Opinion: Dolby Headphone

dolby headphone

I like to use headphones. They offer a much better performance than a normal Hi-Fi for less money and allow you to listen loud without disturbing anyone. Great for when my wife is studying, or if I am at work watching a movie. Normal stereo is great for music, but when watching a TV program or Movie, its just not the same as using a full blown 5.1 surround sound system. The spaciousness you get with speakers is missing along with the surround speakers. If only there was a way to listen to the 5.1 soundtrack through a pair of headphones. Well, there is.

Dolby Headphone. Headphone technology which originated from the work of Lake Technology. Apparently, Dolby were so impressed by their work they invested and licensed the technology and thus, Dolby Headphone was born.

I won’t go into too much detail about how the technology works, but if you are interested I found Dolby’s own website the most informative.

Dolby Headphone FAQ
http://www.dolby.com/consumer/technology/headphone_story.html

Dolby Headphone FAQ
http://www.dolby.com/consumer/technology/headphone_faq.html

Game Demos in Dolby Headphone
http://www.dolby.com/consumer/games/games_and_consoles3.html

Dolby Headphone provides 5.1 surround sound through a pair of headphones. It provides 3 type of acoustic environments, known as DH1, DH2 DH3. DH2 is the preferred choice of these 3 settings.

The decoder also converts to Dolby Headphone the following:

Stereo>Dolby Pro Logic II
Dolby Pro Logic / Pro Logic II
Dolby Digital
DTS (Sometimes omitted)

24bit/96Khz can be processed from DVD-Audio, but only the Stereo track.

Does Dolby Headphone work?
Yes and No. When watching TV and Films, the sound is far superior than that of normal Stereo. Surround sound is audibly quite convincing. If the film has a Dolby Digital or DTS soundtrack then prepare to be amazed. If the soundtrack is Dolby Pro Logic or Stereo, it will be converted to Dolby Pro Logic II and while better than stereo is not as convincing as a true 5.1 soundtrack. Depending on the film used, the sound can range from excellent to average and at times Dolby Headphone can feel like an effect, rather than a true 5.1 experience. I have noticed sometimes while the sound from the front speakers appears to be at the front of you, at times the sound can appear to sound like its coming from above you head.

Is there True Bass like you get in the cinema or with a good active subwoofer?
Most definitely, but it does depend on your own pair of headphones. The bigger the driver (40mm or higher) the deeper the bass.

How does Dolby Headphone compare to Sony’s VPT (Virtual Phones Technology) and SRS Headphone technology?
There is no comparison. I have used both of the alternatives and both of them sound like reverb added to an existing stereo soundtrack. Sony have a VPT demo on their website which is excellent and shows off the surround technology very well, but when using a pair of their MDR-DS3000 or MDR-DS5100 the surround effect is not at all convincing. SRS Headphone is even worse than Sony’s VPT and provides reverb along with boosted bass and sounds, well, just odd.

Does Dolby Headphone work well with consoles?
If you use an Xbox, Xbox 360 or PS3 which offer true 5.1 surround sound then you will love Dolby Headphone. It also works well with other consoles, but as I mentioned above, with a true 5.1 signal, Dolby Headphone really shines.

Recommended Films for use with Dolby Headphone
Empire Strikes Back – Dolby Digital
Fast and The Furious – DTS
Charlie’s Angels – DTS
Transformers – Dolby Digital

Products utilising Dolby Headphone Technology:

Wireless Surround Headphones
Pioneer SE-XB1
Pioneer SE-DIR800CII
Pioneer SE-DIR1000CII
Pioneer SE-DIR2000CII
Pioneer SE-DIR3000II
Philips SBC-HD1500
Audio Technica ATH-DWL5000

Portable Decoder
Creative HQ-2300D
JVC SU-DH1
Trustmaster T510

Portable Music Player
Sharp MD-ST880 Minidisc Player

Software DVD player
Cyberlink PowerDVD
WinDVD

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