Creative Sound BlasterX AE-5 Sound Card Review

When it comes to dedicated sound cards, these may be less common compared to the much earlier days’ PC gaming. Thing is, these components haven’t really entirely disappeared.

If you are one of those people who grew up building their own gaming computers, that means Creative and Sound Blaster are highly recognizable names. While the company has expanded and branched out into other products and accessories for audio, they have also continued to stick to their roots with audio cards as well.

With a very long and rich history in the market of gaming audio, Creative is a company that continues to refine their products. They aim to deliver only the best audio experience to you and everyone else around. Today, we’re going to check out the Creative Sound BlasterX AE-5 which offers you a dedicated sound card for your computer. It’s a cool product since it also has available lighting for anyone who’s into these kinds of things.

If you think that this sound card is something you’d need or if it’s an item that piqued your interest, then we’ve got you covered. We’re going to give you all the necessary information about the AE-5, its features, specifications, how well it performs, and if it’s something worth purchasing for your computer. To begin, let’s check out what’s inside the box.

Creative Sound BlasterX AE-5 Sound Card Review – What’s in the Box?

When we received our package for the Sound BlasterX AE-5 Sound Card, we automatically thought that it was quite reminiscent of the rest of the products under the Sound BlasterX line. This is due to the hints of red on black theme, plus a big image of the device itself.

It’s quite a loud-looking package, with a lot of colors going on combined with the Aurora Reactive icon which indicates the RGB LED lights available. On the bottom portion, you’ll find a couple of icons that show the different features of the device.

When you flip the box and look at the back, you’ll get an overview of the many key features present in the sound card like the custom designed headphone amp or Xamp, and also the use of ESS SABRE 32 DAC. When you open the package, you will not only find the Sound BlasterX AE-5 Sound Card kept neatly in place, but also a couple of documentations, a LED extension cable, plus RGB LED strips complete with its necessary fittings.

The Product

Creative Sound BlasterX AE-5 Sound Card Review

The Sound BlasterX AE-5 Sound Card is a PCIe device that has a discrete headphone amp and DAC. Its bottom edge features your regular PCIe connector, while its back edge displays a slight notch providing the whole sound card a slight rectangular form factor.

The Sound Blaster X Pro Gaming mark is embellished on the sound card’s bottom face, and also along the edges of the Sound BlasterX AE-5 Sound Card’s top face. The name of the device is also listed on the front edge of the device once you install this in your computer.

The back edge of the sound card displays a 4-pin MOLEX power connector that provides power for the included RGB LED lighting strip. The back also has the front panel HD audio pins while the front edge features the RGB input plug that is close to the case’s back end.

If you plan to use the RGB lights, you just need to plug the included light strip and you just need to ensure that you have an extra 4-pin MOLEX connector present on your power supply. Extra information on the light strips: if you really like them, there are more that are available for purchase just in case you’re interested in these. What’s nice about this is if you do not want to use the lighting, you can simply leave it switched off completely.

Last, but not the least, the rear panel of this sound card is where every audio connection will occur. From right to left, you’ll see the 3.5 millimeter audio jack for the line in / mic in, headphones, front (L / R), the center / subwoofer, and the rear (L / R). On the left end, you’ll also see an optical audio output present. Overall, the Sound BlasterX AE-5 Sound Card is a really nice looking, but is it a good performer just like what the company claims it to be? Read on further to learn more.

Product Features

X-Amp Discrete Headphone Amplifier

The Sound BlasterX AE-5 is the first sound card in the market that features X-Amp. This is the company’s custom-designed discrete headphone amplifier. Each of the audio channels are individually amplified for the sound card to provide excellent audio fidelity.  The ultra-low 1 Ohm output impedance perfectly drives 16-600 Ohm headphones.

Aurora Reactive Lighting

With the Aurora Reactive Lighting System, you can enjoy lights and sounds at once. The AE-5 features customizable RGB LEDs on its body, and also features an included RGB LED strip. Set up to 16.8 million colors in various patterns using the Sound Blaster Connect software.

SABRE 32 Ultra Class DAC

The Sound Blaster X AE-5 is a SABRE 32 Ultra Class PCIe DAC. This means that it’s best for hi-resolution audio for music, movies, and games. Up to 32 bit 384 KHz playback with a NR of 122dB playback is delivered, together with ultra-low jitter and distortion.

Blaster X Acoustic Engine

The Sound BlasterX AE-5 rides on Sound Blaster’s long legacy of audio processing and enhancements. BlasterX Acoustic Engine is a suite of audio processing technologies that you can fully customize. These deliver high levels of audio immersion and accuracy for high competitive advantage. These sound technologies provide outstanding levels of audio realism such as 3D surround sound effects for your headset and speakers.

Scout 2.0

Scout 2.0 is the world’s first smart gaming companion that lets you visualize and see opponents on the radar via your mobile device for any FPS game. This newly updated feature gives you tactical advantage by enhancing important in-game audio cues, including the sound of weapons switching, footsteps, and more. With that, you can accurately detect where your enemies are located and be successful in every shooting game.

