Sound BlasterX AE-5 Plus

dos2unix

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I recently bought a Sound BlasterX AE-5 Plus internal sound card. I had a dual boot system, because I didn't know how well this would work with Linux. It turns out that it works great. At least with 6.6.9 kernel. Possibly older kernels as well. This a great upgrade to my on-board sound chip. There is a noticeable difference in sound quality. This works with pipewire, alsamixer, audacity, and easyeffects.
I really have a difficult time finding out much about SoundBlaster cards with Linux. Sometimes you have to do the testing yourself.
But in case anyone is wondering. This card works great with Linux.
 


Thank you for taking the time to put this here- I've been looking around for information on SBX AE-5 Linux compatibility, yet all the other posts were from 2021 and seemed pretty hopeless. Glad it works well! You've saved me a great deal of anxiety, and I can't wait to enjoy the upgrade. :)
 
Howdy- update on this. I've installed the SBX AE-5 Plus but am not getting any audio output (aside from occasional crackles, assumedly from interference.)

PulseAudio recognizes the device and can tell whether or not the headphones are plugged in. Audio output is being directed to my AE-5 but not making it through to the headphones. [Attachment 1]

1716519735006.png


I've gone through your guide to Tweaking audio in Linux, but increasing values on Alsamixer hasn't done anything for me. [Attachment 2]

1716521195039.png


I noticed that many people reported it working for them after running the following command:
Code:
sudo dnf install alsa-firmware
I of course don't have dnf since my distro (Pop!_OS 22.04 LTS) is a Ubuntu-based distribution, so "alsa-firmware-loaders" (version 1.2.5-2) was the closest package I could find. Installing that still hasn't changed anything after rebooting.



Some additional information for reference:

Kernel Version
Code:
$ uname -srm
Linux 6.8.0-76060800daily20240311-generic x86_64

PCI Audio Devices
Code:
$ sudo lspci -v | grep -i "audio"
01:00.0 Audio device: Creative Labs Sound Core3D [Sound Blaster Recon3D / Z-Series] (rev 01)
76:00.1 Audio device: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD/ATI] Device 1640
76:00.6 Audio device: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Family 17h (Models 10h-1fh) HD Audio Controller
    Subsystem: ASRock Incorporation Family 17h (Models 10h-1fh) HD Audio Controller

Kernel Sound Drivers
Code:
$ sudo lsmod | grep -i "snd"
snd_seq_dummy          12288  0
snd_hrtimer            12288  1
snd_hda_codec_realtek   200704  1
snd_hda_codec_generic   122880  1 snd_hda_codec_realtek
snd_hda_codec_ca0132   159744  1
snd_hda_codec_hdmi     94208  1
snd_hda_intel          61440  6
snd_intel_dspcfg       36864  1 snd_hda_intel
snd_intel_sdw_acpi     16384  1 snd_intel_dspcfg
snd_hda_codec         221184  5 snd_hda_codec_generic,snd_hda_codec_hdmi,snd_hda_intel,snd_hda_codec_realtek,snd_hda_codec_ca0132
snd_hda_core          151552  6 snd_hda_codec_generic,snd_hda_codec_hdmi,snd_hda_intel,snd_hda_codec,snd_hda_codec_realtek,snd_hda_codec_ca0132
snd_hwdep              20480  1 snd_hda_codec
snd_pcm               200704  7 snd_hda_codec_hdmi,snd_hda_intel,snd_hda_codec,snd_hda_core,snd_hda_codec_ca0132
snd_seq_midi           24576  0
snd_seq_midi_event     16384  1 snd_seq_midi
snd_rawmidi            57344  1 snd_seq_midi
snd_seq               118784  9 snd_seq_midi,snd_seq_midi_event,snd_seq_dummy
snd_seq_device         16384  3 snd_seq,snd_seq_midi,snd_rawmidi
snd_timer              49152  3 snd_seq,snd_hrtimer,snd_pcm
snd                   147456  24 snd_hda_codec_generic,snd_seq,snd_seq_device,snd_hda_codec_hdmi,snd_hwdep,snd_hda_intel,snd_hda_codec,snd_hda_codec_realtek,snd_timer,snd_pcm,snd_hda_codec_ca0132,snd_rawmidi
soundcore              16384  1 snd

