Final Thoughts

The Creative Sound Blaster E5 is perhaps one of the most complex DAC/Amp’s under $199, heck even under $500 I would say the same thing. This is perhaps the ultimate convergence gadget for audiophiles and gamers who desire an upgrade on their audio experience this far. It has a wealth of features, and a ton of connectivity options that would even give a 24/7 reviewer a nightmare to cover extensively and evenly without thinking they have missed something. You have Bluetooth, a DAC, an Amp, a mic (3 to be precise), you have optical in, optical out, line in and out, OTG, iOS and …goodness the list ain’t half long is it? I do not think the E5 right now can be beaten for feature value by any DAC/Amp anywhere for this price.

From an audio viewpoint, and this maybe a little due to my personal preferences of a more lush liquid sound, the E5 is not the pinnacle of amping for $199. It is a huge improvement on the E1 and E3 but it still has a little bit of work for my money on besting the likes of the Cayin C5 and the FiiO E18 in terms of smoothness and maturity in the amp. Do not get me wrong, the E5’s clean, detailed and tuning with a bass bias will get many admirers but its treble tizzy performance and slight harshness might grate with some more used to a smoother delivery. Pair it well though with an earphone and headphone that has a rolled off treble and the E5 does indeed sound very good but pair it with a treble sensitive IEM or headphone and the mismatch can jar a little. There are some reports of noise though I personally did not experience any noise in the 4-5 I tested the E5 with.

And yet it will be the Sound Blaster E5 I will be using for on the go over the E18 or C5 in all but the most audio driven situations. This is really a case of the sum of the parts for me. My needs for mobility and connectivity while on the go or in the office are far more complex than at home. At home I sit on a chair and I plug in, my audio needs are high and demanding but my connectivity issues are relatively simply and obvious – wired and more wired. Once I am out and about though wires and what device plugs into what does become an issue. The Sound Blaster E5’s BT performance is excellent and really is a key persuader. Match it with say an aptX compatible mobile phone you are talking above average quality and something I can happily listen to on the go.

Price: $199.00


Technical Specifications

  • Output: Stereo
  • Output: 56mW @ 600 ohms.
  • Audio Processor: SB-Axx1™
  • Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR): 120dB (DAC)
  • Connectivity Options (Main)
    • microUSB
    • Line / Mic / Optical In: 1 x 3.5mm jack
    • Headphone Out : 2 x 3.5mm jacks
    • Line / Optical Out : 1 x 3.5mm jack
    • USB Host Streaming: 1 x Type-A USB Port
  • Max Channel Output: Stereo
  • Audio Technologies: SBX Pro Studio, CrystalVoice
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About The Author


Founder & Owner of I first started reviewing in the late 80s (ouch!). Back then it was albums, rock concerts and interviews with a typewriter for the local rag. Now its desktop/portable and digital 2.1 audio on a rather nice laptop. How time flies.

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  • Excellent review. Extremely detailed and even with the extensive list of features for the E5, you didn’t miss a beat.. pun intended.

    • headfonics

      Thanks! 🙂 any more features and I think I could have outdone war and peace!

      • lol. I just received my unit from Creative for a Youtube review and I was getting dizzy with all the features. Reading through your review made it easier to put everything into perspective in a concise manner. I think I have a better grasp on things now as to how I should approach this device.

        • headfonics

          Glad I could help buddy and best of luck with the review! 🙂

          • JD

            Got my E5 a few weeks ago and still cant get the EQ or SBX to work!
            Playing music from my Mac into the E5 and have the SB software installed. But although I can move the EQ and SBX sliders about it makes no difference to the output!
            What am I missing?

          • headfonics

            I actually do not have a Mac to be able to anaswer that, have you tried with a PC with the software loaded to see if it will work to narrow down the issue?

          • JD

            I don’t have a PC, but ran some more tests, and this is what I got.

            2 alternative music sources, both using Spotify music.
            Source 1 – Mac PC running OS 10.10.2 Yosemite
            Source 2 -iphone 6 running IOS 8.1.3

            All results tested using Shure earphones. Phones
            connected to E5 for all tests.

            Connected by Bluetooth – Mac to E5 – SBX works on E5 button (but SB
            control panel on Mac not active as doesn’t see the E5). EQ not available.
            Connected by Bluetooth – iPhone to E5 – SBX and EQ work using SB app on
            Connected by Host USB – iphone to E5 – SBX and EQ work using SB app on
            Connected by mini USB – Mac to E5 – SBX and EQ not effective using SB
            control panel, or SBX button on E5

            Conclusion – SB control panel SBX and EQ controls do not work when
            connecting to E5 using mini USB.

