Sound cards are one of those devices you don’t know you need until you’ve used one. On-board audio has gotten much better with recent years, but it still doesn’t stand up to Creatives high-end solutions. Even Creative adds their audio as on-board solution to motherboard manufacturers. Sound cards usually take up important card slots, but with USB getting more powerful, Creative has come up with some interesting solutions. The G5 is just as powerful as a dedicated sound card within your system. Let take a look at what makes this sound card so powerful.
The G5 specifications are as follows:
- Audio Technology – SB-Axx1
- Signal-to-Noise Ratio– (SNR) 120dB (DAC)
- Connectivity Options– MicroUSB / Line / Optical In: 1 x 3.5mm jack/ Line / Optical Out : 1 x 3.5mm jack/ 4-pole Headphone-out with Mic: 1 x 3.5mm jack/ Dedicated Mic In : 1 x 3.5mm jack
- Max Channel Output– Stereo
- Audio Technologies– CrystalVoice/ Scout Mode
- Supported Operating Systems– Mac OS X v10.8 and above/ Windows 10/ Windows 8.1/ Windows 8/ Windows 7/ Windows Vista
- Dimensions– 6.2 x 1.7 x 5.8 inches
Creative shipped the G5 in a standard UPS box. The box itself is small but appealing, and showcases the product on the front.
The device is well packaged inside, and provides nice black felt to hold the G5.
The accessories included are:
- Sound BlasterX G5
- Quick Start Leaflet
- Warranty Leaflet
- Micro USB Cable
- Mini TOSLINK cable
The G5 is a high performance external sound card with built-in SB-Axx1™ multi-core chipset for hardware accelerated audio. Even a basic motherboard stereo gets transformed into 3D virtual surround sound on your headset. The G5 also supports multi-channel content, and 7.1 audio mixing for ultra-realistic surround sound into your headphones.
The G5 also supports gaming consoles and was built with precision audiophile components. The G5 delivers a best-in-class stereo experience for gaming consoles with high-resolution of 24-bit/192kHz, 120dB USB DAC hardware driven audio playback that enables you to experience your gaming audio soundtrack in amazing detail.
I really enjoy the black look with red lighting. This aesthetically goes with most gaming hardware color schemes. Also what is cool is the USB cable provided has a red cable with black USB heads. The cable is made of thick rubber and feels flexible. The cord negatively does not feel long enough to give you proper placement of the G5. I just barley had enough room on my desk past my monitor to position the G5 where I wanted it. The bottom of the device is really nice and prevents the G5 from sliding around your desk or surface. Sometimes little features like this don’t always get noticed.
The front of the G5 has a backlit volume control knob with illuminated indicator. This creates easy accessibility during game play for volume control, and is incredibly useful in low-lighting conditions. The front also has two 3.5mm jacks for inline headset and microphone. I also like the use of the gold connectors for the G5. This will provide better connectivity to the devices plugged in.
The G5 has audiophile-grade headphone amplifier, and built-in SB-Axx1 audio processor. The G5 is capable of driving headphones up to 600Ω of impedance. The dedicated SBX profile selection allows different gaming modes and hardware accelerated enhancements. Scout mode provides immersive FPS features, and there is a quick button on the right side of the G5. You can store up to three audio profiles on the G5, and also use the dedicated SBX profile button to switch between all three quickly.
The G5 provides plenty of connectivity options and includes:
- Line-in and Line out
- USB device port with output of 100mA
- Dedicated headset and mic jacks ( on front of device)
The G5 is well designed and has plenty of features making it a superior device during your long gaming sessions. The audio experienced during game-play is fantastic in both high and low acoustics, and the bass is deep and rich.
The Blaster X Acoustic Engine Pro is optimized for your game-play and engineered to impress you with extraordinary sound, the G5 represents true innovation in sound, beyond the realm of physical limitations through audio enhancements.
The software is really easy to install and setup. You need to install the software from Creatives website. Make sure you choose the correct Operating system. It would of been nice to have the software included, but most manufacturers require downloads for most products today.
Once you install the software you will be able to set up your various profiles and setting for the G5. When you launch the software you will have a screen showing your connected G5. I am testing the G5 with Creatives Sound Blaster X H5. This headset will really help the G5 shine, and show its true ability in audio quality and performance. You can see an indicator of your volume level and an interesting surround demo. The surround demo is really cool and allows you to adjust a virtual helicopter around. This works rather well and really showcases the sound cards ability to distribute virtual 7.1 surround sound. All the different Settings in the software can easily be turned on or off with the power symbol.
Some settings automatically get disabled when others are turned on. Scout mode for instance turns of the acoustic engine, and vice versa.
