Turtle Beach Audio Advantage Micro
A tiny audio output device that connects to a PC's USB port, the Turtle Beach Audio Advantage Micro is primarily intended for laptops, but it can also be used with desktop PCs. Featuring surround-sound simulation capabilities, an equalizer, and digital signal processing (DSP) modes, the $29.99 Audio Advantage Micro affordably adds a software preamplifier and an improved headphone jack/minijack digital audio port to your PC. What's more, an included plug adapter converts the minijack port into a full-fledged Toslink optical digital-audio output, which lets you connect to a variety of digital audio receivers or other compatible devices.
Similar in appearance to a USB flash drive, the diminutive Audio Advantage Micro, which measures 2.5 by 0.75 by 0.5 inches (HWD), comes with a USB jack cover, a USB extension cable, a software CD-ROM and the aforementioned optical digital-audio plug adapter. We were a bit frustrated by the 22-inch USB extension cord; it's not quite long enough to facilitate easy connection with a desktop PC's rear-panel USB port, especially if your computer sits on the floor. The Audio Advantage Micro is also totally devoid of hardware-based controls; the absence of a volume knob, for instance, means you'll have to dive into the software to make adjustments. That can be a real pain when you're in the middle of playing a video game or watching a movie, but it's not a deal killer.
Installing the Audio Advantage Micro was straightforward: we simply installed the software from the CD-ROM, then plugged in the device as prompted. The software serves as a preamplifier and configuration tool, including a 10-band equalizer with programmable presets; more than two dozen DSP environments, ranging from Shower to Psychotic; and a virtual-speaker shifter that lets you tweak the speaker positions of a virtual 5.1-channel system.
The Turtle Beach Audio Advantage Micro can transmit DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1-channel audio signals through its optical digital-audio output to a decoder, such as your A/V receiver, but your PC-based DVD player software must support 5.1-channel output. We used($49.95 or $62.95, depending on the version) without a problem.
With home DVD players so inexpensive these days, it's hard to imagine anyone buying the Audio Advantage Micro solely for the purpose of using a laptop to play DVDs through a 5.1-channel home-theater system. That said, when we connected the Audio Advantage Micro's optical digital-audio jack to our A/V receiver, the Audio Advantage Micro flawlessly passed both 5.1-channel Dolby Digital and DTS sound as well as stereo tracks from our laptop to the receiver. You could also use the Audio Advantage Micro to connect a PC to a self-powered, digital, 5.1-channel multimedia speaker set, such as, letting you watch DVD movies from your desk in full digital 5.1 glory.