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Creative Sound Blaster X5 Interface Review

Rate this audio interface

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 19 10.7%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 78 44.1%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 73 41.2%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 7 4.0%

  • Total voters
    177
Yeah X5 is complete failure (in European countries cost 310 euros!!!) for that money I can buy G6 (already have but for contest sake but it can cost less then 100 euros on begining of each month on Creative site) plus JDS Atom Amp+ (which can power much better than X5), AKG K240 Sextett in good condition and EDT 770VB for Sextett.

G6 is good jack of all trades for nonhardcore headphone enjoyer (and gives me option to utilize virtual 7.1 so games and some music sound good, SB Command and ASIO drivers now work good enough to be usable) and use almost same DAC chip (yes they are more like a twins but difference isnt too much noticable). Also quality of X5 is questionable (plastic case, knob isnt as accurate how Creative claims- not suprising, microphone USB DSP is pure dumpster fire), no Dolby or DTS decoder so not even PS4/PS5 can make X5 do some lossy virtual 5.1/7.1 surround, no XLR so kiss goodbye true balanced setup (AE-9 has it and cost less then X5), Bluetooth codecs are alredy outdated when X5 came out. DSD 256 can only Windows users, Mac is stuck with DoP 128. Only that X5 beat over G6 is direct mode can use microphone unlike G6.
Yeah, some good points (and I'll take your word for it in some of your points in your second paragraph because I've not investigated those)! You say though that G6 is really only for a "nonhardcore headphone enjoyer", but I just want to disagree with that, it measures really good when reviewed here on ASR and the headphone amp has a good amount of power, and you can also combine it with a relatively inexpensive but good measuring headphone amp like the JDS Labs Atom Amp (which is what both you & I have done) if you need more power. I actually don't need the JDS Labs Atom Amp, but I bought it when I knew less about audio science - I thought it would give me better sound quality, theoretically it does have less distortion and lower noise but in practical terms I doubt I'd notice a difference, but I still use the Atom Amp for the theoretical benefits. But I'll agree with you if you mean that the G6 won't drive the absolutely hardest to drive headphones to ear bleeding levels, so I'll agree with that - but that's only a very small proportion of headphones.
 
Oh man 20 years ago my first computer and audio system was a small Creative 5.1 system, full plastic with small plastic subwoofer. Lmp Bizkit Break Stuff was so glorious with it.
So I guess I have fond memories for Creative, but I dont know where this would fit in my life now. I guess the Chinese just build better items particularly in this price range.
 
Yeah, some good points (and I'll take your word for it in some of your points in your second paragraph because I've not investigated those)! You say though that G6 is really only for a "nonhardcore headphone enjoyer", but I just want to disagree with that, it measures really good when reviewed here on ASR and the headphone amp has a good amount of power, and you can also combine it with a relatively inexpensive but good measuring headphone amp like the JDS Labs Atom Amp (which is what both you & I have done) if you need more power. I actually don't need the JDS Labs Atom Amp, but I bought it when I knew less about audio science - I thought it would give me better sound quality, theoretically it does have less distortion and lower noise but in practical terms I doubt I'd notice a difference, but I still use the Atom Amp for the theoretical benefits. But I'll agree with you if you mean that the G6 won't drive the absolutely hardest to drive headphones to ear bleeding levels, so I'll agree with that - but that's only a very small proportion of headphones.
I mainly use Atom+ for my "new" AKG K240 Sextett Late Production and K240 DF (Sextett drivers), for those cans G6 lose breath, but for newer Monitors (still 600 ohm but is close like DT-880 600 ohm power driving) G6 is fine enough (with some modification: turning off RGB light, set Windows Power management for USB ports at max so no Eco optimization, using cooling for long hours section). AKG K260 Pro is also in G6 range.

I don't think that Amir, Soldierdude and Oratory1990 would use G6 for everyday like you and me, G6 is what USB 2.0 power and data transfer would look like at maximum power and X5 with USB 3.0 can beat that with no struggle but at consequences with quality and software dumpster fire.

For X5 problem know because I am still present in r/SoundBlasterOfficial community and every month people complains about X5 software, hardware and if I am honest: I have not big hopes in X5 before came out, but after few weeks X5 show all problems. My activity in community is helping someone who have problem with G6 I will try to help him. Also made some comparison between G6 and X5:

Still problem with USB microphone persisted and Bluetooth playing.
 
