Creative Sound Blaster X5 Review (Page 1 of 5)

Creative Sound Blaster X5 Review

By: Aaron Lai
June 16, 2023

About a month and a half ago, I was sitting in front of my work computer when someone sent out a YouTube link in our work group chat. As it turns out, it was the replay of the live stream of the SpaceX Starship flight. That morning was the launch of Starship, which seemed to launch as expected. However, several moments after launch, the unmanned shuttle exploded into many pieces. The real thing that intrigued me was the fact the SpaceX team called this a "rapid unscheduled disassembly before stage separation". Anyone that knew the result or took a second to think about this phrasing would know this just means it exploded. However, the phrase of "rapid unscheduled disassembly" seemed so mild and made it sound like SpaceX knew what was happening at the time, even if it was not the case. I do find it interesting how SpaceX was able to make a rather unfortunate event sound so much better than it actually was. Obviously, this is probably just another day in the office for public relations. In some ways, the same can be said for a sound card. While the comparison is a bit tongue in cheek, traditionally, the sound card was first present in a computer to get any sort of realistic audio. Later on, it was important as hardware to prevent the issues that you might get from an integrated solution. However, what is its purpose in 2023? Today, we have the Creative Sound Blaster X5, an external sound card that was announced earlier this year. Is it able to make audio sound good, or are there other reasons for this device today? Let us read on to find out!

Today's review unit of the Creative Sound Blaster X5 arrived from a logistics firm in Lachine, Quebec, Canada. Traveling with Purolator and their Ground service, this box arrived at our APH Networks offices here in Calgary, Alberta in excellent condition. As you can see, there are no notable bumps or bruises to be concerned with. The "Handle with Care" label was clearly regarded, which is a good thing. Along with the Sound Blaster X5, we also received the Creative Live! Cam Sync V3 and Creative Stage Air V2, which will be reviewed by my colleagues Jonathan Kwan and Jonah Chow, respectively.

With everything out of the box, you can see the Creative Sound Blaster X5's retail container is designed a bit different from the rest of the products. Instead of the typical orange Creative branding we have seen, the Sound Blaster X5 has a gray and white look with a gradient background. Another change is the larger branding of "Sound Blaster" in the left corner where we normally would find the Creative logo. This is because the Sound Blaster branding has more name recognition, even if it is a sub-brand of Creative Technology. The product can be found in the middle in a scaled down view of the front panel. Underneath, we have a rather lengthy description of "Hi-Res Dual DAC USB Sound Card with Fully Balanced XAMP Headphone Bi-Amplifier". We have even more logos underneath to highlight features on the Sound Blaster X5. Around the sides and back, we have more specifications about the X5.

Before we continue on, I have grabbed the specifications from the manufacturer's website for your viewing pleasure:

Headphone Output Power (Unbalanced): 0.98 Vrms (60 mW) @ 16Ω, 1.47 Vrms (65 mW) @ 33Ω, 4.11 Vrms (112 mW) @ 150Ω, 4.14 Vrms (52 mW) @ 330Ω, 4.15 Vrms (29 mW) @ 600Ω
Headphone Output Power (Balanced): 1.18 Vrms (86 mW) @ 16Ω, 1.90 Vrms (109 mW) @ 33Ω, 5.86 Vrms (313 mW) @ 150Ω, 8.25 Vrms (206 mW) @ 330Ω, 8.28 Vrms (114 mW) @ 600Ω
Remote Control (BLE): Android devices, iOS devices
Headphone Amp: 16–600Ω
Dynamic Range (DNR): 130 dB
Audio Technology: Sound Blaster Acoustic Engine
Connectivity Options (Main): 1 x TOSLINK Optical In, 1 x TOSLINK Optical Out, 1 x RCA Line-in, 1 x RCA Line-out, 1 x 3.5 mm Headphones-out (Unbalanced), 1 x 4.4 mm Headphones-out (Balanced), 1 x 3.5 mm Mic-in, 1 x USB-C port of PC/Mac/PS4/PS5, 1 x USB-A Host Audio-out port
Headphone Amp: 16–600Ω
Max Channel Output: Stereo
Audio Technologies: CrystalVoice, Scout Mode
Supported Operating Systems: Mac OS X v10.5 and above, Windows® 10 Ver 1703, Windows® 11
DAC: 2 x Cirrus Logic CS43198 high-resolution DAC, PCM 32-bit / 384 kHz playback, DoP 64, 128 support, DSD 64, 128, 256 support, THD: -115 dB, DNR: 130 dB
ADC: DNR: 114 dB, THD+N: -105 dB
Power: USB-C
Recommended Usage: Gaming, Home Entertainment

- Intel® Core™i3 or AMD® equivalent processor
- Microsoft® Windows 11, 10 32 / 64-bit Ver 1703 or later
> 4 GB RAM
> 4 GB of free hard disk space
- Available USB 2.0 / 3.0 port
- Macintosh running macOS 10.15 or later
> 4 GB RAM
> 4 GB of free hard disk space
- Available USB 2.0 / 3.0 port
- Firmware Ver 5.0 or later
- Available USB port
- Firmware Ver 20.02- or later
- Available USB port
Software Remote Control
- Android OS Ver 8.0 or later
- iOS Ver 12.0 or later
- Built-in Bluetooth Low Energy support

1 x Sound Blaster X5
1 x USB-C to USB-A Cable (1.5m / 4.9 ft)
1 x Optical Cable (1.5m / 4.9 ft)
1 x 3.5 mm to RCA Stereo Cable (2m / 6.6 ft)
1 x Quick Start Guide
1 x Warranty and Compliance Leaflet

1-year Limited Hardware Warranty

Out of the box, the Creative Sound Blaster X5 is neatly packaged in a clear plastic bag between two thick pieces of black foam. This foam is nice and does not break apart like cheaper alternatives, which is great for protecting the Sound Blaster X5. Otherwise, there are a couple of plastic bags that contain all of the cables, including a 1.5m USB Type-C to Type-A cable, 1.5m optical audio cable, and a 2m 3.5mm to RCA stereo cable. In addition, we have a couple of pamphlets of paper, including a quick start guide and information of warranty. Just so you are aware, we have a one-year warranty included with the Creative Sound Blaster X5.

Page Index
1. Introduction, Specifications, Bundle
2. A Closer Look - Hardware
3. A Closer Look - Software
4. Subjective Audio Listening
5. Conclusion