5.1 Headphones

Discussion in 'Headphones, Earphones & Portable Music' started by Buckland, Mar 10, 2004.

  1. Buckland

    Buckland
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    I love my AV surround speaker system (Pioneer ax5i, dynaudios), but need to play it fairly loud to get the most out of it (especially given the kind of films that i like).
    This is not always practical, given kids in bed etc.

    Therefore, i thought it might be worth trying some 5.1/surround headphones.

    Any views/recommendations?
     
  2. cameronl

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    hi there, I have some sennheiser wireless ones. They give a not bad surround sound performance though with very little base. They have the advantage that you can move around with them (i.e. kitchen) and still hear the movie.

    CaM
     
  3. bobbypunk

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    proper 5.1 by sony @ about £350
    there are others but most are from obscure companies i don't recall
     
  4. Senninha

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    Has anyone seen/tried these ;

    http://www.pioneer.co.jp/catalog/ht/se-dir1000c.php

    A couple of friends of mine are in Japan at the moment, and they both tried these at the weekend and instantly bought a set each to bring home. Since then they have been raving about them.

    Does anyone else have any experience of them?
     
  5. hornet_boys

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    For a cheaper alternative try http://www.bigpockets.co.uk and search for headphones or input product code of SPK0024

    They have a 5.1 set for £24.99 plus P&P - cannot give details of the quality until I receive them.
     
  6. tom_nieto

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    I think Zalman made a pair of surround headphones with 6 drivers in them. Don't think they were too expensive, but I don't know what the quality would be like.
     
  7. nico35

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  8. WhyAyeMan

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    Theres supposed to be some Philips ones coming out based on the HP-1500 headphones for about £250, but as yet I have never seen them in the UK :(

    An alternative for users of HTPC, is to use a software package like PowerDVD and use the Dolby Headphone functionality. I am contemplating going down this route myself, because my Terratec EWX 24/96 soundcard sounds much more dynamic than my Pioneer DV350 DVD player.
     
  9. nthornhill

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    I read somewhere that the Marantz PS-17 (that thing with 2 channels of amplification and 7.1 preamp channels) was the launching hifi product for dolby headphone technology. Strange place to find it ;)

    Oh, and I remember Sennheiser selling a surround sound device with their HD-580s for a while. It was meant to go between the source and headphones, and did some sort of surround sound tricks. No clue how it sounded, but since they were pretty much giving it away free with the HD-580s it can't have been that great.
     
  10. Senninha

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    Does anyone know where I could find wireless headphones AND microphone for a PC? I use the PC for VOIP, and it would be nice not to have wires trailing everywhere!
     
  11. NicolasB

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    Coming to this thread extremely late. :blush:

    Anyone else reading this should note that there are two completely different approaches to "5.1 headphones":

    1) A special pair of headphones with multiple drivers built into each ear-piece.

    2) A conventional pair of headphones with some fancy signal processing which simulates (at the ear) what you would hear if you were listening to a 5.1 track over speakers. (This is not as simple as it sounds, because you have to simulate the effect of wall-reflections in the virtual room as well as sound coming directly from the virtual speakers).

    The Medusa 'phones which nico35 is suggesting fall into the first category. So do the Zalman 'phones (the ZM-RS6F) that tom-nieto is talking about.

    The remainder are systems that go down the signal-processing route.

    The best-known algorithm for this is called "Dolby Headphone", but there are others.


    Devices that have dedicated headphones:
    • The Pioneer device (the SE-DIR800C) uses Dolby Headphone, but (as far as I know) it is not available in the UK. It has fairly recently been announced in the US, though, so fingers crossed....
    • Philips do two Dolby headphone devices, one with corded headphones (SBCHP1500), the other with cordless (SBCHD1500). Again, neither is available in the UK yet, to my knowledge. There are rumours that the cordless one may become available soon. I asked Philips customer support about the corded version the other day, and got several different answers - the most recent one reckoned it might be available here in September.
    • The Sony MDR-DS5100 is a similar sort of product. It uses Sony's proprietary algorithm rather than Dolby Headphone - I don't know how the two compare.
    All of these come with their own headphones that you cannot opt not to buy, which is a pain if you want to use better quality ones. :thumbsdow


    Expensive possibilities:
    • The dual-SHARC verion of the Tag McLaren AV32R processor has a Dolby Headphone option, as does the AV192R.
    • The Denon A1SR has Dolby Headphone output.
    • As previously mentioned, there's also the Marantz PS-17, a rather elderly device which provides 5.1 channel processor/pre, but only two channels of power amplification.
    Other possiblities:
    • The Denon ADV-M71 has Dolby Headphone capability. This is a little all-in-one sytem, which includes a DVD player, decoder, and two channels of (rather weedy!) amplification. It has 5.1 pre-outs, though, and the specs mention digital inputs as well as outputs. I've seen this for only about £350 or so - don't know how good the audio DACs are, though.
    • Finally there's the Lake Technology HSM6240 "TheaterPhone". Unlike the others, this is intended for audio engineers who are monitoring 5.1-channel mixes. It therefore doesn't take a digital input. Instead it has a 5.1-channel analogue input, and does its own A/D and D/A conversion. Not available in the UK. Cost was about £500+VAT and import duty to import one from Australia the last time I checked.
     
