Surround Sound Headphone Adapters from JVC

JVC Surround Headphones

JVC SU-DH1 Claims Excellence in Dolby 5.1

In January, at CES, 2006, JVC demonstrated its new SU-HD1 Headphone Surround Adaptor. The adaptor is an alternative to buying dedicated 5.1 headphones. With the SU-DH1 you’ll be able to use any pair of headphones as a surround headset. Simply place the adaptor between the source and your headset.

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JVC says the adaptor is capable of creating a virtual surround environment for your head from not only Dolby Digital, but DTS, Dolby Digital Surround EX, DTS-ES, and MPEG2 AAC. JVC’s surround adaptor uses Dolby Digital II encoding from any two channel sources. It’ll provide theater-wide sound from any two channel source, such as an MP3 player or media player.

You get two methods of connecting your source to the adaptor: analogue stereo or digital optical. The digital optical mini-jack connects your multi-channel surround sources with outputs to your headphones. The selection and settings on the device are straightforward. An LED indicates what surround setting you have for you headphones. From two channel sources you can use Pro-Logic II to select between "Auto", "Movie" or "Music" surround effects. If you have dedicated Dolby headphones, there is an output for them as well as an output for your regular two channel headphones.

The adaptor is portable (wallet sized) and runs off two AA batteries. It’s perfect for in-flight movies portable DVD players, handheld video game systems, and just about anything that has a two channel source.

This new JVC product arrives in March, 2006 and will retail at $130.

What’s not to like?

Surround sound headphones? Some skepticism is warranted. If it sounds like a paradox it probably is. The surround headset has been tried before and usually just sounds like stereo with some cheesy expander effect behind it. At best, these devices give you a little reverb, emphasizing certain frequencies in an effort to provide expanded sound. At worst, an added component between your source and your headphones just contributes to the degradation of your hi-fi sound.

We haven’t had a chance to listen to the JVC SU-DH1 yet, so we may all be surprised with a unique high-quality product. However, the bold claim and the JVC name don’t exactly instill confidence. A real surround system is made up of multiple speakers placed throughout your listening area. This is the only way to create a true surround sound effect. You’ll have to hear it with your own ears to decide if JVC has really found the secret to creating surround sound with a two channel headset.