SoundBlaster E1 headphone amp
The Creative E1 is an ultra portable headphone amp, capable of supporting studio-quality 600 ohm headphones. Featuring two independently driven headphone outputs, a 25 hour battery life and weighing just 25 grams.
Inside the E1 is a SoundBlaster external soundcard with USB DAC for PC and laptop connections. With the addition of a cheap OTG cable, the E1 can also be used with a smartphone or tablet as a USB DAC headphone amp.
- Headphone amp up to 600 Ohms
- 2 independent headphone outputs
- Acts as an external soundcard for PC’s
- USB DAC (OTG cable on smartphones)
- 25 Hours battery life
- Weighs only 25 grams
- Built in microphone
- SBX Pro Studio, CrystalVoice, Scout Mode
1Creative E1 – Design and Build Quality
The SoundBlaster E1 portable headphone amp measures 2½” x 1¼ “(63mmx33mm) and weighs just 25 grams. Although made from plastic, the housing feels robust and it’s matte finish is fingerprint friendly.
The top of the unit has two independently driven 3.5mm headphone outputs. The base has a standard 3.5mm input and micro USB for a DAC connection.
On the side of the Creative E1 is a play/pause button, a sliding volume control and a power on/off switch.
The device can be clipped to a belt or clothing, or easily go unnoticed slipped inside a pocket. I’d personally choose not to keep the E1 in my pocket from fear of accidentally moving the volume control. There is a fair amount of resistance on the volume slider, but it’s not recessed enough to avoid potential issues.
In general, I like the overall design of the Creative E1. It’s compact size and weight are perfect for the job of a portable headphone amp.
2Creative E1 – Features and Specs
High-end headphones typically need more juice than the average smartphone or mp3 player can deliver. This results in reduced volume and a dilution of sound quality.
The E1’s primary function is to provide additional amplification and boost audio quality. Amazingly it manages to do this twice over with two independently driven outputs.
- Playback Quality – 24-bit / 44.1kHz (Stereo)
- 106dB Signal-to-Noise Ratio
- Headphone Amp – Up to 600 Ohms
- 2 independently driven outputs
- External USB DAC soundcard functionality
- Volume Gain of 6dbs
- SBX Pro Studio technology
- Built in Mic with Crystal Voice
- Scout Mode – for use with a gaming headset
Most devices, particularly of this size, would use a single chip for both headphones. Having two means no loss of quality when using both outputs. This capacity to play high-quality audio from a single portable device to dual headsets is a solid and unexpected feature.
The secondary headphone output also doubles as a microphone input. This makes the E1 suitable for gaming headsets with individual jacks.
It would be wise to make sure you have your smartphone or headset volume turned down a little before switching it on. The Creative E1 will boost the volume level by a further 6dbs. I had my gaming headset and smartphone on max and I couldn’t get much beyond halfway on the E1 without it feeling excessive.
The Creative E1 connects to a PC, Mac or Laptop via the USB cable. This effectively turns the device in to an external soundcard with DAC. If you happen to have a dated PC with on-board sound, you are likely to find a welcome improvement in audio quality.
Although the Creative E1 should plug and play when you connect it, there is additional software to further enhance the audio.
Having toyed with SBX Pro Studio, I can say without a doubt that it’s worth using with the E1. As a gamer, the software can enhance your experience and provide a tactical advantage. The Scout mode allows you to bind a hotkey. When used it will enhance the sound of approaching enemies.
3Creative E1 – Sound Quality
As a standalone portable headphone amp the E1 produces a noticeably warm sound. After testing half a dozen different sets of headphones through the E1, there is undoubtedly an improvement in sound quality and a vast reduction in noise.
When connected via USB and used as a DAC, the E1 still presents a warm sound, enhanced even further with the SBX Pro software. With ten equalizer adjustments, surround and crystallizer settings, the E1 can be fine-tuned for any preference.
The Creative E1 is gram for gram the most feature-rich audio device you are likely to find. The smallest, lightest and most long-lasting portable headphone amp on the market at a very competitive price.
The fact that the E1 also performs equally well as an external soundcard, proves just how versatile this audio gadget is.
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