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

Sound Blaster AE-5 Software

Here you can see the included Sound Blaster Connect software. It includes experiences so you can hear the fidelity you could achieve from your new audio solution. this is the various icons you can see down the mid left hand column.

The Equalizer is neat and you can draw on it to create the waveform you most want but do keep in mind if you are not familiar with this you can really make for some strange sounding output. With that said you can just default it back or select any of the available options from the drop down to set it back to something more friendly to your usage. I gave it a shot doing a quick wobble up and down and as I expected since I really had no clue what I was doing it sounded less than stellar. However selecting one of the presets really did change the overall feel of the music I played and it was nice to hear how the different presets complimented the different music types.

For our testing we did use a neutral setting on both motherboard and the Sound Blaster AE-5 to ensure as fair of a comparison as possible.

The acoustic Engine settings are neat and allow you to adjust various parts of the audio profile. you can also disable specific enhancements if you don’t find them useful or are going for pure natural sound output which is what we opted for.

Scout 2.0 is an interesting enhancement menu as it holds some pretty controversial settings.

  • Scout Radar
    • Enables a mobile device to connect to your PC and show a surround Radar effect showing direction of source noises
  • Scout Mode
    • Enhances audio cues which can enable you to better hear your enemies as they sneak up or approach. Gaining a potential tactical advantage in competitive titles.

The reason I say these are controversial is quite apparent. These could give a distinct advantage to players similar to some ESP cheats where you can see locations of other players which is just in poor sportsmanship. I would recommend against using these features as while they may give you a tactical advantage it in my eyes is just downright cheating.

I did test these features and I am happy to say that they actually did not perform that well in my testing. I am connecting a Galaxy S9+ and I had issues getting the app to connect and when it did connect I found that in many cases the pointers it showed me to be an enemy were in fact myself walking.

The Scout mode however does amplify footsteps beyond what I could hear before which once again can provide an unfair advantage and I would advise against it as whats the point of playing competitive games if you have the ability to hear better than the others and therefore can pre-fire other players. I know some may disagree with this but it is a conversation for another day.

The Voice tab has two sections, Clarity and voice morph. Clarity has specific tick boxes to help give you better overall input from your headset or standalone microphone so other players may not here other background items or echo.

The Voice Morph tab is interesting and I played with a fair bit as it is basically a software voice changer which has some weird and some pretty entertaining voice effects.

Lighting (RGB) tab has what you would expect. This is where you control the onboard lighting along with any light strips off board via the top mounted connector. The RGB is labeled “Aurora Reactive”. One thing to note is I have not found any other software that can control this which means if you want the RGB function you will need to use the Sound Blaster Connect software to control it.

I really would like to see a day when we can have one unifying software package which could control all RGB so that we do not have varying software all just to control lighting. I have seen it such as what MSI did on their Z390 Gaming Edge AC which we reviewed recently, so I know there is hope.

The setup screen is where you can find how to select your speaker setup or headphones. This was a bit odd as I assumed it would be somewhere up in the sound area. One thing to note is if you have a headset and select DirectHP, none of the EQ settings will work. You may select them but nothing will change. Even though it shows Headphones with a 7.1 this is the setting you should be choosing. DirectHP appears to be a direct pass through with no enhancements or changes to the signal.

Under the mixer tab within the setup menu I found that you can even enable the stereo Mix to be fed through the digital output whereas normally the Digital out is a clean pass through.

The Settings tab enables you to update your software and see all the details of the version you are running. This is normally in the help tab from most software but I digress. This is also where you can go to recovery and reset everything to defaults in case you go crazy with setting sand simply cannot figure out how to get it sounding right again.

Lastly we have sign in. This looks to be setting up an account to get marketing emails, so unless otherwise noted I would probably avoid that unless you are like me and have a spam email account dedicated to when you sign up for things. Isn’t a reviewers life grand? /sarcasm

Now lets take a look at what I have to say about actually listening to stuff with various headphone types with the Sound BlasterX AE-5 vs motherboards integrated audio.

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  1. very nice review, you did not mention though, that the direct HP / speaker port will allow for 32bit / 384khz – whereas the other ports are 32/96 ๐Ÿ™‚

    love my card, paired with DT 990Pro 250ohm studio headphones.

    alot of onboard audio using the ACL1220 codec for example, will apply audio compression when you enable the equializer, making the sound sound like it is “stopped” from reaching its peak – its terrible, muddy and unclear.

    like you, i found the difference to be like night and day.

  2. I was blown away of how much better the Audio is into my B&O headphones with the AE-5…. Why are Soundcards/DAC’s so forgotten!!!

  3. Well they aren’t lol, nobody remotely interested in audio uses onboard soundcards. There are just a bunch of people online nowadays who follow the “it’s digitial and it all sounds the same”, which is of course nonsense. The best part is that 99,99% of those people have zero experience with remotely high quality headphones or audio setups, and their opinions are based on what someone else told them. Any time someone tells you there is no difference between on-board sound cards and external DAC’s or separate high quality sound card, just block out anything else they say about the topic because they clearly lack basic knowledge and have zero experience, or are just flat out deaf.

    • lol, I tend to agree, but I have also playted in a band in what seems like a previous life… The amount of difference between even the ‘high end’ or tweaked codecs/solutions (I use the word high-end very loosely when referencing any onboard audio) I see quite an improvement even in a simple card like the AE-5. There are far better solutions but for most users, this would be a huge step forward.

  4. “โ€œitโ€™s digital and it all sounds the sameโ€ The amount of times I have heard this line makes me absolutely cringe. I gave up arguing with people about this sort of stuff. ignorance is bliss for them.

  5. Iam new to this and have the HC V 770 and trying to figure out what software I need to get / edit videos from sd card for facebook or youtube . Please help , thanks

  6. Most of the comments are the usual ridiculous audiophool nonsense one would expect.

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