We all know creative as a brand that makes quality audio products and accessories. Mostly known for their speakers, audio cards and headphones, this time around they have introduced a few portable Headphone Amplifiers, 3 to be precise, E5, E3 and E1
What I have here is The E5
, a DAC cum amplifier. Works as a DAC with PC
and mobile devices via USB
, you can opt for optical input too, and is the best of these 3 portable amps from creative, priced at $199
, Equipped with Bluetooth, 3 noise cancelling MICs and dual headphone out too, it has some awesome and unique features in its inventory which we will talk later.
Oh, you get 60 days of free
Hi-Fi Streaming from TIDAL
Let me tell you something about me, I literally begged for this amp when Creative were looking for reviewers, back then I didn’t had an okay type amp with me, I still don’t have anything else comparable to E5 but my old Fiio E11
. I will mostly compare it with my J3 without an amp and J3 + E11
I am not much into technical aspects, I am more into subjective assessment, I don’t care what chip you have used, what DAC you are using, and it’s nothing if it doesn’t sound good. So don’t expect technical explanation from me. I don’t have any High resolution player and don’t use much high res audio too, all I have is some 200 16bit Flac
audio files on my J3
. Most of my songs are 320kbps Audio
I don’t have many amplifiers, not even one desktop amp, 4 portable amps including this, others are Fiio E11, E5 and Brainwavz AP001 so I don’t have any worthy competitors for the E5, but I will tell you how this amp improves over my PMP.
Here is the product page.
You can buy the E5 from here.
BOX AND ACCESSORIES:-
The box is huge, I mean bigger than expected, bigger than a 7inch tablet carton, And the reason is, there is a booklet which reads like “product experience guide
” that highlights all the features of this device.
You get a stand, an optical cable to connect to gaming consoles and TVs. Two rubber bands to pair with your DAP.
For those who are interested in technicalities, let me give you some Doses of Techno Talk!!
TECHNICAL ASPECTS, FEATURES and FUNCTIONS:-
This thing has a huge number of of features!! Do bear with me here.
Its primary DAC is a Cirrus Logic CS4398
db of signal to noise ratio and supports 24 bit/192khz
resolution. It uses a Cirrus logic CS5361
analog to digital converter which supports 114db and 192 kHz stereo voice recording
The amplifier is a TI6120A2
which has a total harmonic distortion of 0.0005%!!
E5 has a gain switch which helps while powering power hungry headphones, low is for earphone from 16-32 ohm
and high for headphones with up to 600 ohm
rating and as per my experience, it does fine with high impedance headphones. E5 features BT 4.0
too for one touch connection, supports APTX, AAC and SBC
streaming too for best in class wireless audio quality. Has SBX Pro
studio support, you can install its app on your device, connect your device through USB, and you will be able to use all of its features like surround sound and Crystallizer, bass and Crossover Frequency.
While using in BT mode and USB mode, you are entitled to use the Crystal voice Noise cancelling MICs
, which has support for dual orientation, which helps while in noisy places, and a nice feature for calls and voice recrding.
Output impedance is as low as 2.2 ohm
which is not low enough for highly sensitive earphone but when paired with a good source, it’s not bothering.
You can even use the optical cable
which is provided out of the box with your Gaming console,
HD media players, and even Latest gen TVs, when using with your pc or Laptop
you can use the Desktop software to activate scout mode
for your gaming needs. I don’t have a gaming console sadly. And when connected to your mobile through USB
, E5’s huge 3200mah
battery can charge your device too. All you have to do is to get the latest firmware and then you can chose not to charge in this mode by double tapping the power button. Not bad, is it?
Now this has a battery life of 8hrs
which is enough for most of us. For hardcore gamers, there is a scout mode
which lets you hear your enemy’s movement from far away (when used as a DAC
with your MAC or PC/laptop and you have to use the Sound Blaster software
There is a SB-AXX1
multi-core processor too, which helps in improving the whole audio experience with EQ settings and surround sound
The neat looking rotating dial for volume has a press function too, a single tap will pause
the song or call or whatever it is. Nice isn’t it? And the SBX
button is used to pick or end calls.
Finally, the list is over!! I want a pat on my back for this, I do.
The only thing missing is that you can’t skip tracks
from the E5. You have to reach out for your device and its bothering when in BT mode
You have two type of software for this, one for Pc and one for mobile devices. Both doe the same thing, PC has more functions for sure, if allowed it replaces your Audio manager when E5 is connected. For mobile, you have install Sound blaster central app
then a service app
, after than a notification box opens up, you have to allow E5 to use UBS audio functionality, now you are good to go.
BUTTONS, PORTS ON THE DEVICE, BUILD AND BATTERY LIFE:-
If I were not precise enough, let me tell you how things are placed on the device and things it comes with. It comes with a stand, useful when you are using it with your desktop PC or Laptop. There are 3 mics
on the front side. Only 2
are functional at a given time, depending on your orientation. It can be used in line in mode and can record too. On top you have two 3.5mm output
and the volume knob, but there no indication on it. While playing pressing this knob will mute the music, press it again and you are good to go.
There is nothing on the back or the right hand side. On left you have 3 buttons
, first one for on/off/BT 2nd
one is the sbx button and will receive calls if connected to a device. Last one is a switch for low or high gain.
