Terratec Aureon Dual USB review
Needs Free USB port
Review Date: 14 Aug 2008
Price when reviewed: (£18 ex VAT)
Reviewed By: Simon Williams
There are lots of things that can be plugged into a USB port on a Mac - flash memory, a hard drive, a wireless keyboard and mouse, for example.
A sound adaptor probably wouldn't be first choice for most people, but it is for the guys at Terratec. The Aureon Dual USB is a small, black stick, a bit larger than an average memory drive, with a standard USB plug on one end and two miniature jacks sockets on the other. One of these is for microphone input and the other for headphone or speaker output.
The output socket has a dual function - note the clever hint in the product name - as, like the audio output on modern Macs, it has an optical output, too. With the supplied jack to optical adaptor, the Aureon produces a full S/PDIF, digital output, for a MiniDisc or any other device that can accept an optical signal.
Setup is incredibly easy - you simply plug the adaptor into an available USB port. Drivers are held internally and are automatically installed when it's plugged in; the USB adapter should have been set automatically as the default sound device in the Sound preferences.
This inclusion of drivers on-board the device is ideal, since you don't have to carry around a separate CD of software. The Aureon Dual USB is particularly good in this regard, as it contains drivers for both Mac and PC, so you can move it between computers in a mixed environment, to add quality stereo sound to whichever machine needs it.
The stereo sound quality is very good. There's plenty of detail in the higher frequencies and a well-defined stereo stage. The bass response is also good, though this will depend much more on the headphones or speakers that are used with it. The sound is better than that from a Mac, though whether it's worth the price on that improvement alone is questionable. It's good for most forms of music, but is also fine for games and reasonable for movie soundtracks.
With movies though, you'll miss the extra realism of multi-channel output in 5.1 or 7.1 configurations. A USB adaptor with those extra sound sources would be a more interesting proposition, because it would give extra features, not available as standard on most Macs. The majority of Macs made in the past 10 years have decent stereo sound on-board and a headphone jack where you can connect speakers, or better speakers, to get good sound.
To an extent, this Terratec product looks like a solution in search of a problem. It's hard to see why you'd pay an extra £21 to use the Aureon Dual USB, clever though it is. The exception to this is if you use S/PDIF and want an optical output to a sound system, though even this is duplication if you have a modern iMac or MacBook.
The ideal use for this device is to carry it around with you, to add to older machines that don't have the latest audio output. In this role it does its job. It produces good quality sound and is exceptionally easy to use. At the price, it's not going to blow any holes in your pockets either.
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