SoundBlaster E5 Amp/DAC Review

Company Name: Sound Blaster

Company Website: http://us.creative.com/p/sound-blaster/sound-blaster-e5

Amp Model: E5

Impedance: Low Gain: 2.2-300 Ohm, High Gain 300-600 Ohm

SNR: 120dB

THD: <.005%

Warranty: 1 Year

Price: $199 MSRP

Describing Sound: http://www.head-fi.org/a/describing-sound-a-glossary

Definitions: http://www.head-fi.org/a/glossary-of-terms

 

Pros: Tons of features for the price bracket, very well built, Bluetooth, NFC, works with my Note 4 via USB.

Cons: Almost too many features. Battery life seems to be low compared to other portable amps. Id strip out the lesser used features and reduce the price. This may also help with better battery life. The smart phone/tablet app needs some work. Doesn’t work on the Galaxy Tab 2 via USB cable, based on comments in the app store it doesn’t work with a lot of other devices either. Doesn’t come with a wall adapter to charge the amp, just the USB cable.

Rating scale Breakdown (1-10)

1-2: Very Bad

3-4: Bad

5: Not Bad/Not Good/ Neutral

6-7: Good

8-9: Very Good

10: Excellent

Rating Definitions

  • Build Quality: How well built a device feels. This takes into account materials used and placement of features.
  • Design: How well a set of headphones are designed.
  • Value:Performance to cost ratio. If performance exceeds cost this value will be high. If performance is on the low end for the cost the value will be low. This will be subjective based on audio quality. Everyone hears different things.
  • Accessories:How well the included accessories stack up compared to other amps of similar style.
  • Overall Rating: This is the average of the other categories.

Build Quality: 8

Quality is great. Buttons aren’t lose and don’t have much movement. Rubber bottom is a nice touch.

Design: 8

Everything is well thought out. It’s pretty intuitive to get started. Figured it out without the manual even with BT and NFC pairing.

Value: 9

With the features you get in the price bracket you cant beat it. However, Im sure not everyone needs all of the features the E5 sports.

Accessories: 8

  • E5
  • microUSB cable
  • Desk stand
  • Toslink Cable
  • 2 Elastic bands

Id like to see it come with a wall adapter for charging rather than the toslink cable. Id also like to see a 3.5mm to 3.5mm included to cover all possible connections.

Overall Rating: 8.25 out of 10.

Initial Listening Impressions

The first thing that sticks out to me during my brief listen at work was that there is an emphasis on the low end of the spectrum. Even on low gain with my Aurisonics ASG2.0’s. The sound seems to be colored. I don’t mind it but some might. I believe the reason for this is SBX feature is on by default. I found that turning SBX resulting in a very flat and neutral sound.

Build Quality

The build quality feels great. The device is nice and sturdy in hand and was carried around for a week or so in my work laptop bag. As a network engineer I take my bag everywhere and anywhere I go as you never know when something might come up. It held up really well with not even a scratch to show for it.

The buttons are nice and firm. The LED’s are the perfect brightness. All of the connections and volume button feel very solid.

Ease of Use

Overall this amp is extremely easy to use. I picked it up and had it paired to my Note 4 in about 3 minutes without using the manual. That included getting the additional Soundblaster software installed from the Android Play store for free.

Plugging into a Windows 8.1 64 Bit Pro laptop via USB was also a breeze. Drivers were automatically installed. The E5 was automatically selected as default play back and the volume warnings on screen were still available when using the volume knob on the E5.

Images

Soundblaster Box Accessories2E5 AmpAccessories1

Listening Experience

For this review I will be listening to 3 songs on my laptop using Music Bee as my playback software. All music will be 320Kbps and played from a Samsung Evo 120Gb SSD. SBX will be enabled on the E5. Low gain was used.

The E5 is plugged in via USB and I will be using my AKG K612Pro headphones.

  1. The first song up is Kryptonite by 3 Doors Down. Immediately everything sounds neutral for the most part with a little bit of a low end, but not too much. The AKG’s are notorious for a midrange bump and I didn’t hear that with the E5.
  1. Second song is Styx Come Sail Away. On the right devices the Piano intro is very crisp and dynamic which is what I heard. The song has a nice energy to it and again the E5 with default settings does very little to ruin that. Gives it just enough in the low end and bumps up the volume without destroying the rest of the track.
  1. Third song was Cold Shoulder by Adele. Adele has a reputation for having a great voice and being able to hit many notes. The AKG K612’s have a reputation for being very spacious and this is the perfect song to show that off. Throughout the song I was able to tell where instrumentals were coming from and the E5 didn’t seem to affect that.

Comparisons

As a frame of reference I like to include all of the equipment I have had the pleasure of using.

I have multiple sets of headphones that I have reviewed and at my disposal. The list of headphones that I have heard and reviewed are as follows: AKG K612Pro, VMODA Crossfade LP, Grado Labs SR80i, Shure SRH750DJ, Brainwavz R1, Dunu Topsound I3CS, FocalPrice CK700, iPod ear buds, iPod ear pods, Heir Audio 3.Ai, Aurisonics ASG2.0, Hisound Audio PAA1-Pro earbuds, Thinksound MS01, and Gorilla Ears AT5.

I have also listened to multiple amps/dacs including the Yulong Audio DA8, Soundblaster E5, Fiio E11, and the Schiit Wyrd, Vali, Modi stack.

Overall Experience

Overall Soundblaster did a great job as per usual with their products. With all of the features crammed into this tiny shell this is a hard solution to pass up. It covers every option you could possibly need an amp/dac for. As stated previously I would make 2 changes and they are really just personal preference.

I want to thank Lucas and Soundblaster for sending out review units to Headfi members and making this review possible.

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