Digital Sound System 80
Boom in a
by Jim Bray
major foray into the audio market is a USB-based satellite/subwoofer combination
that cranks out the power and the sound - and thus can be a "sound
investment" for people wanting to up their audio ante.
from the Dutch electronics giant Philips (co-inventor with Sony of the
compact disc standard), the Digital Sound System 80 is an 80 watt, 3 piece
system that handles analog and digital duties with aplomb.
The combo is efficient,
sounds excellent, and is almost loud enough to satisfy one who cut his
teeth listening to The Who. In short, it offers a terrific listening experience
on your PC - and the fact that it's USB-based means many users can now
get by without a sound card and thereby free up an expansion slot inside
the PC for other technological toys.
Of course that's just
the beginning. The DSS lets you customize the sound to your own taste
via a ten band programmable graphic equalizer, so if you like to hear
that blood splatter in your favorite game - or merely prefer the lush
sounds of strings - there's a setting with your name on it.
You can tell the system
pumps out 80 watts, too, and cleanly. I had the subwoofer perched near
my feet and when the sound got hot and heavy I received a gentle massage
from the waves emanating from the beast. So not only was I thankful for
the audio, my feet were grateful for the "ultrasonic therapy"
The DSS features an
onboard DSP (Digital Signal Processor) chip that handles the processing
- which is why chances are you'll be able to dump your sound card. Controls
are adjustable via either software or hardware, and adjusting one affects
The Digital Sound
System's satellite speakers' frequency response is from about 160Hz to
20KHz and the subwoofer takes that down to 40Hz, which is plenty for almost
all real world applications, and better than some home audio systems can
Setup is very easy.
The system is plug and play and an added bonus to that is that it actually
works, as opposed to some plug and play devices that merely say they work
and then force you to mess around with them...
Microsoft claims you
can get 3D surround sound via DirectX, and you can to a point - but it's
no substitute for real rear speakers. On the other hand, not having rear
speakers leaves your desk freer for other junk
The company also says
you can connect the system to your TV or audio system, though I didn't
Using the system with
my PC, I experienced solid low frequencies, with clean midrange and highs.
Microsoft says they give a boost to "selected mid-frequencies"
so vocals are brought more to the "front". I don't know about
that, but I noticed very nice stereo separation, with good width and depth
perception - in all, a very musical performer that didn't seem to favor
any sounds or frequencies over others.
The nice power rating
and terrific "oomph" also comes in handy with explosions and
crashes, so gamers should definitely feel at home.
All in all, the Microsoft
Digital Sound System 80 is my favorite PC audio setup to date. I even
preferred it to a real PC surround, Dolby Digital system because, while
it lacks that other system's multi-channel and multi-format capability
(which I must admit are wonderful assets), the sound quality - and the
resulting standing waves - really knocked off my socks.
Tell us at TechnoFile what YOU think