By >Akihabara News Team
[Review] X-TUBE USB DTS… The Quick Review
Two weeks ago we introduced the latest X-Tube DTS Surround Sensation (the AS301DTS), a nice USB device letting you enjoy DTS surround audio on your notebook… To be honest with you, before receiving this device, we were skeptical… Could it really provide you with surround sound? Simply by plugging it into a USB port?
Of course, this device has not been made to offer you the best DTS experience ever, and you won’t use it with your home speakers… No, the X-Tube has been made for people who travel a lot with their netbook, notebook and want the best sound possible whilst doing so…
And to be honest, the device works better than we thought….
AS301DTS Specs (X-TUBE)
- Frame Size: 512
- PCM Ample Rate: 44.1 kHz or 48 kHz
- PCM Bits: 16 or 24
- Supported Channels: 2.X / 5.X
- Dimensions: 45L x 23D
- PC Interface: Mini USB port
- Stereo Headphones out (3.5mm)
AH-516 Specs (Headphones)
- Driver Unit: 40mm
- Impedance: 32Ohms
- Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20 000Hz
- Sensitivity: 100dB
- Max input: 100mW.
Regarding the packaging, we have something really simple. Inside the box you will find the X-Tube DTS, a pair of headphones, an installation CD, the instruction manual (in English) and a detachable USB port…
In the shape of a real vacuum tube, the X-Tube is stylish and well-built… Just plug this USB dongle in your USB port and the device glows blue. Of course, you won’t get a sound like that produced by a real tube headphone amp since it’s not a real vacuum tube. Inside the device you will see a printed circuit with a blue LED….
The overall design is pleasing, really funky in particular with the official DTS HD logo printed on the tube.
The X-Tube DTS is powered by the VIA VT1610 Chipset and features a headphone mini Jack 3.5mm output, as well as a mic input (3.5mm). The AS301DTS also comes with a pair of headphones designed to let you enjoy the DTS sound produced by the device, and a CD with the drive installation for DTS Surround Sensation Headphone Software.
Regarding the headphones and their overall quality; they look really cheap… In fact you may be better off using your own headphones than the bundled pair… They feel very uncomfortable, and I’m sure, after 30 minutes of use they will have caused considerable discomfort … Anyway, let’s install the driver to see what we have!
The software is really simple… It will allow you to either activate or deactivate the DTS Surround Sensation. You can also set some surround effects. There is a Music option or a Movie option… For both options, you can configure the voice as well as the Bass… and that’s it!
Pump up the Volume Baby!
For our test we got some DTS WAV audio files (@ 44.1kHz/16-bit Stereo) as well as some movie samples. Regarding software, we used VLC Media Player, Cyberlink Power DVD, and of course the software provided with the X-TUBE.
Before we started the test, we took the time to check if we really could feel the difference with a simulation of Front right speakers, Front Left speakers, central speakers etc…
It works, you feel a small difference between the front left speaker, and the rear right speaker, but it’s not obvious… Anyway, let’s test it with music and movie…
- Test with music files
And the result is far from being bad… Actually, there’s a noticeable difference when you activate the surround system… Inactivated, you feel your sound normal like on my Fast Track audio interface from M-Audio; you don’t have any difference… It’s still pleasant, but when you active the DTS Surround Sensation, you really feel a difference… The X-Tube DTS clearly increases the sound depth, providing a wide sound… Actually, this is more an amplification of the sound than a surrounding simulation, but you will still get a powerful sound, making your basic sound seem really “flat”
The good news is that the device does not distort your sound. What can be heard is clear and powerful… Turning on the Bass Enhancement option will clearly provide you more bass. The voice clarification will also really change your sound… However it depends on you… Some of you will like it, others may not… Turning it on will give you a studio recorded-like sound.
We tested the device with Jazz Music and Electro Music; each time we could distinguish difference between instruments… Each instrument was powerful and natural…
But to be honest with you is it really necessary to turn on the Surround system for music? Not really… For Example, in our music tests, Our Daimaou preferred the sound produced when the device was inactive…
- Test with movie files
During this test we were really surprised by the results… Actually, using this X-TUBE will immerse you in your movie…
We have to remind ourselves that we’re talking about a cheap solution to enjoy Blu-Ray or DTS file with a simple laptop, especially when you’re traveling and you cannot bring with you all your Home Theater system…
Actually, you feel a powerful sound, really detailed… Coming from a small device that measures only φ23mm × 45mm for 12g – it will do a far better job than your built-in audio system of your laptop…
However, the major reproach we have with this device concerns the voice sound… Actually, I found that voices were not really clear… Similar to the sound produced in a movie theatre. There seems to be a small echo produced… It’s really a pity, because the overall sound is almost perfect; music in films is really clear and powerful…If only the voice sound quality could have been better, the device would be perfect!
The only way to avoid this inconvenience is to turn off the Voice Clarification option on the software… Once turned off, the voices are clearer but still far from perfect…
Finally, regarding the headphones provided by the manufacturer, we strongly advise you to use your own headphones… Actually, I used the X-Tube DTS with basic headphones (Audio-Technica’s ATH-SJ5), and you won’t notice any difference… Just, my headphones are more comfortable than the AH-516…
- Overall Build quality
- Sound quality
- Voice distorted on movies with the “Voice Clarification” activated
The product is surprisingly good! Far from being perfect, but it seems to be a really good, maybe the best alternative to your Laptop built-in audio system.
Powerful, this device won’t distort your sound, and you will be capable of enjoying your HD Movies on a plane or on the train… But, to be honest it acts more like a headphone amplifier than a DTS Surround system device… It will mainly provide you with deeper bass and a wider sound…
Regarding movies, we are rather disappointed that voices are a bit distorted… You have the impression of hollow sounding voices hollow voices, especially when you turn on the “voice clarification option” on the software provided with the X-Tube…
Overall, if you look at the cheap price, the X-TUBE does its job, and this is all we are asking… If you want to fully enjoy you’re Blu-ray discs, don’t watch them on a laptop…
Available for pre-order on Geekstuff4u.com