  12. NicolasB

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    That was the Sennheiser Lucas, and was, by all accounts, fairly crap. :) Dolby Headphone can actually sound quite impressive, though. (IMO it makes headphones sound better than speakers costing ten times as much. :smoke: )
     
  13. Member 22549

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    Has anyone actually used the medusa or Zalman headphones. Any feedback will be greatly received as have just moved into a flat, and late night loud listening is not an option with my current system.

    I know the Pioneer and Phillips are likely to be better, if or when they finally manage to make it to our shores. BUT no doubt they will carry a hefty price tag to show that.

    Thanks

    Ricky
     
  14. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    The Zalman and Medusa systems are really not in the same price bracket as the DSP-based solutions. Both sell for something in the £40-£50 range (if you shop around).

    The Pioneer system has a "suggested retail price" in the US of $475.

    There are several different Sony "VPT" systems. They start at $300 and go up to $800. (Sony don't want to let me link directly to their site, so go to http://www.sonystyle.com and choose Accessories\Headphones\Virtual Dolby Digital)

    Sony have actually launched a couple of new products since I last looked - the $500 one looks interesting.

    A bit of Google searching will probably bring up some reviews of the Zalman product.

    Manufacturers' pages:

    Medusa
    Zalman
     
  15. Senninha

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    Ouch! You can pick them up much cheaper in Japan (usual places, Akihabara, Shinjuku side streets etc).

    It may just be that the dollar is so weak just now, and/or early adopter pricing. I hope they would be much cheaper here due to strong pound, but that would be unusual...
    :(
     
  16. yellowbug

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    Looking for some cans myself for dvd viewing, have read several negative reviews of the Zalmans (apparently dialogue sounds as though it's coming through a drainpipe). I have tried but have not managed to find any reviews or comment on the Medusa's, though at the price and also being aimed at the PC market I have my doubts.

    I too would be interested to hear if anyone has used the Medusas or found any reviews. Also, any other recommendations for 5.1 reproduction.

    Ade
     
  17. bonzobanana

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    I've got a set of medusa 5.1 headphones and as I work nights and keep the shift roughly even when at home at weekends I find them very useful indeed. I've been very happy indeed with the performance but it doesn't match a proper home cinema setup but it does offer a good surround sound effect. Considering afterhours sell them for about £47 delivered and any profit they make goes to an excellent charity I would say its definitely worth picking up a set. You get the main headphones which also features a microphone. A headphone amplifier uint and transformer and a load of extra cables and instructions in I might add a very posh box. Please note you do need a dvd player with 5.1 phono outputs though. It doesn't decode itself. There are lots of players with these nowadays. The AMW P80L is a good player if you don't mind a lack of RGB scart output. It features dd/dts/dpl2 decoders and all the dsp effects you could possibly want to fully test these headphones. Its under £40 at www.dabs.com.

    I've used my sennheiser PX-100s with headphone surround options on my pc and its not a patch on the sound quality of the medusa headphones connected to my AMW dvd player.
     
  18. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    I came across another expensive Dolby Headphone option today. Dolby themselves make a "reference" decoding device, the Dolby 564. This is capable of decoding DD, DD EX, or PCM digital streams, and produces both (up to) 7.1 channels of analogue output, the same in PCM digital output, and (independently) Dolby Headphone output.

    Inputs are AES rather than SP/DIF, but that might not be a problem. Analogue outputs are XLR, no RCA. And, of course, it can't decode DTS!

    Click here for more info.

    It costs about £3K, I think.
     
  19. BAD Dave

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  20. Exocet999

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  21. sceptic

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    I didn't know Sony were making 5.1 cans.
    Unbeatable are doing them for £160. Maybe Ask Direct will get hold of some at a more affordable price
    I tried a search on Headfi but the site is down.
    Anyway I'd also be intererested to see the views of anyone who's tried them.
    Otherwise, exocet, I'm afraid you'll have to be the first to try them and let us all know. ;)
     
  22. Exocet999

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    hmmm might just go for em they do look pretty swish

    Might ask my local sevenoaks delaer see if he can get a pair i can try

    :smashin:
     
  23. ripkord

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    I have the medusas, cant beat them for online gaming and watching movies (considering they were only £50)
     
  24. Member 22549

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  25. Member 22549

    Member 22549
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  26. BAD Dave

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    Thanks for that yumyum! Excellent news! :thumbsup:
    Now, whether to buy some now or wait for the similar Philips HD1500 unit to compare the two!?
     
  27. russellscott

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    I managed to purchase the Sony MDR-DS5100 from Hifibitz about a year ago. They are actually pretty good as far as virtual dolby digital goes. Sometimes the sound goes a bit tinny but overall not a bad job. The headphones are very comfortable but you do have to have line of sight to the receiver or you get a bit of hiss.

