Creative Technology - formerly Creative Labs - has announced the impending launch of a new pro-grade soundcard, and it includes the one feature that all its predecessors have been missing: RGB LED lighting.

The Creative Sound BlasterX AE-5 is the latest entry in the company's Pro-Gaming soundcard series, and it's making much of the audio quality users can expect: The card is built around an ESS Sabre digital-to-analogue converter (DAC) offering 32-bit 384KHz playback and linked to a 'kick-ass custom-designed 600-Ohm discrete headphone amp' to drive even the pickiest of cans. Naturally, there's also the usual raft of software-driven Sound Blaster enhancements including customised algorithms driven by an onboard digital signal processor (DSP), tweaks for in-game voice communications, and 7.1-channel virtual surround sound.

'The Sound BlasterX AE-5 represents the best amplification experience for gaming headphones that a sound card can offer,' claimed Creative general manager Low Long Chye at the unveiling. 'Since our very first sound card 30 years ago, we've always been passionate about sound when it comes to entertainment and gaming. The AE-5 embodies our continuing dedication in giving gamers the absolute best. This is an amazing way to celebrate the 30th anniversary of our gift of sound to the PC world: the Sound BlasterX AE-5.'

The main thing that makes the Sound BlasterX AE-5 stand out from its predecessors, though, has nothing to do with its audio capabilities; it's the RGB lighting Creative has seen fit to include. Dubbed the 'Aurora Reactive Lighting System', the built-in RGB controller is linked to LEDs which pick out the card's logo but also to connectors for up to four RGB LED lighting strips - meaning the soundcard can double as a controller, driven by Creative's Sound Blaster Connect software, for case lighting. A single 30cm, 10-LED strip is included with the card as standard, while a limited-run Pure Edition finished in white comes with four LED strips.

Creative has announced that the Sound BlasterX AE-5 will launch in July with a US recommended retail price of $149.99, while the Pure Edition will be exclusively available from the company's own webshop priced at $179.99 (around £118 and £142 respectively, excluding taxes).
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