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In the three years that I’ve lived in my Acton maisonette, I’ve received no protests from neighbours about noise. That all changed within 30 minutes of hooking-up an iSub sub-woofer to my iMac DV – although admittedly, its first challenge was Motorhead’s Ace of Spades. Standing in for a Manhattan of high-rise Marshall stack-amps is a lot to ask of any speaker, but the iSub did enough to make my intestines vibrate from one room away – and those of my broom-wielding neighbour from one house away.
The iSub is made for Apple by speaker specialists harman/kardon – who also makes the in-built speakers for the latest iMacs. It was crafted by Apple design guru Jonathan Ive, who has taken transparency as far as it can go – but as with everything Ive touches, it does look cool.
What I really loved about the 20W iSub is the way it added new dimensions to my iMac. I rented my first DVD movie shortly after buying the iMac, for the novelty more than anything. A letterbox image on a 15-inch screen is never going to be a mind-expanding experience, but the iSub added an authentic cinematic sound.
Although the in-built harman\kardon speakers are the best any Mac has ever had, they still sound weedy compared to a CD player. But with the added muscle of the iSub, the iMac, if anything, sounded better than my £85 portable CD system.
iMac gaming is another pursuit to benefit markedly from the iSub. I ran through a selection of favourites from various Macworld cover CDs – and all were far more immersive with the added depth of sound. Music, explosions, and special effects often assumed epic proportions.
There are just a couple of technical points to bear in mind with the iSub. One, is that you may require a Mac OS 9 Audio update. This can be downloaded from http://asu.info.apple.com.swupdates.nsf.artnum/n11573. The other, is to make sure you disable the 3D Sound option that appears on the CD pop-up menu on the Control Strip. If you fail to do this, the iSub’s sound will be muted.
Otherwise, all that remains is to attach the iSub via a USB port and then balance its sound against that from the in-built speakers. This is performed via the Speaker Setup section of the Sound Control Panel.
The iSub is for use only with the new 350MHz iMac, iMac DV and iMac DV Special Edition. You will also need to install Mac OS 9.
If you’re an avid gamer, then you’ll love the iSub; it’s the last piece in the Mac gaming jigsaw, making games sound as good as they look. The iSub also transforms your iMac into a half-decent sound system, adding another string to its already burgeoning bow.
The shame is that only owners of the latest iMacs will enjoy the benefits of iSub’s sound.