Wednesday, June 14th 2017

Creative Announces Sound BlasterX AE-5 Audiophile-grade Gaming Sound Card

Creative Technology Ltd today announced at E3 2017 the latest addition to its Sound BlasterX Pro-Gaming Series, the Sound BlasterX AE-5. E3 is the world's premier event for computer, video and mobile games and related products, making it the perfect place to debut the next era of PC audio.

The sound card features the world's best gaming headphone amplifier for PCs. The Sound BlasterX AE-5 delivers the ultimate audio performance with the full force of a 122 dB 32-bit / 384 kHz ESS Sabre DAC, a kick-ass custom-designed 600Ω discrete headphone amp, audiophile-grade components, and proprietary Sound Blaster audio enhancement technologies.
Xamp Discrete Headphone Amp
Delivering an industry-leading gaming headphone amplification experience, the on-board headphone amplifier is custom-built using discrete transistors and audiophile-grade WIMA film/foil capacitors in a dual-amp design to satisfy the most demanding needs of today's intense games and high-resolution audio. Experience the difference of a discrete dual-amp design as each audio channel is individually amplified to deliver pristine, uncompromised audio. Plus, the high heat resistance of the German-made WIMA capacitors greatly reduces noise and audio interference. The Xamp's ultra low 1Ω output impedance also makes it perfectly capable of driving sensitive in-ear monitors as well as studio-grade headphones from 16Ω to 600Ω.

122 dB DNR Sabre-Class DAC with Industry Leading Audio Processing
At the heart of the Sound BlasterX AE-5 sound card is the quad-core Sound Core3D audio DSP and a 122dB ESS Sabre-Class DAC that instantly boosts regular motherboard audio with up to 32 times more clarity. The premium audiophile-grade DAC with its high dynamic range indulges users with up to 32-bit/384kHz lossless playback and true audio fidelity for high-definition audio in games, movies, and music.

Updated, refined and perfected through years of being the leader in sound processing, Creative's AE-5 is feature-packed with the latest and greatest version of Creative's award-winning audio processing and algorithms that improve music, movie and gaming experiences. The legendary Sound Blaster technologies provide fully customizable DSP-powered audio enhancements, crystal-clear vocal reproduction, in-game voice communication enhancements, 7.1 virtual surround sound and other advanced audio technologies.

World's First Sound Card with Integrated RGB Controller Powered by Aurora Reactive Lighting System
The Sound BlasterX AE-5 card is the first sound card to feature a built-in RGB controller that comes with the Aurora Reactive Lighting System. A separate RGB lighting system could set a user back by at least USD 50, but now, this is built into the card itself with the AE-5: giving users amazing value and performance for their system. This also means that valuable space within a gamer's desktop can be saved for other components.

The RGB controller, powered by Creative's very own Aurora Reactive Lighting System, not only lights up the card through the PCB, but also gives gamers the flexibility to build their dream gaming rig by connecting up to four LED strips to match the awesome sound with an awesome light show. The fully customizable Aurora Reactive Lighting System allows users to choose from multiple presets or program it with up to 16.8 million colors and various rhythms to choose from, using the Sound Blaster Connect PC software.

All New Scout 2.0 Feature
Scout 2.0 is an upgraded version of the Creative's well-received Scout Mode feature - Scout 2.0 now also includes Scout Radar. Scout Radar is a smart companion that enables gamers to visualize and pinpoint their enemy's position on a Scout Radar app with the user's smart device, while Scout Mode lets gamers hear their enemies before they are seen.

The all new Scout 2.0 feature is sure to give gamers that added winning edge.

5.1 Discrete Speaker System Support
The Sound BlasterX AE-5 comes with support for a full-fledged discrete 5.1 speaker set-up, enabling gamers to enjoy the full potential of surround sound in today's entertainment content.

"The Sound BlasterX AE-5 represents the best amplification experience for gaming headphones that a sound card can offer. Since our very first sound card 30 years ago, we've always been passionate about sound when it comes to entertainment and gaming. The AE-5 embodies our continuing dedication in giving gamers the absolute best. This is an amazing way to celebrate the 30th anniversary of our gift of sound to the PC world: the Sound BlasterX AE-5," said Low Long Chye, General Manager of Creative.

