( 4.5 Average / 4 Ratings )
I can't say much about it since I received it as a gift and I'm no audiophile, but it looks incredibly sleek. The LED strip that comes with it is also very good and has magnets for steel parts. Plugs are in sorta odd spots but it's tolerable if you have grommets in the right places.
bought this and the schiit fulla 2 to compare them, and in terms of sound quality these come out on top and the lighting fits my build, the software is pretty finicky though but actually bearable compared to nzxt cam so i dont mind. just make sure to set youre speakers or headphones to "Direct" mode because it bypasses the software and sounds better (i think so at least) unless you need software enhancements like the virtual surround.
The Sound Blaster AE-5 might seem like a superfluous addition to my system given ASUS' 'SupremeFX' sound on the Z270E motherboard. I added the AE-5 mostly out of dissatisfaction with the drivers for the onboard audio, which would consistently forget my impedance settings and ALWAYS default to outputting 'Extreme Amplification' which would make any volume level higher than "On" too loud for my A2+'s. The sound quality from the onboard was also lacking, sounding no more dynamic than what I get out of my phone. This isn't surprising, since the onboard is just (yet another) some Realtek DAC with a beefier amplifier behind it. Adding the AE-5 opened a world of good things. After turning off the audio post-processing effects (seriously, don't use that crap,) I not only noticed a significant improvement to the sound of my speakers, it completely TRANSFORMED the way my headphones (Yamaha HPH-200) sound. The AE-5 has an incredible built-in headphone amp with a dedicated output. My headphones gained a deep richness I didn't know they had. Better yet, I can leave my headphones plugged in and switch between Speaker or Headphone output through software (!!!) The AE-5 is seriously worth the money alone as a kickass internal headphone amp.
The one con I can put against the card is that it only has three possible output modes: 5.1 surround, 2.0 Stereo, or Headphones. The card has no means to do a 2.1 or 4.1 speaker setup with a separate dedicated powered subwoofer. I use a Kanto SUB6 along with my A2+'s, and I was initially disappointed to find out I couldn't separate an LFE channel from the card itself. The A2+'s at least have a subwoofer connection, so I'm spared there. Just keep that in mind if you have a custom setup that isn't 5.1 exactly, or you'll have missing channels in your audio --- the AE-5 will NOT redirect unused channels to FR/FL.
Just don't buy into it for its supposed lighting capabilities -- aside from customizing the light-up logo on the card, it's near useless as a tasteful lighting controller. It can't sync with other tech and lacks any of the subtleties that AURA or NZXT's Hue system can do. Stick to sound, Creative, lol, the lighting aspect of the AE-5 was seriously unnecessary and I would've rather seen the card be $20 cheaper without those features or included LED strip in the box.
I've been a Sound Blaster fan since the first card came out some 17 years ago. This card boasts an amplified headphone port for those demanding wired headsets on the market, and crystal clear audio and surround. The RGB lighting is pretty cool looking too. Comes with a LED strip that plugs into the card.