Testing audio hardware is a very subjective matter, there are some of us who prefer a bright sound, a warmer sound, others who prefer crushing bass frequencies. How you go about achieving your desired sound can vary greatly, much in the same way two different sports cars could take the same corner at the same speed, but take on a completely different feel for the driver. For me personally, I like a well-balanced sound that is full of detail, with a little warmth on the mid frequencies, like those you would find from a valve powered guitar amplifier.
The X7 is packed full of impressive hardware and there’s no doubt in my mind that it has an impactful effect on the audio performance of anything I’ve connected to it so far. The most important aspect for me personally is the very powerful headphone amplifier and given that I test a lot of headsets and headphones in my day-to-day work, having something that can do them justice is a great thing to have. Taking a headset, such as the Mionix Nash 20 and plugging it into my motherboards on-board audio sounds great; then again I do have decent on-board audio from my MSI MPower board. However, plugging it into the X7 and running it through the DAC/AMP housed within it, brings out a whole range of sonic performance that simply wasn’t there before. Bass sounds fuller and punchier, the mid-tone warmth is full of textures that really bring out the finer details in rhythm guitar parts and the highs are bright and clear. Hit the SBX button on the front and the sound is further enhanced, the only downside being that I found cymbals on drum tracks sounded a little too bright, but the clarity on the vocal tracks certainly took on a more natural tone that was very pleasing to the ear.
The plethora of connection options is almost dizzying and being able to connect a set of monitors, a desktop surround system, headphones, a gaming headset and much more is a wonderful thing to have to hand, without having to play around behind your computer, or with often larger dedicated AV receivers. High-end headphones do benefit greatly from the powerful amp, modest headsets and headphones not so much, but if you’re connecting a £30 headset to a £300+ AMP, you really need to reevaluate your setup and your budget.
The biggest benefit I can see and of course, hear, is the ability to wire in some really good bookshelf speakers. If you own a set of good speakers, then you’re going to be blown away; quite literally if you give the volume wheel a good spin. What’s even better is that the same amp that can now power your speakers, can also run your headset, your microphone, your computer audio or any other line-in for that matter through the speakers you most desire. The NFC setup is really cool too, just tap your phone on the side of the amp and you can pair it up for playing back movies, music, or taking calls thanks to the amps built-in microphone and have the audio come through your speakers or headphones.
I guess the thing that I enjoy the most about this unit is that it all works so simply, there’s no complicated setup, no crazy advanced controls that you need to worry about; you just plug it in and it sounds great.