and it allows not only to adjust the volume, update the firmware or monitor the microphone, but also equalize the sound to adapt it to our liking or the title we are playing at any given time (we can do it manually or with some factory presets, among which there are for games like League of Legends, CS: GO, Fortnite, PUGB, Overwatch or Project Cars, among many others). Regarding the application, it must be said that I have heard some complaints and bugs regarding the Android version, but the one I have tested (iOS) did not present any defect and behaved in a stable way and without apparent problems.
Actually the final question with the Sound Blaster G3 is not so much regarding its quality, which I would say is beyond doubt, but whether there is a market for a DAC designed to improve sound on consoles and users willing to pay for it. Personally, I think so; If you are one of those who usually play the console with decent quality headphones, the improvement in sound quality is evident and the extras provided by Creative’s solution are quite useful, with a barrier to entry (the price of the device) relatively low at around fifty-five euros. There are higher quality solutions on the market (Creative’s own Sound Blaster X G6, without going any further), yes, but the G3 is a fantastic starter option to start improving the sound of our favorite gaming rig and one of the most comfortable and simple to configure in the console.