Written by: Jon Scarr
Creative Labs are the masters of sounds cards. They released their very first sound cards back in 1987 and since then, their name has gone on to become synonymous with high quality audio for PC gamers. For the past several years, more and more motherboards have started to include integrated sound cards and for the most part, gamers have used whatever soundcard has come on their motherboards.
Creative is trying to change that with its release of a pro gaming sound card called the Sound BlasterX AE-5. With hopes to revive dedicated sound cards, Creative has decided to focus on the eSports arena and pro gamers.
Let’s take a look to see what the Sound BlasterX AE-5 has to offer pro gamers and the eSports crowd.
Let’s get the technical jargon out of the way first. The AE-5 is a sound card and DAC (digital audio controller) all in one. It is a SABRE32 Ultra Class Hi-Resolution PCIe card for your computer that offers discrete 5.1 surround sound and virtual 7.1 surround sound. The DAC provides 32-bit 384kHz playback of anything that you are listen to, games you are playing, and media you are watching. There’s even a 122dB Dynamic Range included as well.
So what does all this mean? Pretty much any sound that comes from the AE-5 is going to sound amazing! I tested out the sound card with a pair of headphones and speakers hooked up to it, and the audio sounded full and crisp.
The BlasterX Acoustic Engine allows you to customize the audio to match whatever game you are playing. There are pre-set options for games if you don’t feel like tweaking the settings yourself. The AE-5 has two different technologies with the gamer in mind that I found to be very beneficial when gaming.
The first is called Scout 2.0. In a nut shell, it allows you to detect footsteps from your enemies from a further distance away. There is a companion smartphone app that goes along with this and will give you a visual radar or where your enemies are.
The second is called CrystalVoice, and is all about providing the absolute most crystal clear vocal fidelity possible. The CrystalVoice technology is made up of several key elements. There is an echo cancellation that gets rid of echoes when communicating with teammates. Additionally, there are noise suppression and reduction technologies at play, along with a technology that will keep your voice at a consistent level.
The Sound BlasterX AE-5 is all about providing the ultimate audio experience for gaming, so I was happy to learn that Creative has included an entirely new technology in it for gaming headsets. A new amplifier called Xamp is included and has been designed to individually amplify audio channels for your headphones.
Unlike many sound card headphone amps, the AE-5 individually amplifies both left and right channels. In turn, this allows for great sound on high-end headphones that are capable of up to 600ohm.
I’m glad to see the return of the dedicated sound card in PCs. Creative Labs have done a wonderful job with the Sound BlasterX AE-5 in creating a dedicated sound card that is geared towards pro gamers and the eSports crowd. It outputs a great sound quality, and the virtual 7.1 channel surround sound is very convincing.
The ability to customize your audio depending on the game is a welcomed feature. Scout 2.0 along with CrystalVoice allow competitive gamers to get the upper hand against their opponents. As a bonus, the AE-5 comes with a LED light strip and compliments the RGB lighting on the sound card itself.
I played several games including Fallout 4, Destiny 2, PUBG, CSGO, and Team Fortress 2. I was impressed with the sound of every game I played and I can attest to both the clarity and power of the audio produced. Chat amongst my teammates was crystal clear and I never once had issues with my teammates hearing me or me hearing them.
There is however one thing that the AE-5 doesn’t do, and that’s support onboard Dolby Digital decoding. Though, if you don’t need Dolby Digital, you are going to love the Sound BlasterX AE-5. After spending several weeks with the card, I’m never going back to using onboard sound cards again. If you are serious about competitive gaming on the PC, then the AE-5 is a definite must have.
Based in Toronto, Jon is a proud Canadian who loves all things gaming. He is a veteran of the video game and tech industry who has been in love with technology and gaming for over 20 years. Come say hi and join the conversation with Jon on Twitter.