"Discrete circuitry designs using components such as transistors and capacitors deliver audio with warmth and nuance that is seldom found in today's commoditized audio products. With the AE-5, we have preserved the rich legacy of these quality components and combined it with world-class engineering and audio processing technology to deliver the absolute best audio experience for the PC. And that's not all, the AE-5 also takes the sensory experience beyond sound with a 16.8 million color light show."

Sound BlasterX AE-5 Pure Edition
A special white edition the Sound BlasterX AE-5 is also available exclusively online. Unlike the standard version which comes with a single 30cm LED strip with 10 LEDs, this special Pure Edition will include four LED strips.

Full Range of Sound BlasterX Pro-Gaming Gear and the X-Fi Sonic Carrier at E3
Visitors can experience the all-new Sound BlasterX AE-5 together with the entire Sound BlasterX series at Booth 3053, E3 Los Angeles Convention Center (June 13 - 15, 2017). The Sound BlasterX series includes the latest gear in the gaming ecosystem, including the award-winning Katana under-monitor audio system, Siege M04 precision gaming mouse, and Vanguard K08 mechanical keyboard. Also making a special appearance will be the X-Fi Sonic Carrier, Creative's ultimate audio for ultimate gaming. The Sonic Carrier, a powerful home entertainment system with Dolby Atmos, Creative SuperWide X-Fi, 17 drivers in a 15.2 configuration, and 2000W peak power, is set to blow gamers away with the ultimate immersive cinematic sound. Besides being showcased at the Creative booth, the Sonic Carrier will be showcased by major game developers BANDAI NAMCO, SEGA Europe, ATLUS/SEGA and Deep Silver to show-off their very latest immersive gaming content at their booths.

Pricing and Availability
The Sound BlasterX AE-5 will be available in July 2017 on www.creative.com and at authorized dealers at USD $149.99.

Gamers in the US will be able to pre-order the Sound BlasterX AE-5 from Newegg, Fry's, Micro Center and Creative websites beginning June 13, 2017, coinciding with the launch at E3.

The Sound BlasterX AE-5 Pure Edition will be available in August 2017 exclusively on www.creative.com at USD $179.99.
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95 Comments on Creative Announces Sound BlasterX AE-5 Audiophile-grade Gaming Sound Card

#1
Dammeron
Yay, more RGB shoved up in our faces...

Also - let's call it "reactive lighting system", yet it just goes with some preset themes, with no actual reaction to sound output or anything else.
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#2
RejZoR
I was just wondering the other day when we're gonna get new soundcards. I'm probably one of rare few who get excited over new soundcards this much. 122dB, 32bit 384kHz DAC's, niiiice. And for 150€, it's not that bad. Plus, it has RGB. Everything any audio enthusiast ever wanted from a soundcard :D It'll happen that I'll probably have new soundcard before I'll have a new graphic card hehe
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#3
natr0n
When your sound card becomes your winamp visualization.
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#4
Aenra
RejZoR said:
I'm probably one of rare few who get excited over new soundcards this much
Likewise really :)
This one is definitely getting inside my next rig. Just hope you can disable all the RGB craze without need of a screwdriver.

(but you guys CAN call me stupid for wasting a fortune on my current one.. tbh, i never expected them to continue making internal cards, not after their latest models.. so i decided to "invest" on my current one; replaced almost everything with higher grade components and all op amps with Burson Audio's v5is.. feeling stupid now; with a bit of luck, maybe i'll be able to put the v5is into this one at least)
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#5
RejZoR
The LED strip is option so I'm not gonna be plugging in that one. As far as LED lighting on soundcard goes, I'll probably just flip it to always on, non blinking white color since all lights in my case are white already (graphic card PCIIe power ports indicators, motherboard indicator LED's and CoolerMaster AiO...
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#6
Camm
I really wish Creative would stop doing this white 'pure' bullshit.

Its not so much of a problem here since its just a few extra RGB's, but their X7 pure version came with a better amp - which is infuriating when there's already a black version.

