SRS has released an attachment for Apple's iPod, iPad, and iPhone devices. As a musician, I really have a deep understanding of how tonal range works on audio devices. I was very pleased to hear that I would get to do a review of this, although I have to admit I'm pretty skeptical when it comes to audio attachments that claim to improve sound quality. I'll get into detail about my experiences shortly, but first let's look at exactly what the SRS iWow 3D actually is.
What the iWow 3D is, is an audio enhancement device that connects through the 30-pin Apple connection. The other end of the device connects to a female port which allows stereo cables to be plugged into. You can purchase it in three different packages: iWOW-3DHF (iWow 3D, faceplates, in-ear ear buds), iWOW-3DF (iWow 3D & faceplates), or just the iWOW-3D. This device utilizes patented technology which enables the user to create a more amplified, clearer sound to the audio peripheral used. SRS claims that there's a widening of the sound, which seemed vague to me at first, but after using it, I understood that it wasn't a surround feature, but a tonal feature.
In my experience with using this device to connect to speakers, I found that although the bass was deeper and the treble was clearer, the overall sound quality is almost entirely dependent on the quality of speakers you have. The frequency range of your audio device will determine how much you will get out of this product. If you're using high quality speakers or headphones with above average frequency/tonal range then you will find you will get more out of your sound. I evaluated this product with high quality speakers, as well as low quality and mid-range speakers. I noticed that through high quality speakers, it didn't matter if you had this device or not. With the mid-range speakers, I found that the sound was in fact enhanced and made the speakers seemingly enhanced themselves. With the low-range, I found this device to be beneficial as well, offering a more enhanced sound.
What do I mean by enhanced sound? I could say that certain frequencies are enhanced to bring about a clearer sound, but that might not be enough. Essentially, certain instruments, vocals, or sound effects are being amplified. You get more bump in your bass. You get more twang to that guitar. You can distinguish the vocalist's pitch better. It resembles more of a live performance than Apple's current hardware emulation can handle.
In regards to headphones usage, which I assume is going to be the most widely used choice for consumers, I found that this device will give any set of headphones you have that extra power. Let me give you an example. Let's say you're in a loud, public location and all you really want to do is listen to your music. You have the volume maxed out and it's still not enough. This device will give you that extra volume and sound you're yearning for. However, with the headphones, this device becomes taxing on the battery. I found that with all the settings on to enhance the phone, I found the drain on my battery to be taxing; to say the least. I would assume this would be the case when you're adding any extra hardware peripheral to your device. The product installs easily on Apple products. Assuming you're connected to the internet, you just plug in the device and then a prompt to install the app appears. Just install the app and you're ready to go. The app is really easy to use. There are no complicated menus or any configurations you need to handle. You simply just select which sound(s) you wish to enhance and in real-time it adjusts the sound accordingly.
The final note I'd like to make about this product is the price. Yes, this device is very worthwhile if you don't have the greatest headphones or stereo system hooked up. However, the price is far too steep for what it does. Starting at $59.99, all you get is the adapter. You can spend another $10 in the combo package for the faceplates. On top of that, you can buy the $79.99 deluxe package and get ear bud headphones. I think it's just far too expensive for what it does. I'd rather make the $60 investment in a set of high quality headphones, than pay to have my 'decent' ones be boosted. The boost just isn't that significant to make me want to spend $60. I would suffice to say that this product to me is worth $25.
After our first review of the SRS iWOW 3D, it was passed around the office and received a lot of acclaim for the way it worked. Like Adam, we are all music lovers and after a few minutes with the device it seems that there are some applications that were not mentioned where it will excel beyond the loud, public area he brought up. As such, we felt it was only right to delve deeper into this awesome gadget and discuss some of these applications to give you a better idea of this little treasure.
The iWOW 3D is a small plug and play audio attachment that connects to the 30-pin connector on the iPhone, iPad, and most iPods. It comes in 3 models, the iWOW-3D, the iWOW-3DF and the iWOW-3DHF. Each model adds some additional goodies to the box. The manufacturer of the device states it is designed to "retrieve and restore audio cues" in order to create an "immersive three-dimensional sound stage". More than just a graphical equalizer, when turned on the device seems not only to boost bass, treble, and volume, but there is a more obvious differentiation in the sound and location of the instruments on the "sound stage."
Almost all digital audio is in stereo. Unfortunately it is frequently compressed causing a loss of both sound clarity and the quality of the surround sound of stereo music. The iWOW seems to enhance the Left/Right orientation of the instruments. For example, the singer sounds front and center, but guitarist and bassist are often on opposite sides of the singer, and it comes through using the iWOW. This kind of audio field is hard to hear even on the most expensive stereo equipment if the source is an MP3, but using the iWOW it was clear as day when using a basic pair of Sony headphones.
As stated in the prior review the most obvious application for the iWOW is a pair of headphones, but I have found some additional applications where the device shines. Most modern cars have some sort of auxiliary audio input to connect a normal 1/8" headphone cable. Since the iWOW connects using that standard, the audio cable you already use to connect your car to your music player can be used with the gadget. The muted audio that frequently comes from these ports is cleaned up, and made clear with higher highs, and deeper bass. In the same vein, we tried the device using a cassette adaptor to play an iPod on a car stereo system and had the same good experience.
Having a party? Don't want to do the 90's thing and burn all of your music to CDs? Connect your iWOW and Apple music player to your home stereo system or a portable speaker system and enjoy unmatched sound quality for this type of connection.
The improvement from the SRS iWOW impressed me from moment one. Using the device only to listen to music over a pair of headphones with a price tag of $59.99 for the base model, knowing you can get high end headphones for that price, may cause some sticker shock, but even on high end, noise canceling headphones there is an obvious difference in quality. Adding these additional applications it seems a no-brainer to me. With new stereo systems for the home and car priced in the hundreds this device is more than worth the price to improve the quality from your existing audio equipment. Need a good pair of earbuds as well? The iWOW-3DHF comes with a pair of high quality earbuds, and 5 colored faceplates to personalize your iWOW for only $20.00 more.
My biggest fear when attaching the device to my iPod was that it would drain my battery in minutes. I am pleased to say my music is still playing now, and has been through the iWOW for over 6 hours of playtime. My iPod has not even switched to a low battery warning yet. I will say it has drained quicker than normal, but that is to be expected when you have another device that the iPod has to power in addition to itself.
All in all I feel the iWOW is a great buy. Whether using top of the line audio equipment or a cheap pair of headphones you picked up at the corner store the improvement in audio quality is profound. I would definitely recommend this device to anyone looking to get the best possible quality out of the speakers they already have, as well as anyone looking for a new pair of headphones for their Apple iPhone, iPad or iPod.