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SRS iWow3D: iPhone and iPad Sound Booster

We’ve taken a look at quite a bit of cell phone-related gear lately, reviewing everything from cellular signal boosters to Bluetooth keyboards and cellphone leashes and headsets.

But we try not to leave any stone unturned in our quest for interesting gear, and a few weeks ago at Macworld found ourselves at a small party for the release of the iWOW 3D from SRS Labs.

They’ve had previous versions of the device, but this was our first chance to go hands-on with the new and improved dongle that takes your iPhone or iPad and greatly changes the sound quality. Used in conjunction with a free app, it’s a simple plug-and-play, one-button operation- it might not look like much, but it has a marked effect on the sound.

That night we spoke with some of the engineers and team behind it, who covered everything from the intricacies of customs and import issues around batteries to why this version was Apple-only.

But over the last month or so, we’ve also been putting the iWow through the paces of various music and video, in a wide variety of formats and styles. One thing we liked is that you can easily compare and contrast the original sound to the SRS version, as a single button press disables the iWOW 3D.

Sound boosting isn’t quite the right word- but you’ve definitely heard their technology, widely used in a variety of receivers and iPod docks, headphones, and car audio solutions.

They have a cute demo on their site to help you experience the difference, and though it isn’t always perfect, it does make a positive and significant difference most of the time.

For action movies and songs with a lot of tonal variation, you’ll pick up and enjoy the SRS sound. Purists, and those who listen to mostly audiobooks, for example, might not find it useful. Pop and rock music have more spark, making the originals feel a bit flat… but the effect can be a bit deadening over time we found.

It’s lightweight, powered via the typical dock connector, and supports split connections without issue. The application offers some nifty tweaks, though we wish it offered a few more options (and perhaps some automatic adjusting depending on the music type or whether we were watching a movie versus listening to music).

Any pair of headphones are supported, but don’t expect the mic-in to work when you’re using the iWOW 3D- it uses the dock connector and apparently Apple is not anxious to allow microphone input. It’s for this reason alone that we recommend the purchase mainly for iPad users and especially heavy video watchers.

We’d recommend a good pair of headphones first, perhaps with SR’s technology built in. But $60 isn’t bad a gadget that really did have us saying “wow”. Available widely, though back-ordered at press time, units should be shipping soon.

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