If you use a Mac for listening to audio, you may have noticed that it isn’t quite as good as it might be. Audio input for Macs is no longer a standard on all models. Thankfully Griffin, the Mac-widget guru, has come up with a way to get great-quality audio in and out of a Mac without breaking the bank.
Apple’s computers were the first to have any audio capabilities. Granted, the first Mac was pretty limited, but soon Macs were beeping, squawking and chiming with the best of them. With the release of the LC, audio-in became a standard, albeit only 8-bit mono audio. Now, all Macs have 16-bit audio out – but only some have 16-bit audio in. That’s where Griffin comes to the rescue with PowerWave.
The PowerWave offers a simple way to get high-quality audio in and out of a Mac. It’s a fraction of the price of the audio cards used by professional musicians, and allows you to plug-in real speakers rather than the powered ones common to computers.
It consists of a small amplifier box that connects to a Mac via USB. This box can be connected to your normal audio equipment, allowing playback from iTunes, or whatever you like. It also lets you take the output from a stereo and feed it into a Mac. If (like me) you have been waiting for a decent way to convert vinyl records into MP3 format, then the wait is over.
If you don’t have a big stereo system, PowerWave is still useful. All you need is a pair of speakers – any normal speakers will do – and plug them into the breakout box supplied. I have relatively small speakers, but I’ve seen PowerWave demonstrated with six-foot high monster speakers being powered by an iBook. The resulting sound is amazing, especially when you look at the size of its source.
The reason that the sound from PowerWave is so superior to normal audio output is because the analogue and digital converters are outside the Mac. Griffin claims that the inside of a Mac is too polluted with high-frequency electrical noise to get a decent audio signal out. The PowerWave sits outside the box, and gets clean audio via USB. The resulting sound is noticeably better.
The real draw for me, though, is the audio input. The PowerWave is the first simple way I’ve come across to do it. It now ships with Final Vinyl, a simple but useful application for recording old records. It can divide the resulting recording into tracks, which you can then turn into MP3s for iTunes and iPod.
If you’re aiming for good stereo output for a Mac, without breaking the bank, PowerWave is the answer. It doesn’t have Dolby 5.1 or anything fancy: just honest-to-goodness top-quality stereo. With the added bonus of audio input, I’ve almost doubled the music on my iPod. It’s also handy for musicians, DJs and any other audio users.