Cons: The surround aspect is not discreet or even noticeable.
The Bottom Line: An excellent pair of headphones, but don't buy them for the surround sound.
Achieving true surround sound in a headphone is nearly impossible. After all, to get truly separate sound channels, you need seperate sound sources. But alas, headphones only have one in each ear. And those that do have multiple speakers in each ear are still never really playing the sound behind you as in a true surround setup.
When Sony offered to send me a review set of their DR-GA500 surround sound speakers in exchange for an unbiased review, I jumped at the chance.
The first thing that should be noted is that these are not portable. The headphones themselves are, but to get the true Dolby Prologic IIx experience, you need the included decoder box. This is not a bad thing as the headphones are designed for use in a gaming or home theater situation, not with your iPod. Sony is pushing the gaming aspects of these cans, but my main focus was on the movie experience.
What interesting about these headphones (and probably the only way to do it), is that the decoder box accepts true 7.1 input. 8 plugs going in. But only 1 stereo plug coming out. This is typical Dolby proLogic. The surround sound is encoded in stereo and then decoded on the fly. This is why you will never get discreet 7.1 surround in Prologic. The surround is essentially “folded” into stereo tracks.
I chose the alternative input, USB, because my computer doesn’t have a 7.1 sound card. It mentions in the manual that USB is a 2 channel output which is then given a surround “effect” on the way out.
First things first: These headphones are the most comfortable I’ve ever worn. And as someone who works in audio all day, I’ve worn a lot of headphones. While they are not closed back (and thus not good for pro audio work), they virtually hug your ears. The soft foam sits lightly on your ear and is support by other satellite cushions. Really and truly comfortable for long periods of time. Although there is a small microphone (which I didn’t use), it folds up against the earcups and blends in so well, a visitor of mine who tried them had no idea there was a microphone. So if you take these on an airplane, don’t be concerned that you’ll look like a tool wearing a headset mic.
As for the surround aspects, I was a little disappointed. And again, these cans are not true discreet 7.1. They have 2 drivers, so they are stereo. The 7.1 effect is nice, but there’s very little spacial differentiation. As a test I listened to some of the Dolby Digital intro videos hoping to hear some real 3d effects like in a home theater. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice much. I also plugged in my Fight Club DVD and listened to some key parts of the movie. The rain in the car crash scene toward the end did seem to be all around me, but some of the more discreet areas that typically exhibit surround sound didn’t stand out as being overly surrounding.
That said, these headphones sound amazing. While the 3d effect is minimal, the sound quality is impeccable. True rich bass, highs that never get tinny and mids that are appropriately levelled, the sound quality alone is worth the price of these headphones. I’ve heard headphones in the pro-audio market that cost more and don’t sound as good. Buy these for the headphones, and ditch the decoder box. Recommended.
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About the reviewer
Jeffrey Kafer (jkafer)
Voice over artist specializing in audiobook narration. Hear more at http://audiobook-voice-over.com/ and http://JeffreyKafer.com
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What you hear, or don't hear on the battlefield can be the difference between winning and losing. Outfitted with a specialized first-person shooter mode and 40mm driver units for superior audio, the DR-GA500 PC gaming headset gives your games an immersive 7.1-channel surround sound experience. Communicate clearly with team members during gameplay thanks to the compact noise-canceling boom microphone, while a triple-enfolding design provides comfort throughout prolonged gaming sessions.