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Creative Sound BlasterX AE-5 – Is The Sound Card Really Dead?

Time to look at what feels like an old friend

Before we dive into the new Sound BlasterX AE-5 we must do a little archeology. Put on your time traveler hats as we look back into the origins of PC as I grew up with.

I an remember the beginning days of my PC experience. It was ISA slots and several KB of onboard RAM. Yea that’s right, back then we did not judge or even think of memory in Megabytes but in Kilobytes.. Motherboards back then also were very barren for connectivity with only the basics such as a 5 pin DIN connector for the keyboard connection. This was about 4x the size of the already obsolete PS2 connection you see on what we call ancient keyboards now.

The reason for this explanation was to lead to where we are at today. Back in the days of the early personal computer or PC every option you wanted on your PC had to be added via expensive and sizable expansion cards. one of which, we take for granted every day that motherboards come with onboard audio controllers when back in the early days it was an added cost and it occupied precious ISA slot space. Back then there were only a few players and the most prevalent at least for me growing up in southern California was either Creative and AdLib cards. The AdLib cards were the most prevalent and widely used form my experience early on but as Creative really began to push Sound Blaster branding and stronger audio performance we saw a defined shift in preference. I do believe a lot of this had to do with branding as well as AdLib by comparison felt very business or corporate while creative made it their business to build very “modern” or gamer style packaging which engaged with the new breed of PC gamers starting to come into play.

Back then you really had to know what you were doing when assembling or adding parts to your PC as you had to address and configure every device for memory addressing and specific IRQ’s. One of my first Audio add in cards much like the one I will be showing you today was a Creative unit although it was a huge card which fit into the massive ISA slot on my XT motherboard. It did not have any of the features you get even with the most basic motherboard audio now but back in those days the most basic low bit rate sound was considered groundbreaking as you play your game from your 5.25″ floppy disks.

Now Fast forward to today and we have the new Creative Labs Sound BlasterX AE-5 which is a relatively small footprint internal audio card sporting powerful internal AMPs and Sabre32 DAC which can deliver 32-bit audio at up to 384kHz playback.  And includes RGB support, yea I know…

 

The Sound BlasterX AE-5 comes to market at $139.99 which is a costly add on for your system.

  • Creative Labs Sound BlasterX AE-5 $ 139.99 Amazon

This price may seem a bit rough especially when most all motherboards include audio onboard which many of us have come to the conclusion is “good enough”.

Now the reason I am even writing this is that I am one of those who for the better part of over 10 years now have not touched an audio card really as I feel the onboard motherboard audio is good enough. So without further hesitation lets look at what makes this special and if it is worth the investment.

Features

This is where we pick some of the marketing points the manufacturer offers, then we explore them through our testing.

  • Sabre32 PCIe DAC
  • Discrete headphone amp
    • Allows for each ear cup in your favorite headset to be driven by its own amplifier rather than sharing the same amp across both. Supports down to 1Ω and up to 600Ω
  • BlasterX Acoustic Engine
    • Software suite to enhance audio experience
  • Scout Mode
    • Audio enhancement designed to let you hear key details more clearly which can give you a competitive edge by hearing your enemy approaching in your favorite FPS
  • Scout 2.0 (Scout Radar)
    • Add on companion app for mobile devices which visually shows the location of where sounds are coming from such as enemy players.
  • RGB support
    • Onboard RGB lighting and an accessory port where you can plug included Addressable RGB strips into for controllable system lighting.

With those out of the way now lets see what we get with this card.

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