Can I Buy a Surround Sound Processor for Headphones?

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Q I am looking for a standalone headphone surround sound processor that handles both Dolby Digital and DTS and lets me use my own headphones. Does such a product exist? —Anthony Aurigemma

A There are only two options I know of that meet your requirements, and neither of them are particularly affordable.

The Beyerdynamic Headzone H1 ($1,399) is a standalone Dolby Digital/DTS-compatible processor with coaxial and optical digital inputs to connect a Blu-ray player or other source. You can either use the Headzone with your own cans, or fork over an extra $430 for the company’s DT 880 HT headphones, which feature tracking technology to compensate for head movement.

Moving up the food chain, you’ll find the Smyth Realiser A8 ($2,910). This sophisticated standalone processor features both HDMI and 8-channel analog inputs (plus pass-through outputs) and head-tracking tech. Initial setup of the Realiser involves taking measurements of your ears/hearing (the package includes tiny mics that insert into earplugs) as well as your listening room and speakers. Once completed, the Realiser literally recreates the experience of listening in your own room using your own speakers, but over headphones.

If the above options are too rich for you, there’s Sony’s 9.1 channel wireless headphones ($499). Sony’s rechargeable ‘phones come with a Dolby True HD/DTS-HD MA-compatible base station that has HDMI and coaxial/optical digital inputs and transmits uncompressed signals wirelessly over 2.4 and 5 GHz bands.

headphonegeek411's picture

At an audio show, I had a demo of this software called "Out of Your Head" from that sounded very similar to the Smyth Realiser. I think it costs around $150. They had a bunch of different headphones and said it works with any headphones. They have some demos and a trial on their website.

Oreo's picture

If you'd like to go the less expensive, more portable route, I own the Astro MixAmp, which seems to do a good job. I believe their newer model has 7.1 Dolby Digital processing and several different inputs. It's made for gaming and mixing voice with game sounds, but it works well as a stand alone, too. It's probably not for audiophiles looking for the lossless codecs, but you can take it with you. I've listened to some Audio Technica M50s through mine, and that is an experience I'd like to have again.

I own the older model that only has 5.1 Dolby Headphone, but it has both optical and coaxial digital inputs, along with 3.5mm, stereo RCA, and USB, which can also be used to power it, or 4 AA batteries. I don't think they handle DTS, though. You can currently get the MixAmp Pro Gen 1 for just over $100. Go to and click on accessories.

jagxjr15's picture

There is now another option, which will upconvert stereo to 5.0 for headphones using an implementation of Dirac Sensaround: the new Monoprice Monolith headphone amp/DAC/processor, available from Monoprice via Amazon, eBay, or at for $500. No receiver required.