Strange as it seems, there is still a market for soundcards, even today. While integrated audio has improved massively over the last few years, there is still a fair ways to go when it comes to something that sounds decent. Creative’s new sound card is still a gaming soundcard, in that it does post-processing effects to enhance the audio, but it’s also built for the greater adoption of headphones and headsets.
Powering the AE-5 is a quad-core Sound Core3D DSP from Sabre, which is capable (at least on paper) of 32-bit/384 KHz lossless playback with 122 dB SNR. On the output side is the usual 5.1 speaker outputs, plus an ultra-low 1 Ohm impedance OpAmp capable of driving headphones from 16 Ohms to 600 Ohms.
The whole ‘gaming’ basis comes from Creative’s software tuning and driver audio enhancements. Creative’s drivers have come a long way since the old days of the original X-Fi releases and the horrors that ensued from the early adoption of Vista. Now, the drivers are quite solid, and the BlasterX audio enhancements are capable of very good positional audio enhancements to games, namely though the Scout Radar system.
If audio ‘enhancements’ through a DSP is not your thing, the drivers can disable all post-processing effects and go into a bit-stream mode and leave the original audio signal as is.
However, what modern ‘gaming’ device would be complete without a little (or a lot of) RGB thrown into the mix. The Creative AE-5 soundcard is not only RGB capable by itself, but it has RGB headers to run four different RGB LED strips as well. These headers can be controlled through the BlasterX software with Aurora Reactive Lighting system with multiple rhythms and effects selectable. No details were given about working with other RGB solutions, such as those provided by motherboards and their respective RGB systems, but one should assume ‘no’ until further notice.
For a premium sound card, the price isn’t bad for the features provided, as the AE-5 can be grabbed for $150. A ‘Pure Edition’ is available too that includes four RGB LED strips instead of one, and costs $180 instead, direct from Creative.