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Creative Sound Blaster E5 review

Richard Easton
21 May 2015
Creative Sound Blaster E5 front angle
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
164
inc VAT

The Sound Blaster E5 is a well-performing headphone amplifier and USB DAC but it is bulky

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Specifications

Warranty: One year RTB, Details: www.uk.creative.com, Part code: Sound Blaster E5

Creative has packed a lot of sound tech into the Sound Blaster E5, a headphone amp and USB DAC that’s no bigger than a portable hard disk. It’s got all the outputs you could need, with dual headphone jacks and an optical out port that doubles as a 3.5mm line out.

The E5’s headphone amp supports headphones with sensitivity as low as 2.2ohms, all the way up to 600ohms using a high gain switch on the side. We had no problems driving our Sennheiser HD700 over-ears, but it's a shame there's no 6.3mm headphone jack for truly high-end headphones. A 6.3mm to 3.5mm adaptor should only be a few pounds though.

Creative Sound Blaster E5 ports

In addition to the optical in/3.5mm line in combination jack for older devices, a full-size USB host port will let you connect the E5 to an iOS or Android device. It will perform far better than the DACs used by most smartphones or tablets, but given how thick and bulky it is, we wouldn't want to squeeze it in the same Jeans pocket as our phone. Two heavy duty elastic bands are included to keep your smartphone safe, so they won't fly apart in a bag at least.

A Micro USB port lets you connect the E5 to a PC or Mac and use it as an external sound card. An angled desktop stand is included in case you want to make it a permanent addition to your desk space. The E5 charges over Micro USB, and its built-in battery is rated for eight hours of use when listening via Bluetooth. We found this was a realistic measurement, lasting long enough to get us through a day of listening on the move. The E5 also acts as a portable battery when connected to a smartphone. You can't disable this, and will drain the E5's battery faster.

Creative Sound Blaster E5 side

Beyond the multitude of wired connections, the E5 also supports Bluetooth 4.1 Low Energy connectivity and the less-lossy aptX codec, effectively turning any pair of wired speakers or headphones into a wireless set.

The E7 uses a Cirrus Logic CS 4398 DAC, which is capable of processing 24-bit/192kHz audio over USB. This drops to 24-bit/48kHz when connected to an iOS device, and 16-bit/44.1kHz on Android through USB host. There are apps for both operating systems, as well as SBX Pro Studio desktop software for PCs and Macs.

Beyond customising EQ and enabling virtual surround, which we found worked well for films, SBX Dialog Plus can also add extra clarity to dialogue. We were also impressed by CrystalVoice, which helped reduce background noise and echoes when using a microphone.

You can connect an external mic to the E5's line in port, but the built-in microphones are surprisingly sensitive, making it a viable way to make hands free calls when connected to a smartphone, or stay connected to your friends when gaming on a PC.

The E5 is undeniably versatile with a wide array of ports, but it's a bit too bulky to be considered truly portable. The E5 isn't quite as well-specified as the stationary Sound Blaster X7, but it is at least considerably cheaper, so could still be a good choice if you want a DAC you can occasionally take on the move.

Buying information
Price including VAT£164
WarrantyOne year RTB
Supplierwww.amazon.co.uk
Detailswww.uk.creative.com
Part codeSound Blaster E5

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