Hey folks, Valkor here with my first post-CES 2009 review. This one started out kinda shaky and was definitely gunnin for a score of at least a -2, but after some updating and a change of gear GenAudio’s AstoundStereo’s Expander software is truly a great piece of software to behold.
AstoundStereo isn’t doing anything particularly new; I’m a big fan of my Creative’s X-Fi capabilities to bring out the best in my MP3’s. So I was a bit hesitant to replace that experience with a piece of software. However after listening to AstoundStereo’s demo on the CES showfloor, I REALLY wanted to replicate that experience on the Val-cave’s laptop, because that was just crazy! The one minute demo they had on the showfloor was so scary that I wasn’t sure if what I was hearing was through the headphones or happening right next to me. Installation was easy, but getting it started… well that was a rough. AstoundStereo is a plug-in for Windows Media Player, but whenever I ran the program, started a song and then applied the plug-in... WMP would crash. Thinking maybe it was my system; well I tried it again and again with the same results. Luckily there was an update available which improved performance and allowed me to actually run the plug-in with no further complications. Also headphones do make a difference. I tried them with a pair of Creative’s earbuds and also a pair of Ableplanet’s titanium headphones and the Ableplanet’s beat out Creative’s easy.
It all depends on your choice of music. I’m quite diverse so I have a wide range of tunes on CDs and on my hard drive. But I find AstoundStereo works best with pop music and some hip-hop. Sounds are rich and super clear; close your eyes and prepare to be immersed. The Expander really brings out minute details of songs and the vocals really shine. The best song to test out the software goes to Evanescence’s “My Immortal”; it’s eerily good! Another factor in performance is the bitrate of the MP3. Higher bitrates sound much better than the lower ones, but that goes without saying. Also the better the headphones, the better the experience; my personal choice is anything Sennheiser, but I have Ableplanet’s titanium headsets and they sound damn good.
Rock/Metal or any song that uses heavy guitar riffs are almost inaudible. Nickelback’s “Gotta be Somebody” sound’s great until it reaches the chorus. The sad fact is, in order to make the songs audible you have to lower the Expander, which is good but at the same time bad because you have to re-adjust it if you play something pop. And if your collection is as diverse as mine, you’ll be adjusting a lot, which really sucks, especially when you just wanna lay back and enjoy. Another drawback, as of today, the software only works with WMP and I’m more of a Winamp guy, so my hope is that one day the software will integrate with Winamp as I know my music will sound so much better.
My Immortal… seriously this should be the first song you should play when testing out this software. I’m telling you it’s damn near scary… yet so, so, sooooo damn good. Amy Lee, I will love you till no end.
I have to say, overall, I am impressed with the beginnings of what AstoundStereo has to offer, which is amazing sound at an affordable price (20 bucks download and updates are free). And while the software only works with MP3’s for now, future updates will include movies, DVD’s, etc. My Polar Express DVD awaits the day. So out of TOV 5 stars, I’m giving GenAudio’s AstoundStereo Expander 3.5 stars and I can see it only going up from here.