Creative has made some interesting enhancements to its Sound Blaster PLAY! series with its new “Sound Blaster PLAY! 4” USB-C DAC. A DAC that doesn’t target anything special like the audiophile community but instead targets the vast majority of everyone else out there. Making for the perfect entry-level DAC to use with your computer or laptop (or both).
At least, that what it sounds like. It is just now making its way into the world, so buyer response will determine everything. For now, we lean on the promises.
It will only run you $30, yet supports up to 192 kHz / 24-bit sound at up 110 dB. A spec that, if it lives up to it, would prove to be a powerful entry-level solution if it is able to provide additional amplification to whatever your headphone port can accomplish.
This isn’t its only selling point though. It features two buttons on the surface. One of these allows you to control the mute on/off of your microphone. Of course, you won’t be using it much since the software also allows you to enable the option for it to auto-switch the mute on and off based on your speech. So if you stop talking, it stops picking up audio and sending it to the other party. The other enables bass boost and EQ enhancements to what you are listening to (for when listening to music).
Then you have its ability to offer enhanced environmental noise cancelation. A feature they are calling “NOISECLEAN”. What makes this interesting is that it supposedly works both ways. It listens for and cancels out background noise in your environment so that whomever you are speaking with won’t hear it. Allowing them to focus just on your voice and not the dog, the vacuum in the other room, or other people talking around you. Then, it tries to decipher the background noise of the other person’s audio and gets rid of that as well. Or at least, that is what it claims to achieve. Again, the final verdict will come down to buyer feedback as more users adopt the new model into their setups.
It offers a single connection for headphones or headsets, so it won’t support your older-style headsets that came with two connections (one for the headphones, one for the mic). This shouldn’t be an issue since those older-style options are yesterday’s news anyway. However, it will work with “any” pair of normal headphones (no mic) as well that makes use of your standard 3.5mm aux connection.
It’s small enough to slide away into your pocket or travel case and use between computers or locations. It does only work with Windows 10 (or newer), so it is PC-only. Sorry Mac fans, but you’re left out in the cold on this one.
Clearly, this would be a fantastic option for those stuck working at home during the current pandemic. It would allow them to both sound professional despite the rest of the family running amuck, while also making it easier to hear the other person. For just $30? That sounds like a terrific deal (if it works as well as you’d hope it would). It’s available right now at Amazon as well as Creative’s website.