For those looking for an external sound card solution capable of delivering the same great experience found in any Sound Blaster product while also providing a great headphone experience, Creative has a new product for you. The company has released the new Sound Blaster X5, which is a hi-res dual-DAC external sound card and headphone amp.
As its name suggests, it has two DACs inside (2x Cirrus Logic CS43198 DACs), separating both channels into their own chips. It features a fully balanced Xamp headphone bi-amplifier with 3 stages of amplification circuits designed to provide an enhanced user experience compared to a normal sound card.
It’s capable of up to 32-bit / 384 kHz PCM playback at 130 dB DNR. As well as support for up to DSD256. It offers customizable DSP EQ function, multiple input/output options, and separate control for both output volume and microphone.
As for the connectivity, you can connect both balanced and unbalanced headphone connections to the front of the external unit, as well as a microphone.
The backside has connections for RCA in and out as well as optical in and out. Allowing you to capture both analog and digital audio, as well as output to speakers or amps/receivers in either format. It doesn’t just end there though as it also supports Bluetooth, allowing you to wireless stream music from your mobile devices to it. There is also a USB port on the back that allows you to connect a supported Bluetooth transmitter so that it can also output to wireless speakers or headphones (for some reason, that function isn’t built-in). It can also support USB mics and headsets.
In other words, when it comes to audio, you can pretty much ignore any inputs or outputs anywhere else on your computer or laptop as this external solution handles it all. At least, with the exception of Bluetooth out, unless you buy one of their adapters (or possibly third-party options).
The Sound Blaster X5 retails for $279 and is currently available via Creative’s website. We haven’t had a chance to play with it ourselves just yet, so we couldn’t say how well it lives up to the price tag, but it does seem to be within a reasonable range. It will likely become available via additional online/offline retail outlets in the near future.