As for the card, looks interesting, but proof will be in the review I think.
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#7
bogami
It looks good, but how it sounds? Fibrous decoder 2 W of output power. but they could not RGB connection put vith addition to other cable connections. SLI connector . Paco appearance.. . With four RGB 30cm strip is attractive and fairly inexpensive purchase.! A majority of motherboards today have good audio decoder and preamplifier, the upgrade is good, but did not changing the 5V preamp, not good . It is followed by larger version? This RGB element could be added to all of creative Sound Cards .
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#8
evernessince
RejZoR said:
I was just wondering the other day when we're gonna get new soundcards. I'm probably one of rare few who get excited over new soundcards this much. 122dB, 32bit 384kHz DAC's, niiiice. And for 150€, it's not that bad. Plus, it has RGB. Everything any audio enthusiast ever wanted from a soundcard :D It'll happen that I'll probably have new soundcard before I'll have a new graphic card hehe
I used to get excited for sound cards, bought the best on the market at the time. Then I found DACs and there is zero reason to go back, period. No drivers required, no install required, and it works with all your devices.

The fact that Creative still sells products with a digital sound processor says enough. A quality DAC / AMP has no need for a digital sound processor and it's just adding latency to the audio.
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#9
RejZoR
When audio is of shite quality like in games, you need a processing system that buffs the whole thing. It's why I laugh every time any company brings out the most highest end crystal clear angelic pure soundcard that just outputs the audio and highest quality. Which in case of games with compressed audio means you're selling an oxymoron...
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#10
Ferrum Master
It's been a while for creative...

There should be a naked shot too, you can google it. Without it you simply cannot judge what it is.

Well a discreet stage for headphones. Relatively new middle end AIO DAC slapped upon sound core pcie controller translator... well... simplicity... too plain in the power section no isolation separate supply rails... shit... even a ancient molex, it will look horrid. I really hope it is only for the development card.

Still better than motherboard audio thou... average headphone(read gamer) user oriented card, nothing else...

Nothing to see more... the price should be around 70-100 then it should be fine... otherwise... skip it...

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#11
lZKoce
Two things cross my mind. First, USB sound cards have been on the rise lately. And I too prefer them than their internal brothers. And also, unless it adds some frames ( apart from the sound quality) , gaming is unjustified title in my opinion. I remember seeing test with early Creative X-FI Gamer adding a frame or two with it's sound processor in the picture. It looks cool though. I am sucker for these gimmicks :)
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#12
RejZoR
That looks rather plain. Even Sound Blaster Z, while slightly more empty PCB, at least has nice Gold Nichicon capacitors all over it. That's a bit confusing for such a "high end" card...

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#13
Ferrum Master
RejZoR said:
That's a bit confusing for such a "high end" card...
Don't fool yourself... it is never meant to be high end... just a cash cow... engineering wise they are worthless rubbish.

I really laugh on latest internal sound card releases, what's actually more dumb? Those who make, review or buy them?
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#14
Dragonsmonk
Ferrum Master said:
Don't fool yourself... it is never meant to be high end... just a cash cow... engineering wise they are worthless rubbish.

I really laugh on latest internal sound card releases, what's actually more dumb? Those who make, review or buy them?
My Asus Xonar DX sounds way better than any on-board and with that I can actually drive my 250Ohm headphones. However, I don't see the point in calling something "premium" or "gaming" just because is has more damn lights on them, especially for that price.

Oh and lets not forget the compatibility issues with Linux on Creative products.
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#15
Dj-ElectriC
I don't mind a very nice sound card. I'm more worried about creative's mega-awful software support
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#16
cryohellinc
Currently on ZxR, hand it's fantastic uncomparable to onboard.
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#17
The Terrible Puddle
Internal sound cards should just die. Get an external USB DAC and an amp for headphones/speakers, and a proper receiver if you need surround.
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#18
Ferrum Master
Dragonsmonk said:
My Asus Xonar DX sounds way better than any on-board and with that I can actually drive my 250Ohm headphones. However, I don't see the point in calling something "premium" or "gaming" just because is has more damn lights on them, especially for that price.
I also have the DX. It uses old and proper CS4398(an industry standard that still resides in many high end studio gear). And pretty much nice supply considering the card size. The thing that made this card horrid are drivers... it still lies in my closet. I've modded it a bit but not much, the PCB is a dud, doesn't like to be reheated to change components.

I still prefer Ti PCM1794 afterwards driven by a proper I/V and buffer section. And that the distinction to premium ie flagship parts and no economical trade offs. I really actually don't dig the ESS Sabre internal Hyperstream algo... considering that this ES9016 is already EOL and replaced with ES9026... (pin to pin compatible you can do an upgrade) and I use the latter ES9028 daily while listening... I really prefer the old TI PCM1794 made in 2003 hands down. Albeit I also a design a DAC stage while I have time and ESS brings so much laziness to the design... Well I understand Creative.

