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Creative Sound Blaster E5 USB DAC/Amp Combo
Creative Sound Blaster E5 USB DAC/Amp Combo
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I bought this a couple weeks ago from Amazon. They are able to drive the AKGK7XX even on the low gain setting. If it gets to the $150 mark I'd say it's a good buy. Nothing else at that price point offers the same feature set, or close.
SQ wise there may be better options at the MSRP. That said, SQ isn't bad, it just may not be the best. I'd guess most people would be surprised by how capable the E5 actually is in terms of SQ. I didn't expect much, so maybe I was more easily impressed. With some IEMs there is a slight but noticeable hiss at higher volumes. These volumes (with hiss in ultra sensitive IEMs) are generally louder than I like personally, anyhow. The E5 is really quite good at streaming audio via Bluetooth if your media device supports Apt X. Honestly it's the best SQ for portable audio over Bluetooth that I've experienced. When on the go I really don't need better SQ than it offers. Sure, I always want the best possible SQ, but the situations where I use the E5 aren't those situations where the a SQ bump is even so easily perceived, by me.
The E5 is fairly well supported by creative with new software/firmware updates fairly regularly. The Windows 10 Support is expected by the middle of July. Sometime these even bring new capabilities such as bring the recently added Scout Mode ability that was already offered on the lower tier E series devices. Creative also made changes which now allow users a choice in whether or not the E5 will charge connected devices when connected. Many people didn't like that the E5's run time was shortened because it was always charging their phones, so, Creative changed it and offered the choice. That impressed me. It has some OK things for games like this Scout Mode and nice things when it comes to microphone capabilities. If like me you thought about using this in combination with a Mix-amp on a game console, it possible, but not as cleanly as I would have liked. It takes a mix of cables, and things like size and weight make the E1/ E3 or other completely different amp a better choice for that specific use.
There seems to be a lot of confusion surrounding it's ability to process Dolby and other surround signals. Without getting into that to much it's safe to say both that Creative is proud of what they have done, and some people want more than that. Namely they'd like to see Dolby Headphone support, which it doesn't have. There are rumors that this might happen in the future, but I think that's unlikely. At least, with the current hardware it seems true surround processing wouldn't be implemented. With 24-bit 96 kHz PCM support it can allow most signals to pass through, so to speak.
It's bigger than you might think and much bigger than the E3. It's pretty thick too. I don't consider it heavy. The overall impression of quality is OK for the price, save one thing. The soft rubber on the bottom of my unit has become discolored under the microphone mount. This happened in a VERY short amount of time. I would guess less than 4 hours of actual use, and 3 days of ownership. I contacted Creative support and was told “We have received an update from our product team and we need to inform you that this is a normal behavior for rubber surfaces. The rubber surface exposed to the environment will have different tone mark compared to the rubber surface which was not expose to the environment. This is the normal characteristics of rubber surfaces. Try using a rubber cleaner to clear the different tone mark.” I don't think it's “normal” and have requested that the case be escalated. The said they'd look into it more but it's been a slow process. So much so that I contacted Amazon.com and asked them if it would be possible to extend my refund period while I wait for a resolution from the manufacture. As they have always been for me, Amazon was great and agreed to extended my return period by 1 month. Attached is a pic I first sent creative if you'd like to see what I'm talking about.
Still, for $150 or even $179 and the capabilities of the device including the SQ with Bluetooth I'd recommend it. At $200, I'm not quite as confident. I'm actually very curious if others have seen the rubber discoloration issue as I have. I haven't seen anyone else report it. If I was confident it wasn't a common issue, it would be much easier to recommend the E5 at MSRP. Again, before someone decides to come here and bash me for using SQ and Bluetooth together, let me just reiterate that it's acceptable, to me. The convenience of a wireless connection between my player (phone) and the E5 is worth the drawbacks in SQ while I'm on the move. I like to use it while downhill long-boarding. I can have the E5 closer to the outside of my pack, and my phone more well protected in case something goes wrong... Also, if the day goes long I can use it to top up the battery of my phone. I guess, all in all, for me, it's not the best at anything other than portable wireless SQ, on the go, for comparatively cheap.
Just FYI (if you end up reading this), I've had my E5 for like 5 months, and I've been pretty hard on it. Had the stand/mount attached for most of that time, I PERSONALLY wouldn't care if the rubber changed tint but... See pic:
Sorry the pic is a little grainy, but apart from the little t-shaped discoloration mine looks pretty uniform. Mine does have some scratches at the corners from two drop events, but those are also minor and cosmetic only. Your rubber discoloration probably comes from the environment (sun, moisture) and long boarding, no?
Yours looks much better than mine did in regards to discoloration of the pad. Creative ended up replacing mine for a new unit internationally although I was only entitled to a US warranty. It took time and was a hassle, buy the did go the extra mile, so to speak. That said, mine was clearly defective. The limited time and mild environment it was exposed to should not have (IMHO) caused the radical change I observed in such a short time. I believe it was heat generated by the device itself and poor matarial quality that caused the discoloration. I do not belive my use (or enviroment) was good reson for the discoloration. I'm guessing Creative didn't either considering it was replaced. I've decided not to use the stand with the replacement unit and it has maintained uniform coloration of the pad. I'd recommend not using the stand to anyone else concerned with possible discoloration.
By the way, liked your review on the first page of discussion!
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