Specifications

The Sound BlasterX AE-5 Sound Card from Creative is their very first discrete sound card under the Sound BlasterX series. It operates at a dynamic system of 122dB while featuring the ESS SABRE 32 DAC which aids in providing high quality 32bit filtering for distortion and low noise. It is able to support up to a total of 5.1 surround speaker systems while also featuring the Xamp which is a customized bi-amplified headphone amplifier. This supports up to a total of 600 ohm headsets; and for extra measure, there’s a TOSLINK optical output present. And for convenience, the company included a front panel audio connector for their Sound BlasterX AE-5 Sound Card.

Using the Product

Adding the AE-5 sound card to your system requires a spare molex cable and a spare PCIe 1x slot or greater to power the LED lighting. Once the sound card is installed, Windows will recognize and provide standard functionality for the sound card. To gain access to its full features, you will have to visit the Sound BlasterX AE-5 Sound Card’s product page to download the software.

When we tried our headphones with the Sound BlasterX AE-5 Sound Card, its maximum volume was able to produce loud and clear sounds that is well-balanced. The bass was really deep and smooth and had quite the punch that was not over the top.

The mid-range was really clear while its highs were crisp and unhindered. We also tried using the virtual 7.1 option for our headphones which allowed the audio to sound wider. The balance sounded perfect and it wasn’t flat in any way, and it still produced sounds with enough power.

In games, there was a lot of spatial awareness when we tried this out, and we were able to clearly hear all the steps and noises that you wouldn’t usually hear when using other similar devices. We also enjoyed clear and immersive environmental sounds and was definitely more superior compared to the motherboard audio.

The sound card was able to push our computer speakers to the best they can be, and we enjoyed listening to the audio that it produced. We heard sounds that we didn’t usually hear before, there was great depth, excellent detail, and everything sounded real and natural which was great.

Of course, we had to test the Sound BlasterX AE-5 Sound Card with a couple of headset mics as well. From there, we realized that the numerous mic filtering options that are available do a great job in decreasing noise which is great. For the microphone processing, it’s really good enough, so you won’t have to use the noise reduction mode unless you’re in an extremely noisy environment. For added fun, the software of the Sound BlasterX AE-5 Sound Card also has a variety of voice morphs that you can use if you want to try sounding like an alien, a fantasy character, or the like.

All in all, it’s a very good device, and we’re giving the Sound BlasterX AE-5 Sound Card from Creative a thumbs-up for its performance.

Sound Blaster Connect Software & Lighting

Before anything else, if you own any other hardware from Creative and have previously installed and setup the Sound Blaster Connect software, we suggest that you download and use the latest Sound Blaster Connect 2 software instead. This is because the previous version of the software does not recognize the Sound BlasterX AE-5 Sound Card at all, so to make everything work seamlessly, download the newer software for your sound card.

With that said, the Sound Blaster Connect 2 looks pretty much the same as the first software, but the difference is that it’s capacity and functions are better, and the new software can also handle most of the older hardware from Creative as well. So if you’re someone who is familiar with how the original software works, then you shouldn’t have any problems with their latest update.

It didn’t take us too long to familiarize ourselves with the latest software since its layout and functions were user-friendly. It was great since upon the first try, the LED lights worked immediately and all the features of the device were available for use.

For the controls, they were good too. You don’t need to have any high technical knowledge to get things up and running. During our time of testing the software, we basically had no problems with it, and we’ve actually discovered an interesting and quick fix that is simple enough to use, in case you face any problems or issues with it.

Once you’ve finished installing the latest software and are having problems with Windows 10, just open Settings > Devices > Bluetooth & Other Devices > Locate, then choose the Speakers AE-5. After this, press ‘remove device’ before restarting your system.

This will let the system reinstall the drivers to the device and has functioned adequately throughout. In the software, you will be given access to the SBX studio effects, plus a quick access to the scout mode 2.0 and the user-friendly equalizer. Just take note that via the speaker setup, you’ll only have access to the audio bitrate / resolution of up to 32 bit / 96KHz; though with your HP Direct and headset, you’ll have access to the 32 bit / 384KHz.

We liked that the LED light effects were quite advanced but it takes a bit of time to get used to its arrangement when it comes to creating custom dynamic, as well as interesting effects that are similar to the preset effects which are great.

Conclusion

The Creative Sound BlasterX AE-5 Sound Card is another excellent addition to your build. As long as you have the right drivers and software installed, and if you set up the appropriate audio devices in the software, this sound card can bring your listening experience to a whole new level.

Gaming audio was totally clear and accurate, though it could still make differences depending on the game you play. Speakers and headphones will react differently when it comes to tone and volume, though we think that you won’t have to set the main Windows volume too high for great audio.

If you’re looking for the excellent audio solution, we highly recommend the Sound BlasterX AE-5. With this, you can have an impressive audio experience that is greater than what high-end motherboard audio solutions can offer.

Where to Buy

You can purchase the Sound BlasterX AE-5 for around $190 AUD. For more information head on over to the official product page.

Design
Features
Performance
Usability
Value
4.9
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