For the last couple of weeks, I have had the honour of testing out the Soundblaster G3 portable gaming USB DAC amp. What is one of those I hear? Well, basically it is a small device that you can plug into a Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC or Mac via the USB port and from it, you will get a far superior sound quality. DAC, for those that want to know, stands for Digital to Analogue Converter and is famed for enhancing what you hear. At £54.99 does it make a massive difference to what I can hear? Well, I put it to the test!
What do you get?
In the box, you will find the USB powered Soundblaster G3 DAC amp, a 1m mini-Toslink cable (optical lead) and a USB-C to USB-A converter along with a pamphlet entitled “Audio Survival Guide”.
How easy is it to setup?
Very easy! If you follow the short documentation it gives a brief overview of the Soundblaster G3 features along with the physical setup and any settings you need to double-check on your console, PC or Mac. In a nutshell, to use it you just need to simply plug it into the USB port of your device, plug in your headphones and away you go, as quick as that.
You mentioned features?
Yep, on the Soundblaster G3 you have a handy volume dial on the right that doubles up as a game-voice mixer at the click of a button. On the left you will find another dial for adjusting microphone sensitivity as well as a switch to mute the mic. On the top you have an illuminated round button that lets you know if you have the “footsteps enhancer mode” on or off. At the bottom of the G3 you have 3 ports, one for a mic, one for headphones/headset or a speaker and finally an optical/line in.
If you want more then there is more! The Soundblaster G3 also has built-in Bluetooth which allows you to customise your sound via your smartphone using the Soundblaster command app. Here you can either select from a drop-down list of games for a pre-set equalizer or even create your own. Mic to low? or game-voice mix not great? simply use the sliders to change it on the fly while gaming. From a PC or Mac there is also dedicated software that does pretty much the same.
Ok, you’ve buttered me up but was it really any good?
I have tested it mainly on the PS4 Pro and the Nintendo Switch Lite however I did plug it into my PC to see what the music quality was like. What you need to remember is that the Soundblaster G3 will only ever be as good as your speakers allow. I tested mine through a set of Roccat Renga Boosts and the Roccat Cross headset. The first features split headphone/mic plugs while the latter is a traditional combined single plug. They are by no means massively expensive in the world of headsets however their sound output was very good when I put them through their paces in earlier reviews.
For the Nintendo Switch it is just a case of plugging the device into the USB port at the bottom and then plugging your headset into the G3. I played some races on Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and the sound quality was fairly noticeable. On each race I performed a lap and then paused it and switched back over to plugging my headset straight into the Switch to notice the difference. When the G3 was plugged in there was certainly some more clarity within the music and sound effects, the treble sounded cleaner and there was a little more bass. How long the G3 would last resting on my lap on its short USB cable, I could not answer, however it never once disconnected and the audio output was constant.
Moving over to the PS4 Pro the setup was quick once again, I plugged the G3 into the front USB port of it using the converter and then installed the mini-toslink cable. The Pro found the device immediately and the familiar Playstation home screen music began playing through my headset. Armed with Call of Duty Modern Warfare this was going to be a good test, but wait!! Oh no, will my headset reach?
Now I don’t know about you but there are clearly two types of gamer, one that has their gaming rig on a desk and sits close to the screen and then there is the other that likes to game from the sofa or a chair via the TV, and here is where I found my first snag. I game in my lounge and sit on an X Rocker chair a couple of metres away from my TV. The Soundblaster G3 with it’s supplied cables can only be about 15cm away from the console due to the short USB lead, therefore, you have to hope that your headset has a decent length of cable on it in order to be sitting where you want. Remember for this to work you must have your headset plugged in directly to the G3. If you are on the sofa you have no hope however you could probably extend your headset lead, but you would drop a slight bit of quality, probably not too noticeable, in the process.
Luckily for me the Roccat Renga Boost just about reached! Yay lets game! Connecting up to the app via my smart-phone and I am in full control of the G3. I select the “footstep enhancer” mode, adjust the volume and enter a quick team deathmatch. Straight away there is a massive difference in what I can hear. The clarity of the sound was so much better. Entering into a building I can hear bullets pinging off the wall beside me, automatically I know where they are coming from and where to turn, as well as what material the wall is made of. The sounds of footsteps running towards me get louder as they pan from left to right on my headset before fading into the distance. Ok, you’re probably thinking this is just standard for wearing headphones however what really stood out for me was the way that the sounds were layered. What I could hear was not just a confusing noisy mess with constant rumbling bass along with a lot of shouting, all of the various sound effects had different tones that were amplified and this helped to segregate everything making it easier to understand and react to. I played around with turning the enhancement button on and off and it was like going from standing in a room with your favourite band playing to standing in the toilets next-door. “Why didn’t I do this before?” I am asking myself.
When it came to game chat, not only could I change my voice-game mix quickly from either the app, or at a stretch, from the G3 itself, I could actually move a slider to hear my own voice when I spoke, something that my headset didn’t have. Great if you are one of those people who tends to shout when they can’t hear themselves! Adjusting the mic was also a quick nudge of a slider as well.
For the time that I spent with it plugged into the PC, the music quality was amazing. My sound card is a boring onboard one that does its job and that’s it. With the G3 plugged in I was certainly in another world when listening to tracks from the Red hot chilli peppers and Blink182 with crystal clear definition of every instrument playing.
I have been using the Soundblaster G3 for just over 2 weeks now and overall I am very impressed, to the point that I only game on the PS4 Pro while using it as it really helps to immerse me into any game that I play. For the Nintendo Switch, I don’t think the games I have on there at the moment really do it the justice to warrant plugging it in each time I pick it up and also I don’t like it dangling from the bottom of it. As for my PC, well it definitely makes music sound amazing and if it is anything like the PS4 Pro when it comes to FPS gaming it will be awesome.
For me, the pro’s for the Soundblaster G3 are that the sound quality is amazing when used with the right games and when controlled through the app you can do a lot more to what you hear as well as add your own customisation to it. Something that the PS4 has lacked for a long time and for me is only now being achieved by this clever device.
The con’s for me are that I’m a lounge gamer and the supplied cables are very short on the G3. I can understand that it isn’t a device you want sitting on the floor by your feet so that it can be trodden on however a majority of people will only have a 1 to 2m long headset lead. Another problem I encountered was the “Soundblaster Command” app. It worked great for a week but now it will not connect via Bluetooth to the G3. Nothing has changed or altered, I’ve tried forgetting the device, deleting the app and reinstalling but to no avail, so for now I cannot access the additional controls. Finally, and this is not really big deal but more an observation, every time you plug in the G3 the volume resets back to default meaning you have to remember to spin the volume dial, or move the slider if the app is working, before you play.
Should you go out and buy this? Well, if you really want to immerse yourself into your games then this is an absolute game-changer. As a Playstation gamer this is one device that is bringing no end of crystal clear music and sound effects to my ears, so much so that I made myself jump while navigating the Call of Duty menus as I thought someone had smashed through my front door due to the swooping sound effect and crashing bass.
The Soundblaster G3 receives a Thumb Culture Gold Award for sound performance however the app needs fixing!
Disclaimer: A sample was received in order to write this review.