Car audio aficionados are probably very familiar with Bongiovi Acoustics, and its experience in enhancing the quality of music in real-time, both in the car and out. But can a single app work wonders with digitally-compressed music files?
Free ($0.99 upgrade to unlock profiles)
Available at: Apple App Store, Android Market (coming soon)
It's no secret that Tony Bongiovi is second cousin to Bon Jovi's front man, Jon Bon Jovi, but his claim to fame was the Power Station recording studio he started in New York in the late 1970s. Over 30 years later, all that experience in electrical and acoustical engineering has led to an interesting app for iOS devices.
A free download, Bongiovi DPS (Digital Power Station) is anything but a complicated app when you first open it up, which is a departure from the long and detailed description on the App Store that explains a lot of what it actually does.
The purpose behind DPS lies in the contradiction between convenience and quality. The advent of the MP3 may have miniaturized music to a level that made entire collections portable, but it did so at the expense of audio quality. This is why you'd be hard-pressed to find a true audiophile even consider listening to a compressed digital file.
DPS acts as a replacement to the iPod app on your iOS device in that you can access all your songs, playlists, podcasts and even videos. The only caveat is that you can't play any songs you bought off iTunes that are still DRM-protected. When playing a song, you'll notice the button right below the playback bar.
When blue, the DPS goes to work in analyzing the signal to optimize the bass and highs and create a fuller sound. Even the mids get some treatment, and what you feel is music that "pops out" more at you. Press the blue button, turning it white, and the DPS enhancer turns off.
There is no doubt that DPS does enhance the audio of just about any track, and though it wasn't designed specifically for in-car listening, it does its job there, too. I tested this with both an FM transmitter and an AUX-In connection, though I didn't have anything better than factory speakers to work with. I used WAV, iTunes-quality AAC files and MP3s, with the latter two ranging from 112 kbps to 320 kbps.
DPS performed very well, but it needed something to work with, meaning that a 112-kbps MP3 had so much compression loss that the app only made a marginal difference. When the compression is lessened, as in a 320-kbps file, or with uncompressed WAV files, the sound just seemed to pulsate more. In fact, I didn't even have to raise the volume quite as high to get the same effect.
Pairing with speakers or your car's head unit via Bluetooth will disable the DPS function because the app still doesn't support it (though it's apparently "coming soon"), so you'll need to use a hard-wired connection.
The 99-cent upgrade is to unlock profiles based on equalizer settings that are meant to work with specific headphones or devices. Others are named after cities, but only for the sake of familiarity in knowing what works for you. New profiles are added to BongioviAcoustics.com that you can download, and then drag-and-drop into the app via iTunes.
Testing them out is worthwhile because you will find that one may work with a certain genre better than another. The problem is that profiles aren't saved, so you may be stuck with one for different types of music while driving, since it wouldn't be wise to fiddle with the settings when behind the wheel.