SRSWOWCast.com The Wow Thing review:

SRSWOWCast.com The Wow Thing

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CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Improves the way computer-based music sounds; low price.

The Bad Doesn't provide improvement to high-end speakers; needs its own electrical outlet.

The Bottom Line This DSP box improves your computer's sound on the cheap.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.0 Overall

At first glance, you might find the SRS Wow Thing--nothing more than a small, blue, plastic box with five control knobs--a bit underwhelming. But appearances can be deceiving; the Wow Thing can significantly improve the audio performance of your computer's speakers or headphones and add back a little of the sound quality that's lost due to audio compression schemes such as MP3 and RealAudio. At first glance, you might find the SRS Wow Thing--nothing more than a small, blue, plastic box with five control knobs--a bit underwhelming. But appearances can be deceiving; the Wow Thing can significantly improve the audio performance of your computer's speakers or headphones and add back a little of the sound quality that's lost due to audio compression schemes such as MP3 and RealAudio.

Steroids for Sound
The Wow Thing pumps up the performance of audio systems using psychoacoustics, which help your ear perceive rich bass frequencies and better tone, even if the speakers themselves cannot physically reproduce those sounds. The Wow Thing will make the biggest difference on systems with lousy speakers or headphones, where you can immediately hear the improvement. With higher-end systems, it's difficult to tell the difference.

Installation is easy: Just plug the Wow Thing into your sound card's audio output (where your computer speakers or headphones are normally plugged in), then connect the device's output to your speakers or headphones. The gizmo can also link to any other stereo source including TVs, VCRs, CD players, or video game consoles. Plug the Wow Thing into an electrical socket and you're ready to roll. SRS recommends that you disable any 3D processors installed on your sound card to achieve the maximum benefit of the Wow Thing.

Few Features, Simple Controls
You'll find exactly five controls on the Wow Thing: an On/Off switch, a Bypass/Wow switch, the Wow control, the TruBass control, and a volume knob. The Wow control adjusts the amount of the Wow effect, applying SRS's psychoacoustic sonic enhancer to whatever degree you wish. Despite our skepticism about whether we'd notice a difference, we could definitely hear a pronounced improvement in the sound quality. With the Wow effect enabled, music seemed more live and present to our ears. The TruBass control enhances the bass output of tinny speakers and headphones, using another psychoacoustic algorithm. The improvement of bass performance is definitely the more impressive feature of the two.

A Cheap Solution
True music aficionados should probably avoid the Wow Thing, as it can change the carefully engineered sound of your favorite albums. But such folks are unlikely to have the low-end speakers that the Wow Thing can improve in the first place. If you have a set of cheap computer speakers and want a richer bass and fuller sound, the Wow Thing offers a quick and dirty solution for just $40.

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