I mainly use Atom+ for my "new" AKG K240 Sextett Late Production and K240 DF (Sextett drivers), for those cans G6 lose breath, but for newer Monitors (still 600 ohm but is close like DT-880 600 ohm power driving) G6 is fine enough (with some modification: turning off RGB light, set Windows Power management for USB ports at max so no Eco optimization, using cooling for long hours section). AKG K260 Pro is also in G6 range.

I don't think that Amir, Soldierdude and Oratory1990 would use G6 for everyday like you and me, G6 is what USB 2.0 power and data transfer would look like at maximum power and X5 with USB 3.0 can beat that with no struggle but at consequences with quality and software dumpster fire.

For X5 problem know because I am still present in r/SoundBlasterOfficial community and every month people complains about X5 software, hardware and if I am honest: I have not big hopes in X5 before came out, but after few weeks X5 show all problems. My activity in community is helping someone who have problem with G6 I will try to help him. Also made some comparison between G6 and X5:

Still problem with USB microphone persisted and Bluetooth playing.
You mentioned Amir/Solderdude/Oratory in terms of if they'd use G6 is neither here nor there, it's a gaming DAC/amp which is also very good for quality music reproduction - if they're not gamers then they'd have no reason to buy it. But, to conclude, yeah, we both think the X5 is a horrible gaming DAC for a few reasons, with my main one being the fact that the X5 is not seen as a multichannel device by Windows operating system, so it's not a real multichannel virtual surround sound device - it's a sham.
 
its a weird one... decades ago Creative was an industry standard and today they are trying to maintain any market at all

Yes, its sad that Windows Vista and above killed hardware soundcard support. I got a Creative Labs X-Fi Elite Pro for $400 back in 2006. It supported the top spec EAX that Creative had.

It was fun loading up Thief Deadly Shadows and checking the boxes for EAX Advanced finally. It sounded amazing. These days ANY computer can do the same thing with software EAX, ofc it doesn't sound exactly the same because of all the little tweaks you can do in the .ini files but still its nice.

I wish EAX never died and I REALLY wish that 3D audio was a standard thing in all games.
 
Yes, its sad that Windows Vista and above killed hardware soundcard support. I got a Creative Labs X-Fi Elite Pro for $400 back in 2006. It supported the top spec EAX that Creative had.

It was fun loading up Thief Deadly Shadows and checking the boxes for EAX Advanced finally. It sounded amazing. These days ANY computer can do the same thing with software EAX, ofc it doesn't sound exactly the same because of all the little tweaks you can do in the .ini files but still its nice.

I wish EAX never died and I REALLY wish that 3D audio was a standard thing in all games.
Is there any particular solution for the software EAX that you are using on modern Windows? Is there a modern version of ALChemy of similar software, that would also work with any device?
 
Is there any particular solution for the software EAX that you are using on modern Windows? Is there a modern version of ALChemy of similar software, that would also work with any device?

Yes, you can get EAX working on any modern PC, however if it will sound the way it did back in the day is another issue:

That is what I used to play through Thief: Deadly Shadows earlier this year, basically you edit the .ini files to tune the bass boost to your liking, but that doesn't mean that is how the bass sounded in 2004 when it was actually done on hardware.
 
Yeah X5 is complete failure (in European countries cost 310 euros!!!) for that money I can buy G6 (already have but for contest sake but it can cost less then 100 euros on begining of each month on Creative site) plus JDS Atom Amp+ (which can power much better than X5), AKG K240 Sextett in good condition and EDT 770VB for Sextett.

G6 is good jack of all trades for nonhardcore headphone enjoyer (and gives me option to utilize virtual 7.1 so games and some music sound good, SB Command and ASIO drivers now work good enough to be usable) and use almost same DAC chip (yes they are more like a twins but difference isnt too much noticable). Also quality of X5 is questionable (plastic case, knob isnt as accurate how Creative claims- not suprising, microphone USB DSP is pure dumpster fire), no Dolby or DTS decoder so not even PS4/PS5 can make X5 do some lossy virtual 5.1/7.1 surround, no XLR so kiss goodbye true balanced setup (AE-9 has it and cost less then X5), Bluetooth codecs are alredy outdated when X5 came out. DSD 256 can only Windows users, Mac is stuck with DoP 128. Only that X5 beat over G6 is direct mode can use microphone unlike G6.
Hello,

I don't understand all praises for the Soundblaster G6 (which i have), the G6 software don't work at all on MacOS (or in Windows Virtualization)
And worse: it's limited to 44.1/48khz... because you can't activate Direct Mode (or Stereo Direct in Mac) only work on limited DSP mode (and you have to set DSP in Windows before use on Mac)

In Pure/Direct Mode, the G6 led "scout mode" twinkle (and no sound at all)

So maybe nobody use Macbook Pro but it's strange that in an audiophile and perfectionist HiFi world... nobody talk about the best PC portable option.

