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Good to know. Maybe one day I'll give it a go. Don't have a pressing need right now.
I took advantage of the same deal. Initial impressions are that it's probably the best of my three devices (Mixamp 5.8, Recon3D, DSS2) for pure SQ. Because of the lack of background noise, I can double amp it to good volumes and things sound crisp and clear with a nice black background. It's very enjoyable.
I still need to spend some time experimenting with the different HRTF's to see how I like the surround processing. It's definitely not bad but that's as far as I'm willing to go without putting more time into it.
Functionally, the DSS2 itself doesn't have a chat/game balance function unless you're using it with the ****ty headphones it came with. My Recon doesn't either so it's not a huge deal for me. It also doesn't have an analogue mic input, only USB. That means it almost certainly won't work on an Xbox One (though I haven't tested it to be sure). The USB passthrough is a nice feature to save precious port space.
I'd like to fish out my Mixamp 5.8 again to compare DH and Cirrus' headphone HRTF. From memory, they should be pretty close to nigh indistinguishable.
With a headphone that images super-precise, a 6 O'Clock rear cue still sounds behind but like two rear speakers each playing a tone 50%/50%. So, mentally, it's easy to track as a sound plays at each position, but the spaces between speakers are a little more diffused and may seem like a "hole," though I wouldn't call it thus (as 6 O'Clock still is clearly centered behind you, distinct from 7 O'Clock and 5 O'clock).
Just wanted to say thanks for all your contributions here. Along with MLE's guide you have kept me occupied for well over a month researching and trying new stuff. Not that I've come to any final decisions yet but it's been fun none the less.
So... You're saying you had fun, learned something, AND all for free? Awesome!
Thank YOU for the compliment and motivation to continue!
Sound Blaster X G5
The Gaming device with everything* we asked for
A Little Context
The G5 is part of Creative's "Blaster X" gamer focused line, cued after the name of the X7. I loved the Sound Blaster X7 (reviewed here) and the more music-focused Sound Blaster E5 (also reviewed here). The X7 is my most–used piece of audio gear right now, but the $400 X7 is Creative's top of the line setup, and a lower-cost, upgraded replacement for the discontinued Recon3D USB (reviewed here) was still missing. For me, the Recon3D USB represented a headphone to console connection, with headphone surround processing and microphone input, for around $120.
When Creative hinted about an E5 variant they would call the G5, people on the X7 and Mad Lust Envy gaming threads were dreaming of an Astro Mixamp killer. It seems Creative was actually listening and filled an impressive number of our requests, but does the G5 succeed and absolutely slay the competition? Read on!
In the box, you get the G5 itself, which is a DSP, DAC (Cirrus Logic CS4398), dual headphone amp (Texas Instruments TI6120A2), and mic (with ADC), but also you get a bold red micro USB cable (the new ones like on android smartphones and Playstation 4 controllers), a 1m optical cable (yeah I used metric, and it's a Toslink to Mini-Toslink connector cable), a map of various setup/cable wiring options and instructions, two warranty papers, and something in Singaporean which I also assume is a warranty/thank you card. If you noticed that was mostly copy-pasted from my E5 review, that's because the G5 is mostly a gamer-focused adaptation of the E5, and that's a very good start! Plus, you know, I can plagiarize myself without fear of lawsuit
The power aspects of the G5 are kinda balanced between a portable and desktop amp. Creative removed the E5's lithium battery, but as a hardcore gaming device it would be plugged in to USB on a PC or console anyway, so that's an acceptable cost savings measure to bring the price down. As an amp, it does have enough power for my AKG K612 to sound linear and full... Which, by the way, requires a higher volume setting than the 600 ohm DT880 for the same apparent loudness. Output impedance on the headphone jacks is between 2.2 and 2.4 ohms, pretty ideal for most headphones except the most sensitive IEMs. Speaking of IEMs, my Custom Art CIEMs and entry-level RHA IEMs pick up a little background hiss (less than the X7) that is easy to ignore once the audio starts, with no hiss for my 32 ohm Oppo PM-3 or V-MODA M-100. Unlike the Astro Mixamp or Creative's old Recon3D USB, it has plenty of volume headroom and has some nice density to the notes. From a pure value:sound quality perspective, this is pretty impressive at this price compared to the more commonly recommended signal chain gear, but more on competitive options in the conclusion.
