Sound Blaster Connect
I really liked the Sound Blaster Connect software. It’s very user-friendly and easy to navigate. Not to mention the number of features they pack into this program. You first open to the dashboard. Across the top, you’ll see the different audio options that SB Connect can customize. First on the list is the AE-5. To the right of that, we see 720°. This is what SB Connect labels the Gaming 7’s onboard audio.
To the far left, from top to bottom, you have a few different sections. From top to bottom they are as follows: Dashboard, Sound, Voice, Lighting, Sign In, Setup and Settings. The next column is called BlasterX Experience. This section offers several presets, each with its own BlasterX Acoustic Engine settings. For gaming, movies, and TV, I use the Cinema Experience. For music, I used the Concert Experience. Each experience has five presets. These presets are Surround, Crystalizer, Bass, Smart Volume and Dialog. Each has its own slider to increase to decrease the value.
In addition to the BlasterX Experiences, there is also an Equalizer that has its own presets. This is under the Sound menu. With the Equalizer, you can adjust the bass and treble separately. Combining the customization of the equalizer and the BlasterX Experiences allows the user to fine-tune each level to an ideal level to one of the most personalized listening experiences I’ve ever had.
I spent a lot of time playing with the presets on the equalizer in the SB Connect software. There are several presets, more than I can name here. They have the basics such as gaming, cinema, classical and hip-hop just to name a few. They also have presets designed for specific games such as Battlefield 1, DOTA 2 and Overwatch. I selected the Battlefield 1 preset as my favorite equalizer preset.
Under the Voice menu, you have options such as noise reduction. This uses a noise gate to eliminate background noise. Next option is acoustic echo cancellation, which eliminates echo to a mic plugged into the line in port on the AE-5. Last in the voice menu is smart volume. With this option enabled, you can be heard clearly without having to shout or whisper. Is essentially adjusts your volume as you raise or lower your voice, so your audience always hears you at the same level. One of my favorite features of the SB Connect software is the Voice Morph Menu. There are 18 settings that allow you to change your voice, using the mic connected to the AE-5. They have some very amusing options in this menu. My personal favorite was the Demon voice. These settings can be applied while in chatting with friends online. I tested it with Steam Chat, Skype, and Discord. It works well. As mentioned before there are 18 options for voice morph, they are listed below:
- Deep Voice
- From Up North
Under the Setup section, you can configure your speakers, and or headphones to fit your personal listening style. There are five options for headphone setup and four for speakers. The headphone configuration options are listed below:
- 5.1 Surround
- Stereo Sound
- Direct Sound
- 7.1 Virtualization
- Direct Headphone Sound
In the setup menu, you can test each of these settings before selecting one. For movies and TV, I used the 5.1 setting. For music, I used the Stereo setting. I tried the Direct setting as well, but the Stereo was louder. Next, we have the settings for the speaker type. There are four settings to choose from. They are Desktop, Bookshelf, Tower, and Custom. Since I had a sound bar connected to my PC, I was unable to test these settings.
The last section is the setting section. This allows you to set the default language and distance until. The settings menu is also where you can check for updates. There is also an option to restore the software to the factory default settings.
There are two Sound BlasterX AE-5 logos that are RGB backlit. This first is on the back of the card, on the bottom right corner. The second is on the side of the shroud, to the right. Basically, the two logos look to be on top of each other.
The lighting options on this sound card are impressive and in depth. There are nine settings for the overall lighting. These setting are listed below.
- Wave Rainbow
- Solo Orange
- Wave Blue Ice
- Pulsate Red
- Wave Fire
- Wave Green
- Wave Blue
- Mood Yellow
There lighting on the card, itself. The AE-5 is also the worlds first sound card with a discrete RGB controller that can support up to 4, 30 cm RGB strips with up to 40 LEDs in total. Our sample came with four LED strips. In the SB Connect software, you have the option to turn on 1, 2 3 or 4 strips at the same time. Both the lighting on the card and the RGB controller have 6 settings for motion and four for direction. There is also a color wheel if using the personal setting, as well as a slider for speed.
- Left Zig Zag
- Right Zig Zag
Scout Radar 2.0
The Scout Radar 2.0 is a companion app for your cell phone or tablet that gives you a radar that will ping enemies by using the sound they make in-game. There is a version on the App Store, as well as the Google Play Store. You download the app to your device. Then set up the device and your PC or laptop on the same wifi network to connect the device to your PC. A good example would be Call of Duty, CSGO, or Battlefield 1. You pull the app up on your phone and turn on Scout 2.0 in the SB connect software. A radar will appear on your device’s screen. Little red blips will appear on the radar when an enemy is near. The blip will travel in the direction of the enemy. The closer it gets to the center of the radar, the closer your enemy is to you. The app works very well. It’s a great help and can really give you an advantage in the game. This is by far, the coolest, most useful companion app I’ve personally ever used.
To test the audio output capabilities of the AE-5, we use the Rightmark Audio Analyzer benchmark. However, before we run the benchmark, we must test the DPC, or Deferred Procedure Call latency. The DPC is checked to ensure the audio can produce useable results in Rightmark. DPC, or Deferred Procedure Call latency, is a Windows function that handles driver efficiency and allows high-priority tasks to defer required, but lower-priority tasks for later execution. We use LatencyMon to test the DPC Latency.
I left LatencyMon run for a little over 15 minutes. The highest reported ISR routine execution time was 246.28 The highest reported DCP routine execution was 467.54. At the 4000 microseconds, the system will be unsuitable for real-time audio playback. Since both results were under this range, we can continue to Rightmark Audio Analyzer.
To test with Rightmark, you must first plug into both the rear headphone jack and the rear mic jack using a double-ended 3.5 mm jack cable. This creates an audio loop to test the internal audio performance of the onboard audio. We tested using both 16 and 24-bit settings through a range of frequencies from 44 kHz up to 192 kHz. The chart below is to give an idea of what good results for the Rightmark benchmark look like. When compared to the results for AE-5, the results show the AE-5 to have very good to excellent audio output.