Overall and Final Verdict
The introduction of the Sound Blaster X5 was exciting because to me I saw it as them stepping back into the enthusiast market for the desktop. They have been there for the mobile market with their Sound Blaster G lineup. But after the Sound Blaster X7, the higher-end desktop focus hasn’t been there other than with a few gaming-specific products. Well the Sound Blaster X5 picks up where they left off with high-end focused audio quality and without any of the more gimmicky options that a gaming-focused product might have like flashy RGB lighting. In fact, the X5 feels like the X7 but without the integrated amplifier and with updated software, and that in itself makes me hope that an updated version of that is in the pipeline.
The Sound Blaster X5 really stands out with the amount of flexibility that it offers. Even after setting things up, I continued to find out more. For example, I initially thought that you would HAVE to have it hooked up to a PC because the USB connection is what powers the X5 but they did consider this and you can run it from a USB power source if needed. The flexibility isn’t just on its audio input options where on top of being a PC DAC it can also take any RCA, Optical, or 3.5mm jack input as a source or plug into a PS4 or PS5 via USB as well. But you have the same flexibility in the outputs alongside of the headphone amp which can output to the 3.5mm jack or the 4.4mm balanced jack with low or high-impedance headphone support with enough power to push most planar magnetic drivers. Then the software side of things are much easier to use than the older software from the X7 and other than Super X-Fi which was suspiciously missing the software offers a lot of adjustability both for the headphone and microphone side.
There is still room for improvement though, I did find that the legends were unreadable in anything but direct light and the buttons that do have backlighting don’t have backlighting when you would need it. For example, the power button is only lit when the X5 is on and the microphone mute button is only lit when it is muted. If you need to turn it on or mute the microphone you can’t see them if things are dark at all. The inclusion of Bluetooth is a nice way to feed music in from your phone or make calls when at your PC but only having the SBC Bluetooth codec was disappointing considering the higher-end audio focus. Then for smaller nitpicks, I was surprised that the RCA to 3.5 mm cable was included but not an RCA cable. I know with the X7 came with every possible cable option you might need.
The Sound Blaster X5 has an MSRP of $279.99 which is expensive. but the audio market does get crazy, this is far from the most expensive. There are lots of DAC and headphone amp combinations that are cheaper, even from the Sound Blaster lineup. But there aren’t any products that have a similar combination of that, the inputs and outputs, Bluetooth even if it is flawed, and all of the control on the software side of things. So it may not be a value, but the X5 is unique and a good option if you need that flexibility.
Live Pricing: HERE