The profile tab allows you to control and select different profiles for your G5. You can create up to three custom profiles, or use one of sever built-in profiles Creative has added.
Creative has several built-in profiles for different gaming styles:
- Adventure and action
- Driving simulation
- First person shooter
- Specific games even have built-in profiles like Dota/ Call of Duty/ Counter-Strike Global offensive
They offer several more to fit really anyone’s style of gaming.
The acoustic engine tab has settings for:
- Smart volume
- Dialog plus
These settings are all adjustable, and you can play demos above to test your settings. The demos include:
- Fist person preview
- Movie preview
- Music preview
The equalizer allows you to create custom settings as well as several preset profiles.
The profiles included are:
- New age
The scout mode tab offers proprietary software that allows you to hear your enemies from further away. This gives you a distinct tactical advantage in your games.You can create several hotkeys for your games to quickly turn this feature on or off. You also have the quick button on the right side of the G5. I tested this feature in Counter Strike Global Offensive, and you really can hear footsteps of your enemies louder than having this feature disabled.
The Voice FX tab offer the ability to have some fun. Using the H5 detachable microphone provided clear and crisp voice in all my testing. Voice FX allows you to change your voice and disguise yourself against others.
It offers several built-in profiles to change your voice from neutral to:
- Alien brute
- Alien infiltrator
- Deep voice
- Female to male
- From up north
- Male to female
- Scrappy kid
The advanced settings tab allows you to configure your headphone configuration as well as your other modes like SPDIF. It also provides testing for your output, and a mixer to adjust the volume levels for playback.
I wanted to do various gaming tests to really show off the ability of this sound card. I also wanted to showcase scout mode and give myself a competitive edge. I am going to test using Counter Strike Global Offensive, and the new DOOM.
The test bench used for testing is as follows:
- Motherboard- Z87x-UD3H
- CPU: Intel Core I7 4790K
- Network Card- netgear AC 1200 USB
- Cooler- H100i GTX V2
- Memory- Corsair Vengeance 16 GB 1866
- Video Card: EVGA NVidia Geforce GTX 970
- Storage- OCZ vertex 4 256 GB
- Power Supply- Corsair TX750m
- OS: Windows 10 x64 Pro
- Sound Card – Sound Blaster X G5 vs. Realtek onboard audio
- Headphones- Sound Blaster X H5
Counter Strike Global offensive really adapted well to scout mode. I did have a competitive edge when it came to hearing m enemies sooner. The directional audio is well situated to handle what direction footsteps were coming from. The H5 headphones really shined here with the use of the G5 and the technologies scout mode provides a player. The weapons and noises they made also helped me position where another player was firing from. I actually got extra kills in CS GO with scout mode turned on.
Instead of using scout mode I used the acoustic engine for DOOM. I used the first person profile provided from Creative. The bass was rich and sounds levels were fantastic compared to running the game on standard motherboard audio. I did test what each game sounded like with the G5 compared to my motherboards built-in audio solution from Realtek. I didn’t have another sound card to test against, but I am confident this card would stand out among the competition. There are only a few device manufactures that even make sound cards, ASUS being another popular choice.
I tested the high gain microphone provided with the H5, and it sounded extremely clear. I used tests like Skype, and Ventrilo. Masking your voice with Voice FX is really fun and a nice extra feature Creative provides in the Blaster X software.
Music, movies, and Games all sounded as expected with the G5. You can expect a bit more fidelity when selected the proper movie or music profiles Creative provides in the Blaster X software. I testing various songs, and movies with the different profiles. I found using the build in profiles provided the best listening and viewing experience.
Some negative things about the G5. I feel the included USB cord looks nice with its black and red scheme, but feels a bit short for desk positioning. The other thing I disliked was needing to download the software and not having it included. This can be problematic as Windows didn’t recognize my G5 at all until the device drivers were installed. Most USB sound devices are easily recognized without installing drivers. The software I can understand as these features are built into the program.
The G5 offers fantastic performance for the price. If you don’t want to take up valuable slots on your motherboard, this USB device really offers high gain audio for all your devices. The ability to swap this between consoles and your computer makes the G5 extremely versatile. The design is feature rich and looks really great with the black and red color scheme. The positional audio worked as expected and performed extremely well. Scout mode is a welcomed addition, and does provide a competitive edge in your games. The G5 quick buttons also provide quick selection of its features on the fly without closing my games, and also easily allows me to switch profiles easily. The software is feature rich and allows massive customization for everything. This has been by far one of the best sound cards I have ever tested overall. My favorite feature is the USB port on the back that allows other USB devices to be used at the same time. I was able to test another USB headset at the same time I used the H5 to compare results. You can also plug-in other devices such as mice. i highly recommend the G5 and you can purchase it right now on Amazon for $ 137.00.