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

Sound Blaster AE-5 Plus Overview

Sound Blaster AE-5 Plus installed

The Sound Blaster AE-5 Plus comes in two different versions.  The standard edition, which is black. This is the one we received for this review. The other version of the Sound Blaster AE-5 Plus is the Pure Edition. The difference is the Pure Edition is white, instead of black like the standard version. Like the AE-5, the Sound Blaster AE-5 Plus is an internal sound card with almost identical features. The one difference is the Sound Blaster AE-5 Plus has added both Dolby Digital Live and DTS encoding. One thing to keep in mind, if you’re still on Windows 7, 8, or 8.1, the Sound Blaster AE-5 Plus will not work for you, as it is only supported on Windows 10. However, the AE-5 will still work with older versions of Windows.

Front of the Sound Blaster AE-5 Plus_3

The Sound Blaster AE-5 Plus is an internal sound card and DAC. It connects to your PC via PCI express and uses a PCIe X1 connector. However, it can be used in an X16 slot. The audio processor used in the Sound Blaster AE-5 Plus is the Sound Core3D, the same processor in the AE-5, AE-7, and AE-9. The DAC used in the Sound Blaster AE-5 Plus is the ESS Sabre 32 Ultra with a dynamic range (DNR) of 122 dB. The onboard audio for your average motherboard features a DNR of 90 dB, giving the Sound Blaster AE-5 Plus 32 time clearer audio, at least on paper. The Sound Blaster AE-5 Plus features up to 32-bit/384 kHz hi-res lossless playback, as well as discrete headphone bi-amp using Sound Blaster’s XAMP technology.

Sound Blaster AE-5 XMAP

The XAMP in the Sound Blaster AE-5 Plus is a custom-designed discrete headphone bi-amp. With a traditional headphone amp, both channels are amplified by a single headphone amp. With a bi-amp, each channel on your headphones is amplified individually. Each amp has an ultra-low impedance of 1Ω that can easily drive high-end or even studio-quality headphones between 16Ω-600Ω.

The front of the Sound Blaster AE-5 Plus standard edition is predominantly all black. The top right corner is where the RGB lighting is located. The lighting carries over to the top edge and the backside of the sound card.  The Sound BlasterX Pro-Gaming logo is displayed on the front of the AE-5 Plus. When I first looked at the back of the Sound Blaster SE-5 Plus, I thought it had a backplate. However, when I looked closer, I realized that the back of the PCB is just painted with an abstract design. The Sound BlasterX Pro-Gaming logo is illuminated on the backside of the AE-5 Plus by RGB lighting.

top edge sound blaster AE-5 Plus

Looking at the top edge of the Sound Blaster AE-5 Plus, there is a four-pin port for the included RGB strip over to the left side of the card. Towards the right of the card is the AE-5 Plus branding which is illuminated by RGB lighting.IO AE-5 Plus

The I/O on the Sound Blaster AE-5 Plus consists of five gold-plated 3.5mm jacks and an SPDIF or optical port. These ports are a line in/mic-in, headphone jack, 3 dedicated to a 5.1 surround sound. One port for the front speakers, one for the rear, and the third for a subwoofer.

The rear of the Sound Blaster AE-5 Plus has a front panel HD Audio header, as well as a single Molex connection. The Molex connection powers the discrete RGB controller. The HD audio header allows you to connect the front panel audio on your case to the Sound Blaster AE-5 Plus, as opposed to your motherboard.

tare down of the AE-5 Plus

 

To disassemble the Sound Blaster AE-5 Plus, we first remove the I/O bracket, as well as a series of screws on the backside of the card. There are a total of seven screws on the backside of the PCB and an additional four screws that hold on the I/O bracket. With the top cover off of the PCB, we can take a closer look at the components on the Sound Blaster AE-5 Plus.

Looking at the PCB on the Sound Blaster AE-5 Plus, we see five RGB LEDs on the top right-hand corner of the PCB. These LEDs are very bright. On the corner of the cover that corresponds with the LEDs, there is a diffuser with the AE-5 Plus branding on it. The AE-5 Plus branding is illuminated by the RGB lighting on the PCB. The five 3.5 mm ports on the Sound Blaster AE-5 Plus are all gold-plated to help extend their life span, and the look good.

The Sound Blaster AE-5 Plus uses Creative’s quad-core Sound Core3D audio processor. This processor provides fully customizable DSP-powered audio enhancements, crystal-clear vocal reproduction, in-game voice communication enhancements, 7.1 virtual surround sound, and other advanced audio technologies found only on Creative products such as Sound Blaster sound cards. First announced back in May of 2011, the Sound Core3D audio processor is a high-performance audio processor with low power consumption and high-quality analog playback and recording.  Even 9 years later, the Sound Core3D is still one of the best audio processors on the market.

 

The Sound Blaster AE-5 Plus has a built-in RGB controller for the included RGB strip that comes with the AE-5 Plus. The Sound Blaster AE-5 Plus comes with a single RGB strip where the Pure Edition comes with four RGB strips. The discrete RGB controller that can support up to 4, 30 cm RGB strips with up to 40 LEDs in total, 10 on each strip.

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