    I've been trying for months to get hold of a spair set of phones so me and misses can watch movies together late at night but i'll be buggered if I can find a set anywhere. So it looks like i'm gonna have to get the new DS3000. Anyone tried these yet ?

    cheers
    Russ.
     
  28. chic

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    play are doing the medusa 5.1 headphones for £34.99, out of stock at the moment

    review here
     
  29. gargoyle

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    I'd like to purchase one of the more expensive units from sony, pioneer etc for my home cinema system but am currently awaiting reviews, in the meantime, the medusa's look promising - for pc gaming - can it be used for this?
     
  30. Robster

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    I've had my Pioneer DIR800C headphones for a couple of weeks now. Bought them for £269.99 from AVLand.co.uk, but the price has since gone up to £299.99. They were on pre-order for about a week or so, pretty much as soon as they appeared on their website. AVLand kept me up to date (phone calls) and even hand-delivered them to my flat when I mentioned that the courier delivery would be tricky because of my working hours (they can only deliver to the cardholder's address). Excellent service.

    The cans are fairly light but seem well built and nicely finished. Comfortable too.

    In terms of sound quality, I wasn't massively impressed at first. I think that after reading a review of the 800Cs over on the HeadFi.org forum I was expecting something gobsmacking. That said, this weekend I've finally managed to give them a good session and actually watch whole movies with them rather than just clips.

    Yesterday I sat through the entire 3.5 hours of the extended cut of Fellowship Of The Ring. Not once did the headphones feel hot or uncomfortable (though I did take a couple of breaks to grab more beer). What impressed me throughout the entire film was how well BALANCED these cans sound. Bear in mind that there's no tone controls, no channel levels here - it's all handled automatically by the processor and the Dolby Headphone algorithms. This is a sound that is superbly crisp and detailed but is no slouch in bass. The low level rumbles of the troll's footfalls, or Howard Shore's pounding score all came through very nicely indeed. True, it's not going to be a match for a good subwoofer but by the end of film I didn't feel I'd been cheated of anything.

    As I said above, the overall sound is balanced, with a clean, detailed quality. I'm used to listening on my Kef Q-Series speakers which themselves have a neutral clarity which I really like. The DIR800Cs though are clearer to my ears. All the details are there and the top-end of the sound is a bit 'brighter' than I'm used to. Maybe not as natural sounding as the Kefs - but it no way could it be considered harsh, aggressive or fatiguing. In fact I really like it.

    Dialogue clarity is exceptional and I didn't miss a single word of a single line of dialogue. However, without wanting to sound too negative, vocal quality tends to have a slight 'echo' to it. I do mean SLIGHT and after the first few minutes I didn't even notice it. I couldn't quite decide if the effect was that of the Dolby Headphone processing or whether the cans were just reproducing the clarity of the ADR vocal recordings. In the end I gave up thinking about it. It's a minor, minor effect and one which doesn't detract or distract at all.

    Channel separation - left to right is excellent, but front to back is what people are going to be interested in the most. Can headphones really produce discrete surrounds?

    Well, yes and no. The Kef speaker arrangement in my lounge leaves about eight feet between the front speakers and listening position, with the surrounds about five feet behind and to the sides. The upshot is that I'm used to a very spacious soundfield where side-wall and rear-wall imaging are common. Not up there with the very best systems, but not bad.

    The DIR800Cs certainly do produce directional effects well, though it's like somebody got your surround speakers and brought them much closer to the listening position. Quite often I found myself trying to work out if sounds were from the front or supposed to be from the rear. It wasn't until the scene where Gandalf returns to Hobbiton and you hear a crow squawk loudly in the rear right speaker that I figured out what was going on:

    In short, the 'position' of the virtual rear speakers through the cans isn't the problem. The issue I found was that the 'front' speakers didn't sound 'in front' enough. Imagine the front speakers being brought right in front of you and them moved towards the side. It's as if the left/centre/right sound is 'inside your head'. When the front channels are quiet (as they are in that scene with the crow), any directional rear effects come through beautifully. When the fronts are in full swing, the rear effects tend not be so distinct. Rear effects which are more ambient still come through really cleally - but it's not quite the same as having speakers several feet behind you. You can tell quite clearly where the 'layers' of sound are - and when you get strong directional separation there's no problem at all (several 'wow' moments during Fellowship). It's quite a cohesive soundfield that is presented through these cans. It never feels like you're missing anything - just that your listening environment has been brought in a lot closer.

    This I imagine is more to do with the limitations of headphones. With drivers directly over your ears the 'front' sound is bound to come more from that direction. I must point out that I didn't find it a real problem. You get used to sound very quickly and the overall tone, balance and clairty of the Pioneers more than makes up for any shortcoming I mention here. It's a different listening experience. Don't expect them to have the same directional quality as your speakers - they wont, it's different, but not necessarily worse. I found myself absolutely riveted to the film and at the end my ears didn't feel tired or fatigued. I heard effects, musical cues and dialogue that I had never picked up on before. I heard timbre and intonation in voices which I'd previously not noticed.

    Basically, I was damn impressed.
     

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