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Gaming is reaching a point where its most bleeding edge technologies are challenging to demonstrate to a remote audience. At last week’s E3 (the Electronic Entertainment Expo gaming trade event) in Los Angeles, PlayStation VR and the Xbox One X’s 4K HDR gaming struggled to translate to gamers watching livestreams at homes. But that’s the kind of problem that has frustrated audio companies for years.

That’s why I was glad that I checked in on Creative (the Sound BlasterX gaming-audio company) at E3, because its new X-Fi Sonic Carrier audio system was by far the most impressive new technology I experienced at the show. And it’s something I wouldn’t have understood without seeing it live. This new device is an all-in-one entertainment system with mind-blowing audio and a built-in Android media browser. It looks like a soundbar that is hooked on growth hormones, but it is so much more than anything else in that category. And it should be because Creative is selling it for $5,800.

So what kind of audio system is worth the price of a used Toyota Corolla? Well, the whole system is the primary box and then a single wireless subwoofer. In the main unit, you get multiple inputs and outputs along with an Android TV processor for streaming media like Netflix or for hosting your own content. It even has a microphone jack if you want to use it as a karaoke machine. The Carrier has 17 audio drivers pushing out a peak of 2000W of power. Creative designed the arrangement of those speakers specifically to take advantage of the new Dolby Atmos technology that adds a sense of height to surround-sound audio.

And, my lord, it was incredible.


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The Sonic Carrier was able to fill Creative’s booth on the busy show floor with full, rich sound with the aid of the company’s proprietary SuperWide X-Fi tech that can give even compressed stereo sources a panoramic-like soundstage. But more impressively, surround sounds like a bird’s song or its fluttering wings felt like they were happening behind and above me.

Creative set up a canopy roof over the demo area to ensure that sounds would bounce into the space without getting lost in the loud convention center, but the company says the Atmos surround sound should work with a relatively high ceilings as well.

“We go through a process called room calibration,” Creative marketing boss Paul Seow told GamesBeat. “We can optimize your audio depending on room size, geometry, the materials, and the position where you’re sitting. Dolby’s recommendation is anywhere between 2.4 and four meters for ceiling height.”

But Seow said that the Sonic Carrier was causing some confusion for some of the other companies at E3 during the set up stage at the Los Angeles Convention Center because its surround sound works so well.

“We’ve tried it out with the very high ceilings here,” said Seow. “When we were playing this, people two booths away were able to hear it. We were playing the Atmos rain demo, and one guy was asking his partner, ‘Is it raining in here?’ It was awesome.”

And while that might seem unlikely, that’s probably because you can’t experience it for yourself. While the difference is impossible to demonstrate in a video, the gap between TV audio or a standard soundbar and the Sonic Carrier was like the leap from standard definition on the PlayStation 2 to HD on the Xbox 360.

Is it worth nearly $6,000? I don’t know, but it is probably the future of audio.

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