When I took a look at the E1 I impressed with its audio performance and its portability but there were a few audio issues that I ran into. So going into my E5 testing I expected it to perform better but when I hooked it up I was taken back. The E5 sounds amazing right out of the hole when hooked up as a DAC through USB. My initial testing was using a high quality set of earbuds hooked up to my main PC. I enjoyed the audio quality so much that I actually kept it hooked up to my main PC and hooked my speakers up to it. The audio quality in both situations was noticeably crisper across the board. Additionally the audio output with the built in amp was MUCH louder at the same volume levels than my SR-X’s onboard was capable of. Beyond the audio performance there were a few things that really stood out to me when testing.
One of the coolest features that Sound Blaster/Creative doesn’t mention about the E5 is that when you are running it as a DAC you have an option in your recording settings to rebroadcast what is playing over your speakers directly as a microphone. In the past to do this you typically have to turn on a desktop microphone and pick up your mechanical keyboard clacking or use software that tricks your PC into doing this.
The built in microphones do a good job of picking this up as well. Especially if you are looking to record in stereo. You have additional connection options to hook up other inputs as well right on the E5. It doesn’t have all of the connection options that you would get with an internal solution but this is damn close and easier to get at when its sitting on your desk.
I enjoyed having the E5 running all of the audio on my main PC so much that I had to force myself to unhook it to get mobile testing done. So I busted out my Android phone and started by syncing via Bluetooth using the NFC pad on top of the E5. Basically as long as you have NFC turned on, you touch your phone to the top of the E5 and it automatically syncs. With the E5 synced I turned on Pandora and plugged my earbuds in and enjoyed a little music. No surprises here, the E5 sounded great this way as well and you really can’t get much easier for a wireless connection. You can hook your phone up wired two ways as well though. For starters you can just use the standard line in and a double male 3.5mm audio cord. The much easier and more interesting way is to use your charging cable. This will run the audio right through the USB and even charge your phone slightly from what I can see. You do need to have the Creative app installed to get this to work from what I have seen though.
This is actually where I discovered the Sound Blaster Central app. Talk about an eye opener. With this app you can actually tune and tweak the E5’s settings. Hell I was happy with its performance hooked up to my PC without any of this and here we can dive in and tweak the equalizer and change settings in SBX Pro Studio. You can even get into CrystalVoice and turn things like Noise Reduction on and off, change the microphones focus, and change the microphone EQ as well. When you have your phone synced to the E5 you also get a quick access on and off panel on your notifications page to quickly turn features on and off. When using your E5 in Windows Creative does have a similar program although they don’t mention that at all on the product page.