For me, X5 is better product than G6 today, because he has a new update software and probably 24bits/192khz compatibility, so it's just much better on Mac than G6, so i don't understand why everybody here advice to buy an old product which isn't update anymore (because it's so restrict now for Mac users...despite sellers say it's Mac compatible...)

Like Xonar Essence One (and derivate MKII/ Muses) we can't advice old DAC/Amp which have lot of problem to connect with new OS/computer, that's why some people need to change for newer solution like X5.

That's sadly obsolescence, Creative (like Asus) update firmware/software just for few years...and you are too dependent from the software part so... can't use your product at 100% capacity for long time with all OS.
 
I can't really figure out what is the target suitable for this product.

Home studio isn't, one would buy an actual audio interface.

Gamers and streamers? An actual audio interface is always better.

Home listening? Though good performance, there's plenty of cheaper DAC that do better.

I'm not blaming the product but I can't understand the purpose of a device lying (IMHO) in-between of nowhere in the market.

I'm not gonna pay $200+ for any DAC that doesn't have balanced line-outs.
 
Hello,

I don't understand all praises for the Soundblaster G6 (which i have), the G6 software don't work at all on MacOS (or in Windows Virtualization)
And worse: it's limited to 44.1/48khz... because you can't activate Direct Mode (or Stereo Direct in Mac) only work on limited DSP mode (and you have to set DSP in Windows before use on Mac)

In Pure/Direct Mode, the G6 led "scout mode" twinkle (and no sound at all)

So maybe nobody use Macbook Pro but it's strange that in an audiophile and perfectionist HiFi world... nobody talk about the best PC portable option.

For me, X5 is better product than G6 today, because he has a new update software and probably 24bits/192khz compatibility, so it's just much better on Mac than G6, so i don't understand why everybody here advice to buy an old product which isn't update anymore (because it's so restrict now for Mac users...despite sellers say it's Mac compatible...)

Like Xonar Essence One (and derivate MKII/ Muses) we can't advice old DAC/Amp which have lot of problem to connect with new OS/computer, that's why some people need to change for newer solution like X5.

That's sadly obsolescence, Creative (like Asus) update firmware/software just for few years...and you are too dependent from the software part so... can't use your product at 100% capacity for long time with all OS.
They're still selling the SoundblasterX G6 so it's still a supported product, and they'll support it for a number of years after they stop selling it I imagine, so updates should be forthcoming for a few years yet I would have thought - in fact the Soundblaster Command Software was updated for it just a week or so ago (v3.5.10.0). I use it on Windows 11 on PC and it's totally fine and works properly, but I've never tried it on a Mac which is what you're talking about. For some reason on the Creative Soundblaster G6 web page they say that the G6 is supported on "PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC", so they don't actually mention Mac in the text, however in a table lower down they do show Mac as being compatible, but yes in that table they say that the software doesn't work on the Mac so that means you have to set it up on PC first and then hook the device up to a Mac, which is not ideal - it's probably not the right product to buy if you've got a Mac. In the gaming sphere Macs just aren't popular or common, so for the target audience (gamers) it doesn't matter much that Mac is not as fully supported as PC when it comes to the SoundblasterX G6. If you're a gamer, which I'm guessing you are if you're considering a gaming DAC, then you'd probably be better off ditching the Mac and sorting yourself out with a PC/Windows based gaming option. Macs are overpriced & limited as a gaming platform.
 
