If you’ve never experienced audio through an external sound card, you may be surprised at just how much of a difference it can make. While the world of internal sound cards fails to impress vs. the onboard audio of your motherboard, I’ve noticed a substantial difference in USB-based cards.
Perhaps the bigger question now for the PC gamer is how these cards compare with headsets like the Logitech G930 that have wireless and use software for their processing.
Creative releases a lot of products that fall into this category with one of their latest being the Omni Surround 5.1. At under $75 it’s cheaper than a lot of its internal sound cards and offers some nice connectivity features as well.
The product itself is geared toward the gamer, music listener, or movie watcher that wants a 5.1 discrete channel option for their MAC, PC, or HTPC. Before I get into what I think of it here’s a look at the products technical specifications:
Optical Out: 1 x TOSLINK
Microphone In: 1 x 3.5mm
Line In: 1 x 3.5mm
Line Out: 2 RCA Jacks (front out) 1 x 3.5mm (Rear L/R) 1 x 3.5mm (C/Sub)
Headphone Out: 1 x 3.5mm
The software for this device is intuitive and easy-to-use. It includes many of the same features as the E3 DAC we recently reviewed as well as a few extras. The scout mode is nice for FPS games like Battlefield 4 and when coupled with the amplified or the product itself makes it a nice weapon to have during close combat.
The equalizer also helped in adjusting my headset’s lows, mids, and highs to exactly what I want to hear in-game and while I’m listening to music.
The Omni 5.1 is portable enough to take with you on the go. As listed above it has quite a few connectivity options for most any type of use you’d want with it. The large volume knob isn’t my favorite design feature, but works well enough when you want to quickly change the volume. Dual microphones were also installed into the Omni 5.1. I’m not a huge fan of these simply because I can’t imagine what I’d use them for, but if you need a microphone, you’d be able to use it.
Vs. the Logitech G930
A good way to test whether this product would be necessary for the PC gamers was to put it up a good USB headset like the Logitech G930. Having used this headset extensively, I’m definitely familiar with its capabilities. For under $100 the headset itself is a great wireless option. Putting it up against Creative’s Aurvana Live 2 headset and the Sound Blaster Omni Surround Sound 5.1 would be a telltale sign of whether or not the product itself is worth it or not. If I could hear considerably more detail and have more control with the Omni, then it would be worth it and if not, then it would be a waste.
I expected to hear a small difference in sound, but the result was actually quite amazing. Playing in Dragon Age Inquisition the Omni brought out many sounds in the background and foreground I’d never heard with the G930. The music I tested was more detailed and clear.
Like the E3 DAC, I reviewed previously getting the audio signal away from all the electronics in my PC. The result is increased audio quality.
For the money, the Sound Blaster Omni Surround 5.1 is an affordable option for both PC gamers and audiophiles that prefer a 5.1 cinematic experience vs. a completely stereo one. The 600-ohm headphone amplifier is great for power high-end options and works especially well for portable devices that would otherwise lack the power to do so. I’m not completely sold on the volume knob which offers a bit of interference or the built-in microphones and their overall purpose, but as a whole the device itself still has a lot of value as a one-stop hub for all of your audio devices. For more recommendations also see our post on the best DAC and Amp solution for gaming.