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Creative Sound BlasterX AE-5

Discussion in 'Computer Audio' started by banco-sg, Jul 9, 2017.
  1. banco-sg
    Has anyone tried this new sound card from Creative? It is using ESS Sabre DAC, i am just wondering about the performance.

    I haven't used any Creative products for years, how is it so far?

    I am thinking to ditch my Xonar Essence STX if the review is quite positive for AE-5.
  2. genclaymore
    I haven't tried it yet as I still waiting for it to come out at the end of the month, before I can get a hold of it my self.
  3. obobskivich
    No personal experience with AE-5, but since the SoundCore 3D chipset first came out (on the Recon3D), Creative has been doing quite well in terms of driver/software stability and support - I'm very happy with both my Recon3D and ZxR (and from a bit of reading, the AE-5 also uses SoundCore). The AE-5 looks like a new "mid-range" card - which is similar to how the Recon3D and Z series launched - I wouldn't be surprised if they release a ZxR replacement in this series at some point. It looks like, however, the AE-5 is not meant to be that card (just from the marketing). It also deletes the beamforming mic that the Recon3D and Z-series came with, which is unfortunate.

    My feelings on it would be:

    - If you are just going to use this as an analog/digital source, save your pennies and get the Z or Recon3D (whatever is cheaper) as they should be pretty much equivalent across the board in providing 5.1 analog or TOSlink output.

    - The lack of the TOSlink input is a disappointment imho.

    - There will probably be, just based on their previous two Sound Blaster line-ups, a higher end version of this card/family at some point.

    - ZxR is still probably the "best" in terms of doing everything on a soundcard, at least from Creative.

    - I'm skeptical it would offer better audio performance than the STX. It just doesn't look like its geared to the same kind of target audience/feature-set as the STX or ZxR or cards like that; this looks more like a competitor for the STRIX soundcards with an emphasis on going into a fancy looking gaming computer with its RGB lighting.
    banco-sg likes this.
  4. banco-sg
    I am currently using STX as my sound card, not sure if it worth the upgrade. I am just wondering since the DAC is better.
  5. PurpleAngel Contributor
    The Asus Xonar Essence STX uses the same class of DAC chips (PCM-17XX) as the Sound Blaster ZxR.
    So i'm skeptical, the new SB AE-5 is a worthwhile improvement, in audio quality, over the STX.
    You might be better off spending $10-$60 on replacing the op-amps (operational amplifiers) in the STX.
    Did you disable the motherboard's on-board audio, in the BIOS, when you installed the STX?
    Have you tried the Unified Xonar Drivers?
  6. PurpleAngel Contributor
    I believe the DAC chips in the AE-5 offers improved features, over the (PCM-17XX) series of DAC chips, used in the STX or SB-ZxR, but i'm not sure if it offer better audio quality.
    CD-audio is 16-bit/44.1K, so a DAC chip that can do 32-bit/384k (like on the AE-5) might not sound any better then a good DAC chip that only does 16-bit/44.1k, at least for CD-audio sourced music.
  7. obobskivich

    This, plus also you have to consider more than just "what chip does it have." The STX and the ZxR both have pretty fancy analog output sections, and robust headphone amplifiers. The AE-5 appears to have neither. So sure it can sit there and go "FIRST. FIRST 32-BIT DAC. GET YOUR 32-BIT DAC HERE. ANYTHING BEFORE ME IS A WASTE OF MONEY. 32-BIT. GET 32-BIT. 32-BIT!!!!" but frankly whether or not that will have some sort of benefit to real-world listening is certainly up for debate, and that's once we get past the whole "do you even have 32-bit content?" (and "does its output section allow it to actually achieve better performance to enable that kind of dynamic range/SNR/etc to take advantage of it compared to the fancier cards"). Basically, like I said, I think the AE-5 is probably a vision of what's to come for Sound Blaster, and I wouldn't be surprised if we see a ZxR-replacement that has a 32-bit SABRE but also retains the other higher end features of the ZxR as well. I think AE-5 is probably more fairly compared to something like the Zx or Recon3D. If it were me, I'd just hold put with the STX and see what (if anything) comes down the line, but frankly I wouldn't expect miracles in sound quality differences since you've already got a pretty slick card.
  8. banco-sg
    Yeah, i guess you are right, but anyway, i decided to unplug my STX and just go full USB DAC/Amp solution, and working great so far, no issue with dolby/dts movies :)
    I think i won't get any new soundcard for the next few years.
  9. obobskivich

    There should be no issue with whatever content - your software player should be doing the decoding (or whatever else is necessary) before it ever gets to the audio controller. Hardware decoding for DVD playback belongs back in the late 1990s where it died. The upside here is that you can pretty much pick whatever you want for an audio controller because all of the "will it interface?" is handled in software in a uniform manner.
    banco-sg likes this.
  10. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    Well there's one other reason - 1ohm output impedance. Considering most soundcards have around 30ohms (and even the STX has 10ohms) I'd pay a bit more for a 1ohm output card that I can tune the lighting to have the same color as the graphics card and case through the motherboard. I can use a dynamic driver IEM and I can crank up the fans a little bit more without the impedance adding to what I have to EQ for.

    That said, if they drop a version of this with no RGB for $50 less I'd probably get that one instead. Unless the Strix Soar's output impedance isn't that much higher.
  11. obobskivich
    My guess is, and this is purely just a guess, that we are probably going to see "sibling" products to the AE-5. They did something similar back when they first released SoundCore 3D on the Recon3D - the Recon3D Fatal1ty was the first card out, at that same $150 price point, and with similar marketing towards gamers, and then later the Recon3D "Vanilla" and the Recon3D Champion Edition came out at lower and higher price points, respectively. And then the Z series (iirc the ZxR came out slightly later than the Z and Zx) too. I would not be surprised if their goal is an eventual top-to-bottom product line based around SoundCore + SABRE. But again, that's purely a guess based on past Creative products. It could also be an "odd duck" like the Audigy Rx that just sort of hangs out there in space. So if it were me, I'd wait for a few months and see if anything else trickles out; I doubt the AE-5 is going anywhere in the immediate future.
  12. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    Definitely gonna wait, my bank balance isn't giving me much of a choice, although of course this has more to do with Ryzen being unstable at 4.0ghz or higher when using DDR4 faster than 2400mhz, and Vega FE clocking down the HBM to 500mhz when the core clock gets past 1600hz. Unless I get a lot of cash somehow and decide to stick with Nvidia and Intel.
  13. banco-sg
    I dont see Vega is besting nvidia anytime soon, and Volta is just around the corner. Ryzen, on the other hand, is a different beast... glad to see that Intel is panicking
  14. BearMonster
    Anyone else got the creative ae 5 there seems to be some problems for me. Under configure speakers there are 2 options for me stereo & 5.1, there is no 7.1.

    You can only chose 7.1 on the soundblaster connect 2 which is useless on certain games that auto detect default device this means your game will only be in 5.1. Games that let your change to 7.1 speaker output i guess might be in 7.1 i think.

    Either way i am putting this down to driver issues.
  15. obobskivich
    Not a driver issue, not a "fault" or "problem" at all - like all of its SoundCore brothers, the AE-5 is a 5.1 soundcard. There is no "7.1 output" available as a result (because, again, its a 5.1 card), and there's no point in fussing about "well I must set 7.1 for headphones because that's the only way to game" - it doesn't really matter (end of the day that's stereo out, and the whole "gotcha" for having a surround sound signal is because most games won't do an HRTF'd surround output on their own, but will do a 5.1 output that can be mixed down).

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