Does this really ‘enhance’ your sound?
Box Contents: Xmod Module, 1x USB Cable, 1x Pair of headphones, Instruction booklet, Xmod velvet pouch
Connectivity: 1x Audio Line In/Microphone (3.5mm), 1x Audio Line Out (3.5mm), 1x Headphone Out (3.5mm), 1x USB Mini-B
Official Detailed Xmod Website
- Restore the details and vibrance that your music lost during MP3 compression
- Enjoy all your music and movies in surround sound on any stereo speaker system or headphones
- Connect in seconds to your notebook, PC or Mac to create an Xtreme Fidelity sound system
The Creative Xmod is a small audio enhancement device aimed at laptop owners. Most laptops come with pretty poor onboard sound so it comes as no surprise that many users including yours truly have long desired a device to boost or even replace their poor onboard sound altogether. However having spent a good two months searching for such devices, I have had hardly any luck in the Uk. I did manage to find a Creative Audigy 2 Zs Notebook PCMCIA card, which worked for about two days before going faulty on me. When the card did work, it was a true portable solution as it just plugged into the PCMCIA port on my laptop. However, it was expensive at around £85 and sadly it was the only decent available device to truly replace and enhance my laptop’s sound. However, I now have an Xmod!
Creative have stirred up a hornet’s nest with this device. Mainly because of their unproven wild claims that had arrived with their XFI Crystalizer technology that apparently ‘breathes life back into songs by restoring the detail lost in mp3 compression’. Their line of XFI soundcards have this crystalizer onboard and according to many reviews, live up to their wild claims of enhancing audio but not by a significant amount. The Xmod apparently features XFI technology.
Let’s take a look at the device. It’s a palm sized, slick looking number that is built in the same manner as most of Creative’s latest MP3 players including my Zen Vision:M. Both these devices compliment each other so well and look gorgeous together. The Xmod measures 4.5×1.8" with lovely curved edges and corners. A metallic knob is used for adjusting the volume, muting sound (push it down to mute on/off), and to adjust the volume settings for the X-FI Crystalizer or the CMSS 3D mode. The top upper panel of the Xmod, which houses the 3 LED’s serves as a Select button too, which a lot of people fail to realise. This button acts as a Volume toggle button for the Crystalizer and CMSS modes, and the corresponding LEDs will flash slower or faster depending on the volume level selected. Neat!
The Xmod connects directly to a USB port on your computer or laptop, and it is claimed that no drivers are required. However in my experience, this wasn’t fully the case. The Xmod is a sound amplification/enhancement device. It still requires a sound source such as a soundcard or mp3 player to supply it with audio, and only then can it do its stuff. Once plugged into your computer it’ll default as your sound card. However upon plugging the thing into my laptop, Windows XP SP2 decided that it wanted some Microsoft USB drivers – Now this could be entirely limited to my laptop as it’s happened before when I tried to connect my Sony Cybershot Camera to it last year. It required USBCCG.SYS from Service Pack 2 and upon finding this file, it wanted five other files scattered on my Windows XP CD. Five minutes later, I had found all these files and I was up and running. Not a good start.
The underside of the Xmod has a rectangular rubber strip around it, to keep it firmly on your desktop. On the left of the unit, there is a slider switch to switch on the X-FI Crystalizer, and on the right of the unit, a switch for the X-FI CMSS 3D mode can be found. The bottom end of the unit has two 3.5mm inputs, one for headphones and the other, which is a 3.5mm Line In/Microphone jack. The top end of the unit houses the Line Out 3.5mm jack, as well as the USB port.
The moment the drivers initialised themselves, the LED’s on the device lit up and almost blew me sideways as I had my headphones already equipped and connected up. I hadn’t known that it was already at full volume. This thing is loud! My laptop volume was set at 10% the sound output was very high. So basically, this device will take sound from an audio source and in realtime apply Creative’s X-FI technology to it, enhancing the audio and improving your listening experience.
The CMSS 3D feature is meant to add a 3D surround sound reverb effect to audio. This technology is featured in most of the mid-high end Creative Soundcards however; it’s useless on those, and just as useless on the Xmod. I should point out that at this stage I was using top end Sennheiser HD650 headphones, but the sound was muffled, and somewhat distorted amongst the reverb effect.