Here is an interesting device, SRS’s iWow-3D. This little iPhone/iPod/iPad dongle attaches to your device’s dock connector and gives you a new, glorified, port to plug your headphones into. SRS promises an overall enhanced listening experience, natural and immersive sound, deep and rich bass, with a bigger and wider sound field. They claim it restores audio details buried in your crummy MP3s, and that you can fix it all with a push of a button, literally! Well, we put the SRS iWow 3D and the iWow App to the test…
The iWow-3D is an iOS dongle; a little add-on with a 30-pin dock connector, an enclosed chip, and a headphone port. It’s five inches long and plugs, but doesn’t lock, into the bottom of your iPhone, iPod, or iPad. There’s a removable faceplate and a rubberized white button for turning on and off the SRS magic. The button illuminates when the iWow is powered on.
When first plugging in to your iOS device, you will be prompted to go to the app store and download the SRS iWow App, though not required. The app has 3/5 stars (as of June 2011), but we’d rate it higher for it’s extreme simplicity and reliability. It loses points for no iPad-optimized version and/or finer audio customization. The app allows you to preset the iWow audio for Headphones, Speakers, or for the Car. Then there are the “Advanced Settings” that allow you to toggle on/off ‘Wide Surround’, ‘Deep Bass’, and ‘High Treble’. The app is simple and it always works, plus the dongle remembers your preferences even across different devices.
So, the big question is: does SRS iWow work? Does it restore audio detail and enhance the overall listening experience? The answer is: yes, it really does work, but for better or for worse. It certainly intensifies your audio with a deeper bass, louder treble, and emphasis on detail while giving your music a more surround feel.
Why/When We Like iWow-3D
The iWow turns your crummy headphones into less crummy headphones and your decent headphones into great headphones. With iWow turned on you will be able to hear the finer details of your audio that you were not able to hear before. You’ll be able to feel the bass boom like you’ve never felt. Audio will actually sound more “3D” or as if it’s coming from a wider field. Using the iWow-3D is especially nice in noisy environments and commuting. Every little aspect of your music is highlighted, which becomes very apparent when you turn off iWow-3D. It’s nice to have the option to easily turn on/off iWow-3D with a physical button. In the car, the iWow is almost always preferable. We had expected this add-on to draw a noticeable amount of power from iPad and iPhone, but whatever extra battery it draws was unnoticeable.
Why/When We Don’t Like iWow-3D
The iWow-3D enhances your audio, but it’s artificial. The audio is not true to how the artist intended it to be heard. With a nice pair of headphones, the iWow-3D does not make music sound ‘better’ as much as it makes it sound more ‘intense’. It comes down to personal preference, but in a quiet environment with good headphones, the iWow-3D is not necessarily preferable.
Personal preference aside, we did have some gripes with iWow-3D. One of our biggest gripes is that headphone controls won’t work and you cannot make or take phone calls with iWow plugged in. The actual dongle pulls out of your device rather easily, as there’s nothing locking it into the dock connector. It’s nice that your preferences (bass, treble, surround) are remembered, but the volume defaults back to 20% when you plug it back in. When music is first played through the iWow-3D it can take a few seconds to kick in. Music may also begin with a surprisingly loud click. The iWow is good at highlighting the finer details in your music, but unfortunately this holds true when the finer details are static or fuzz from poorly compressed music.
The last note worth mentioning about the iWow-3D is that it can be a bit deceiving. When toggling iWow on and off, music will sound drastically different. That’s because when iWow is turned on it’s almost two notches (button clicks) louder than when it’s off. For a fair comparison of iWow on vs. off you need to compensate by making it louder when it’s off.
The iWow-3D will likely surprise you at first, making you say “WOW” when you hear how much better music can sound on your headphones and speakers. It highlights the finer details of your audio while giving you punchier bass, enhanced treble, and a 3D-surround feel–each of which can be toggled on/off. Though the audio enhancements are less true to the artists’ intentions, and it may highlight unwanted audio noise, it’s a cool addition to have for your iPhone, iPad, or iPod. In the car, the iWow-3D is always a great choice, with headphones it’s more about personal preference. The iWow-3D by SRS is available in all black for $45.99 on Amazon or $55.99 with headphones and different colored faceplates. If you listen to a lot of music in the car or while you are on the move, then the SRS iWow-3D could pay for itself in no time.
The Good: Capable of Drastically Improving Audio, Great for Inexpensive Headphones, Awesome in the Car, Easy to Use, App is very simple, App not required, Physical on/off button, Doesn’t use a noticeable amount of battery
The Bad: Can’t use Headphone Mic or Controls, Can’t Make or Take Phone Calls, Dongle comes out Easily, Last Volume Setting not saved, No iPad App, Limited Audio Customization, Clicking Noise/Delay when first inserted, Poorly Compressed Songs sound Worse