Virtually every Notebook Computer sold today (as well as most desktops) come with a DVD player. One of the great joys of DVD’s is that they are encoded in wonderful 5.1 or even 7.1 surround sound. Until now, the only way to truly take advantage of that was to play the DVD on your home theatre system with 7.1 sound built in (very expensive) or on your computer with a dedicated (and expensive) digital surround card installed.
The Turtle Beach Audio Advantage SRM changes that by attaching to your USB and opening up the musical beast that lies beneath the surface of your computer. Read on for a full Review. The Turtle Beach Audio Advantage SRM is no bigger than a pack of cards. It installs very easily, comes with a full feature software package and has lots of input/output options to ensure compatibility and great sound.
Here is the ‘Official line’ from the Turtle Beach Web site:
Turtle Beach Audio Advantage SRM
The Audio Advantage SRM USB Audio Adapter (or USB Sound Card) is the perfect audio upgrade for your PC or laptop. SRM easily plugs into any USB port, instantly adding 5.1 / 7.1 channel surround sound and an amazing array of features – all in a package that fits in the palm of your hand.
SRM Features Include. . .
5.1 or 7.1 Output
Analog and Digital Outputs
Built-in Stereo Microphones
10 Band EQ
Optical Digital Adapters
Improve your listening experience with either speakers or headphones by adjusting virtual speaker position, tone, environment, room size, delay time, and individual speaker frequency response Built-in amplifiers drive optional 5.1 headphones.
Connect to your home theater
S/PDIF output allows pass-through of Dolby Digital(r) and DTS(r) DVD formats for pure digital quality surround sound on A/V receivers or digital speakers S/PDIF input records from digital audio gear with no loss in audio quality.
Great sounding stereo, 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound
Music, movies and games come alive on either multi-channel or stereo headphones and speakers Ordinary stereo turns into an expanded sound field for immersive multi-speaker surround sound.
Turn your notebook into a portable recording system
Using the built-in stereo mics, you can record and edit meetings, memos, music and other sounds with the included software Monitor room sounds while using headphones Connect a headset with microphone for use with Internet phone or online chat software..
On to the review…..
The Audio Advantage is small – like a deck of cards – and has a USB connector on one end and dedicated 5.1 connectors on the other. The wire that attaches to your speaker system has one cable that connects to the Orange (usually center/sub) jack, one that connects to the Green (usually Front ) and one that connects to the surround speakers. Additional jacks on the unit itself are for adding 7.1 surround sound by adding additional inputs.
There are also stereo headphone jacks, a stereo Microphone input, S/PDIF Optical output and Optical input. A separate input take music sources (like your iPod or MP3 player) and lets you play it through the Audio Advantage and your 5.1 speaker system. All the adapters and wires are included in the bundled package. Because the Audio Advantage draws power from the computer – no separate power source is required.
Setup and Ease of Use:
The Audio Advantage was fairly easy to set up – certainly easier than wiring a traditional home theater setup to a Stereo receiver! First, you run the setup program from the CD which is straightforward and installed with no hassles, then you plug in the speakers in your Surround Sound System ( I used the Altec Lansing 5051 system) to the appropriate jacks and then plug the USB cable into the Computer. That all that I had to do to get the Audio Advantage recognized and operational.
Configuration of the Audio Advantage is handled through the Proprietary software installed off the CD. To say that the configuration options are extensive is a gross understatement. The SRM control panel allows you to configure your Surround Sound system for your room. You can let the software program know the exact placing of each of your speakers by clicking the ‘Speakers’ tab and selecting the spacing of your speakers.
You can set the volume of each individual speaker, choose from many EQ presents or set an individual EQ pattern for each speaker. If that’s not enough for you, click the ‘Effects’ tab and and enable any one of dozens of ‘Sound Stages’ to shape your sound. You can re-create a concert hall, auditorium and many other options as well as some crazy ones like ‘under water’ or ‘sewer pipe.’ It certainly does add a note of creativity to your sound.
I particularly like when I was watch the Red Sox play via the Sling Box to try to recreate the stadium feel of the sound. The manual is very well done and finding the right options for configuration are very intuitive.
The big question is ‘Does this make a noticeable difference’ in sound quality. The answer is an unequivocal ‘Yes.’ Wow!! what a difference it makes! All of my music was separated into simulated surround sound and it sounded great. I was able to achieve bass from my sub woofer so much stronger and deeper than without the Audio Advantage.
Playing DVD’s that were encoded in Dolby Surround or THX were just amazing. I really couldn’t believe that such sound was coming from my computer. The sound is so much improved that even though I am a very discriminating (some might even say snobby) music listener, I am very happy listening to my music out of my new surround system using the Audio Advantage – it is HiFi sound at a budget price.
At $79.95 I can very easily recommend this to anyone who had a computer without a true HiFi Digital Sound Card who wants to experience true surround sound from DVD’s and digital music files. You need the speaker system – but good Computer Surround Systems can be had for under $250.00 which makes the combination of the Audio Advantage and good speakers a very attractive alternative to a high price home theater system.
Final grade: A
Pros: Easy to set up, highly customizable sound stages, fabulous sound
Cons: lots of wires to contain, overwhelming software options for the novice