For the past year or so I have used two sets of speakers of my desk, one for my PC and the second for when I watched TV or Movies on my Nvidia Shield on one of my side monitors.
Not the most elegant solution, but it works, and I already
had the speakers. However, my Acoustic Energy Augo M2.1 speakers have finally
started to die after about 15 years, leaving me with the Bose Companion 50 as
the only decent speakers I have.
Rather than buy another pair of speakers, it made more sense
to look for a DAC that has multiple inputs that I can switch between. I needed either
USB or 3.5mm input for the Shield, then either USB or Optical for my PC.
It turns out there are not too many options that are
affordable. From my limited research, the list includes:
There are lots of other options too, but they can start to
get a little pricey, for example, the Creative Sound Blaster X7 is £299
Prior to writing this review, I didn’t realise that the X-Fi
HD would have suited my needs while being well under £100.
So I ended up buying both the G7 and Fiio K5 to test against each other
Creative Sound BlasterX G6 vs Fiio K5 PRO
I paid £109.99 for the G6 as it had a £20 voucher on Amazon,
but the RRP appears to be £129.99. In comparison, the Fiio is a bit more
expensive at £149.90.
For the Sound BlasterX G6 you have two inputs, one microUSB then the second is both digital and line in. This takes power from the USB port, so if you only use optical/line-in, you will need to plug it into something, but if you are using the USB for input, then you don’t need to do anything.
For gamers, the Creative is much more appealing with a
microphone input, the built-in software also has a range of features to improve
This is quite a small DAC too, so easy to transport around
with you for laptop use or any other reason.
The Fiio is very much a desktop device, while not heavy it
is quite chunky. This has 3 input option, coax/optical in, line in and USB in.
This then requires power via a dedicated power in. Switching between inputs is
done manually via a small switch on the front.
- 32-bit 384kHz DAC with a DNR of 130dB
- Sampling Rate (DSP Playback): PCM 16/24/32-bit /
44.1, 48.0, 88.2, 96.0kHz
- Sampling Rate (Direct Mode Playback): PCM
16/24/32-bit / 44.1, 48.0, 88.2, 96.0, 176.4, 192.0, 352.8, 384.0 kHz, DoP
24-bit / 176.4 , 352.4 kHz
- Output Impedance: 1 Ω
- Supported Headphone Impedance: 16 – 600 Ω
- High Gain: 150 – 600 Ω (+14dB)
- Low Gain: 16 – 149 Ω (+0dB)
One thing that is worth noting is that this uses a mini-Toslink
cable for the optical input, the supplied cable is reasonably short, and all
the spares I had are the normal square shaped Toslink cables. The USB cable isn’t
particularly long either, so I have ended up having to buy an additional cable
to reach all my devices.
As far as set up goes, there is not much to do. You can plug
it in and away you go. For USB PC connections you can then install the Sound
Blaster Connect software for improved functionality and tweaking sound settings.
I primarily use this with my Bose speakers, but for the sake
of this review, I also tested the system with wired headphones.
It is worth noting that to make the most of this DAC on your
PC you will need to use the USB connection which will allow you to use the Creative
The Sound Blaster Connect software offers a wealth of
customisations with a lot of gaming orientated options. In particular, there is
scout mode which is designed to help highlight footsteps, speech and weaponry handling
You also have the usual sound modifications most apps like
this offer which allows you to tweak the equaliser manually or use the acoustic
engine for some more user-friendly options
If you have a wired gaming headset, then you can also adjust
multiple aspects of the microphone. This includes the volume, improving
clarity, then there is a voice morph section which can make your voice female,
male and various other presets.
With the USB input this plays nicely with windows volume (and the volume controls within the Shield), it is a minor thing, but a bonus over the Fiio. Turning the knob of the G6 brings up with volume notification on either my PC or the Shield. Similarly, my volume roller on my keyboard allows full control. The Fiio is independent, so I set the volume on that, then can adjust it separately on my keyboard.
I tried scout mode, and there does seem to be an improvement
with ambient noises with a bit more clarity in footsteps. I am not a particularly
good gamer, so can’t say how much this would likely improve your gaming, but I imagine
serious FPS players will appreciate it.
There is a notable improvement in sound quality compared to use
the outputs of my motherboard. The SBX also improves things further giving more
depth to the sound and a wider soundstage.
In comparison to the Fiio, it is a little hard to decide which is best, sound quality is subjective after all, and I would not class myself as an audiophile, or at least the quality of my hearing is not audiophile level. While the audio profile of the two DACs does seem to be slightly different, I would say the Creative is just as good as the Fiio.
Sound quality remains superb when you switch to optical, but
you lose a lot of the benefits the software provides. SBX is enabled via a
button on the side, so this still technically works, but for PC gamers you really
need to stick with USB.
The price of the G6 is what caught my eye initially, but I
was also put off by it being Creative, a gaming brand rather than Fiio who are
well known for their superb DACs.
Initially, I had buyers remorse and was going to immediately
send the G6 back without testing it, as I preferred everything about the Fiio
apart from the price. However, I thought I should try it, and I have come away
pleasantly surprised, sound quality is superb.
I can’t say for sure which DAC I prefer, I am not an
audiophile, and sound quality is subjective. The RRP of the two devices is
reasonably close too. Both DACs are superb and they are closely matched overall.
If you are a PC gamer, this is undoubtedly more appealing
over the Fiio, the customisations the Creative software offers will appeal to
many. I can’t say how useful scout mode is, but every little helps in the when
playing online FPS. The SBX does help create an effective virtual surround
sound which is something that will be useful for many gamers.
Overall this is a superb external soundcard / DAC with multiple inputs allowing you to use more than one device such as console and PC.