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Creative Labs’ Sound Blaster AE-9 and Sound BlasterX G6 Push PC Audio Hard

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A Computer Needs Audio Help To Succeed

Audio is important, even though people think it’s only video that should get the attention. Try watching a TV show with the volume turned off, or even consider leaving the radio turned off in the car to instead watch a LCD screen while driving — neither makes any sense, does it? So considering how important audio is, one wonders why computer uses put up with the puny and often power-lacking tech their machines have for dealing with and playing sound. A computer isn’t like one of those mobile devices (i.e., smartphone or tablet) where the audio tech is locked in and “don’t you touch it.” No, a computer can open itself up and ingest any kind of audio tech that it is compatible with easily. Even those computers that don’t open up — laptops we mean here — can take advantage of external tech that can integrate with their internal electronics for more control and better handling of audio. You just need to find the right equipment and take what’s been given to drive into the sweet spot of listening. So that’s why we’re combining Creative Sound Lab’s internal Sound Blaster AE-9 with their external Sound BlasterX G6 — because each takes care of audio business in an efficient and big way that improves and enhances what you’re hearing.

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What The AE-9 Is

The AE-9 is an internal card, but it’s not just that because there’s also an external control module to use with it. It’s not a complicated installation, but for sure you have to open your PC and put the card in — necessitating all the preventative measures like turning off all the power and negating static electricity. And being an external card it’s worth noting that here can be found “Fine Gold” capacitors working at pushing a strong bass. But for anyone beyond super-novice, this won’t be such a issue, and once it’s installed that’s that. The important thing is to take advantage of what the card has got and then use the connections that live at the back edge to send them out. So some specs make sense and we’ll keep it as simple as possible — there’s a lot going on here for sure. One thing (pure tech this) is called CleanLine and it filters and isolates noise that befuddles microphones so the mic input is ready to rock big time. Another is the “Scout Mode” tech for enhancing in-game audio cues — this helps big time in gaming as it enables pinpointing positions of sounds, such as an opponent racking his gun or his footsteps coming from an oblique direction.

Also tech worthy is the fact that here we are getting a high resolution DAC that delivers DNR of 129 dB combined with 32-bit 384 kH play AC over PCM, DSD4 + extremely Lowe total harmonic distortion (-120 dB). It’s not techno-babble but an affirmation of the high-end quality results audio can now perform.

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Audio Control Through Software

Now when it comes to controlling/customizing what the AE-9 can do, it makes sense that there’s software since it is running on a PC right? So you expect to alter the dynamic range and be able to enhance the low end of the frequencies (i.e., the bass) and so you can: some of the settings will apply to music and others to the vagaries of gaming or recording or podcast/streaming, etc. Support for Dolby Digital Live and DTS Connect Encoding are there too (if you don’t know/care about these, that’s fine because if/when you do it will be there). Obviously you’re going to deal with more than old-tyme stereo, so expect 7.1 surround in the virtual realm or the lesser 5.1 which is after all completely real and not engaged in psycho acoustic trickeries.

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Audio Control You Can Touch

But Creative doesn’t expect you to do it all through software, which is where there’s that Audio Control Module which has been hooked up to the card and is now resting on your desk. This is where you plug in your headphones and the volume knob is big enough to find in the dark - it also kicks in the speakers (should you have them) or the headphones side of thing (with control over the varying quality types of headphones that can be plugged in). The LED in the middle shows the volume numbering, there’s the headphone impedance selector and a SBX button (turning the Blasters’ processing on/off). There’s also inputs for a high end quality-wise dynamic phantom powered condenser XLR mike plus 3.5mm input/output for a low end mic and headphone — obviously the AE-9 is best suited for use with the XLR mike. Meanwhile for audiophile-grade headphones/in-ear monitors, the dual-amp headphone bi-amp is working each audio channel independently and makes lossless audio real.

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Audio Comes External Too

So you’ve a laptop that goes with you or makes a home office more mobile. Could be a PC or could be a Mac — doesn’t matter because the Sound BlasterX G6 is external and so just sits next to when it’s needed. he two most obvious things are how to connect it to the laptop and then, once connected how to have the laptop know it’s there. For the first you just use a USB cable to connect between the two (there’s also optical and line-in for use elsewhere), and for the second the Mac knows it is there while the PC needs to ingest some software drivers. Not a big deal. Once connected you’re ready to rock.

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What The G6 Is

Being an external sound card, you’d expect all the controls to be right there for use and they are. And since we can “see” the high resolution 130dB 32bit/384kHz DAC, or the Dolby Digital or 7.1 Virtual Surround, we’ll settle for the ports and controls that are on it and can be seen. For one thing it doesn’t look like a stupid box, but is svelte and curved and machine made not of plastic. That nice big and fat volume knob sticks out at one end where you can grab and twist, while to one side is the headphone input and at the other the mic input (for obviously either plugging in headphones for listening or a plugging in a microphone for talking). That headphone amplifier is a bi-amp and all you need to know is that It amplifies each audio channel individually and is well suited for driving performance grade 8W in-ear monitors all the way up to studio-grade 600W models. So yeah, if you’re using this toss those cheapo headphones and get yourself some quality.

The other controls are tabs at one side, being the Scout Mode, the SBX and the Gain — which isn’t about volume but to alter the overall sound so it’s not being distorted regardless of whether the volume’s low or high.

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And it’s not a dirty word to say gaming is going to benefit big time from using the G6 — in fact because of it being external it’s not limited to just a laptop. Want to consider using it with a video game console like the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One or Nintendo’s Switch? Sure go ahead because all the controls are right there and connection is just as fast and no drivers asked for. For sure it’s mobile enough to be moved around so how cool and versatile is that?

The Sound Blaster AE-9 retails for $349.99 while the Sound BlasterX G6 retails for $149.99. For more details go to https://us.creative.com/