So recently, Creative has been pushing out a lot of new products, including the excellent Sound Blaster Roar. I was smitten by the Creative Sound Blaster X7 and its massive suite of features, but I already have the fantastic iFi DSD Micro, so I wasn’t in a rush to get another desktop amplifier. However, I was pretty excited to get my hands on the E5, their top-of-the-range portable DAC/Amp that costs a fraction of other flagship products in the audiophile world.
There was a little worry when I heard about Android power drain and noise floor concerns on forums, and I did have an entirely capable iPod Classic and C&C BH2 for music on the go. But the appeal of a new product overcame me, and I dropped by IT Show 2015 to make sure the hiss isn’t too bad, before I put my money down.
By now, it should be obvious that I didn’t give a crap about the audible noise floor. There’s just so much that this little thing can do that complaining about an audible noise floor feels like whining. Here’s the list of features…*deep breath*: Apt-X Bluetooth (with NFC), PC/Mac/iOS/Android OTG support, optical in/out, line in/out, two headphone jacks, microphones for calls and recordings, and SBX Pro Studio, a customization suite that blows the mind. Oh, and a convenient mute function when you press the volume dial.
It’s an all plastic affair, but it’s well built and comes with a rubber base and a stand that can be mounted on microphone stands. It also has a thin mini-Toslink cable and the usual USB cable, but for the price, it’s hard to argue against any of the accessories provided. In fact, I feel like they’ve put quite a lot of thought into the E5 for the money it costs.
While it has the issue of always charging Android phones when using it OTG, Bluetooth works fine. It’s what drew me to the E5 anyway, and it’s been working a treat so far. I can toss it into my messenger bag and switch tunes or adjust the volume with my phone, rather than having to hold my iPod in hand or have it hanging somewhere inconvenient just so I can reach it. Sure, there’s always an issue with drop-outs, but it’s not bad enough that I find myself overly frustrated. My Stance S1+ has the same issue; it’s just a Bluetooth thing.
Sound quality is hard to judge, mainly because I’m not blessed with golden ears that can detect minute changes in sound signature between DACs or amps. Plus, human auditory memory is ridiculously short, and I didn’t conduct comparative tests either. Anyway, I felt that it was a little grainy up top, with less resolution than my iDSD Micro.
It’s even harder to judge when I’m using that extensive DSP Creative has integrated into the amp. SBX Pro Studio is a wonderful suite of effects that have made enjoyment of music so much better. Bass Boost allows me to bump up the sub-bass without introducing a mid-bass bloat, and the built in equaliser allows me to reduce some sibilance and also lower the volume across the board, giving me more play with the volume knob. Otherwise, there’s too much grunt for my sensitive UM Pro 30s.
There’s also a bevy of other effects and even presets, but they were more suited for gaming and movies. And yes, you can save your settings, which is a massive win in my books. The only problem I had with SBX Pro Studio is the Mixer panel. It refuses to allow me to save my volume settings for various input options, such as line-in or Bluetooth. That would have given me even more room with the volume, but it’s only a small annoyance. Hopefully Creative can offer some updates to make this possible.
Of course, there is the issue with the E5 charging an Android phone when in use, and the noise floor is audible. However, neither issue has been a problem as the music plays while I’m travelling, and that’s good enough for me. The 2.2ohm output impedance may also cause problems with some IEMs, but I don’t have anything that demands a
There’s just so much to like about the Sound Blaster E5. So despite the various flaws that I feel are excusable given the low price, I fell in love with it. Best of all, I get to feel proud, rewarding a local company for its good products with my patronage. Keep it up, Creative, and I might just be buying more stuff from you.