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Review and Measurements of Sound Blaster Omni 5.1 DAC

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of the Creative Labs Sound Blaster Omni 5.1 Surround computer DAC. It is on kind loan from a member. It retails for US 89.99 but I see it on Amazon with Prime shipping for US $74.99. It is quite a bargain given the rich feature set of 5.1 channels output, dual microphone input with beam forming (reduces background noise), and microphone and line level ins.

Despite the best attempt to make a fancy looking external DAC, in person the Omni 5.1 looks and feels cheap:

Sound Blaster Omni Surround 51 PC DAC Audio Review.jpg

The rotary volume control sadly does nothing by itself. I suspect if you install the Sound Blaster crapware, it will then be hooked up into the Windows sound volume control. A shame.

Connectivity is very good though:
Sound Blaster Omni Surround 51 PC DAC Back Panel Audio Review.jpg

Speaking of crapware, once again I was not able to capture anything from the Omni 5.1 over USB and ASIO4ALL interface I use. Windows would see the input but I could not get anything through this ASIO interface. Creative Labs provides an ASIO interface but it is only for playback, not recording. I thought maybe I could get output from the Toslink so installed the 150 megabyte crapware package. That software doesn't instill confidence when it has dates of 2013 (or was it 2011?). And at any rate, Toslink output seems to be for playback only, not routing analog input to it. So I had to give up and uninstall the half a dozen random junk it installed on my machine.

DAC Audio Measurements
Using Line out, let's see how the Omni 5.1 performs as a DAC:

Sound Blaster Omni Surround 51 PC DAC Line Out Audio Measurements.png


I had such low expectations that I was surprised by decent performance of it in this regard. Output voltage is too low but let's forgive that. The SINAD just barely makes it into third tier performance of all DACs tested:
Best Audio DACs reviewed and Measured 2019.png


Dynamic range is a few dBs short of what we need for proper 16 bit/CD playback:
Sound Blaster Omni Surround 51 PC DAC Line Out Dynamic Range Audio Measurements.png


That higher noise floor sneaks into other measurements such as intermodulation (plus noise) versus level:
Sound Blaster Omni Surround 51 PC DAC Line Out IMD Audio Measurements.png


Jitter performance shows that the incoming PCM bits can modulate the output of the DAC:
Sound Blaster Omni Surround 51 PC DAC Line Out jitter Audio Measurements.png


The series of pulses you see are the spectrum of the 250 Hz square wave in the J-test signal. They should be invisible since they are toggling at the bottom of the 24-bit sample. Fortunately likely not an audible concern.

Linearity is where the wheels fall off the wagon:
Sound Blaster Omni Surround 51 PC DAC Line Out Linearity Audio Measurements.png


Something is seriously wrong with processing of 24-bit audio samples I use for this test. The zigzag nature tends to indicate truncation error. This may be due to the ASIO4ALL interface I use on top of it although I did not see an indication of it in the dashboard FFT. Either way, you have about 80 dB of usable range or about 13 bits of resolution.

Surround Channel Performance
I got lucky that the rear channels were accessible though ASIO4ALL interface so ran the dashboard against them:

Sound Blaster Omni Surround 51 PC DAC Line Out Rear Channels Audio Measurements.png


Performance is essentially the same as front channels. I suspect this is an 8 channel DAC chip so not surprising that this is the case. So good news.

Headphone Audio Measurements
Here is our Dashboard using the headphone out jack:

Sound Blaster Omni Surround 51 PC DAC Headphone Audio Measurements.png


We get a bit more output which is nice so you may want to use this as DAC line out since it performs better.

Most important here is power versus distortion so here it is at 300 ohm:

Sound Blaster Omni Surround 51 PC DAC Headphone Power at 300 ohm Audio Measurements.png


Sadly, we get very low output level of just 14 milliwatts. Then again it matches the low gain output of the Topping DX3 Pro so if you have that product and are happy with its power, maybe you will be OK here too. I like to see 100 milliwatts here.

33 Ohm performance is also poor:
Sound Blaster Omni Surround 51 PC DAC Headphone Power at 33 ohm Audio Measurements.png


But now we have severe current limiting causing that sudden rise in distortion.

Output impedance is a high 19 ohm:

Best Headphone Amplifier Measurement Output Impedance.png


Conclusions
Creative crams a lot of functionality in this budget product. If you need both ADC and DAC functionality, or cheap surround support, the Omni 5.1 does the job without anything being seriously broken. The headphone output despite the claims from Creative of "High Performance Headphone Amp" is just a checklist item. It will work in a pinch but is not my choice for a proper headphone amplifier.

For something like this, you don't need my recommendation or lack thereof. I let you decide for yourself.

------------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

I am so damn cheap that I do all of my yard maintenance equipment maintenance myself. Been spending countless hours sanding and then refinishing the rusty mower deck on a John Deere riding mower. Man, these things are made to rust on their own. Anyway, if you want me to have more time doing reviews and less time spent on agricultural products, send some more money my way using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

bravomail

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#4
This is a review and detailed measurements of the Creative Labs Sound Blaster Omni 5.1 Surround
So having external DAC/ADC is not always the ticket. It is one of the many conditions. :)
Thanks for review!
 

Veri

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#7
As an alternative to ASIO4ALL have you tried ASIO2WASAPI? It's what Schiit uses to drive their AP :p (that way they don't need a driver).
 
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#9
Why don't chi-fi manufacturers make a 6 or 8 channel DAC? The market is literally up for grabs.
I have a Topping D10 sitting around collecting dust since I realized using my onboard soundcard as a crossover is more convenient although I'm probably losing 15db of SNR.
 

amirm

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#10

amirm

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#11
As an alternative to ASIO4ALL have you tried ASIO2WASAPI? It's what Schiit uses to drive their AP :p (that way they don't need a driver).
Oh, I did not know about this. THanks! I will look into it.
 
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#13
It was never even intended for those who want the best. As a complete package I think it does quite well for it's intended use. At this point it's really outdated though and G6 wipes the floor with it
 
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