The G5 contains a fair number of connectivity ports and buttons, same layout as the E5 but some have different functions. There's two 3.5mm jacks by the big but unobtrusive volume dial; the left jack is for headphones (TRS) and headsets (TRRS), the right is for microphones only. The digital volume dial and can be clicked to mute, and it is also backlit with a red LED that changes brightness with the volume setting, cool! Next side to the right of that has the Scout Mode button and the SBX activation, both with white indicator lights for "on," and a gain switch. You can hold the buttons to turn off processing for a "straight" audio signal. Then there's three LEDs indicating which of the three SBX profiles is active, those three plus Scout Mode total 4 sound profiles which can be customized with a computer. The next face around the right is the wide picture above. The two ports on the left are combination 3.5mm (TRS) and mini-Toslink ports. Then, the "USB–Device" port is for connecting to a keyboard, mouse (not on PS4), USB thumbdrive, and I can confirm that my PS4 recognizes my Blue Snowball USB microphone through this port. It doesn't work as a digital connection to smartphones or tablets. The furthest right micro-USB port is for charging the E5 and PC/Mac/PS4 connection (Just one cable! No rats' nest, yay!). The G5 CAN play from USB and the line-in at the same time, and you CAN output straight or processed audio through the line-out to another DAC or amp... So you can build a rats nest if you want!
I played some high-rez FLACs of music using VLC (and some fun stuff from iTunes), with SBX and any EQ off the sound is pretty good: it's overall pretty clean, though maybe a slight upper mids emphasis which makes vocals and guitars sound a tad more romantic. This is all so slight and close to flat, that you have to be really used to your headphone on another amp to hear the difference; without A/B testing this will sound like a nice flat amp. Plugging in my headphones to the G5 compared to my PC's Gygabyte more board was an immediate improvement; every note more crisp, nuances revealed so the playing stage is more transparent (and thus relative depth of a great recording is easier to sense). My next description will be familiar to most people who have owned a nice amp: audio is a bit more engaging, like as if you can feel the artist's emotion or the music is "full of life" rather than dull or a soda-gone-flat.
One more thing… Straight out of the box, the G5’s SBX processing was smeary and, frankly, bad. The G5 sounded good without processing, and a firmware update basically fixed the processing. I highly recommend installing the new Blaster X suite to your computer and updating the G5’s firmware right out of the box before judging the processing.
What makes it cool?
Let's cut to the chase here: this is a lower cost reconfiguration of Creative's E5, with fewer features but still retaining most of the things a gamer at home will like. As an audiophile, this is a great starter Amp/DAC. I would go as far as saying is pretty comparable to the well-known Schiit M&M stack or FiiO E09k (with less output impedance and hiss) and E17 stack for a pretty great price. It also includes a DSP that can be custom-tuned for a headphone (Hot treble? Anemic bass? EQ that!) or use (music engagement, tactical gaming, movies at night). That processing (including SBX Headphone) can be output to a crazy desktop super-setup or AV receiver (night mode + Netflix, anyone?). They also enabled Creative's excellent SBX Headphone Surround to take positional audio from PC/Mac and immerse players in 360° (2D) sonic environments. I feel trading things like the battery, built-in microphones, digital phone connections via USB or Bluetooth from the E5 in order to reach a lower price point is fair (though the loss of Bluetooth controls on a mobile app is a tiny bit annoying). The lower cost, LED volume indicator, easy mic setup, and processed output were all community requests for improvements after looking at the X7 and E5, and Creative brought that to market.
That leads me to the uncool part. The G5 cannot decode Dolby or DTS from a Playstation or Xbox, so consoles are a Stereo-Only affair. Good stereo, no problem for 2D games, but that means the G5 is not a true successor to the Recon3D USB, even if the sound quality is improved.
I can only speculate as to why the G5 wasn't enabled to decode Dolby while the Recon3D USB was for around the same price (less, when on sale). The existence of the Recon3D makes me doubt cost as the reason, though maybe it has to do with Dolby and post-processed digital outputs, or perhaps not enough gamers have been educated about the appeal of surround gaming.
If you liked the Sound Blaster Omni but wanted to be able to connect to consoles as well as computers, then the G5 does that while being an amp upgrade. However, for PC-only gamers, the Omni is cheaper and you won't outgrow it because the Omni also has a line-out and post-processed optical output for upgrades. If you like the G5 but could make use of turning it from a transportable to a portable, with the extra features of Bluetooth, Microphones, phone and tablet USB support on the go, and a battery, then for $50 more you can buy the very versatile Creative E5. If you want headphone surround with a game console, then shop for an X7 or another brand. The G5 definitely takes a stab at all of Astro’s Mixamp line with a much more powerful Amp and crisper DAC for overall sound quality at almost the same price, but the Mixamp still has 360° surround audio for consoles and a physical knob for mixing chat and game audio.