Want a proper premium card really that earns to name herself a premium? Onkyo SE-300PCIe. As an engineer my eyes see the right things, isolated supply, split voltage data/analog rails, dual mono PCM1798... it is designed to reside in a noisy environment and does it fine.

But want some fun? It is a hit or miss, because of the discreet opamp even for a such grade card. They used some of their own floating zero designs(could be a old good standard NE5532 laid on PCB with cherry picked transistors, but that's the thing it is a limitation actually as gear needs coupling and it limits your possibilities playing with many factors).

This upper gamer card uses more brute discreet amp section reminding a simple AB stage. More current and low Z headphones will benefit from it... but... otherwise without measurements I can only guess basing on similar solutions... it will be average, but still better than the motherboard audio... it is still worse 6-7 times worse than our Xonar DX, close to 9 times with ZxR... (I took the average 100db SN ratio that certain best boards deliver, thanks to cadaveca still doing the job as it should be while reviewing motherboards.)

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#19
bug
I used to drool all over Creative sound cards (owned few even). But these days it makes more sense to eschew chassis noise by outputting digital (every on-board solution has toslink) and converting to analog somewhere else. For me, at least.
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#20
NRANM
The Terrible Puddle said:
Internal sound cards should just die.
No, they shouldn't.

There are plenty of people who would not hear any added noise from the case's internals. In fact I'm sure the "computer case is a noisy environment so we should avoid it at all costs" is an overblown argument, it's nowhere near as bad as audiophiles make it out to be.
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#21
bug
NRANM said:
No, they shouldn't.

There are plenty of people who would not hear any added noise from the case's internals. In fact I'm sure the "computer case is a noisy environment so we should avoid it at all costs" is an overblown argument, it's nowhere near as bad as audiophiles make it out to be.
It's annoying because of several issues:
1. You may not notice the added noise, but once someone points it out for you, that's all you hear.
2. It's not a problem on all setups, but it only takes one new added component to the system to start interfering with your sound card. In at least one instance I know of, the cause was a single cable: you moved it, the problem went away, it would slide back in position, problem back.
3. People couple the sound cards with all sorts of "gaming" headsets that are crappy enough they don't pick up the noise because they don't pick up much detail to begin with.

The only problem I have with internal sound cards is these supposedly stellar parameters on the box, when in practice they're barely any better than the onboard sound: for games, both will do, for audiophiles, neither.
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#22
Prima.Vera
Everything and anything that came from Creative after X-Fi is a downgrade in sound quality... Sorry, but is true. Should check some reviews about the removed features, bots software and hardware (7.1 sound anyone?)
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#23
Ferrum Master
bug said:
It's annoying because of several issues:
1. You may not notice the added noise, but once someone points it out for you, that's all you hear.
You think USB doesn't have noise? It does and a lot. Coupling with an end amp will screw the noise floor up, USB is a really noisy thing also... only solution is also to use an additional device an USB isolator(and it costs a lot, I have one, without it you cannot do any kind of measurements at all). If you use headphones only it is not really needed. If it is even a cheaper device feeding from the USB 5V rails... then oh gosh...

Each device and solution has their trade offs, you have to analyze each of their own, you cannot generalize all internal cards are bad and USB is the holy grail or vice versa - it's all gray.
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#24
ERazer
some mobo already have decent sound driver, if you really want decent SC just buy usb amp/dac
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#25
RejZoR
The Terrible Puddle said:
Internal sound cards should just die. Get an external USB DAC and an amp for headphones/speakers, and a proper receiver if you need surround.
If anything, it should be time to bring them back again and start using dedicated hardware acceleration for it again. We had all that and then it was all taken away in favor of garbage software emulation with really crappy environmental effects engines. For anyone who has experienced EAX 5 HD, using today's crap is making my ears bleed.

@Prima.Vera
Reason why things are geting downgraded is because Microsoft shut Creative out from hardware acceleration. And if you can't use audio on such low level, you really can't do all that much to it than do post process effects. They can help, but it's a problem doing 3D positioning and special effects. Yeah, it sucks., but we can't do much about it.

I wonder, how are they replacing countless capacitors? With those solid flat ones? Also, what are those flat, tall red and black elements?
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