Creative Labs SoundblasterX G5 7.1 USB portable sound card/amplifier picture

Review: Sound BlasterX G5 7.1 USB portable sound card/amplifier

SoundblasterX G5 front (top) and back (bottom). Credit – Creative Labs

The Creative Labs Sound BlasterX G5 7.1 portable sound card and amplifier is basically a USB-powered ‘boom box’ for your PC, providing HD audio, virtual surround sound, and plenty of extra “Waughmp” for your gaming PC/console/headset.

Sound BlasterX G5 feature highlights and specifications

The Sound BlasterX G5 is an external sound card/processor for your PC/console with a Creative Labs’ SB-Axx1 processor for processing audio. The Axx1 enables the G5 to deliver virtual 7.1 24-bit/192kHz, 120dB amplified audio. It basically helps you turn your existing headset or speakers up to “11”.

Sound BlasterX G5 Specifications

  • Audio TechnologySB-Axx1™
  • 24-bit/192kHz, 120dB USB Cirrus Logic CS4398 DAC
  • Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR) 120dB (DAC)
  • Connectivity Options (Main) 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, Dialog Plus
  • Texas Instruments TPA6120A2 headphone amplifier with 2.2Ω output impedance
  • Capable of driving headphones of up to 600Ω impedance and sensitive in-ear monitors.

3 additional buttons for Scout Mode (see below), one to switch between up to 3 SBX profile on or off, and a Gain Adjuster (Low or High) are on the right-hand side of the G5.

Soundblaster G5 picture
Sound BlasterX G5 – right side – (Credit-Creative Labs)

Perhaps more interesting than its sheer loudness, however, is the G5’s impressive software capabilities through the BlasterX Pro control panel. Briefly, these are as follows:

  • 11-channel equalizer with 10 presets.
  • Voice F/X (customizable voice modulations) with a dozen presets and the ability to tweak 8 different audio aspects of each one. Great if you want to change your voice. (Personally, I like changing my voice to sound like the Alvin and the Chipmunks. Best for comedy trash-talking.)
  • Scout Mode, which enables you to hear enemies from further away in games.
  • Acoustic Engine, which acts as a mixer for surround sound, bass, and governs Crystalizer (a sound enhancer), Smart Volume (to mitigate abrupt volume changes) and Dialog Plus (a voice/dialog enhancer for movies) features.
  • Advanced Settings with even more tweakable sound and mic options to adjust various volume and positional elements. There’s probably more here than most of us would ever use (which is exactly what PC gamers like to have).

Sound performance and evaluation

Creative Labs SoundblasterX G5 7.1 USB portable sound card/amplifier picture
Creative Labs SoundblasterX G5 7.1 USB portable sound card/amplifier (Credit – Bryan Edge-Salois)

The G5 definitely delivers on its promise(s). It delivers bigger, louder, better sound, and provides a huge number of features and options for tweaking all of it.

I mainly played with the G5 connected to a LucidSound LS30 (in passive mode, i.e. unpowered), and to a Razer Leviathan sound bar. (Just out of curiosity I also connected my smartphone to it and listened to some music, although I doubt this is something most of us would do.)

In both cases in boosted to audio significantly—significantly beyond comfortable levels of listening, particularly in the case of the LucidSound LS30.

I can at least say that I couldn’t detect any distortion. Although my bass-loving ear drums may have been bleeding.

The Acoustic Engine software and potential uses for the Sound BlasterX G5 enhance virtually every potential application: music, movies, and (of course) games. I tried in every application and still think I barely tapped about a 1/3 of what the G5 can do.

If you love tweaking your audio, the G5 provides a vast array of options and settings for you to play with.

I never identified any specific ‘audio weakness’ in any of my gaming, music, and movie playback. Granted, virtual surround through stereo headphones is tricky to do well, but the G5 managed a fair job of it, with distinct front left, front right, and center channels.

The right, left, and rear channels were harder to discern, but this is hardly unusual, especially when using the device with a headset and sound bar. (I suspect it would fare better in a true 7.1 speaker setup, but my gaming desktop environment won’t easily accommodate such.) Regardless, it’s probably not enough to make much of a difference in my Overwatch performance.

I also noticed that using the VoiceFX feature introduces a little latency between the time you speak and the time your voice is played back. If you have a headset that enables you to hear your own voice when you speak into the mic, it’s a little irritating–I’d recommend disabling the feature once you’ve created the perfect voice effect.

Soundblaster G5 (Credit – Creative Labs)

I also tried the Scout Mode feature, primarily to see if it would help me get an edge in Blizzard’s Overwatch. In all honesty I’m not sure it helped, but I’m still playing with it. Overwatch already provides relatively generous audio queues if enemies are nearby (i.e. it makes their footsteps louder), so I couldn’t tell if the Scout Mode was truly helping or not.)

The G5 could potentially benefit from better control placement. I like the large volume knob (which can also be pressed to mute) on the front, and adding an LED back light was a wise decision on Creative Labs’ part—no fumbling for knobs in the dark.

But the side buttons are small and the profile indicator LEDs even smaller.

Given that the device works best when the knob is facing you, placing the profile indicators on the side isn’t smart design.

The rear connectors might be better placed on the side of the device, although that’s debatable. I think the G5 works best if it’s placed in a static, prominent position near your keyboard, with the knob directly in front of you for easy adjustments. I prefer to use double-sided tape to adhere it underneath a desk shelf directly in front of me—but this  does make accessing the rear connectors awkward.

Overall: 8/10

The Sound BlasterX G5 adds a wealth of audio options and sound-boosting oomph to your PC/console. If you’re looking for an easy upgrade over the integrated audio on your PC motherboard, or you just want to improve/ boost your console’s audio, the G5 will do it.

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