Purely based on sound quality, Schiit, FiiO, Fostex, and others should watch as the G5 sounds surprisingly close for less money. The G5 has it’s own implementation of the amping chip also used in the FiiO E09k, Fostex HP-A4, Asus STX, and Creative’s own ZxR, while sharing the same DAC chip as used in several of Astell & Kern’s DAPs and sounds nigh-indistinguishable in A/B tests with Schiit’s Modi DAC. Let that sink in for a little… The G5 is no gaming gimmick.
As it stands, the G5 is low–cost considering it's sound quality, and is a great *stereo* home-gaming device.
Thanks for this review. The omission of VSS for console use renders it pointless for me personally. I honestly cannot see a reason to change from my X7 anytime soon.
[Size = 5]Intro to Surround Gaming Guide playlist is up![/Size]
New videos aimed at Tuesday's! Subscribe and follow me on Twitter @evshrug so I can make the channel grow! Thanks!
Ha, I LOVE the retro-styled motion graphics! Very well done.
New video going up tonight (already did a DSS video).
A friend advised me to put the DSP videos in a new thread... Any thoughts?
Spread the word!
I got to play the PS VR today! And two of my friends showed up!
My buddy Max... Just happened to show up!
The power and audio control pod:
I played a 3-D Tetris game, the space fighter simulation (EVE: Valkyrie), and a tank shooter (forget the name but it looks very tron-inspired). We all tried the space sim, one of my buddies tried the sea-diving demo (and the tank game), and my other buddy tried the Headmaster game (head butting soccer balls). We were at Best Buy and the Move-Controller enabled demo is apparently a GameStop Exclusive, so they couldn't show it.
It's ready. VR is ready, and almost here. I remember my first visit to Disney World, like almost 20 years ago, where Epcot had a sweet demonstration of someone watching a VR demo (on-rails ride) of some 3D Aladdin ride, with a big heavy-looking headset festooned with cables that snaked up into the ceiling, and thinking "OMG I want to try! They need to put this in arcades in the next year or two!" Obviously, that didn't happen, and arcades are a dying breed, but now we've got WAY more advanced and affordable options in 2016.
Overall Personal Impressions:
The PS VR has really smooth and accurate head-tracking, was quite well-thought-out and comfortable ergonomically, and the most impressive virtual 3D effect I've ever seen.
And I mean COMPLETE virtual 3D... 3D audio, and the 3D visuals felt more like a room instead of like "a screen 4 inches from your face with like the appearance of something coming out or behind a flat plane by about a foot in either direction." Objects appeared to smoothly reach out and occupy a space instead of seeming like a bunch of depth layers, and the 3D audio was effectively used in several instances to direct the player where to look to see the main action. AMD's "TrueAudio" audio processor built-into every PS4 is finally getting to show its full potential without being limited to a ring of speakers in a room. Visually, there were a couple aliasing "jaggies" to slanted lines, and I didn't see any games as detailed as The Witcher 3 or Crysis 3, but I only noticed that while watching the TV while others played because I was so immersed while playing myself (and reading on-screen text was easy while playing).
The forehead and "halo" sections were comfortably padded and we agreed that the weight of the HMD unit + closed Sony headphones used in the demo = about the weight of a ZMF Vibro, so personally I would project a comfortable wearing time of 4-5 hours. I was pleased that the mostly-supraaural Sony headphones fit at the same time as the HMD unit, though a huge headphone like an HD800 would probably not fit (the PS VR will come with earbuds... I may choose to reinvest in some CIEMs, or the Audio Technica IM-07). There's an inline remote about mid-chest high on the HMD's cable for the power switch, volume, and 3.5mm jack for plugging in headphones; I liked this placement, and the jack sounded far better than a DS4 headphone jack (though still not as good as an X7).
The Game Demos:
My buddy who tried the ocean-diving game said he tried it much earlier on the Occulus Rift, and he liked it much better this time on the PS VR. I haven't tried the Rift myself, so I tried to tease out details of what he meant because the Occulus technically has slightly higher resolution and framerate... From what I gather, the demo had simply benefitted from more development time and more details in the environment, more fish at a time, and just more happening. I suppose that also means that psychologically the game content is more noticeable and matters more than the technical spec difference between the PS VR and the Occulus. My friend agreed with this, and said the PS VR did a better job tracking his movement in a 3D space, including when he stood up. I also noticed he looked up when the rocks overhead cracked, and he turned towards the shark, so audio was helping alert him to interesting things to turn towards. I dont think the game has too much replay value, but it's a cool indicator of possible virtual tourist experiences and effective tense/reaction moments. He didn't scream like a girl, and I was a smidge disappointed.
