Abit is normally associated with enthusiast-class overclocking motherboards and to a lesser extent their now discontinued line of Radeon graphics cards. Most people would not think of abit as a manufacturer of multimedia speakers. So it was to our surprise when abit announced a new line of speakers late last year. Dubbed "iDome", this new product line consists of three products that, when used in combination, represent abit's vision of a "personal digital theater". The product line currently consists of the iDome DS500 digital stereo speakers, the iDome SW510 digital subwoofer and the AirPace WAD-01B wireless music access point.
To allow you to listen to your music anywhere in the house, abit has designed the AirPace music 802.11g wireless access point. The Airpace unit includes software that will act like sound drivers and allow any system to stream sound wirelessly over the network to the abit AirPace unit. The AirPace unit has a variety of digital and analog audio outputs that allow you to directly connect your speakers so they can play your wirelessly streamed music. While only stereo analog outputs are offered, the AirPace is capable of streaming 5.1 via an optical S/P DIF digital output. This is great if you want to position your speakers further away from your computer than your cables will allow or you could stream music to your home theater receiver in the living room from your computer in the den. The possibilities are nearly endless. The AirPace unit comes with a infrared remote and it can also function as a standard 802.11g wireless access point.
While the AirPace is a pretty innovative product, the real stars of this product line are the DS500 digital speakers and the SW510 digital subwoofer. Abit claims they have produced the first digital multimedia speakers on the market. The speakers are capable of directly connecting to digital S/P DIF optical outputs, a feat other multimedia speakers cannot match. One of the most obvious advantages of being able to tap a digital output is that high-end discrete sound cards and integrated motherboard audio are both equally capable of providing a digital bitstream. This means that the iDome speakers should be able to provide equal audio quality, regardless of the sound card used. The iDome speakers also possess a wide range of analog inputs so they can be connected to nearly any multimedia audio source from your computer, to your mp3 player and even your TV.
Now that you've heard the pitch and seen the pretty picture, your probably thinking "well thats just dandy, but what about the sound quality?". Funny, because that was exactly what we thought so we obtained one of each of the three products that make up abit's new multimedia product line and evaluated them over the course of several weeks. Read on to find out if motherboard manufacturers are any good at making speakers, but first, a short primer to explain all the fuss surrounding digital speakers.