Kernel Sound Driver Logs
Code:
$ sudo dmesg | grep -i "snd"
[   23.578918] snd_hda_intel 0000:01:00.0: enabling device (0000 -> 0002)
[   23.579016] snd_hda_intel 0000:01:00.0: Disabling MSI
[   23.579018] snd_hda_intel 0000:01:00.0: Force to non-snoop mode
[   23.579092] snd_hda_intel 0000:76:00.1: enabling device (0000 -> 0002)
[   23.579150] snd_hda_intel 0000:76:00.1: Handle vga_switcheroo audio client
[   23.579198] snd_hda_intel 0000:76:00.6: enabling device (0000 -> 0002)
[   23.585724] snd_hda_intel 0000:76:00.1: bound 0000:76:00.0 (ops amdgpu_dm_audio_component_bind_ops [amdgpu])
[   23.619069] snd_hda_codec_ca0132 hdaudioC0D1: autoconfig for Sound BlasterX AE-5: line_outs=3 (0xb/0xf/0x10/0x0/0x0) type:line
[   23.619073] snd_hda_codec_ca0132 hdaudioC0D1:    speaker_outs=0 (0x0/0x0/0x0/0x0/0x0)
[   23.619076] snd_hda_codec_ca0132 hdaudioC0D1:    hp_outs=1 (0x11/0x0/0x0/0x0/0x0)
[   23.619078] snd_hda_codec_ca0132 hdaudioC0D1:    mono: mono_out=0x0
[   23.619080] snd_hda_codec_ca0132 hdaudioC0D1:    dig-out=0xc/0xd
[   23.619081] snd_hda_codec_ca0132 hdaudioC0D1:    inputs:
[   23.619083] snd_hda_codec_ca0132 hdaudioC0D1:      Mic=0x12
[   23.619085] snd_hda_codec_ca0132 hdaudioC0D1:      Line=0x13
[   23.619087] snd_hda_codec_ca0132 hdaudioC0D1:    dig-in=0xe
[   23.623160] snd_hda_codec_realtek hdaudioC2D0: autoconfig for ALC897: line_outs=1 (0x14/0x0/0x0/0x0/0x0) type:line
[   23.623164] snd_hda_codec_realtek hdaudioC2D0:    speaker_outs=0 (0x0/0x0/0x0/0x0/0x0)
[   23.623166] snd_hda_codec_realtek hdaudioC2D0:    hp_outs=1 (0x1b/0x0/0x0/0x0/0x0)
[   23.623168] snd_hda_codec_realtek hdaudioC2D0:    mono: mono_out=0x0
[   23.623169] snd_hda_codec_realtek hdaudioC2D0:    inputs:
[   23.623170] snd_hda_codec_realtek hdaudioC2D0:      Front Mic=0x19
[   23.623171] snd_hda_codec_realtek hdaudioC2D0:      Rear Mic=0x18
[   23.623173] snd_hda_codec_realtek hdaudioC2D0:      Line=0x1a
[   23.704992] snd_hda_intel 0000:01:00.0: Direct firmware load for ctefx-desktop.bin failed with error -2
[   24.336843] snd_hda_codec_ca0132 hdaudioC0D1: ca0132 DSP downloaded and running
[   26.697515] snd_hda_intel 0000:01:00.0: Too many BDL entries: buffer=1572864, period=49152
[   32.649342] snd_hda_intel 0000:01:00.0: Too many BDL entries: buffer=1572864, period=49152

One of the last lines- "Direct firmware load for ctefx-desktop.bin failed with error -2" -caught my attention, though I'm not sure if its a red herring or what to make of it.

