To be fair, I was skeptical of this device when I ordered it. It’s certainly something that I would like to work as promised but I haven’t found anything that really does the trick thus far. However, given how easy Amazon makes returns, I was willing to take the risk; it’s tough to find great new stuff without taking a few chances. So, I added it to my cart and hoped for the best.
When I pulled it out of the box, I couldn’t help thinking it looked like a manta ray. The device plugs into the 30-pin connector on your iPod/Touch/iPad and claims to dramatically improve the sound you’re getting through your headphones. Here is what the manufacturer says:
“Hear What You’ve Been Missing
SRS iWOW 3D dynamically locates audio cues buried deep down in existing recorded or streamed multimedia content to restore sonic fidelity to audio files, ensuring the user experiences music, videos, and games with renewed clarity and detail–the way the artist originally intended.”
Plug it into your Apple music player of choice, plug your headphones/earbuds into it, and you’re ready to go. Although it is a hardware solution, a free app is available in the App Store that claims to offer further enhancements. Just search on SRS iWow.
The tail that you plug your earbuds/headphones into seems rugged enough but the body of the manta seems more delicate. The plastic that encases the electronics feels thin and the seam between the halves looks and feels like it would be easy to pop apart. The massive cyclopean circle you see on the face of the body is an on/off switch that lights up when activated, which brings me to my next complaint.
Let’s take a hypothetical example. Say a guy had a few Amazon certificates that he had been saving and was intrigued enough to want to order the manta. He doesn’t talk to his wife about it, he just orders it and calls it good. Several days later, it arrives. He plugs everything together and waits for evening because he likes to listen to music in bed, while dozing off to sleep. Bed time arrives. The lights are off and he grabs his iPod Touch, pops his Monster Turbine earbuds in, and turns the Touch on. Immediately, a glow fills the room. The circle is a homing beacon of some sort. It makes E.T.’s finger look like match light in the darkness. It illuminates with a brightness that feels like it is tanning his panicked face. If you have a Kindle (see Kindle review below…seriously, you should get one) but haven’t purchased a lighted case yet, this baby will light up your reading surface just fine. It’s at the point where the hypothetical wife, who has no issue with the Kindle light, opens her eyes and says, “What in the hell is that? Why do you have a flashlight in bed?”
OK, there is some hyperbole here, but not as much as you might expect. That little bastard is bright.
As mentioned, that circle serves as an on/off button. This leads us to my next complaint. With iWow Premium iTunes plugin (or the Bongiovi DPS plugin), you have the ability to compare the enhanced sounds with the standard iTunes output by toggling the software on and off. Not so with this bad boy. When you turn it off, it actually dis-enhances the sound to such a degree that toggling the device on and off convinces that the enhancement sounds 1000% better. (Sorry for the made up word but unenhance suggests that it does nothing.) The fact is that the sound coming through while the gadget is off is so notably bad, and the volume so low, that you decide you have just found nirvana. You won’t believe how much better the music sounds with the manta activated. Before you get all excited, though, listen to music for a few seconds with the manta turned off. Then, disconnect the manta, plug your earbuds into the standard stereo out jack of your player, and listen again. You will, again, be surprised at how much better things sound. It would probably be over the top to suggest that the manufacturer knowingly uses the circuitry in an off state to completely butcher the music, but it is a brilliant way to make users believe they have stumbled onto a hella good gadget.
Next off, we have the fact that the manta takes over the 30-pin connector AND blocks the headphone jack. This means:
- You can’t conveniently compare the outputs
- You can’t charge your player while using the iWow 3D
While using the iWow, I did not notice a significant battery drain, which actually surprised me a bit. Given the retina-searing, hallogen-beating lamp on it, I expected the battery gauge to visibly drop while I watched it. (Slight hyperbole warning).
But, back to the sound. Does the iWow make the music sound better? Yes. Does it enhance the music in any way, providing more depth, clarity, and detail? I don’t think so. Maybe there would be a marked improvement with stock earbuds but with the earbuds I use (see reviews elsewhere on this site), the music just sounded louder. It might have kicked up the treble a little bit but I could not confidently say that the music had opened up in any way.
Unfortunately, I can’t provide screenshots from the app because you have to have the manta plugged in to reach most of the functionality and mine is packed up and ready for return to Amazon (spoiler alert). I can tell you that it offers music trivia, a link to the SRS blog, and a link to the SRS site.
With the device plugged in, you can:
- Toggle the software on and off
- Tailor the software for different environments
- Advanced settings
- Wide Surround
- Deep Bass
- High Treble
None of the settings really seemed to alter the music that much. With eyes closed, I don’t believe you would quickly differentiate between the different software settings.
As I write this, the iWow 3D has six reviews on Amazon. All give it 5/5. It may be that I’m just a tone deaf dipshit, but I don’t think so. If those users compare the output by just toggling the iWow on and off via the hardware button, they will absolutely be impressed. The problem is that the resulting sound when the iWow is turned off is NOTHING like the sound you get through the headphone jack. A little more testing might change their mind. As always, your mileage may vary. If you have experience with the iWow (positive or negative), please feel free to post.