Creative is celebrating the 30th birthday of the Sound Blaster lineup with a couple of brand new cards, the Sound Blaster AE-9 and the Sound Blaster AE-7. The AE-9 is the flagship card, but in terms of capabilities and pricing, neither of these new cards is messing around.
The Sound Blaster AE-9 boasts the use of audiophile-grade components, and is aimed both at gamers who want to be hear precisely what's about to kill them, and people looking to use a home PC as a serious music and media setup. The hardware sounds impressive, with an ESS 9038 SABRE-class reference DAC delivering up to 129dB DNR, PCM 32-bit 384kHz sampling and DSD64 playback for lossless audio with jitter elimination and low distortion.
The AE-9 also packs CleanLine Technology, which is designed to improve the quality of the microphone path for voice communication. If you want good audio quality from a PC microphone you often need an external mixer if you want to avoid interference from the rest of the computer's internals.
CleanLine Technology aims to mitigate that interference. This might sound like overkill if you only use the mic on your headset to swear loudly when everyone in your team is ignoring the payload, but it could be good for people who stream or record gameplay footage with a voiceover.
Compared to the AE-9, the AE-7 is somewhat less substantial in specification but still boasts some strong capabilities. It has an ESS 9018 SABRE-class DAC with 127dB DNR, 32-bit 384 kHz sampling and DSD64 playback.
The Sound Blaster AE-7 is available to pre-order here for £199.99 inc VAT and is expected to be available on 15 July. The Sound Blaster AE-9 can be pre-ordered here, although it's not expected to arrive until mid August.