Creative Labs has released its very portable Sound Blaster E1 Headphone Amplifier unit and we got to take it for a spin. The Sound Blaster E1 is a pass-through device from your audio source to your headphones by way of 3.5mm rubberized audio cables. The unit itself features a small, plastic body that even has a shirt or belt clip attached to it. Aside from its small size and the belt/shirt clip, you will also find a volume slider and power switch on one side of the unit. This side is basically the control panel. The front and back ends of the E1 are reserved for input and output. On one end, you have a 3.5mm input jack and a USB jack which aids in recharging the E1’s internal LiPo battery. A battery which, I might add, allows the listener about 25 hours of usage on one charge! On the other end of the unit, you will find two headphone jacks so that you can share the listening experience with another person. Creative Labs has even included a built-in microphone which allows you to take calls on the go or while driving (stay safe and hands-free people!). In terms of size, the whole E1 easily fits into the palm of your hand and has oodles of audio-enhancing capabilities.
Plugging in and turning on the Sound Blaster E1 gives you the following Creative Labs’ audio magic without having to do any tweaking:
- SBX Pro Studio Advanced Audio Processing Application. Experience the cinematic difference that Sound Blaster technology brings to your PC or Mac
- SBX Surround, an improved surround algorithm increases and expands the virtual surround spaciousness, allowing you to enjoy cinema-quality sound in the comfort of your home
- SBX Crystallizer enhances the dynamic range of compressed audio sources to give you a more realistic and immersive experience
- SBX Bass allows for much larger bass impact without overpowering speakers and SBX Smart Volume minimizes abrupt volume changes
- Crystal Voice features innovative technologies that are specially designed to deliver the best vocal fidelity
- 600 Ohm headphone amplifier supports high performance headphones for a studio-grade listening experience
- Built-in Lithium battery with up to 25 hours of audio playback and fully portable
- Built-in mono microphone allows users to take calls when connected to smartphones and clear voice communications for games and Skype calls on PCs and Macs
What do all of those audio enhancing algorithms and technology mean? Instead of going into each, I thought it would be best just to explain the difference in sound quality in real-world usage. Sitting at a desk for most of the day, I go through a lot of music on my iPhone 5. iTunes is basically my lifeline, with my making several album purchases a week. I also listen to several podcasts as well a streaming radio stations. My morning often begins by streaming KLOS Los Angeles’ “Heidi and Frank” morning show. I began my testing with that as spoken word, no music formats are often a challenge for sound-boosting technologies. Unfortunately, it was not a resounding success in terms of enhancing my listening experience. They sounded pretty much the same with or without the Sound Blaster E1 working its mojo. I figured that would be a difficult test, so the next type of audio I wanted to hit was some good old fashioned power metal – Enter: Dragonforce! I should also note that for these tests, I wore a pair of V-Moda Crossfade M-100 headphones.
Without the Sound Blaster E1 plugged-in, I listened and enjoyed one of my favorite tracks from their Inhuman Rampage album, “Operation Ground and Pound”. It was, as always, awesome. Then I plugged in the Sound Blaster E1, set my iPhone’s volume level to 60%, and controlled the volume straight from the E1’s volume slider. The difference was incredible – Dragonforce bounced around my ear canals with increased clarity and intensity – two things which, most of the time, are mutually exclusive. I was blown away by how much better my iPhone’s music sounded thanks to this almost $50 dollar little box. I switched over to one of my favorite movies to watch on my iPhone, John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China. Again, the difference with and without the E1’s audio processing is incredible. I can’t see NOT using this little wonder when I play my tunes or watch a movie from my phone or tablet.
You can even use the Sound Blaster E1 on your laptop or desktop computer system! I would still recommend a good sound card as a primary audio solution for your gaming machine but, if that’s not an option, you will be impressed with how the E1 takes your laptop or desktop’s audio to the next level. Overall, the Creative Labs Sound Blaster E1 portable headphone amplifier unit is a great little product that handily enhances the audio from your smartphone, tablet, or even laptop. Retailing for $49.99, the Sound Blaster E1 is also a very economical purchase – the benefits of which will be readily apparent when you start listening to your favorite albums or movies.