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The Promise As We Were Told
Actually, when I was told of such a product like the Bit88, my immediate reaction was, "Gimmick!".
After spending almost three years with my Sound Blaster Live! card, I never had much use for the dazzling amount of hardware effects which the DSP was able to provide. Most users grew out of them. The initially 'fun part' of toying with 'Bathroom', 'Auditorium', 'Chipmunk' or even 'Concert Hall' effects soon died off. Eventually, stock recordings still sounded the best to my ears.
With that much skepticism at hand, I went at it. I read with interest the technical.pdf at the Bit88.com website, and the claims are really impressive, not to say, bold.
BIT88 is the latest invention to hit the market for all music lovers and videogame lovers. This ingenious device ”promises to add life to the “dead and compressed” sounds of PCs and Hi-fi or AV systems, transforming the system to sound like a high-end audio equipment.
Make virtually any sound source perform like a high-end audio equipment? In fact, I was pretty keen to hear it for myself. But before we delve into this with our mis- or pre-conceptions of the product, let us read the designers' objectives.
What BIT88 does is that it alters the sound characteristics so that the ear finds the music pleasing. BIT88 seems to have magical-like properties which bring music to life. It adds more depth and character to the music.
All right. As pointed out by Joe Lee in the product launch, the Bit88 is targeted primarily at improving MP3, computer music, and PC games experience, to take away that blend, flat, and mere stereo reproduction of an actual sound stage that is captured via microphones. We hear only what the microphone "hears", and not the way we should hear it.
Hence, the Bit88 attempts to change that by first defining 'better sound', and then shaping the audio piece towards that subjective definition of sound, which would appear more pleasing to our ears. However, with that approach, I don't suppose it will please everyone.
The unique blend of age-old vacuum tube goodness, the latest electronic components, acclaimed audio-enhancement algorithms and an innovative circuit design, allowed the designers to come out with the Bit88 device which promises to take out that ordinary-sounding MP3 and PC sounds you've become accustomed to.
Being able to apply its exceptional enhancements across the entire audio frequency spectrum, this is a unique capability not found in any commonly affordable sound systems.
Repeated emphasis has been given to the use of vacuum tube technologies within the Bit88, which the company claims to give it superior audio characteristics having been established as preferred building blocks reserved for high-end audio equipment. Also, they are more costly to replace and as a result, the 1-year warranty on the device does not cover the 6SN11 vacuum tube found within.
SRS "WOW" and TruBass Technology
Next, the Bit88 employs two patented technologies developed by SRS Labs which have been endorsed by prominent companies such as Microsoft for use in the Windows Media Player software.
"WOW" technology enhances the soundstage so that its image extends beyond the speakers, and its effect is to reproduce a wider, deeper and taller sound than before. And more than just loud booming bass alone, TruBass accurately reproduces, from typical stereo recordings, the perception of deep and rich bass tones.
As dictated in the .pdf, the Bit88 uses a feedback circuit that is able to provide "deep, controlled and punchy bass" and it also claims to be able to "clean all the cold edges of rigid digital sound, adding clarity to the mid, high ranges and makes sub bass really deep."
A large bit of the technical.pdf was devoted to talk about its electrical advantages using finer grade components, impedance matching of its source and load, and its consistent high performance.
The BIT88’s unique bass of feedback circuit provides a deep, controlled and punchy bass, making it very flexible on all types of music. Its “magical properties” clean all the cold edges of the rigid digital sound, adding clarity to the mid, high ranges and makes sub bass really deep.
Unlike PC sound cards that use consumer grade components for basic sound reproduction, BIT88 uses an unique and superior circuit that provides stereo width expansion. It provides impedance matching, which gives a high drive capability. This is the only device that can claim true life like enhancement to any audio device. It can prevent overloading of the sound card of the PC and control the speakers better.
For recording enthusiasts, BIT88 provides the facility to match the sound card with recording equipment. It also adds warmth and 3-D life-likeness to the recording. Its frequency is within 1dB flat from 20 Hz to 25kHz. Channel separation is better than 80dB. Signal to noise ratio is better than 85dB. BIT88’s input impedance is 100k ohms and is able to drive any signal load. When the unit is switched on, the power to the valves increases by modern control circuits. This extends valve life and makes it safe with any circuits. The enhancement is immediate and is consistent even for long hours in operation.