Any help would be much appreciated here!
 
Followed these directions (with some changes to fit Pop!_OS) to download, build, and copy ctefx-desktop.bin over to my /lib/firmware/
Code:
Downloaded latest alsa-firmware-1.2.4.tar.bz2 from https://www.alsa-project.org/files/pub/firmware/
$sudo apt install build-essential
$bzip2 -dk alsa-firmware-1.2.4.tar.bz2
$tar -xf alsa-firmware-1.2.4.tar
$cd alsa-firmware-1.2.4/
$./configure
$make
$cp ca0132/ctefx-desktop.bin /lib/firmware/
$sudo reboot now

So now the firmware error is gone, although I still don't get any sound..
Code:
$ sudo dmesg | grep -i "snd"
[   82.879453] snd_hda_intel 0000:01:00.0: enabling device (0000 -> 0002)
[   82.879517] snd_hda_intel 0000:01:00.0: Disabling MSI
[   82.879519] snd_hda_intel 0000:01:00.0: Force to non-snoop mode
[   82.879732] snd_hda_intel 0000:76:00.1: enabling device (0000 -> 0002)
[   82.879785] snd_hda_intel 0000:76:00.1: Handle vga_switcheroo audio client
[   82.879825] snd_hda_intel 0000:76:00.6: enabling device (0000 -> 0002)
[   82.888412] snd_hda_intel 0000:76:00.1: bound 0000:76:00.0 (ops amdgpu_dm_audio_component_bind_ops [amdgpu])
[   82.894579] snd_hda_codec_ca0132 hdaudioC0D1: autoconfig for Sound BlasterX AE-5: line_outs=3 (0xb/0xf/0x10/0x0/0x0) type:line
[   82.894585] snd_hda_codec_ca0132 hdaudioC0D1:    speaker_outs=0 (0x0/0x0/0x0/0x0/0x0)
[   82.894594] snd_hda_codec_ca0132 hdaudioC0D1:    hp_outs=1 (0x11/0x0/0x0/0x0/0x0)
[   82.894596] snd_hda_codec_ca0132 hdaudioC0D1:    mono: mono_out=0x0
[   82.894598] snd_hda_codec_ca0132 hdaudioC0D1:    dig-out=0xc/0xd
[   82.894599] snd_hda_codec_ca0132 hdaudioC0D1:    inputs:
[   82.894601] snd_hda_codec_ca0132 hdaudioC0D1:      Mic=0x12
[   82.894603] snd_hda_codec_ca0132 hdaudioC0D1:      Line=0x13
[   82.894604] snd_hda_codec_ca0132 hdaudioC0D1:    dig-in=0xe
[   82.903518] snd_hda_codec_realtek hdaudioC2D0: autoconfig for ALC897: line_outs=1 (0x14/0x0/0x0/0x0/0x0) type:line
[   82.903522] snd_hda_codec_realtek hdaudioC2D0:    speaker_outs=0 (0x0/0x0/0x0/0x0/0x0)
[   82.903524] snd_hda_codec_realtek hdaudioC2D0:    hp_outs=1 (0x1b/0x0/0x0/0x0/0x0)
[   82.903526] snd_hda_codec_realtek hdaudioC2D0:    mono: mono_out=0x0
[   82.903527] snd_hda_codec_realtek hdaudioC2D0:    inputs:
[   82.903528] snd_hda_codec_realtek hdaudioC2D0:      Front Mic=0x19
[   82.903530] snd_hda_codec_realtek hdaudioC2D0:      Rear Mic=0x18
[   82.903531] snd_hda_codec_realtek hdaudioC2D0:      Line=0x1a
[   83.576598] snd_hda_codec_ca0132 hdaudioC0D1: ca0132 DSP downloaded and running
[   85.935311] snd_hda_intel 0000:01:00.0: Too many BDL entries: buffer=1572864, period=49152
[  141.497307] snd_hda_intel 0000:01:00.0: Too many BDL entries: buffer=1572864, period=49152
 
This card works great with Linux.
Hell no it doesn't.

