A Closer Look
First thing we noticed about the Sound Blaster K3+ is how compact and light it is. At first glance, it may look intimidating with its array of knobs and buttons. However, once you learn the controls on the K3+, it’s very easy to use and even someone new to this type of hardware can get up and going really quick.
The Sound Blaster K3+ has up to six different main functions. These functions include music playback, recording, broadcasting, web chat, karaoke and DJ hosting. It’s a very versatile interface. The K3+ has excellent audio quality with 24 bit, 48 kHz recording and 24 bit, 96 kHz playback.
The K3+ provides 48-volt phantom power which is really awesome considering it is only powered from a 5V USB port. The Sound Blaster K3+ supports both dynamic and condenser microphones. The +48 volt phantom power should only be on when using a condenser mic that required +48 volt phantom power. Using phantom power when not required can damage or destroy your microphone. Below is a chart that breaks down the different configuration of microphones you can use with the K3+.
The K3+ is also plug and play meaning there are no drivers or software required. This is both a positive and negative thing at the same time. But, more on that later. Since it requires no software, it can work without a PC, MAC or laptop. The Sound Blaster K3+ requires a single micro USB for power. So, you can plug it into any USB port to work. Even a wall outlet or power strip.
On the front of the K3+, there are 2 XLR ports that double as a 1/4” jack. So, you can use either an XLR (External Line Return) or a TRS(Tip-Ring-Sleeve), microphone on the K3+. For example, the main microphone used on our K3+ sample is the Audio Technica AT2035 XLR mic. However, if we could also use a Rode Video mic by simply plugging in a ¼” to 3.5 mm adapter into the center of the XLR port.
Next, to the dual XLR ports, there are three ¼’ jacks. The first one is designed for an instrument such as a guitar, keyboard or any other instrument. The next two 1/4” jacks are for headphones. This is one of my favorite features of the K3+. The dual XLR ports and dual headphone jacks make the K3+ the perfect interface for podcasting with a friend or guest in the studio or on site. The K3+, at the time of launch, was the only USB XLR audio interface that supports dual headphones. To our knowledge, at the time of this review, that’s still the case.
Going around to the rear, there is a metal knob to ground the K3+ to your PC or desk. Next, there are two set s of red and white RCA jacks. This allows you to plug left and right channel speakers into the K3+. You can also use the RCA jacks to daisy chain up to four K3+ interfaces together. This can allow you up to eight people, each with separate mics and headphones. In between the RCA jacks, you’ll find a single 3.5 mm jack. This is designed to plug a phone, iPod or other MP3 player into. Last, there is a single micro USB for both power and data, pending its plugged into a PC.
Since the K3+ requires no drivers, it can be used as a mini karaoke machine. Simply hook up speakers to the RCA jacks on the back and power it to the wall. You can then hook up your phone, iPod or MP3 player to the K3+ to the 3.5 mm jack to play music and up to two microphones. There is more you can do with the 3.5 mm jack, especially if you’re into podcasting. Simply plug your phone into the 3.5 mm jack on the rear of the K3+ and you’re all set up to take phone calls on stream. We’ve tested it and the quality of the call depends highly on the quality of your phone. But it works either way.
On the top, there is a lot going on. We’ll go left to right and top to bottom to go through the controls on the K3+.
On the top left, there is a knob that doubles as a button. This selects and controls the different types of reverb on the K3+. In total, there are 9 reverb settings. These settings are listed below.
- Reverb + Delay
Next to the reverb control are two small displays like the one on a motherboard that displays POST codes. Each display has multiple functions that are shown using symbols that look like numbers or letters. The different display modes are Reverb Amount, Reverb Select, Sound Board, Reverb Delay, and Auto-Tune. The user manual has a chart that shows the symbol for each setting.
One of the functions of the left display is to show the reverb setting you’ve selected. It displays the numbers 1-9. The setting corresponds to the number listed above. The right display shows the reverb delay amount. It ranges from 0-9. With 0 being 0%, the minimum and 9 being the max setting, 100%.
Next to the displays are the Auto-Tune knob/button. Just above that is the Minor-Major switch. The K3+ allows you to use auto-tune in minor, minor-flat, major and major-flat, in every key from A to G. More on that later. Next, we have the mixing and monitoring buttons, each with a separate FX button. This allows you to monitor both wet and dry recordings. A dry recording is one without any effects where a wet recording has effects.
Going to the bottom left now, we have bass and treble control knobs. This allows you to tweak the bass and treble setting on your vocals. Just below the bass and treble controls are independent gain controls. The left know controls the volume for the first mic. The second knob has dual functions. It not only controls the volume of the second mic but also whatever instrument you may have plugged in.
The next button is a great feature to have if you play music in the background of your videos or recordings in general. This is the voiceover button. For those of you who edit in Premiere Pro, the voiceover button works much like audio ducking works. Essentially, it lowers the background music when it detects your voice. This is a great feature to have and can save time when editing videos. You also won’t have to worry about being drowned out by the background music.
One of my personal favorite features of the K3+ has to be its built-in soundboard with six prerecorded sounds. These sounds are listed here:
When the soundboard is on, its controlled by the knob on the top left of the K3+. These sound can be useful and amusing when on stream. For example, if you’re in a discussion stream or an interview that gets out of hand, people shut up at the sound of gunshots. The crow sound is perfect if someone makes an unfunny joke. Overall, it’s a good way to get a debate or discussion back on track.
Next to the soundboard button is the +48volt phantom power button which we covered earlier. Above that is the Line in/Mobile volume control. If you have an MP3 player plugged into the K3+, this knob will control the volume of the sound coming from your mobile device. To the right of the Line in knob is the Line Out volume control. If you’re on a phone call using the K3+ through the 3.5 mm auxiliary port, this will control the volume going out to your mobile device.
Last, we have the two knobs that control the headset volume independently from each other. This is a great feature to have, especially if you’re into podcasting. Say you have a friend in the studio or just on stream. You can both have your own headset. The K3+ also allows each user to control their own volume. So, if you’re deaf like me, you won’t have to blow out your cohosts eardrums, just so you can hear.