CES 2013: DTS Headphone X - Surround sound in your headphones

Never underestimate the power of a good demo. There's some sort of magic mix of twisting expectations and cleverly revealed reality that sticks with the audience for years. Bose gets this, with their "but it's just these small speakers!" reveal. Pioneer nailed it with the "this TV is also on" KURO demo.

DTS might have done it with their Headphone X demo at CES.


In a darkened room, a host tells you the speakers around you are 11.1, and that first, we were all to hear a channel check. A female voice goes through each speaker one-by-one: "center," "left," "surround right," and so on including the front and rear height speakers.

Then we're told to put headphones on. I forget the words used, but it's implied we were going to compare the real speakers versus virtual ones in the headphones. So at first we'd hear the same channel check through the speakers, then we'd hear it through the headphones.

Now in describing it, I'm sure you can guess what happened. In hearing it however, you'd be blown away. They had perfectly modeled the room, so when you heard the same voice go through the channels, not only did the direction seem exactly where you heard it before, but the timbre and room reverb seemed to match as well. Nearly everyone in the room lifted an earpad or two to see if they were being fooled. It's shockingly near-perfect.

The directional modeling, which is headphone independent, is really excellent. Each speaker, including surround and height channels, sounds like it's coming from that direction. I can't wait to see wider implementation of this technology, especially with something like the Oculus Rift.

Our friends over at BigPictureBigSound have some more info and a video.

Brent wrote up his thoughts about Headphone X here.

You can also read about it on DTS's own site.

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