For a starter Creative is notorious for delivering poor drivers and letting them rot into obsolescence. They are so bad at it that in some instances they gave the same numeric name to different products, making the search for the right driver a mess. In the end their drivers are trash on Windows and nonexistent on Linux, and this card is no different.

If we can use this one it's only thanks to some good Samaritan who reverse engineered this mess and did it's best so it can barely work. EA-5 (plus or not) is an alright 5.1 card with descent DAC. When spending 100$ on a 5.1 card we should expect use it at its best, meaning a 5.1 through line outs to avoid SPdif compression. Unfortunately it is only possible to get Stereo via line out, and 5.1 via SPdif, when it works depending on kernels versions and distributions.

And even when it works we can get some strange behaviors. For instance some using dual boots have encountered issues on Linux and had to get back to Windows to make it work again on Linux, until bugs on Linux are so bad it makes it fail on Windows too, because somehow this card records parameters (when on Windows you can hear it physically "clic" when changing settings or outputs, like if it records parameters and restarts which is very likely the case. Or getting BDL entries overload for some reason.

It's a mess. Good for you if you're not into best 5.1 quality and if it works well enough on your system, but this card (and any Creative product) can't be recommended for Linux. After years using it on Windows I wouldn't recommend it for this use neither... so much so at that point I hope it to die to be forced to change it for a better one because I wouldn't sell it to put issues on someone else, and I hate to throw away functioning hardware to the trash.
 
Good enough for you isn't great in absolute as you stated first saying "This card works great with Linux".
There are objective reasons why this card is far from Great on Linux.

You should be careful about such things, cause as you saw Platonicnymph bought it based on your feedback and came back with a bunch of troubles. I found this topic because I had a bunch of troubles too... I responded because it has to be said this card can cause a lot of issues with Kernels until recent ones, and because when it works it's only partially. People must not buy it not knowing its real nature, and if they know they wouldn't.
 
This has been good on Linux since Mar 2021
Since Kernel 5.12, it can take a while before everyone updates it. Should be good for most.

BUT 5.1 still doesn't work through lines out. And on some sound systems the line out is not even good enough for stereo. For instance Logitech Z906 produces a mess of bass saturation when used in stereo with AE-5+ through its line out, so to get a descent sound we must use SPdif, even for stereo, which makes lose all analog features (4.1, 2.1 and 3D) that are quite useful to adapt to sources specificity. I would be surprised if Z906 is the only system struggling with AE-5+ on Linux.

With SPdif it's alright (leaving behind all people not having an amp with SPdif...) but it comes with only 2 PCM channels, for surround systems its signal is compressed so it can send more than 2 channels. When you got better than a 2.0 stereo amp, bought a AE-5+ because it is a pretty good card for surround systems, and you can't use it as intended because of the drivers, it is quite frustrating. Especially if you used it through Windows and enjoyed all bells and whistles it can provide.

It's better than not working at all, that's for sure, but it's not working great.
 
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I don't own a set of Logitech Z906 or Logitech X620 speakers. But I have a friend who let me borrow his for some testing.

I assure you, I can get 6.1 stereo/surround thru SPDIF in Linux. I am using a 6.9.x kernel, perhaps that makes a difference.

Also, I can get 6.1 surround from the audio ( 3.5mm ) jacks on the card as well.

I am able to play 32-bit/384kHz encoded sound from this card in Linux. The head phone jack works in Linux.

I have the Logitech Z625 speaker set, that I use most of the time. I also have a set of Behringer 50USB Studio speakers.
Sometimes I use them together to get a 5.1 surround. ( Obviously I don't use the USB input when doing that ).

