For more than a month now I have been using the Sound Blaster E5 DAC and I am ready to answer some questions about it that I have had asked myself before buying it.
Do you need a DAC for your music?
Well, the truth is, 90% of us don’t. This is especially true if you listen music from your mobile only, via a service like Spotify. If you listen to music during your daily commute and that’s about it, the my advice is not to get any DAC. If instead you have good headphones, well encoded music, or you just want to Listen, then yes, a DAC might be for you.
But what about day-to-day listening?
Well, here the biggest issue is that the Sound Blaster E5 is not a Bluetooth sender; it is only a Bluetooth receiver. This means that you cannot wirelessly pair your Bose QuietComfort 35 to the E5. You will always need a cable between the DAC and the headphones, but you will not need a cable connection between your phone (or computer) and the E5. Personally I found myself willing to sacrifice sound quality over the wirelessness.
Another issue is that the Sound Blaster E5 is rather big; “Inconvenient” is the right word in this case. You have to carry around something that is bigger than your phone, all the time, to enjoy that improved sound. If you are on the move all the time you will simply not do it. No matter how much you are convinced that you will.
Having this in mind, would I buy the Sound Blaster E5 again?
Well, I am leaning towards “no, I would not”. The sound improvement is certainly there; everything just sounds deeper, sharper, better; the fact that you can connect two headphones is a nice plus since I can share excellent sound while watching movies on a tablet with someone.
Yet, the Sound Blaster is often in the way. Remember: you will have to connect your headphones to the E5, pair the E5, make sure the battery is not empty, every time you want to listen to something.
Speaking of the battery, this is also a bit disappointing: eight hours before recharging might look like a lot, but you might often forget to recharge it. And when you’ll need it, it won’t be there for you. I am sure you already have to charge your phone everyday, maybe your smartwatch too, your noise canceling headphones; you don’t want to add the DAC to the list.
So what’s the point of this DAC?
To take full advantage of the Sound Blaster E5 you have to see the device from another angle. More than a mobile DAC to enhance the audio on the go you should see it as a DAC for your computer or home-theater. This is especially true if you have a Mini-ITX system that does not allow for a soundcard inside the case.
If you want an excellent sound coming from your mini-PC and you do not want 5 speakers around the house plus a subwoofer, the Sound Blaster E5 is for you; get a pair of great stereo speakers, connect your Sound Blaster E5 to them and your PC, and I guarantee you will be happy. You will be satisfied by the sound.((Hell, you can pair it and enjoy it with your headphones when you significant other has had enough of all the screaming coming from Battlefield.))
And if stereo is what you want, rather than 5.1, do not consider the Sound Blaster x7. Read the specifications: The E5 is vastly the same, but without the 5.1 outputs. The $200 difference is difficult to justify from where I stand.
So, in the end, my simple opinion is this: The Sound Blaster E5’s best application is not as a mobile DAC, but as a DAC for you PC or home theater. Yes: it is great for headphones, but too inconvenient due to its size and battery life. Better to keep it at home, and enjoy it with your sound system.