They're still selling the SoundblasterX G6 so it's still a supported product, and they'll support it for a number of years after they stop selling it I imagine, so updates should be forthcoming for a few years yet I would have thought - in fact the Soundblaster Command Software was updated for it just a week or so ago (v3.5.10.0). I use it on Windows 11 on PC and it's totally fine and works properly, but I've never tried it on a Mac which is what you're talking about. For some reason on the Creative Soundblaster G6 web page they say that the G6 is supported on "PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC", so they don't actually mention Mac in the text, however in a table lower down they do show Mac as being compatible, but yes in that table they say that the software doesn't work on the Mac so that means you have to set it up on PC first and then hook the device up to a Mac, which is not ideal - it's probably not the right product to buy if you've got a Mac. In the gaming sphere Macs just aren't popular or common, so for the target audience (gamers) it doesn't matter much that Mac is not as fully supported as PC when it comes to the SoundblasterX G6. If you're a gamer, which I'm guessing you are if you're considering a gaming DAC, then you'd probably be better off ditching the Mac and sorting yourself out with a PC/Windows based gaming option. Macs are overpriced & limited as a gaming platform.
I bought G6 for Xbox at 1st... then i finally used it for Windows because I have other DAC/Amp and had some problem with Xonar E.O Muses (with USB 3.0)
G6 wasn't really better than Mixamp (with or without Dolby Atmos Software) for FPS gaming.

Yes, Creative show a table with Mac and it say that "direct mode" is compatible but that's not true, i could do without the software but staying limited at 44.1khz that's really no sense when you have FLAC 24 bits collection... or Qobuz/Tidal HiFi option.
Lot of people complain about that, Creative know the situation and really don't care about support for old DAC because they sell newer DAC/amp now (like X5) which have the last software.. so they know you have to buy X5 if you want the update....
Asus did the same with Xonar E.O (any update since 2015 i guess), the Asus was better in my opinion (but no EQ/software)

You can't neglect Macbook (or iPad) they are best portable option since Apple Silicon ARM (M1, M2, M3...) which humiliate Intel... so Creative make a big mistake. Lot of people make the Windows>MacOs transition (and you can partially use Windows on Mac)

Best processor, great battery life, very low power consumption/efficiency, really noiseless (that's important when your computer is your musical source) and great power multitasking machine, mini Led screen, best loud speaker, awesome finish, Magsafe....
I have/ had expensive Dell XPS, Alienware, Asus OLED laptop etc... they simply can't compete with last Macbook for all (except gaming like you say but i don't play anymore on laptop and now you have cloud solution)
Windows laptop are transportable and not real portable too, battery life are always a joke.

High end laptop are now Macbook Pro... so when you spend lot of $$$ for HiFi, why neglect the best laptop on the market ? that's no sense, lot of "audiophile" have now a Mac...that's often the same customers... and that a "Windows" user since decades who wrote that...;)
 
Can someone share DSD driver for X5, I want to test it can communicate with G6, in theory should because both device use eccentially same DAC chip ?
 
What is the competition for X5 on PC, for mix-use-gaming-listening with headphones

- Dedicated power input (not USB-C powered)
- Powerful enough built-in headphone amplifier to power to drive harder to drive >300Ohm headphones (unbalanced)
- Mic input with adjustable gain and good enough mic preamps (phantom power switch is a plus)
- Just works on windows 10/11 w/o any additional drivers installed (i.e. NOT dependent on ASIO or crashing drivers like most of the "prosumer" audio recording interfaces from focus, motu, steinberg, etc)
- USB-C input

So good enough for gaming, listening to music on harder to drive headphones.

I've had the separate DAC/AMP route while routing the mic input to cheap motherboard soundcard input, but this is just too many different parts, the mic input is horrible (and also lacking gain). I can get a good DAC/headphone output that way, but no way to get decent mic input with adjustable (physical knob) gain and good enough quality and all-in-one solution

Does such a thing exist? Something better than Sound Blaster X5?

 
What is the competition for X5 on PC, for mix-use-gaming-listening with headphones

- Dedicated power input (not USB-C powered)
- Powerful enough built-in headphone amplifier to power to drive harder to drive >300Ohm headphones (unbalanced)
- Mic input with adjustable gain and good enough mic preamps (phantom power switch is a plus)

- Just works on windows 10/11 w/o any additional drivers installed (i.e. NOT dependent on ASIO or crashing drivers like most of the "prosumer" audio recording interfaces from focus, motu, steinberg, etc)
- USB-C input

So good enough for gaming, listening to music on harder to drive headphones.

I've had the separate DAC/AMP route while routing the mic input to cheap motherboard soundcard input, but this is just too many different parts, the mic input is horrible (and also lacking gain). I can get a good DAC/headphone output that way, but no way to get decent mic input with adjustable (physical knob) gain and good enough quality and all-in-one solution

Does such a thing exist? Something better than Sound Blaster X5?
I keep going on about the G6 in this thread, and it would do everything you want apart from it's USB powered and for gaming it's best to have it install the Creative drivers & software, but I don't really see the problem in that.
 
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