I have connected the SPDIF to my Pioneer stereo/amp. You might say that's cheating, the amp is what's powering the speakers.
That's true, but that's not why I did it. It tells me the encoding of the signal it's receiving. So I know for a fact I'm getting 32bit/384khz encoding.

I can use my equalizer in VLC if I want to. So maybe it doesn't have everything the windows driver version comes with.
But it does everything I need it to do, and it does it with the same sound quality I get from Windows.
 
  • Z906 has no central back line, and of course no 6.1 feature to control a speaker it doesn't have.
  • AE-5 + produces at max 5.1, it has no 6.1 feature.
  • SPdif can transmit Hi res in stereo, and even in 5.1, but raw PCM is limited to 2.0, as soon as you add other outputs SPdif compresses signal so it can get through it, which is an issue for audiophiles, and can often lead to DTS dysfunctions (sound gets out of every speaker but spacialization doesn't work).

Linux can't miraculously add speakers and controls to a sound system that physically doesn't have it, nor can add a rear back channel to a card who never was designed for providing it.

I've tested it these past week with 5 different distributions, including Debian, Fedora and Arch forks, not once have I been able to get 5.1 through lines, but only through SPdif. And my card is OK as it works just fine on Windows. I've found plenty people asking for help about it but with no solution. You're the very first person saying it works... So please, tell me your process so I can reproduce it and finally get 5.1, I would be very glad to change my mind.

Just in case a misunderstanding troubles your tests : 5.1 isn't 5 speaker + 1 subwoofer producing same stereo sounds on every left and right channels and stereo mixed on central speakers, but every single speaker producing its specific channel in order to produce spacialization effect. All speakers producing sound does not mean 5.1 is working.
 
Linux can't miraculously add speakers and controls to a sound system that physically doesn't have it, nor can add a rear back channel to a card who never was designed for providing it.

This card does indeed have a front and rear output jack.

If I type in

pw-cli dump

I see.

audio.channels = 6
audio.position = FL,FR,RL,RR,FC,LFE
 

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5.1 = 6 channels : 5 speakers + 1 subwoofer
6.1 = 7 channels : 6 speakers + 1 subwoofer
By showing 6 channels pw screams it's a 5.1 card no matter the names it gives to each channel. They are right though and confirms it's 5.1 : FL : Front Left, FR : Front Right, RL : Rear Left, RR : Rear Right, FC : Front Center, LFE : Low Frequency Effect
If it was a 6.1 it would show 7 channels and an additional line RC : Rear Center.

Hardware also screams it : with 3 stereo jacks you only can get 6 channels (3x2 = 6), if it had 6.1 you would have a 4th line out for the 7th channel.

If it wasn't enough Creative is very explicit about it by selling the AE-5 plus as a 5.1.

(Btw, the subwoofer channel receives a signal optimized by the card to provide basses, which is the LFE, putting a normal speaker on a subwoofer line does not provide a full spectrum signal but a bassy one. Also the center front speaker is not usable as a rear one despite providing correct spectrum because spacialization is messed up by sending behind you what is designed to be in front of you. A 5.1 is a 5.1 with center front, not a a 5.1 with center rear, nor a 6.0 with center front and rear but no sub. 5.1 is a defined standard, and using it otherwise it's been designed to be only leads to dysfunctions.)
 
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  • AE-5 + produces at max 5.1, it has no 6.1 feature.
  • SPdif can transmit Hi res in stereo, and even in 5.1, but raw PCM is limited to 2.0

You are correct, I did say 6.1, my mistake. But it would be the same limitation in Windows.
 
Indeed, but in Windows 5.1 works through lines out too. Again, if you found a way to really have 5.1 working with line levels I'd be very glad to change my mind, implement it right away, and share the solution to people struggling with it.

