Plug it in and fire it up...
like most other USB devices, installation could not have
been any easier. After plugging the Muse into our
test system we tossed in the setup CD and selected
"drivers" from the main menu. One reboot later, we
where up and running. The only noteworthy item is
the prompt that we received during the driver
installation. Windows advised us that the drivers
we where installing had not passed their compatibility
test. By simply clicking "Continue Anyway", the
setup continues and the device is installed properly.
Click Image for Larger
Driver Install Warning
Once the Muse was
properly installed, we proceeded to link up our speakers
and headphones to the I/O connections which are set
around the edge of the base. Rotating clockwise
around the unit, one can find the; Line-In, Front,
Center/Sub, Rear, Microphone and Headphone 1/8" jacks.
Though it is not necessary, we did find it a bit
surprising that Hercules did not implement gold contacts
for these connection points. Since this device is
aimed at a mobile market, we feel the use of standard
steel contacts was not a wise choice. Most 1/8"
connections are quiet susceptible to
corrosion/oxidization due to changes in
temperature/moisture. This in turn results in a
degraded signal quality that is most undesirable
(static, crackles, etc.). Through the use of gold
connections we feel Hercules would have increased the
duration of a trouble free product.
standard steel connections did supply a strong signal
that was free of static even when the plugs where
subjected to horizontal or vertical stress. All of
the pictures (above and below) where taken while the
camera was rotated around the Muse in a clockwise
fashion, starting at the USB cable. The bottom
right-hand picture was supplied by Hercules to further
display the possible connectivity options of the Muse.
Taming the Beast...
Included in the software
bundle was a very simplistic application which allows
the adjustment of volume to each individual speaker, a
speaker test and the manipulation over a few reverb
options. Though these programs do offer an ample
amount of control, they are a far cry from Hercules
usual software interface.
While, aesthetically the
Muse is very appealing, unfortunately it is lacking a
bit in functionality. Also its housing is quiet
sturdy, made of solid aluminium, but other components
are absent of the same eminence. Sadly, the two
issues we encountered involved the main feature of the
Muse, the control knob. For instance, the knob is
very loosely mounted on top of the base. Loose to
such an extent, that we feel after repeated use, it may
cause damage to the unit. The big issue however,
is how poorly calibrated the control knob is. When
turning the knob one can feel the subtle notches which
are there to aid in adjustment, unfortunately, even with
those present, you can not accurately predict the
volumetric adjustment. Sometimes a small slow turn
would result in a huge increase/decrease in volume,
while at other times, a fast large turn would result in
no change in volume. We found this a bit annoying
for sure. Considering manual volume control is one
of the key selling points of the Muse, we feel Hercules
should have invested a lot more care into this area.