Enermax is a company which has been around since 1990. With over 20 years experience it is well known for it’s well-built power supplies and silent, great looking cooling fans. In recent years Enermax has branched out into new areas of the market including keyboards and other peripherals, CPU coolers and cases.
Today we are going to be taking a look at the Enermax DreamBass Genie, first seen at CeBIT 2012. Enermax isn’t the first company which would pop to mind when thinking about an audio solution however they claim this small pocket sized USB sound card offers crystal clear music due to the built-in headphone amplifier, full bass due to it’s integrated bass booster and perfect well-balanced sound due to the inclusion of the VIA VT1620A audio chip. These are big claims from Enermax, so let’s get this neat device tested.
Specifications and Features
- Crystal Clear Music – Due to an integrated linear headphone amplifier.
- Full Bass – Thanks to a powerful integrated bass booster (80 Hz, +6 dB).
- Perfect and well-balanced Sound – High playback and recording quality (24/16 Bit, 16/32/48/96 KHz, THD-N: -80dB, SNR: 90dB).
- Earphones included – Ultra-light in-ear earphones for rich and clean sound (only AP001E).
- Latest Audio Technology – Strong VIA VT1620A audio chip.
- USB Audio Class 1.0 – Supports latest USB audio standard.
- Plug & Play – Immediately ready to use without inconvenient driver installation.
Packaging and Accessories
My initial thought was “This is a bigger box than I was expecting”, since the device itself is no bigger than your index finger however it is packaged in a box suitable for a gaming mouse!
The front of the packaging certainly grabs your attention with a matt print on the majority of the box but with areas printed in gloss such as the large image of the DreamBass on the front. The main features of the product are highlighted underneath. The front of the box flips open to reveal the Dream Bass held securely in moulded plastic, however there isn’t much text in here and it looks very empty.
The back of the box offers a more technical specification of the features in eleven different languages. I would like to point out that the box does come sealed so you will know if anybody has been at the product before it arrives with you.
Taking a look at the left hand side of the box we see a short description about the DreamBass, a list of the contents in the box and the system requirements for the device. Boasting support for Windows 7, Vista, XP, 2000, Mac and Linux with Ubuntu Support.
Finally on the right hand side of the box we see a graphical overview of how to install the device. But as the device is plug and play it’s setup is very straightforward with no drivers or additional configuration needed.
Inside the box you don’t get a lot. A colour user’s manual which is a single piece of card, the DreamBass and a fixed L shaped USB mini B to full size USB. I would have liked to have seen a pouch to keep the unit in to protect it from being damaged when taken about.
Taking a look at the DreamBass itself, it becomes apparent how small the unit actually is. It’s about 4.5cm high without the USB connection and only about 6.3cm with the USB connection. The clear outer housing is made from plastic as well as the red base of the unit. I think the design is based around a tube amplifier and is quite unique. As you can see there are two stereo 3.5mm gold plated audio jacks one for a microphone and the other for headphones. The base of the device houses the micro USB B connection and a sticker with the serial number.
We get a glimpse of the VIA VT1620A audio chip through the clear housing which is mounted to a red PCB. It’s nice to see Enermax have thought about the matching colour scheme throughout the device with the red PCB matching the red base of the unit. This gives it a quality appearance.
Testing and Performance
Due to the nature of audio products and the differences in people’s hearing audio quality varies for everyone. My testing is to be used as a guide and is my personal finding on the performance of the product. I will try my best to describe the performance as accurately as possible.
I tested the device through a pair of Sony XB-500s which are already a bass heavy set of headphones, but are by no means audiophile level. But I wanted to see if the DreamBass offered any better clarity or richer bass. I am comparing the device to 2 different audio solutions. A Realtek audio chip in a laptop and an Asus Xonar D2X to see how the DreamBass fairs with the Sony XB-500s.
Installation was a breeze just plug the DreamBass into a free USB socket and plug your headphones/microphone into the correct jacks and you are good to go.
I tested the DreamBass with a variety of music genres including, pop, dubstep, rock, easy listening and classical. I also tested the dream bass while watching part of a film and while gaming.
I really like the sound produced by the DreamBass. The improvement over on-board audio on the laptop was staggering. I found I could hear more detail in the audio and the bass was much more prominent and defined in the music. I found the microphone to offer slightly crisper recorded sound using the microphone on my Corsair HS1A, however the audio playback through headphones is where this product excelled. There really is a stark contrast for the better when using the DreamBass over onboard audio.
Now onto the slightly more extreme test. You may think that testing a sub £10 USB audio device compared to a £80 dedicated sound card is a bit over the top. However the reason I did this was to see how good the DreamBass really is. This test was to focus on the audio quality of the product only. Now the Asus Xonar D2X is one of the most popular sound cards on the market and offers crystal clear sound reproduction with a nice kick of bass and good levels throughout different applications and genres of music.
The DreamBass faired well compared to the D2X but is by no means a rival. I actually found the DreamBass to be really bass heavy at points, in some cases giving me a sonic head massage. In my opinion the DreamBass was able to produce a good amount of volume however I found some of the audio quality was lost at really high volumes. At points it became apparent that some of the detail was lost to the bass frequencies. However with a tweak of the EQ this was easily rectified. It seems to me that the sound is warmer than the D2X however the sound seemed muddy at points in comparison. During predominantly vocal tracks I found the DreamBass to be less clear and bass sections to be less crisp. However I am suitably impressed for the money; by no stretch of the imagination did I expect the DreamBass to be on par with the D2X but for the money it is a solid purchase and the quality is surprisingly good.
I have to be honest when I got the DreamBass I thought Enermax were claiming too much for such a well priced device. Available at under £10 in the UK this device is a no-brainer purchase. It offers excellent performance and does everything it claims really well.
I am a big fan of the size of the unit; it is very compact and light, however I fear that the plastic casing would become scratched when travelling and I would have liked to have seen the inclusion of a carry pouch or the option to purchase one separately.
A minor problem I have with the product is the size of the box it ships in The device is really compact and the box in comparison is laughable. A smaller box would have been much more suitable and economical or even a plastic blister pack.
The look of the unit is great. I love the valve amplifier look and the ability to see the components inside. The flashing blue indicator light which comes on when the DreamBass is being used provides a nice subtle glow however I found the flashing distracting at points.
Enermax offer two editions of the DreamBass the AP001 (the one we tested) and the AP001E with comes with some in ear earphones.
Overall I absolutely love the DreamBass; it’s performance is epic for the money. It offers much punchier bass, increased clarity throughout the bass, mids and treble and even comes with a built-in headphone amplifier. This compact device really does tick all the boxes and should be an essential part of any laptop bag. I highly recommend it. Great job Enermax.
I am are pleased to award the Enermax Dream Bass the Editors Choice Award: