Surround Sound for your iPad / iPhone – SRS iWow 3D Adaptor [REVIEW]

SRS iWOW 3D

I watch a lot of movies on my iPad and I take audio quality pretty seriously - more seriously than most - so I was intrigued when I came across the SRS iWow 3D and SRS iWow adapters for iPad, iPod and iPhone from SRS Labs. They claim to give you 3D surround sound on your iDevice over headphones, speakers or in your car.

The SRS Labs solution is basically a small device that connects to your iPad / iPhone / iPod via a 30-pin connector and provides a pass-through port for your headphones. With the help of some SRS Software - an App that you must run in the background - it bypasses the built-in headphone port on your iDevice and processes and enhances the audio, which it then outputs through it's own 1/4" jack to your headphones.

The iWOW draws power from your iDevice and doesn't need batteries, or to be recharged.

SRS Software

The SRS iWOW App is fairly minimalist. In the first screen, it asks you to choose between three different output modes: headphones, speaker, or car.

SRS iWOW App - Modes

In the Advanced Settings screen, you can select from a few different sound enhancement options - basic EQ features:

SRS iWOW App - Advanced Settings

I found the SRS Software to be slightly buggy. There were times when it seemed unaware that the iWOW adapter was plugged in. This happened when I switched between audio Apps, or plugged in the adapter in the middle of using an App. I could remedy the problem by closing the App, unplugging and plugging the adapter back in, checking that it was recognised by the SRS Software App, then going back into the first App that I had closed. Not the end of the world, mind you, but a tad inconvenient.

There are a three different products to choose from. Personally, I find the SRS product line-up a little confusing. Here's a landing page that showcases all of them at once.

iWOW Adapter vs iWOW 3D - What's the difference?

As far as I can tell, both iWOW devices are sonically the same but come in different physical configurations. The SRS iWOW Adapter, for example, fits snuggly to an iPhone and roughly follows the same lines and dimension as the iPhone. Whereas, the SRS iWOW 3D protrudes a bit more but provides a flexible bit of cable with a female headphone jack - the idea being that it can interface more easily to an iPad.

iPhone with iWOW Adapter

iPhone with iWOW 3D

SRS Labs doesn't provide information as to how each of these devices differ technically. They pitch the Adapter as being ONLY for the iPhone/iPod and the 3D model as for any iDevice, including the iPad.

However, I purchased both the iWOW Adapter AND the iWOW 3D device. Irregardless of what SRS' website says, I and found that the iWOW Adapter does, in fact, work with an iPad. Considering that it's $20 cheaper, this might be useful information to you.

That said, the 3D model does provide a little more flexibility when used with the iPad, especially when viewing content in the landscape orientation.

In fact, I find the iWOW adapter a bit irritating, because it's ever-so-slightly wider than the iPhone and it's 30-pin connector doesn't clamp down tight. What this means is that it gets easily knocked about and loosened when you are listening to your iPhone while walking around with your iPhone in a pocket. The result is monaural sound. On many occasions, I've had to take my phone out and push the iWOW into the phone again, or my headphones deeper into its headphone port, because they had become loose. This didn't happen with the iWOW 3D as much because of its extra bit of flexible cable.

When it comes to acoustic performance, the iWOW does deliver more spatial separation and, in some cases, additional clarity. It isn't a mind-blowing difference, though, but more subtle. This is probably just as well, because you don't want it to distort your music. If you choose the setting for deep surround, it becomes more noticeable. Nowadays, your basic iPod offers pretty good acoustic reproduction, so you probably won't find this product life-changing. On an iPhone, however, it provides a marginal improvement. Whether that is worth $60 is up to you but audiophiles who are more sensitive to acoustic fidelity will appreciate the upgrade.

There was a bigger effect when watching movies. Clearly movies have a lot more going on with music, dialogue and FX all mixed together. It helps to have surround sound processing to separate the elements better and make them easier to process mentally. Not all iTunes content is Dolby 5.1 encoded. You'll need to purchase/rent the HD versions of content to get that. Or, you might be ripping your own. But when I watched movies that did have 5.1 encoding, they were more engaging to watch with the SRS iWOW and I did notice an improvement in the audio fidelity.

In terms of how the different iWOW products performed, I couldn't tell the difference between the iWOW Adapter and the iWOW 3D, so I personally think that they are interchangeable.

Bottom Line
If all you do is listen to music, you probably won't think that the SRS iWOW is worth the extra $60-80. If you are an audiophile, then it is worth it, because it will bring out different characteristics in your recordings and you might find that some recordings are enhanced better than others. I must admit that I'm using pretty amazing earphones to begin with, so the standard iPhone audio sounds pretty good. Still, this combo 'goes to eleven' as they say.

If you watch a lot of movies that are 5.1 encoded, then this is a nice piece of kit that will increase your movie-viewing pleasure. I give it a thumbs up for cinemaphiles.

Where to Buy:
Amazon USA
Buy.com - iWOW iPod -- iWOW 3D -- iWOW iPhone.
NewEgg: iWow Adapter for iPhone
Capitol Supply: iWOW 3D
SRS Labs Direct


Time Keeps on Knitting into the Future

Knitting Clock

There are lots of analogies for the passage of time, yet the depiction of time passing - in clocks, watches and sundials - has, for obvious reasons, been based on numerals. It's much easier for everyone to relate to 1 o'clock than, say, half a sleeve.

Time knits up the ravelled sleeve of care

Nertheless, designer Siren Elise Wilhelmsen has concocted a very analogue clock that captures the passage of time by knitting a scarf. Yes, it's a scarf. The photo can be a bit misleading. I actually thought it was knitting a sleeve, which made me think of the Shakespearean verse, "Time knits up the ravelled sleeve of care."

It takes a year to knit a 2m long scarf, so if you time it right you'll have something to wear in winter.

Or, maybe you prefer to use them as leggings?

Fanbrella

It seems to be the year of kooky and clever umbrellas. We've already posted about the bluntbrella, nubrella and now - on the pracfantasy edge of the spectrum - the Fanbrella.

Fanbrella

As the name suggests, it has a fan inside just under the canopy. It doesn't look very big but, hopefully, provides relief to people sweltering in the humid hot sun of places in Japan, China and South East Asia.

4,000 yen should keep you cool this summer. Here's a video of it in action:

Looks like it does pretty much what it says on the tin...

It runs off of AA batteries for roughly 3 hours and is activated by pressing a button on the handle.

Would this product win the fight for the most aggressive alliteration - the Nutellabrella?

Where to Buy:

Thanko (Japan)

Jeon Associates iPod Dock – Sculptured Sound

Jeon Associates iPod Doc

Here's a way to make a big statement with your home stereo. The Horn iPod speaker stand, designed by Korean architect Shi-hyung Jeon from Jeon Associates, proudly stands four feet high and provides both a nice dock for your iPod, while concealing an amplified speaker system.

 

Is it audio equipment or sculpture?
It's hard to hide big speakers. You can put them in the wall, use NXT flat technology to disguise them as wall-hangings, or find some other resonance technology that uses glass or plasterboard. Yes, okay, fine... you can also buy very small speakers.

But I don't really like small speakers when I want to be enveloped by sound. Big speakers - with nicely manufactured cabinets - are great to listen to... but very difficult to hide.

Turning a speaker into a work of art is a great idea. Jeon isn't the first to do this but his design is very attractive.

Using a shell-like motif should fit in nicely at your Costeau hideaway in Atlantis.

Hi-Macs is an LG company and they are making a big deal out of the fact that Jeon picked their Acrylic material to make this speaker. I guess their usually see it used in bathrooms, so this is a step up in the world.

Now, where can we buy one of these things? That's the trouble with design news - they tantalise you with intriguing products but then have no manufacturing or distribution to satiate your desire!

Home is where the Heart is


Cool Hunting has some cool images from a collection of decorative objects by Tania da Cruz. I love the heart wall-lamp. I wouldn't have thought that internal organs would make great house ornaments... but this proves me wrong.

The wire covering vine leaf motif is a great way to be discreet. Nests of wiring is often referred to as spaghetti. Perhaps they can be made literally so? A bowl of linguini behind the AV cabinet, instead of nasty looking coiled plastic...

The head vase is also lots of fun. Fresh buds of May, sprouting from good ideas...

Yike Bike – Electric Folding Bicycle


The Yike Bike is an innovative and revolutionary design. It's small, light-weight and ultraportable. You ride it sitting straight up and it folds in 15 seconds to one of the smallest footprints available. Travel Technology AND Travel Intelligence.

Yike Bike in motion

The inventor, Grant Ryan, is quite the serial entrepreneur. It's no small feat to re-engineer a bicycle - something that's been around for nearly 100 years and virtually unchanged. That's reinventing the wheel... but in a good way.
Fully folded and Good-to-Go

Also, it's nice to see that aesthetics have not been compromised for engineering. It looks lush and futuristic. This is not your ordinary fold-up bicycle.

Plus it has battery power to take it up to 25mph in less than a few seconds and provides a 10Km range on a single charge. A full recharge takes about 40 mins.

Unfortunately, it costs about $3,600... so we might have to wait awhile for prices to come down to affordability.

Icon Magazine recently did a spread that shows what's inside:

Yike Bike in Icon Magazine

There is news of a new model - the YikeBike Fusion - which weighs a bit more but costs $1,800 less. Check out this article on GeekyGadgets.

YikeBike Fusion

Additional Resources:
Yike Bike Website
Magazine article from Unlimited with interview of Grant Ryan


Invisible (nearly) Speakers for the Discerning Audiophile

Good speakers tend to be bulky. Electrostatic ones remove the box but not for space-saving reasons. NXT speakers are perfectly flat, which makes them easy to conceal - but to the detriment of their acoustic ability. Ferguson Hill, on the other hand, have taken a different approach by crafting high-quality horns from clear acrylic. What this means is that they look like transparent discs of glass.

I must confess that we have not demo'd any of these yet, so we have to withhold judgement when it comes to sound quality but Ferguson Hill have a tremendously strong reputation amongst audiophiles. Their website is full of information proffering reasons as to why their speakers are superior to the norm: clarity, precision, frequency range, less distortion, good imaging, etc.

They produce a smaller 5-speaker range for small spaces, preferably for iPod use (for the modest price of £395). Then, they produce a gargantuan pair of speakers for larger rooms where money is no object (list price is £12,590!!)

You can purchase the speakers directly from them and they will ship to the USA and UK (of course).

Electrolux Design Lab – glimpse of the future for Urban Man

Electrolux Design Lab 2010

Electrolux Design Lab demonstrated a great line-up of future concepts for capsule apartments at their booth at the 100% Design London event this year, featuring industrial design concepts for space age capsule living in small spaces. Most of the future concepts are for kitchen and laundry appliances. None are available on the market - yet, at least - but they provide a fascinating glimpse of the future through the eyes of some very talented, young industrial designers.

Here is a look at some of them:

Elements Modular Kitchen
A wall-mounted unit combines cooking, refrigeration, air conditioning and lighting in a single appliance that makes it very easy to see what's on offer.

Clean Closet

This is a wardrobe that cleans clothing. Each item is placed into a plastic sleeve and replaces laundry equipment by putting it into the closet itself.

The Snail
This portable device attaches magnetically to any induction-ready receptacle and heats up the contents via magnetic induction. You can place it against a mug, a cooking pan, or any other compatible device. It is meant to be energy efficient in that it only heats up the item in question, using sensors to adjust time and optimal heating.

Dismount Washer
This is a space-saving laundry contraption that features a laundry basket and washer/dryer in a single device. It is meant to be attached to a wall-mounted steam dispenser in order to refresh and revitalise clothing.

External Refrigerator
While the rest of the world (outside Japan) awaits cost-effective heat transfer equipment, we can (hopefully) look forward to appliances that use this technology for specific purposes, until people are ready (willing and able) to apply it to whole-house technology. This refrigerator is affixed to the walls of your home and uses external temperature drops to cool the contents - even in warm climates.

Eco Cleaner
A portable dishwasher and composter that cleans with ultrasonic waves to ionise food and turn it into waste. It comes in a sexy cylindrical shape that fits most small plates perfectly.

Bio Robot Refrigerator
This really messes with my head. Instead of taking up a lot of space, this unit hangs on the wall and allows you to place objects into a gel-like material that moulds around them and keeps them cool (and airtight). The gel is meant to be odourless and non-sticky. This is something I'd love to see, although getting something out of the refrigerator will feel like putting your hand into a bucket of slime!

Here's a look at the runners' up:
https://youtube.com/watch?v=M0cxYgoja4

If you're wondering what won the Electrolux 2010 design competition, the prize went to The Snail:

Design Skin multifunctional furniture for children

soft-play area

Korean designer Design Skin has risen to the urban design challenge of making kids furniture for small spaces by developing a line of modular, component-based multifunctional furniture for children. What's great about this children's furniture is that it can double up as both an activity gym, as well as regular furniture for bedrooms and communal areas.

Cubes, mats, balls and other assorted elements can be combined into a myriad of different configurations to make castles, gymnasiums, sofas and various soft-play activity areas.

Since the pieces can be folded up and re-configured, they can be altered as and when required. This makes them ideal for small spaces where there isn't a designated play area. For example, a child's bedroom could be rapidly reconfigured into a gymnasium. Given that it's harder and often unsafe for children to play outside in dense urban cities, this is very clever.

Construction is sturdy and the pieces are easily washed. It can also be manufactured to hide the zippers, should it be used around toddlers and infants.

For a comprehensive list of what types of furniture can be made, check out our posting on Nomadz.Net for further information and for a product catalogue.

Soft-Play building blocks

PropellerJack Sculpture Hanger

wall mounted version

Even though Mommie Dearest says, "No wire hangers!"  Surely, she wasn't speaking about this intriguing piece of hanger sculpture from Mossa - the PropellerJack. Several levers can be rotated around its axis (like a propeller!) to accommodate all kinds of stuff - clothing, equipment... you name it.

Perfect for small spaces and capsule apartments.

The magnetic version is perfect for kitting out your travel pod and can easily be taken with you when you need to make a clean getaway.

For more information, check out the Mossa website.

Click here to buy...

Magnetic version