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Creative Sound Blaster E5 Review – Portable DAC with Headphone Amp

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Usually DACs and Headphone Amplifiers or DAC/AMP Combo that are geared towards audiophiles and music lovers are so darn expensive. A DAC with AMP would cost you starting from a couple of hundred of bucks up to way thousands of dollars. That’s why PC enthusiasts and/or gamers are discouraged to buy such device because they would rather invest their hard earn money on upgrading the components of their PC. On the other hand, PC gamers usually resort to discrete sound cards that are all the time stuck inside their PC. But how about a portable DAC with Headphone AMP where both PC enthusiasts/gamers and music lovers would enjoy? From Creative Technology comes the Sound Blaster E5 – a USB DAC with Headphone Amplifier that is not only for music lovers, but also for PC gamers and enthusiast as well. The Sound Blaster E5 is actually not the first of its kind from Creative. They previously released the E3 and E1. But the SB E5 is so far the most feature rich DAC/AMP currently in the market making it a really bang for buck device. Are you in the market looking for a DAC/AMP that you can use for your gaming needs / audio sessions / while on the go / by wired or wireless connection / chatting? Please continue reading my Sound Blaster E5 review below. Before that, I would like to thank Creative for providing the E5 sample for the purpose of this review.

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Creative Sound Blaster E5 Review

Creative Sound Blaster E5 Features

The Creative Sound Blaster E5 is the latest and the flagship device from the company’s E-Series. Unlike most of my DAC/AMP collection, the E5 is loaded with tons of features making my JDS Labs Objective2+ODAC Combo sounds very elementary, not to mention the O2+ODAC is more expensive that the E5. Let’s start from the inside and out.

The E5 was built with not only the gamers in mind, but also music lovers as well. It’s made out of Audiophile-grade components like the Cirrus Logic (CS4398) 120dB for its DAC (Digital to Analog Converter) that supports high resolution audio playback of up to 24-bit/192kHz when connected to PC/Mac, including 24-bit/88.2kHz and 24-bit/176.4kHz. It also has a Cirrus Logic (CS5361) 114dB ADC (Analog to Digital Converter) that delivers high quality, low noise analog line-in audio playback and audio recording of up to 24-bit/192kHz. For its amplification, the Sound Blaster E5 is powered by the Texas Instruments (TPA6120A2) 600Ω headphone amplifier which is capable of driving audiophile-grade headphones, with full and detailed clarity.

The E5 primarily uses USB as its connection. It features Asynchronous Mode USB Audio that greatly reduces jitter and allows accurate high-resolution audio data transfer from the computer. It can be connected to a Windows PC, MAC and even select mobile devices running on iOS and Android operating system. It also has wireless capabilities and features Bluetooth 4.1 low energy with NFC technology for one-touch Bluetooth pairing and control. It supports HD audio codec like aptX Low Latency, AAC and SBC which enhances audio quality wirelessly.

Since the Sound Blaster E5 is a portable device, it has a built-in rechargeable lithium polymer battery with 32000mAh. It can provide power up to 8 hours of playtime. The features of the E5 don’t end here. I’ll discuss more as we take a closer look on the E5 in the next page. Meanwhile if you want something direct, feel free to browse its detailed specifications below.

Creative Sound Blaster E5 Specifications

Audio ProcessorSB-Axx1™
SBX Pro StudioYes
Max. Playback QualityStereo Direct playback/recording sampling rates:
24-bit / 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4 and 192kHz
DSP playback/recording sampling rates:
24-bit / 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96 kHz
Mic recording:
24-bit / 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96 kHz
Optical In:
24-bit / 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96kHz
USB Audio Streaming from Mobile DevicesiOS Playback/recording:
24-bit / 44.1, 48 kHz
Android Playback:
16-bit / 44.1 kHz
Max. Recording Quality24-bit / 96kHz
OutputStereo
Max. Headphone OutputHigh Gain - 120-600? (Gain: up to 15 dB)
Low Gain - 2.2-120? (Gain: up to 5 dB)
Battery LifeUp to 8 hours
Included AccessoriesMicroUSB cable
Desk Stand
Two Elastic Bands
Mini TOSLINK Cable
Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR)120dB (DAC)
Connectivity Options (Main)microUSB
Line / Mic / Optical In:
1 x 3.5mm jack
Headphone Out :
2 x 3.5mm jacks
Line / Optical Out :
1 x 3.5mm jack
USB Host Streaming:
1 x Type-A USB Port
CrystalVoiceYes
Audio FidelityUp to 24-bit / 192kHz
Audio CodecAAC, SBC, aptX Low Latency
Bluetooth®Bluetooth 4.1
Bluetooth MultipointTwo Devices
Bluetooth ProfilesA2DP (Wireless stereo Bluetooth)
AVRCP (Bluetooth remote control)
HFP (Handsfree Profile)
Operating RangeUp to 10m/33ft
Near Field Communication (NFC)Yes
Included / Downloadable SoftwareSound Blaster E-series Control Panel
Supported Operating SystemsMac OS X v10.6.8 and above
Windows® 8.1
Windows® 8
Windows® 7
Windows Vista®
Supported Smart DevicesiOS:
iPhones/iPads running iOS 6.0 or higher for Bluetooth
iPhones/iPads running iOS 6.0 or higher for USB Host Audio streaming via Lightning Port
Android:
Phones/Tablets running Android 2.3 or higher for Bluetooth
Phones/Tablets running Android 4.1 or higher for USB Host Streaming*
*Devices must support AOA2 protocol for USB Host Streaming
Compatible PlatformUSB 2.0, USB 3.0, Bluetooth
Microphone TypeBuilt-in Mic with auto-orientation sensor (Landscape / Portrait modes)
Dimensions110 x 22 x 74 mm (4.3 x 0.9 x 2.9 inches)
ASIOPlayback & Recording
App NameSound Blaster Central
Supported PlatformsiOS, Android OS

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