My other buddy (he's a Head-Fi'er! BunnyNamedFrank!) played the Headmaster game, and the PlayStation representative (Thanks Connie!) said he had the best score yet of everyone who tried the demo. There's an amusing announcer/narrator kinda like Job Simulator, and a weird setting kinda like a prison/concentration camp for training people to headbutt soccer balls. Your face is the controller (no DS4 needed), and my buddy seemed to do better when he pivoted from the hip instead of moving his neck. Again, audio was important to the 3D, as horns told him where the soccer balls would launch from, and the 3D depth effect was smooth enough for him to time his ball-hits pretty effectively. This game is also novel but not too much replay value in current form: play once to be amused at the tutorial and narration, play once or twice more if you feel determined to get the best score.
I played the 3D Tetris game. Spinning the cube to fit the hole in the wall rushing towards me was one of those chill/relaxing at the same time as focused experiences. It would be way harder to play the game in 2D if you couldn't sway around to see the puzzle from different sides at once, and the game did a cool thing where it tracks the real position of your DS4 controller and you see the controls when you look at the buttons. A simple but well-executed game, with about as much replay value as any other Tetris game or high-score arcade game.
Battletanks (IIRC the title) was the favorite demo of one of my buddies, and I quite liked it too. Of the games I played, it felt the most atmospheric, with all kinds of cool do-dads in the cockpit like a radar, gun status, news feed (for flavor), and decorations, while there was also a cool gearing-up I the hangar sequence that I quite enjoyed. The 3D effect really helped me feel badass as it made dodging and launching projectiles easier, and all the strafing and dodging didn't make me feel motion sick at all (possibly courteous of the 120hz refresh rate? Smooth 60 fps, seemed plenty). I would play the demo a few times at home just because it's quite fun and the combat moments are cool, but it cuts short suddenly and really feels like a demo, ultimately the objective is always the same so it doesn't have high replay-ability, but I'd buy a full-game version.
Last one I'm going to comment on is the space sim, EVE, which should probably also be the finalé demo saved for last for anyone who goes to a PS VR exhibition. This is the only demo marked "Heavy VR" on the list of demos available, with the fastest ship speed and lots of ships whizzing all around in an open area. It also has the more hardcore controls... I would have liked an in-game representation of the controller like in the 3D Tetris game to remind me which button was boost or rocket lock-on, and my one buddy had a hard time till he adjusted to inverted pitch controls (but inverted is the more realistic control!). I saw another guy give this game a try a bit before I left have a REALLY hard time steering, hit a capital ship and grind on it for awhile till his cockpit blew out and his character died, and eventually the guy said he couldn't take it anymore and basically ripped off the HMD as the attendent was trying to help him... He was fine with the ocean and Headmaster game, but I guess this one got to him. My whole family gets car-sick, but I didn't feel sick while playing this game... My eyes (with glasses) lost focus for a moment when the action first started (I played this demo first), but I adjusted quickly and soon was able to use the ability to follow my targets around till I brought my ship's crosshairs to bear to great advantage. The effects were cool, looking around gave a tactical advantage (and actually stabilized the frame for me to watch an enemy ship while I pulled off a crazy maneuver), and gave me the most realistic sense of piloting a plane I've ever had. This was overall the most fun demo to me, and showed off the benefit of new way to game the most instead of just being a gimmick or a little different. No matter how well you do, eventually the infinite baddies blow up a big ship, and there seems to be only two types of enemies, but I still think the repyability is high for a demo because each dogfight is different and twisting, cranking, and blasting around just feels so FRIGGING AWESOME!
At this point, I think Sony's mostly waiting for games to finish development and building up stock to sell. The HMD itself is awesome and feels very well-thought-out, and things like the PS Camera sensing that the player stands up and changing your in-game height seem to be signs that Sony has thought ahead and has some systems in place for future improvements. Meanwhile, the demo graphics seemed like clean last-gen detailed that was totally adequate while conveying the new view and control experience that feels very fresh and exciting. The demos are fun and at many times show benefits beyond just mere gimmicks. For the price of a decent 42" TV, I predict the PS VR is gonna be a hot commodity and meet with a lot of success!
Here's a pretty cool article with a list of games (with trailers) for the PlayStation VR:
Hey Vader, when I post my video of my Yamaha AVR, can I put a link to your guide to Marantz receivers?
Oh, by all means! Appreciate the mention.
Hi @EvShrug in your review for the sbx g5 you said you updated the firmware and downloaded the latest sbx but I've tried looking on creatives site and googling but can't find any way to update the firmware. Can you please help?