Hands-on Review: SRS iWow adapter beefs up your iPod sound

You may recall SRS Labs, maker of sound-processing software. No? Well, SRS Labs makes sound-processing software, which is supposed to beef up your audio. Their processing is built into a lot of devices — from TVs to sound cards — but now the company is coming out with its own piece of hardware: the iWow, an adapter for the iPod that promises to make your compressed tunes sound as good as can be. I got a chance to check it out earlier today.

The iWow attaches to your iPod's dock connector, bypassing your iPod's headphone jack completely. Once jacked in, it's super-simple to use, with one light-up button to turn the processing on and off. Listening to some pre-prepared tunes, including Hotel California, with some ear-covering headphones, I could hear the SRS processing work its magic. It enhances percussion and bass while keeping vocals at the same level, in all, enhancing the musicality of the tracks. Very sweet.

More impressions — and concerns — after the Continue jump, along with price and availability info.

Not content with the standard tour, I tried using the iWow with my iPhone 3G. Predictably, my phone insisted on switching to airplane mode when I attached the adapter (the iWow isn't certified for the iPhone, but SRS is working on certification for the iPod Touch). I still had to disconnect and reconnect to get it to work (switching to airplane mode before connecting finally did the trick), but once I did, I was impressed. I could hear the SRS enhancement in everything from pop music like P.O.D. to lighter fare like Holly Cole (the songs were AAC files encoded at 128 kbps).

It's not perfect, though. Your music takes a major hit in volume when playing through the iWow. That's because the iPod's headphone jack is rated to deliver more wattage than the dock connector, so not much can be done about that with a nonpowered adapter like the iWow. Not to mention it makes your iPod longer by an inch or so… not so bad for the Classic, but the new Nano looks ridiculously awkward with it. Also, it's going to drain your iPod battery faster (how much faster, SRS wouldn't say).

Despite those concerns, I still want one. iPod Tunes simply sound better with it then without. SRS will start selling the iWow directly from its website in early November for $99.95.

Via SRS Labs