If you can't beat 'em, it's time to make accessories. That's the lesson that many might take from Creative's most recent press anouncement
involving the company's new product, the Xmod. What, never heard of it? That's because it's brand new...Now, Creative wants you to wonder how you ever lived without it.
The Xmod device is designed to increase the sound quality of compressed audio like MP3 and AAC files. It plugs in between the device and your output of choice (be it speakers, headphones, dog, whatever), and proceeds to 'fix' the incoming signal. All of this magic is done thanks to technology developed for the X-Fi sound card.
In order to understand how this technology works, it's important to understand the art of music compression. Much of a track of music sits in roughly the same band of Hz and Db - the singer's voice, the guitar, the drum, etc. In order to shrink the file size down, compression stays within an 'acceptable limit' (your bitrate) of this band, but leaves out minutia that doesn't fall within the parameters. That means that some of the outlying sounds (harmonics, bass resonance, etc) that audiophiles love end up on the cutting-room floor.
Creative has designed the Xmod to reinstate some of those lost sounds by analyzing the incoming analog signal from the output port. The Xmod then 'fills out' the sound a bit: boosting levels of really low and high sounds, adding resonance and soft reverb if applicable, etc. Essentially, it's a portable version of the X-Fi's Crystalizer and CMSS-3D.
The Xmod is about the size of a pack of gum, and it is set to retail in this month for almost $80 USD. Since it's an active device, it will also require some sort of power. Creative mentions an optional AC adapter in the press release, but we hope that there is also a battery component to this for people on the go. One also has to wonder whether adding post-processing into a track that permanently lost some of its natural sound is really the same thing as improving the quality.
Would you be interested in this? Or is it just another reason to use lossless compression and save the $80? Tell us your thoughts on the Xmod in our forums