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Creative Sound blaster E5 - Headphone amp + USB DAC with OTG + Toslink + aptX + recording + more.

Discussion in 'Portable Headphone Amps' started by clieos, Aug 27, 2014.
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  1. ClieOS Contributor
    Just received the press release of this and I thought some of you will be interested as the spec seems very promising.
    TI's TPA6120A2 as headphone amp
    Cirrus Logic CS4398 as DAC
    OTG support for iOS and Android
    Bluetooth with aptX and AAC support
    Line in and out
    Optical in and out
    Dual headphone-out
    ADC for mic-in and recording.
    Build-in SBX Pro Sudio (EQ) support
    USB asynchronous mode
    8hr battery life
    The only thing I am a bit worry is that TPA6120A2. It is a good sounding chip but normal implementation usually has a 10 ohm output impedance.
    Now the best part - MSRP is only US$200. Far cheaper than most iOS supported USB DAC with less features. Should be available in October
    golov17 likes this.
  2. H20Fidelity Contributor
    They sure have the features covered, I do wonder how it would perform as a stand alone amp.

    I hope the OI is lower however than mentioned.
  3. TripBitShooter
    i read about this on hardwarezone singapore. what interests me most is the analogue to digital converter for analogue outputs. the aptX support also pleases me as now i have a choice of a bluetooth component for headphones with quality output
  4. TripBitShooter
    i like the looks of the E5. Not fat and plasticky (i.e. Cheap) looking like the E1 or E3 but yet not so slim it looks too sleek to look that little bit professional. Also, the guards of the volume knob with the dual 3.5mm outputs are a well though out design aesthetically imo. Looks a little like E11k to me.
  5. ClieOS Contributor
    They will have it for demo on COMEX 2014 @ Suntec tomorrow, you can try it out if you have time to visit.
    Have the E1 and E3 with me right now. I think Creative has pretty good idea on what they are aiming for on different devices: E1 for the entry, E3 for the mid end and E5 for the high end. I am quite impressed by E3 actually. It is on the fat side but otherwise a very solid, multitasking devices that still sound quite well for the price. I think Creative is definitely on the right track with the introducing of the E series.
  6. TripBitShooter
    too bad its near my examination period, will not be able to demo it. looking forward to ur review though.
  7. kalibur
    Pre-order price at Comex is around $160 USD, pretty worthwhile for the feature set. Anyone with experience with the Cirrus Logic DAC chip and TI Amp?
  8. ClieOS Contributor
    CS4398 is still among the best DAC Cirrus Logic made, and still compared well with TOTL DAC from other DAC maker. TPA6120A2 is actually quite common, which you can find it on Sony PHA-1 and Fostex HP-P1. As I mentioned, the problem with TPA6120A2 is that it requires a 10ohm output impedance to be stable. There are ways around it, but often manufacturer just go with the easiest route by using a pair of 10ohm resistors on the output and that's not the best way to implement TPA6120A2. I am hoping Creative won't do that but likely they are.
    megamanhelment likes this.
  9. TripBitShooter
    if they implemented the amp wrongly, then i hope they have an output that bypasses the amp. I will just connect my FiiO E11k
  10. ClieOS Contributor
    It does have a line-out, as you can see on the picture above.
    Standard TPA-6120A2 implementation of 10ohm resistor can be mod'ed as well. It is possible to solder in a pair of chip inductor right next to the 10ohm resistors and lower the output impedance to less than 1 ohm without causing too much of an ill effect.
  11. qubec2
    noob question: I'm planning to run the amp on iems rated at 16 ohms. Would the E5 be an overkill for them? Prefer to listen music on low volume too..
  12. Fegefeuer
    They offer SBX but don't allow at least AC3 input. That's kinda lame unless you use it with a PC because there you get the full multichannel -> binaural stereo (SBX) chain. With consoles and BluRay players you can only transmit PCM Stereo to this device. With 2 channels only SBX doesn't make a lot of sense. 
    Can you communicate this "problem" to them, ClieOS? It would make one hell of a killer device.
  13. ClieOS Contributor
    Likely it will be. Then again, it depends on other factors as well.
    The software / PC based SBX sounds pretty good to me. Hopefully this hardware version can measure up. I guess we'll have to wait and see.
    It is probably too late to tell them to made any hardware change. At this point, I would think it is already in production.
  14. mejoshua
    Hi all,
    Thought I'd post some initial impressions, which should be taken with a pinch of salt because the testing was done in a high noise environment at Comex. I was listening to flacs with poweramp on my LG G3, which was connected to the E5 through a microusb to usb cable. I had to download Creative's SoundCentral app in order for it to work. I was quite impressed with what I heard. I listened to it with ATH-M50s and also my Fitear F111s, and compared this setup with the sound from my DX90. The E5 is only slightly larger than the DX90 in size, yet it is incredibly light, lighter than the DX90. It would be very suitable not just for desktop use, but portable use as well.
    note* my m50s are a couple of years old, and when I bought them I was still very much a newbie. My hearing preferences have since changed and developed, and I don't like them very much anymore (they have too much bass for my tastes). However, they are my only current set of headphones, and so I wanted to hear how they sounded when paired with the E5. I actually spent more time listening with my f111s than with these.
    Here goes:
    I found the m50 pairing to be quite bass heavy. Overall, separation, clarity and soundstage are fairly similar to what I hear out of the DX90. Because the E5 demo unit is new, I noted tolerable harshness in the treble regions, but what struck me was the bass, which was a little too overwhelming for me. And mids that sounded slightly recessed as well. Which is presumably why I switched over to test with my f111s, and not paying more attention to this combination.
    Fitear F111s
    note* I absolutely love how it pairs with the DX90, and I think this combination is hard to beat. However, the E5 out of my LG G3 came pretty close. For iem users, rejoice! There is a gain switch on the E5. The low gain setting was made for phones with lower resistance, and the recommended threshold is anywhere from 32ohms to 300ohms. The high gain setting is for phones from 300ohms to 600ohms. The Creative representative I spoke to told me about how they tested with high impedance phones during its development but not orthos, so he's not sure if they will drive LCDs/Dogs/Hifiman cans sufficiently. Someone with these cans and free this weekend please do give them a try and post some comments. 
    On to the meat:
    Similarly to the m50s, the f111 pairing sounded close to what I get out of the DX90 on low gain. The sound is comparable to the DX90 in terms of separation, clarity and soundstage (although to my ears it sounded marginally larger). The comparison may not be fair because I believe my DX90 is completely burnt in with at least 350-400 hours on it, while the E5 is a new set. Overall I'd say that the sound is pretty neutral, and slightly clinical/analytical. 
    Bass is slightly stronger/more authoritative on the E5, but slightly less defined, and not as resolving. Definitely felt more subbass presence. The bass difference was the most discernible to me. 
    Vocals were a tad dry for my tastes, lots of detail and clarity but less... emotion? I would use clinical/analytical here as a descriptor. It reminded me vaguely of my experience listening to the Hidition NT6 universal demos. Sometimes mids felt overwhelmed by the bass response, although I didn't think there was any bleed. I'd imagine that the dual Sabre DACs in the DX90 are already quite analytical, but it appears that this Cirrus Logic DAC betters it. Can't remember if my new DX90 sounded this way though.
    Treble was pretty impressive as well, no spikes or peakiness but again, slightly harsh. In a tolerable way. Might be a newness issue, where burn in will remove the treble sheen. Cymbal timbre sounded a little more artificial as compared with the DX90, but good speed and transient response.
    In a nutshell, I was impressed, and am seriously considering getting one. It is almost impossible to find a high end DAC/amp combo at this price. Getting separate dacs/amps in any configuration would easily cost twice the amount. Also, it is chock full of features and I personally think that it is a great value for money product. 
    Hope these brief impressions are helpful. This is my first lengthy contribution to headfi, and I'm still learning so please do feel free to disagree or corroborate what I have heard by sharing impressions. Thanks!
    golov17 and LimelightLenny like this.
  15. DanBa
    As far as I understand, your LG G3 is connected to the E5 via its USB Host port:
    LG G3 >> regular USB cable >> USB Host port > E5 >> headphones
    The E5 is operating as an Android-specific USB DAC compliant with the Android Open Accessory protocol 2.0.
    "Android Open Accessory protocol 2.0 includes optional support for audio output from an Android device to an accessory. This version of the protocol supports a standard USB audio class interface that is capable of 2 channel 16-bit PCM audio with a bit rate of 44100 Khz. AOA 2.0 is currently limited to this output mode, but additional audio modes may be added in the future."
    It should be interesting to test an Android device like the LG G3 with the E5 operating as a standard USB DAC, i.e. via its USB port:
    LG G3 >> USB OTG cable >> USB port > E5 >> headphones or
    LG G3 >> micro to standard USB OTG adapter + regular standard to micro USB cable >> USB port > E5 >> headphones 
    Is the E5 compatible with the native standard USB audio feature of the LG G3?
    Is the E5 compatible with the USB audio soft driver of the USB Audio Player PRO (UAPP) app?
    UAPP can play a 24/192 music file and output a 24/192 PCM stream towards a 24/192 capable USB DAC like the E5.
    There is a free trial version of UAPP available on Google Play store.
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