          • JD

            Solved it!
            Contrary to Creative’s support desk advice, the only way that the SBX and EQ features will work when the E5 is connected to my Mac using the mini USB is to select the Bluetooth source as well!
            So Mac to E5 using BT AND mini USB. Everything then works as it should, which is bizarre.
            If I unplug the mini USB whilst BT is connected then the SB control panel closes itself, so the slider controls for SBX and EQ are not available, however SBX still works on the toggle button on the E5.

  • Shallow Then Halo

    Great review!Any chance you could test the analog line in quality? I am looking for something portable and inexpensive like this.Ideally for vinyl rips and low latency(asio) home multitrack recording. I know sites like this focus more on the dac than adc, but thought it might not hurt to ask. Hardly any reviews of this little multitool and to be honest,doubtful the recording musician sites will bother taking a look because of the brand. I am also interested in the h2 miyo and pairing it with a usb battery.

    • headfonics

      Thanks for the feedback, I can tinker with that at the weekend and let you know.

      How will you be recording? – straight from source or using the mic?

      • Shallow Then Halo

        I will be using a Marantz 2220b phono for vinyl rips and more importantly, a batttery operated mxb1002 mixer with various mics, guitars etc. Only occasionally will I utilize the onboard mics. All to a windows tablet or desktop for more critical applications and potentially a Galaxy Tab for simpler things like straight up stereo recording. Hoping the adc is low latency for 2496 multitrack with my desktop. Creative seems to have done nicely with the other features of the E5, so maybe…I currently have a Zoom h2, unused m-audio 24/96, and onboard Realtek . Which all seem to be a wee bit long in the tooth. Hoping for something a little,or a lot, closer to my friends Apogee Duo, but in a more portable format. Have we got there at this price point? H2 seems to make that claim and more with their Miyo kickstarter. Perhaps the E5 can do some heavier lifting with it’s asio driver. I do apreciate the extra portable features. Onboard battery, bluetooth,dual analog out. As far as I understand, they are not independantly adjustable but perhaps my attenuator thrown from my old Shure iem’s will help. Which reminds me, most monitoring will be done from two pairs of T50RP’s(one Mayflower modded,one not) ,T1E’s and Paradigm bookshelf’s .Thank you so much for your effort and interest in this little device. Very intriguing!

        • Shallow Then Halo

          Have you had a chance to look at the line in feature?

          • Not yet my apologies.. Will try my best by the weekend

          • headfonics

            Not yet my apologies.. Will try my best by the weekend

          • Shallow Then Halo

            Thank you kindly!

  • arcwindz

    Great review! There’re so little proper review on e5 out there.
    How does this pair with phillips fidelio x2/x1? Since to my ear they don’t have rolled off treble and i am pretty concerned with upper range harshness

    • headfonics

      Thanks! 🙂

      Sadly I do not have the X1 or X2 to test with the E5 so my X1 comments come from my archive of memories when I reviews it a year ago. I dont think it should be an issue especially if you are using bluetooth. I tended to get hyper critical when matched with cans or iem’s that do nothing but amplify the 5-7k range in a harsh way. I cant remember the X1 doing that in general even if it is not tapered or attenuated.

      Thats aural memory for you.

      The thing is though the impedance of the E5 currently is just over 2ohms output so I trust you have ditched that stock cable the X1 comes with? That might be the best way to negate any negative experience using the X1.

      • arcwindz

        Well, i got x2 which i believe doesn’t have that cable problem.
        Thx for answering 🙂

  • Great review and great site btw, making me want to buy everything! I’ve been looking for a device like this and your review did enough to suggest this was the right bit of kit. I have to say it’s a great little gadget, just probably not worth the price. Few things to mention, firstly the bluetooth connectivity (S5 to E5) isn’t as solid as I’d like it to be, on the tube for example it constantly drops out when in a tunnel. The other issue is that there is no software support for Linux. This is a massive shame as I’d pretty much bought this to act as an improved DAC for my laptop. I think it says a lot about the versitilty of the E5 that I’m not that bothered

    • headfonics

      Hi Toby!

      Sadly I do not have a tube on our city, thats is an interesting side effect though given BT is a proximity related tool and if your source is close it shouldnt do that, very interesting report.

      Linux.. ahhh.. had that, stopped it after a year due to driver complexities. Creative are always known for heavily modding their hardware with software so I am not surprised you had issues with it.

      That being said glad you like it for the billion other things it can do. I believe it can also walk the dog if so inclined 🙂

  • Which one is better Creative Sound Blaster E5 or Fiio E18?

    • headfonics

      E18 for sound, E5 for functionality