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Creative Sound Blaster E5 Review – Portable DAC with Headphone Amp

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Packaging and Closer Look

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The Sound Blaster E5 has this nice looking box where some of its features are printed on the front and rear portion of the box. You can also see from the back the number of ways you can connect with the E5, as well as how to use its built-in microphone.

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Flip the top cover and it will immediately reveal the E5 resting on a velvet-surfaced plastic. There’s also a small amount of padding on the top side of the cover to protect the top surface of the E5. You also get some reading materials, a Mini TOSLINK cable, 2 arm bands, and a USB to micro USB cable.

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And let’s not forget this desk stand where you can simply clip the Sound Blaster E5 and put it in front of you in an angled manner. There’s a big threaded hole on one side just in case you need to place the E5 on a stand.

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From the top you can see the Sound Blaster logo, NFC logo and three tiny holes. Those tiny holes are the microphones, however only two mics are active at the same time depending on the orientation of the E5. On the bottom portion of the E5 is a large rubber padding, also with Sound Blaster’s logo on it. This prevents the E5 from slipping accidentally.

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In front of the E5 you get, not one, but two 3.5mm headphone out. You can use either one or both of them at the same time. Now that’s something you don’t see usually on a DAC/AMP. I’m sure you already have an idea what that circle thing on the middle is for. There are no printed symbols to indicate which way is volume up or down, but it’s pretty much the same with all volume controls. Turning the knob towards the right increases the volume, while turning it towards the left decreases the volume. That’s not all, the knob can actually be pushed. Pushing or pressing the volume knob will instantly mute the device.

At the rear side of the Sound Blaster E5, you get a line in / mic in / optical in port, a line out and optical out port, a standard USB port, and a micro USB port. The micro USB port is for charging and connecting the device to your computer. Meanwhile the USB Host is for mobile devices.

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Let’s take a closer look on its sides. We have the power button which also serves as the pairing button. Next is the SBX button which gives you that instant surround sound effects enhancement. The SBX is usually used for gaming or watching movies. And I’m sure you want that turned off when listening to your music, not unless you want them to sound differently. Finally we have the Gain switch. Use Low Gain when using easy to drive headphones or in-ear monitors that has an impedance of 2.2Ω – 120Ω. The Gain in Low setting is up to 5dB. Meanwhile use the High Gain for hard to drive headphones, usually headphones that have 120Ω – 600Ω impedance. High Gain provides up to 15dB.

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Usually audiophile DAC/AMPs are encased with an aluminum or metal shell. Unfortunately the Sound Blaster E5 has a plastic enclosure. But I was pleased to find out that despite not having an aluminum casing, the overall build quality is still great. You can tell that it’s hard plastic, but it doesn’t fell cheap or look cheap. Definitely the E5 would have been priced higher if it has an aluminum casing. The body of the E5 is actually a mixture of glossy finish, rubber surface, matte finish, and aluminum brushed finish. The result is just great and aesthetically pleasing to the eyes, while keeping its price at bay. Although, it’s finger print magnet as well, specially the top portion.

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A PC enthusiast and a gamer, and my eyes eat frames for breakfast, I guess. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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