Creative Sound Blaster X5 Review (Page 4 of 5)

Page 4 - Subjective Audio Analysis

Reviewing audio devices require extensively trained ears, lots of experience, and sufficient technical knowledge. Even for the experienced auditioner, it may prove challenging at times to obtain an accurate evaluation of a product without a thoroughly familiar product to use as a simultaneous reference. Furthermore, many self-proclaimed audiophiles are susceptible to biased write-ups due to placebo effects from false advertising. While I am not going to even try to claim that I am the only trustworthy or best evaluator for sound, it is fact that most computer review sites have editors who are insufficiently trained in reviewing audio equipment. Give them practically anything and all you will read about goes along the line of "good bass, nice midrange, awesome treble, really clear sound, 10/10". While there are many knowledgeable audio reviewers at various respected online media outlets, they are by far the minority.

As I have mentioned in my past audio reviews, there are really no true objective measurements for sound quality. As the evaluator, however, I will put it through a series of subjective tests to try to come up with the most objective rating possible. Yes, it sounds like a paradox. For all tests, I tested the Creative Sound Blaster X5 with the Sony MDR-7506 and the Philips SHP9600. Neither of these headphones have high impedance, but the Sony headphones are well-known among the audio community for its accuracy and sound representation, while I have appreciated the open-back and open sound of the Philips. All tracks are uncompressed or high bitrate audio files. For comparison, I used my Focusrite Scarlett Solo and a wired connection to my Google Pixel 3a XL.

One thing I should note is that I have been spoiled with generally good sound as the Focusrite Scarlett Solo is a good DAC solution with enough power to drive the aforementioned headphones without worry. This being said, I can say the Creative Sound Blaster X5 was equal to the task and surpassed the Scarlett Solo in one primary way, which is its flat and consistent response. Once again, the Sony MDR-7506 are well known for its general neutral sound and accuracy. However, this just eked out the Scarlett Solo for its flat response across the board and this was more noticeable in the midrange. This difference was still quite minute, but the balanced sound made the Sound Blaster X5 just a bit more preferable. Details were easily discernable and smooth. This was definitely more apparent compared to my phone. Not only was the audio louder, but it was also much more detailed with no harshness of sound. I also noticed a slightly wider soundstage with the Creative external sound card.

On the other hand, there was one slight usability annoyance. Every time I plugged my headphones in or out, I could hear some clicking noises. This is likely related to the fact the Creative Sound Blaster X5 automatically changes output when headphones are plugged in or out, but it was distracting.

As for the microphone quality, I utilized Audacity to record and exported the captured audio as an MP3 file. I used the well-reviewed microphone on my Antlion Audio Kimura Duo. Unsurprisingly, the Kimura Duo was quite usable. My voice was easily captured, and the background white noise was a bit reduced compared to the original recordings. However, most of the characteristics of the microphone remain the same, which is not too surprising. Overall, the Kimura Duo is still limited by its own capabilities, and the Creative Sound Blaster X5 was faithful in maintaining these characteristics.

When testing out the different effects in Creative app, you can hear all of them in the recording above. Breaking it down, you can hear the artificial filter each effect adds, whether it is to reduce background noise or remove echoes. The noise reduction mode definitely lowered the background noise, but it also took a bit off the top end. This made me sound like I was speaking into something as my voice sounded a bit muffled. It also introduced a different staticky noise, which was potentially even more distracting. The echo reduction mode was somewhat similar, as my low notes in my sentence felt cut off. Smart volume made the microphone extremely sensitive, which may not be the best, but it has its time and place. This is the same sentiment I have for the voice changer and microphone equalizer. They definitely function as expected, but I am not sure when I will use it in practice.

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