One of the last pieces missing from the RGB invasion is the sound card. That changes today with the introduction of Creative's Sound BlasterX AE-5, an all-new "audiophile-grade" discrete sound card for gamers.
Creative has been participating the discrete audio space for nearly as long as I've been alive (let's just say several decades now). Throughout the years its Sound Blaster has given gamers with premium speakers and headphones a reason to shun onboard audio. It's been a tougher sell in recent years as motherboard makers started implementing higher end onboard audio solutions, but Creative is still fighting the good fight.
In this case, the company's Sound Blaster X AE-5 boasts a 122dB 32-bit/384kHz ESS Sabre DAC and a custom designed 600Ω discrete headphone amp that Creative describes as "kick-ass." The message from Creative is that this is a sound card for gamers who have an audiophile ear.
To be more specific, Creative says the combination of a quad-core Sound Core3D audio DSP and Sabre DAC provides up to 32 times more sound clarity—not sure how this is actually measured—than onboard audio solutions. On top of that, the AE-5 is injected with more audio processing algorithms to improve gaming audio, music playback, and sound streams from movies for 5.1 speaker setups.
As to the headphone amp, it is custom built using discrete transistors and high-end WIMA film/foil capacitors in a dual-amp design that amplifies both audio channels individually.
And of course there is the requisite RGB lighting, which has now become a staple of any product aimed at gamers. An RGB lighting controller is built into Creative's latest sound card and is configurable through the company's Aurora Reactive Lighting System utility. If the lighting through the PCB is not enough, gamers can connect up to four LED strips for more multi-colored bling.
The PCIe-based Sound BlasterX AE-5 will be available in July for $150. It will come in both white and black color options.