I have recently updated my rack with the new Creative X AE-5 Plus. This caused trouble in the beginning, for it did not output any sound at all:
Fortunately, this problem is resolved! A kernel patch is available since 5.11. From that kernel version onward, the new 2020 version of the AE-5 (the AE-5 Plus) is supported out of the box in Linux. Thanks again to @nikgnomic for pointing that out.
Though the card is basically working in Linux, it does so only “kind of”: There is no analog 5.1 surround output available, also the microphone input is not working.
When switching to the “Analog 5.1 Surround + Analog Stero Input” in the audio setup using $ pavucontrol, I get a notification “No output device” and the Output Device tab shows a ports called “Dummy Output” resulting in: No sound.
When switching to “Analog Stereo Duplex” the Output Device tab shows the port “Line Out (plugged in)”, the Input Devices shows “Microphone (plugged in)”. This results in a working stereo sound output, but the microphone input does not work - it says plugged in, but does not get any input signal.
Knowing from several mentions of the original creator of the driver (conmanx360), $ pavucontrol is not optimal for the AE series. He recommends using $ alsamixer and switching to “Surround” in the “Output Select” tab. So I tried that, but unlike for its predecessor, the AE-5 Plus offers only “Speakers” and “Headphones” as available selection.
I assume, the cards do not differ much in hardware components. So I assume this is some kind of alsa channel mapping problem / driver problem. But I am not really advanced enough, to find the culprit.
Again, bummer. No 5.1 sound and worse, no microphone input.
Ok, I seem to be kind of alone with my problem - no wonder, the Soundblaster X AE-5 is not very common. In fact, having a dedicated soundcard is a niche by itself.
So anyway, if someone a bite more technically sophisticated than me comes across this, here are the tools used by the original author Conmanx360 to reverese engineer the driver:
Can’t really help if Kernel 5.11 isn’t working for you, but for future purposes if you want to get something that works with Linux 100%, get an external DAC from a company that actually supports Linux such as JDS Labs or Schiit. Any USB Audio Class 2 DACs should work out of the box on Linux.
I did try using an AE-5 a while ago with Kernel 5.3 and it did not work well either.
As far as I can say, the Creative cards just do not work reliably in Linux. There seems to be an issue with the registers in the card itself not resetting properly and since the drivers are closed source, there is not much to do about it.
In my testing, the card sometimes worked, but mostly did not. Just as you were saying…
I did get it to work sometimes by dual booting into Windows and then doing a reboot into Manjaro. But even then only stereo output was working. There was no way to get proper surround sound with my AE-5.
There were issues in Windows as well after rebooting from Manjaro to Windows. So that was the point where I did give up…