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AS301DTS USB audio tube – surround sound with a visual treat

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June 12, 2010

Connected to a Toshiba laptop at this year's Computex

Connected to a Toshiba laptop at this year's Computex

Image Gallery (9 images)

Call me old fashioned but when I see the comforting glow of a vacuum tube I know that I'm in for some sonic pleasure. And that's precisely the thinking behind the aim AS301DTS USB audio tube headphone amplifier. OK, so the vacuum tube doesn't actually work, it's designed that way to trigger the very mental connection I opened with. That done, the tiny device then promises to deliver bass-enhanced surround sound to just about any pair of headphones attached to it. Sweet.

The first thing you'll notice when you plug the aim AS301DTS into a USB port is that tube-like glow from the blue light sitting inside the 18 carat gold-topped glass casing. Of course, just like the overall design, it's just for effect and is aimed to establish a mental association with quality sound. The audio enhancement is delivered courtesy of integrated DTS Surround Sensation Headphone Technology.

The tube-like glow from the blue light sitting inside the 18 carat gold-topped glass casin...

Along with the VT1610 audio chip, DTS Surround Sensation gives users simulated five-speaker surround sound audio through just about any headphones, while the capacitor-less construction of the aim AS301DTS is said to offer improved performance at the low frequency band. The 0.9 x 1.77 inch, 0.4 ounce device certainly left Gizmag with a positive impression after some limited testing at Computex recently.

The gorgeous audio tube, developed by Taiwan's Formosa21 Inc, is compatible with numerous operating systems as it works from a system's standard USB driver, although users will need to install the software to benefit from the DTS enhanced features. It's connected to and powered by a laptop or computer via an included 90 degree USB adapter and there are sockets for stereo out (for headphones/speakers) and stereo line/mic-in (for its voice clarification feature).

The aim AS301DTS gives users simulated five-speaker surround sound audio through just abou...

The aim AS301DTS took top spot at the prestigious Computex Taipei Design & Innovation Awards 2010 and will be available shortly for an estimated retail price of JPY3000 (about US$32), although there's no word on availability outside Japan.

The following overview provides a functionality snapshot:

About the Author
Paul Ridden While Paul is loath to reveal his age, he will admit to cutting his IT teeth on a TRS-80 (although he won't say which version). An obsessive fascination with computer technology blossomed from hobby into career before the desire for sunnier climes saw him wave a fond farewell to his native Blighty in favor of Bordeaux, France. He's now a dedicated newshound pursuing the latest bleeding edge tech for Gizmag.   All articles by Paul Ridden
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5 Comments

So let me see if I understand this... the vacuum tube is just for show and doesn't actually do anything, and the surround sound is actually being done by software as well? It's certainly not useful for any contemporary laptop or desktop, as all today have audio out jacks already. Thus, this thing is really useless! Wouldn't it make a heck of a lot more sense to just buy surround sound software? Why spend more money and carry around a completely useless USB dongle that besides being a danger to break off given its size is just a phony light (presumably just an LED) and a duplicate of a port you already have??? Am I wrong in understanding this - the video has one sentence vaguely suggesting audio processing is offloaded....

If my conception is correct, I'm baffled that this thing won an award. If it actually performed all of the work on the USB dongle (and didn't need software, such that it worked with any device that supported USB audio, including Linux and Mac OSes) and lost the giant useless light, it would actually be a useful device for upgrading the audio on a laptop or particularly on a netbook.

alcalde
12th June, 2010 @ 09:08 pm PDT

you must admire the guys ability to say AS301DTS so many times in such a short time span. you'd thin they'd find a proper name for the (say it loud, say it proud) AS301DTS

maybe this is the true secret to apples success - they've got catchy names that speak to our most inner selves - i i i i i want want want. after all if the (why yes, here comes another chance to say it) AS301DTS had a normal, semi catchy name it might actually corner the market for silly yet somewhat cool looking vacuum tuby tihngies that go into usbz. after that, the world will be ripe for complete (last time, say it like u mean it) AS301DTS domination. nothing can stop it. nothing

Oded Ya
12th June, 2010 @ 10:48 pm PDT

US $32 not bad. do let us know the moment it sells outside japan.

alzender
13th June, 2010 @ 07:17 am PDT

What are the benifits to use it?

Facebook User
13th June, 2010 @ 09:59 am PDT

isnt this like SRSWow or all the other sound enhancing stuff you get with a new laptop ?

Mike Donovan
27th October, 2011 @ 09:27 pm PDT
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