Last year we reviewed the Creative Sound BlasterX G6, a portable amp that boosts your headphone audio and provides a range of features that often don’t come on cheaper headsets. It’s a great tool for audiophiles who want that extra “oomph” while gaming. But at around $150, it’s a pricey ask. Enter the Sound Blaster G3. This is Creative’s even more portable amp, and while perhaps not as feature-rich as the G6, it still offers a range of options that help your audio stand out.
Inside the box is the Sound Blaster G3 unit, a small device that can basically fit into the palm of my hand. It’s got a short USB-C cable built into one side, and comes with an optical cable and USB-C to USB-A adapter for use with consoles and devices that don’t use USB-C. It’s plug and play simplicity is refreshing, particularly for console owners who expect that kind of ease-of-use. The last thing we want to be doing is fiddling with drivers and struggling with compatibility to get devices to work. The Sound Blaster G3 simply works.
The Sound Blaster G3 isn’t quite as powerful as the G6, but it still packs a punch that levels up any audio being run through it. Your headphones will sound better, louder, and more dynamic. Like with the G6, the differences were more notable the better the capabilities of the headset that I was using, but the G3 still goes a long way in making some basic cheap earbuds sound better than they have any right to. Your specific mileage may vary depending on the equipment you’re hooking up to it and how attuned you are to audio quality, but in A/B testing, I could always tell a difference. It’s not the two amps separately powering each ear/speaker, but at less than half the price of the G6, it’s still great for what it provides.
Perhaps better than basic audio improvement, however—and certainly the biggest features being pushed by Creative—is providing some essential audio controls right at your fingertips. There’s a mic mute function, as well as mic volume controls built into one side, while the other houses basic volume controls as well as game/voice mix adjustments that you can easily and quickly make on the fly. This mix function only works if you have both the USB and optical cable plugged in (because it needs the two independent audio sources) so it’s only useful with the PS4 and on PC, however it does come with all of the cabling you’ll need right out of the box.
The top button switches the G3 between a standard EQ mode and a “Footsteps Enhancer” mode, which pulls and enhances footstep audio for better positioning of enemies in games like Call of Duty, Destiny, Fortnite, or Overwatch. Just like I noted with the G6, it does some really weird things to the audio in order to make those enhancements, so you won’t want to use it for most games, watching movies, or listening to music. But in those PVP cases, it’s a great option to have that can really elevate gameplay and situational awareness. It can’t help your aim, but at least you’ll know where the enemy is coming from before they out shoot you.
Creative Sound Blaster G3 Review – Tethered
One thing to note is that the G3 is still a tethered amp, meaning you’re going to have wires trailing from your PS4 (or whatever device you use it on) to your ears. That’s still not an ideal setup for me, and the G3 isn’t even compatible with a number of my preferred wireless headsets, as none of them use a 3.5mm connection. I’ve been trying to clean up my living room space, hide cables away, and generally not have clutter. The G3 is a more portable unit than the G6, but its smaller size does come with a caveat: it’s USB cable is a short dongle built into the device. That means no finding a nice place to put the G3. It either sits right in front of your PS4, or in my case, dangles awkwardly from the vertical PS4. It’s less than ideal.
For this reason, it’s “easy access” controls also become less-than-easy-access if you’re not running a desktop setup for your console. For a device that is supposed to put these controls at your fingertips, it also requires you to have your console basically at your fingertips. While I love that it adds these capabilities to less feature-rich headphones, it’s also pretty inconvenient unless your setup can accommodate it. It also means your headphone cable needs to be long enough to reach, which in my specific application, none of them were. I don’t have any headphones with 10+ foot cables.
(Author’s Note: It came to my attention since this review first published that some of these functions in the Sound Blaster Command app which allow you to make adjustments on the fly via your phone, which helps somewhat with the inaccessibility of having the unit tethered directly to the front of the console, but still requires prohibitively long headphone cables in a majority of living room setups.) The Sound Blaster Command App offers a range of features, not requiring you to plug into a PC to adjust. Instead everything can be tweaked using Bluetooth to get your audio sounding exactly how you want it to, which once again, speaks massively to the easy console accessibility that this portable amp is going for.
Being a cheaper alternative to some of Creative’s other amps, it also lacks the optical throughput from the G6 to connect directly to a sound system. Fortunately I’ve changed my setup a bit since I reviewed the G6, so I didn’t need an optical throughput, but it could still end up being a limiting factor for some people.
Of course, that smaller size and shorter cable length make it ideal for use with things like the Nintendo Switch or an Android phone (with USB-C). Once again, my setup for phone audio already utilizes Bluetooth, but if you’re rocking wired buds and have a USB-C connection, the G3 could offer you a nice little boost under those very specific circumstances.
Where I’ve actually been getting the most use out of the G3 is with the Switch (yes, I know, this is a PlayStation site…). The USB-C port plugs in nicely to the bottom. The portable and lightweight G3 is barely in the way at all while playing in handheld mode, and my headphones plug right into the unit. Gives a nice little bump to audio, really bringing out the soundscapes of Mario and Legend of Zelda. End of the day, however, I’d have a hard time recommending it exclusively for Switch use unless you game on the console a lot and just really want some boosted audio. The other features, like game/chat mix, become effectively useless, and the more casual nature of the Switch means I’m not exactly looking to get a booster “wahahoo!” from Mario every time he jumps.
The Sound Blaster G3 is a great little portable audio amp with very specific applications. Before just running out and grabbing one, you’ll want to make sure it’s something that will work seamlessly in your setup. However, if you game at a desk and don’t mind being tethered to your console, it’s a great way to get better sound and more features out of your headphones, especially if you don’t want to break the bank and invest in higher quality cans. Even with good quality headsets, however, the G3 will make a marked improvement, and likely offer a number of features missing from any headset that plugs in via 3.5mm connection.
Sound Blaster G3 review unit provided by manufacturer. Tested with a variety of headsets on a standard PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch, and Pixel XL 2. For more information, please see our Review Policy.
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