If you don’t want any lag or anything you might like to go USB way
, like an OTG
thing. In this mode too you are entitled to use MICs, it will work with games, your SKYPE
chats and even to record.
is not top of the class for sure, it’s made of plastic, back side has some padding so that it doesn’t get scratched when placed on a surface, sadly there are some joint problems. It feels sturdy but not strong. I won’t give it more than 6/10 for build quality.
from a 3200mah
battery is bad!! 8hrs
in line in is like E11 which can get 8hrs with 800mah battery. In BT mode its like 6-7 hours
, when used as a DAC its close to 9hrs
, When used with a mobile device in OTG
mode battery life is like 2-3 hours
as it will charge your mobile any way. There is a new FW
to cure this but it doesn’t do much.
Back side with rubber protection.
Let’s get into SQ, should we?
E5’s general signature is neutral and sounds clean with a bit more bass, slightly forward. Sometimes some instruments can be splashy. It sounds good to me, has nice attack and spectrum wide decay. Better than my E11 for sure.
Now first thing first, this amp doesn’t have a totally dark back ground, there is some back ground noise even with ER-4p!! Leave out all the rest, by that I mean the back ground never gets totally dark until you use a Headphone with impedance of more than 40-50ohm. One that I found with least noise is Titan-1, doesn’t matter what, if you are using a BA earphone, you will experience some noise. Dynamic driver earphones are a bit more tolerant in the likes of AN16, Titan-1 and R3.
Now the biggest thing you will notice is that it helps with stage. It gets bigger overall. Better sense of space means you will have better separation and better layering.
Now if we get into the usual drill.
With this amp bass gets slightly warmer, decay is good, slightly bleeds into Mids. It’s not sluggish or boomy by any way. Has a nice body and goes boom when called upon without going out of control. Texture and presentation is good, goes deep enough, doesn’t improve much when compared to J3 but it’s an improvement.
Go ahead, press that SBX button, come on, press it, yeah, press it.
What? You can’t what? Yes, bass loses all its control here and goes berserker here. It goes blow blow with a hint of bass and might please bass heads. Decay goes south, sounds muddy and wooly without any control and bleeds plenty into mid range. Not recommended to those who like balance.
Mids are slightly less emphasized and vocals are more intimate. Has plenty of details and clarity but has a tendency to sound a bit dry. Both male and female vocals sound nice, no drop in the spectrum, its held up nicely. I like its texture and depth of notes.
Doesn’t change much of what’s coming from your device just a bit more intimate.
I like these highs, it’s a bit edgy or say splashy at lower portion but that I can live with. It has good extension and helps with earphones like XBA-H1 who tend to lack high end extension. Separation, layering and presentation are really nice, transparency and imaging is fantastic for me thanks to its ability to convet better sense of space when compared to E11 or J3+E11. There is an emphasis on some instruments like Violins and cymbals but its what I like. It never gets sibilant, unless you are playing some sibilant music like heavy metal.
I won’t call these highs perfect, but for one who likes sparky tingling instruments, it’s good, slightly dry but good.
I don’t have a device with NFC but I have a few with APTX and I liked the way it sounds, BT has evolved enough but hasn’t evolved enough to take on in line or optical modes. But Zenfone 2 does sound better than J3.
In this mode you will have more forward and aggressive bass, it lacks decay and tightness, details and texture is missing too. Vocals too sound less detailed and clarity too is not up there. Highs do get lost in the transmission and this is why I don’t like the BT way of things, its okay but highs sound less resolved, less present and lacking depth.
Another thing is that you cant change SBX setting in this mode.
About connectivity, it was nice, and it wont lose connection if you don’t get too far from it, like 10 meters away or there is a thick wall between you and the device.
POWER AND EFFICIENCY:-
Now I am an earphone guy, I have loads of earphones and most of these are power efficient, which I find a bit less efficient are driven effortlessly by this device, I have a few headphones too but none of them are power hungry, HD 380 pro is less efficient but E5 drives it effortlessly in high gain mode. I just simply don’t listen to music loud. I remain in the range on 40-70 db, and mostly in the range of 45-55 db. E5 can get loud, plenty loud but.
Drivability and efficiency should not be a problem but match ability can be, if you give it something that already sounds splashy and slightly sibilant like Titan-1 or Jive or VSD5, you will have splashier highs and can get sibilant.
Sadly I don’t have an amp to compare here. I am literally broke. I don’t have a penny to spend on luxury products. After losing a family member, after suffering from fever and cold, being weak and sick for weeks, here I am trying to put my words out. I am really sorry for this inconvenience and inability.
I won’t call this an amp. It’s more than an amplifier or DAC or a audio accessory. I had never seen something with this many features and functionalities. BT, MIC, SBX enhancement, TV/PC/Laptop/gaming console compatibility, OTV connectivity, ask for it it’s there. There are two Outputs too. What else can an average buyer ask for? Most of us are not even going to use half of these features. I don’t. I just use it as an IN-line Amp.
It’s not the best when it comes to amp performance, slightly colored and a bit clumsy, I expected more for sure, but it does enough for me. I would like to suggest some improvements.
- Battery life can improve a bit more, maybe like 15hrs? With 3200mah, just 8hrs is really low.
- Maybe add a BT transmitter. Then one won’t have to carry this around.
- Build can be better, even if plastic, it can be sturdier.
- Better match ability and sound quality will do wonders.
Everything aside, this is an awesome device, seriously versatile and feature rich, but needs a bit better application of resources.
Thank you for your time guys, Have a nice Time!!