SRS iWOW and Plantronics' DSP 400 Headset
January 26th, 2007
Improving On What's Already There: SRS iWOW
While a great game is critical, the environment makes all the difference. With the advent of Mac OS X, Mac users began finding themselves capable of running more applications simultaneously alongside whatever they might have been working on. Key to this has been iTunes, which has made working with Photoshop, Microsoft Word, Final Cut Pro or any other program that much better via your favorite music.
The same is true with most of your favorite video games. In the case of most video games where the audio isn't critical unless it's delivering vital plot points, iTunes and other audio programs can generally be run in the background (in some cases, game developers have designed their titles to allow for simultaneous play alongside iTunes).
SRS iWOW by SRS Labs takes advantage of this and steps up what iTunes is generally capable of by acting as a 3D plug-in for the program. iWOW, when paired with speakers or headphones/earbuds, boosts the available bass and offers a variety of enhancements that can be adjusted (multiple settings are available to begin customizing different genres of music). On the most basic level, SRS iWOW fleshes out the 3D elements of a song file, allowing for a better surround sound feel than iTunes generally delivers.
Despite a fair amount of initial skepticism, the program works well and increased the volume, presence and feel of most of my iTunes songs. Improved bass, which generally increases the feel of most songs, definitely felt improved, but a better 3D distribution provided a noticeable difference to the tracks.
SRS iWOW is a 619 K download available through VersionTracker and requires Mac OS X 10.2 or later and iTunes 6 or later to run. The program is available for a $19.95 shareware registration fee to unlock the full version and the trial download is available for free.
As Simple as it Needs to Be: Plantronics DSP 400 Headset
Sometime back, I finally met my downstairs neighbor, who arrived pounding at my door at 7 in the morning to repeatedly scream that it was "sleepy time." An MP3 file that I thought inaudible had apparently woken her up and I finally found out what that thumping sound had been at my floor all these months.
A week later, I picked up a set of USB digital headphones to try and settle the issue.
I haven't heard a peep from downstairs since.
The DSP 400 Foldable Headset from Plantronics may be one of the best investments you can make in audio equipment as well as neighbor relations. A small, easily folded USB device, the headset produces rich, full sound paired with an adjustable microphone unit that makes it perfect for voice chat via iChat AV or Skype as well as in-game communication for multiplayer gameplay.
The final result actually works out extremely well. The DSP 400 installs within seconds under Mac OS X's supported USB driver base and is good to go. Just plug the headset into a USB port (preferably powered), go to the Preference Pane and choose "Sound". Choose "Plantronics Headset" for both the sound input and output, close the Sound pane and the system is ready to go.
The Plantronics DSP 400 USB Headset - Your Best Hope for Voice Communication and Better Neighbor Relations.
Even if the microphone felt a little silly as I unpacked the headset, it's turned into an invaluable extra I hadn't really planned on in the first place. Where people wearing Bluetooth earpieces for their cell phones have wandered a terrain between looking practical and as if they were auditioning to be a space commander somewhere down the line, the microphone, which swings down and can be adjusted from left to right, comes in handy. Voice data transmits clearly and the headset is comfortable, making a conversation easy to hold. Hold down a communication key in a multiplayer game like Battlefield 1942 or Unreal Tournament 2004 and you're ready to speak through your sound input, giving and receiving orders more quickly than standard typing would allow.
The DSP 400 Headset is available for $79.95 with Mac OS X 10.3 or later being recommended for best compatibility and results with the operating system handling the drivers cleanly.
That wraps it up for this week. As always, if you see something new, cool or useful in the Mac universe,
Chris Barylick covers games for The Mac Observer, and has written for Inside Mac Games, MacGamer, UPI, the Washington Post, and other publications.
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