USB Sound Box 7.1
The computer is increasingly being used as the central hub for home entertainment activities. Generally this involves television and video functionality but we must not forget about audio aspects. The Sandberg USB Sound Box 7.1 is a product that offers to provide the capability to turn your computer into the focal point and control centre for your audio equipment. The kit consists of a black box, with dimensions of 100 x 25 x 58mm (W x H x D), a USB lead, software CD and a mini User Guide.
When installing this product you need to follow a slightly different procedure depending upon whether you are running Windows 7 or Vista/XP. With the former system you will need to attach the box first while the latter requires you to install the software prior to attaching the box. Once attached to the computer, this box provides a range of connection options that are located on the front, rear and left side of the unit.
Running along the front of the box are clearly labelled sockets for headphones, line in and various combinations of external speakers. The arrangement of four speaker sockets gives you the choice of attaching a 2.1, 5.1 or 7.1 speaker system. Along with the USB port, the rear of the box houses S/PDIF IN and OUT sockets for adding a digital source and playback device. The left side features connection sockets for either a mono or stereo microphone. Located on the top of the box are LED lights to indicate power/activity and when the microphone is muted. There are also elongated buttons to raise and lower the volume level plus mute both the microphone and audio output.
Calling up the supplied software from the system tray icon, you have various options available for controlling this Sandberg audio device. Making use of a tabbed interface, the software opens with the main settings page. This page will allow you to switch between 2, 4, 6 and 8 channel input depending upon the type of content such as MP3 files, Dolby Digital or 3D games. Further options let you select either virtual or real speakers with DSP mode plus choose an appropriate analogue output system. An interactive visual representation of the available set-ups help you make the correct decision.
A Mixer tab provides the means to adjust the volume of any devices connected through this audio box and choose the appropriate source for recording content. Selecting the Effects tab allows you to choose the best environment setting for the audio output. A series of icons are available for some environments. These icons represent locations designated as a bathroom, concert hall, underwater or music pub. If these four locations are not what you are looking for then there is a drop down list that features several others that are more appropriate than at least two of the original four. When choosing your environment you can also select from three sizes of room.
An equalizer feature allows you to make manual adjustments or opt for one of the pre-defined settings. Fortunately the pre-defined settings are more realistic that some of the environments. Finally the Karaoke / Magic Voice tab has sections for adjusting and adding effects for voice recording and playback.
The Sandberg USB Sound Box 7.1 certainly adds to the available audio connection options of your computer. Audio quality is reasonable but the lack of a remote control device is a handicap. I also found it a struggle to remove the various items from the packaging. Requiring Windows XP and later, this product comes with a five year warranty and has been priced at £36.99.
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