Because with SPdif, even if you use Hi Res, the card sends the digital signal in non PCM format so its limited bandwidth can carry all channels, then DAC's amp converts it to analog, then it amplifies it, then sound goes out of speakers. While with lines signal DAC's card converts digital to analog, and each channel is just amplified by amp to hit speakers.

AE-5 Sabre DAC does a great job furnishing up to 32bits @ 384KHz on each line, while SPdif can't physically offer more than 24bits @ 48Khz when providing more than 4 channels. So if you go through SPdif, yeah your card can read 32bits files, but when using 5.1 it compresses it to 24. It's not a big issue in most cases like reading some CD that is anyway limited to 16 bits, and also because human hears can't distinguish the difference between 16 and 24 bits... but it has a benefit by giving more headroom to the amp, so a weak one can push more volume before cliping.

For audiophiles having a great sound system, it's a quality bonus to enjoy 6 great raw PCM channels as AE-5 can produce. For me it's not much of a problem as Z906 hasn't a great amp nor great speakers anyway, although thanks to EA-5 DAC's qualities full PCM through lines sounds slightly more punchy, but for people having a great setup including a great amp and speakers the difference isn't psychoaccoustic but noticeable in dynamics and capacity to push their amp.

SPdif has some advantages over lines out as its signal can't be altered by magnetic perturbations (which by the way can be avoided with lines by using good shielded cables to carry the analog signal, but it can still be an issue if cables between the PC and the amp are very long). Also SPdif is said to provide more headroom which limits eventual distortions (but with a great analog amp you can get way enough headroom to not have that issue neither, even when pushing the amp pretty hard, and in most domestic uses we don't need huge headroom as sound levels are not cranked up to 11, + as said the 32bits signal sent by the AE-5 gives a good additional headroom, so even less powerful amps can sound great as long as we don't try to wake up the neighborhood).

But beyond quality and headroom there's a practical benefit being able to use 5.1 with lines : with many amps, using SPdif inhibits useful features (like 2.1, 4.1 and 3D on the Z906, only the "decode" indicator works, no other function is accessible), plus depending on the quality source this decompression can lead to DTS dysfunctions (worst case scenario when it happens on the Z906 the "decode" indicator doesn't light up and no sound exits, while with full PCM 5.1 you can use a messy source with 3D spacialization and get sound, although not as defined in space as 5.1 DTS but at least it works good enough to feel ambiant spacialization watching a movie or listening to a concert, even if often sounds that should come a specific speaker get out of an other).

In the end what we can wait from a great sound card is to enjoy options. Sometimes it's better to use lines, other times SPdif makes a better job. It depends on amps and speakers qualities, source qualities, environmental perturbations... there are many cases scenarios, and being restricted to only one solution isn't great.

That's why I keep thinking AE-5 plus in Linux is alright in most cases, but not great. I admit, even though it works better in Windows, Creative drivers are often bugging anyway, and how they deal with the card makes their Sound Blaster Command app quite clunky. So even on Windows it's not as perfect as AE-5 hardware can theoritically deliver, but at least it provides great 5.1 through lines.

I may have missed some manipulation to make it work, but out of the bath, on all distros I've tried, Linux kernels didn't allow using 5.1 through lines. Right now I'm staying on EndeavorOS because I love how advanced its kernel is (6.9.2-arch1-1, which makes me tend to think that if it doesn't work with EOS there's no reason why it should work on older kernels), how easy it deals with Python virtual environments, and how awesome Plasma 6 is. But if there's any way 5.1 through lines can be obtained on other distros and kernels I would be very happy to be wrong and know what has to be done to get it right.
 
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This has been good on Linux since Mar 2021


I appreciate yall's input here, but what confuses me is- as stated before- I'm using Linux Kernel 6.8, which is rather up to date (no rhyme intended.)

Code:
$ uname -srm
Linux 6.8.0-76060800daily20240311-generic x86_64

I still haven't solved this and audio won't work on my motherboard's included output now, just through my monitor with HDMI.
 

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