Creative Sound Blaster AE-5 Plus Internal Sound Card and DAC Review

It’s a fact that onboard audio on motherboards has gotten vastly better over the past several years. Gone are the days when to get good audio quality, you had to add a discrete sound card to your system. But, does this mean adding in a sound card is unnecessary? If you had asked me that back in early 2018, I probably would have said yes. However, I then got my hands on the Sound Blaster AE-5 internal sound card and DAC. After playing around with the AE-5, my opinion on discrete sound cards quickly changed. So, when the good people at Creative asked us to take a look at their predecessor to the AE-5, the Sound Blaster AE-5 Plus, I jumped at the opportunity.

The Sound Blaster AE-5 Plus is an internal sound card with a dynamic range of 122 dB, a max resolution playback of 32-bit / 384 kHz, and features an ESS Sabre Ultra DAC. Unlike the AE-5, the Sound Blaster AE-5 Plus features Dolby Digital Live. However, with the advances that board partners have made in onboard audio, is it worth buying an internal sound card in 2020? In this review, we intend to answer that exact question. Over the last few years, I’ve been very impressed with Sound Blaster products such as their K3+ and X3. So, will the AE-5 Plus stay to the high standard I’ve come to expect from Sound Blaster and Creative products? Let’s get into the review of the Sound Blaster AE-5 Plus and find out.

SPECIFICATIONS

Interface/Power
PCI-e bus power, +5V for Aurora lighting (requires 4-pin Molex peripheral connector from the PC power supply)
Audio Technology
Sound Core3D
Dynamic Range (DNR)
122 dB
Connectivity Options (Main)
1 x TOSLINK Optical Out, 1 x 1/8″ (3.5mm) Mic In / Line In, 1 x 1/8″ (3.5mm) Headphone / Headset Out, 1 x 1/8″ Front Out, 1 x 1/8″ Rear Out, 1 x 1/8″ Center / Sub Out, 1 x Front Panel Header
Headphone Amp
Output Impedance: 1Ω, Low Gain: 16—149 Ω (+0 dB), Supported Headphone Impedance: 16—600Ω
Audio Technologies
CrystalVoice
Scout Mode
DTS Connect Encoding
Dolby Digital Live Encoding
Supported Operating Systems
Windows® 10
Dimensions
145 x 20 x 128 mm
ASIO
Playback & Recording
Platform
PCI-e
Recommended Usage
Gaming
Home Entertainment
DAC
Dynamic Range: 122 dB, THD+N (DAC): 0.00032[%]

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

Windows

  • Intel® Core™ i3 or AMD® equivalent processor
  • Intel, AMD, or 100% compatible motherboard
  • Microsoft® Windows 10 32 / 64-bit
  • 1 GB RAM
  • >600 MB of free hard disk space
  • Available PCI-e slot

PACKAGE CONTENTS

  • Sound BlasterX AE-5 Plus
  • 1 x LED Strip (30cm / 10 LEDs)
  • 1 x Extension Cable
  • Quick Start Leaflet
  • Warranty Leaflets

WARRANTY

1-year Limited Hardware Warranty

CALIFORNIA RESIDENTS

DOWNLOADS

Download Software

Owner’s Manual

Packaging

I’ve always liked the packaging for Creative products. The boxes just look good. The packaging for the AE-5 Plus has the Sound BlasterX Pro-Gaming logo printed on the top left-hand corner of the box. There is an image of the Sound Blaster AE-5 Plus centered on the front of the packaging. This image takes up the majority of the front of the box. Below the image is the AE-5 Plus product branding. Underneath the product branding is a brief description of the Sound Blaster AE-5 Plus, which we’ll get into a bit later in this review. Across the bottom, there is a list of features of the Sound Blaster AE-5 Plus. Some of the features include 122dB DAC, Scout Mode, and Dolby Audio to name a few. The front of the box also makes mention of the built-in RGB controller and included an RGB strip packed with the Sound Blaster AE-5 Plus.

Sound Blaster AE-5 Plus box front

The back of the box also has the Sound BlasterX Pro-Gaming logo on the top left-hand corner. The back of the box has a fair bit of information on it. Mostly, it goes into some of the features of the AE-5 Plus, and in a few different languages.  On the back of the box, there are brief descriptions of the 122dB Sabre-Class CAD, Sound Blaster’s XAMP technology, Aurora Reactive RGB lighting, and more.Sound Blaster AE-5 Plus box back

When you open the box of the Sound Blaster AE-5 Plus, there is a thin box with the Sound BlasterX Pro-Gaming logo printed in the center.  This box contains the accessories for the Sound Blaster AE-5 Plus, including the RGB strip. Underneath the thin black box, we find the Sound Blaster AE-5 Plus wrapped in anti-static plastic, and set in soft foam. I love seeing products shipped in soft foam as I feel it provides better protection when compared to hard foam or plastic.

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