Is the Creative Labs Sound Blaster E1 worth the price?
I have been looking for a portable headphone amplifier for a while, but the price and the weight usually caused me to back down from getting one. So when I chanced upon the Creative E1, it drew my attention. First off, this thing is light. At just 25 grams, it’s a breeze to carry around in your pocket, or clipped to your bag or belt.
Some of the basic specifications of the amplifier are as follows:
It can power headphones with an impedance of up to 600ohms, and has a signal-to-noise ratio of 106db. The computer requirements are pretty basic, with a minimum OS version of Windows Vista, or 10.6.8 for Mac users, with at least 1gb of free ram, and a USB port. The output from the headphones are stereo, and the input from the inbuilt microphone is mono.
The E1 supports both a micro USB connection as well as a line-in, so it works on both computers as well as other music devices such as phones and iPods. When plugged into the computer the E1 doubles up as a sound card, with many features that can be enabled via Creative’s Sound Blaster control panel. I’ll delve into that a bit later though.
The E1 has three buttons on the side that allow you to control the volume, the power and a pause/play button that doubles up as a button that enables you to answer your phone if it’s hooked up to a phone. It’s a pretty neat feature that comes in handy if you don’t want to reach into your pocket to grab your phone.
At the top of the device, there are two output jacks, with one jack accepting headphones that have microphones built in. Having two jacks also allow users to plug two headphones into the E1, and share the music. Once again, a pretty neat feature.
“Even if you do not happen to have a headphones with in built microphones, the E1 comes with a microphone on the device itself.”
It doesn’t look cool holding this amplifier up to your mouth to talk, but it’ll do in sticky situations.
Let’s come to the main point of this post, which is to discuss the sound quality. When I tried the amplifier with Creative’s Aurvana live 2 at the roadshow, I was blown away by the difference the amplifier made. I immediately went online and ordered the amplifier (as it was cheaper than getting it from the roadshow, go figure). When the amplifier finally came, I was jumping up and down with excitement.
Then came the moment, I plugged it into my iPhone and my modified ATH-M50s, and pressed play. I couldn’t hear anything. Did I get a faulty set? Nah I just forgot to turn it on. I tried hitting play again, my music started playing and my headphones came to life.
I was playing pretty guitar-heavy music that demanded a lot of clarity, and the amplifier really came through for me.
“I could hear notes that were indistinguishable before, and every drum beat was clear.”
It was a pretty refreshing experience, and I was certainly pleased with the amplifier. However, I had to try the amplifier out with various kinds of genres, and headphones. I used three sets of listening devices, my ATH-M50s, Bose QC15s and Apple’s EarPods. There was a limit to how much the EarPods benefitted, but I could definitely tell the difference with the QC15s and the ATH-M50s.
A cheap portable but powerful soundcard?
As mentioned before, the amplifier also doubles up as a sound card when it’s plugged into your computer, and this is where it really shines for me. Creative’s sound control panel allows you to tweak the software in very precise ways, and even has an option to turn out ‘Scout Mode’, that is wonderful for gamers such that it allows you to hear the footsteps of your enemies from further away, and thus giving you an advantage. The E1 is definitely not the best sound card out there, but it definitely beats your default inbuilt sound cards that comes with your computers.
I turned up the bass with the control panel, and the headphones came to life, with each beat of the bass drum being very clear, and all this while retaining the clarity of the guitar solos, and nuances in the vocals.
The only issue I faced was the white noise that was pretty obvious when the amplifier was plugged into the computer and left idle. It wasn’t particularly irritating, but then again, I was playing music most of the time when I had the headphones on my ears, so I couldn’t really hear it.
|Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR)||106dB|
|Audio Fidelity||Up to 24-bit / 44.1kHz|
|Audio Technologies||SBX Pro Studio, CrystalVoice, Scout Mode|
|Dimensions||35 x 19 x 66 mm (1.37 x 0.74 x 2.59 inches)|
for an amplifier that is below $50, the sound quality that can be gotten out of this is very worth the price.
it’s light, but it feels cheap, and seems like a few drops would kill it.
Ease of use: 5/5
There aren’t many settings that you can tweak with this amplifier, and what is there, just works.
I was not expecting much when purchasing this sub $50 amplifer, but the amount of value that I have gotten out of this amplifier is amazing. I highly recommend this amplifier to all those who listen to music with headphones, and are looking for something to bring their music quality to another level without breaking the bank.