I've been forced to switch from WinAmp to Windows Media Player finally.
I'm suffering the bulky and slow interface now for a killer feature that I am finding I can't listen to audio without: SRS.
Its not prominently featured in the WMP interface (click Now Playing tab and in the bottom left, click the "Now Playing Options" icon and select "Enhancements ... SRS WOW Effects"). It is off by default.
I should say that I've never liked artificial surround or DSP gimmicks to enhance my music or make up for crappy speakers. I've tried to buy and put together systems that sound great with a flat EQ, but even on crap equipment I'd rather have crap do its crappy thing than have artificially enhanced sound (other than compensating with a bass and treble knob.)
Well, thats changed.
My main listening environment is my home office where I have a 4 speaker Klipsch system with matched subwoofer, rated at 60W per satellite and 160W for the sub -- in a small to medium sized room its more than I could ever ask for. Every other system I've listened to has always come back to a comparison with this listening environment for me.
Even on this near-reference (to me at least) system, SRS deepens and spatializes the audio in mostly transparent and otherwise totally tangible ways. The sound-stage for acoustic instruments, especially for live recordings, takes on a dramatic 3D presence without sounding like its being messed with and the bass is deeper without feeling like its unnaturally boosted.
The effect is even more pronounced when using headphones. Listening to music at work, I used to get ear-fatigue after a short period of time, but with SRS enabled, the sound is a lot more ... I don't know ... natural and relaxed ... and I find I am inclined to listen to music for longer periods of time, and at lower volumes. Know how when you have well amplified system you find you don't need to have the volume as high to feel you're hearing everything? Its a bit like that, plus the soundstage thing.
Long story short ... SRS Labs makes a small box, the WOW Thing for Computers
for hardware SRS processing. Its not built for car environmnent, but considering trying it there.
Give it a try in Windows Media Player, especially if you listen through headphones a lot. When you enable it for the first time, it'll feel wierd in your ears for a little bit but stick with it for a few tracks, especially ones you're well familiar with -- especially live or with acoustic guitar. Once you get used to it, turn it off mid-track. Bet you'll find it hard to believe thats what it used to sound like.
If you've got a subwoofer, dial back the TruBass but otherwise the default settings are pretty good to start with.
Unfortunate gimmicky product name.