I recommend this model of best tv headphones primarily because a home theatre setup is the often an audio fanatic’s first choice for entertainment at home; and yet, when we are screening movies and films, we can’t avoid disturbing others under the same roof and being a nuisance to them. However, if we chose an regular set of headphone, its ordinary dual channel stereo design will without a doubt heavily discount from our audio and visual experience. For this reason, Sony has released its first 3D Surround Sound capable cordless tv headphones MDR-DS7500.
It is equipped with a brand new engineered chip set in the earpiece, and a Dolby Pro Logic II decoder is built-in as well, to support a 7.1 channel audio output. The DS7500 headphone weighs just 325g, and has a frequency response of 5-25000Hz. Although there have been other surround-sound headphones on the market, but compared to the rest, MDR-DS7500 is not only wireless, it also supports advanced technologies such as Dolby NR TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Digital, Dolby NR professional logic II z, Dolby NR professional logic. X and DTS-HD mastering, which allows it to be right on par with mainstream AV receivers. It has a continuous battery life of up to 18 hours, can be swiftly recharged in 3 hours, hence a quick charge of 30 minutes can give you 4 hours of usage.
The decoder functions of DS7500 can simulate the surround sound audio effect of Dolby ProLogic IIz, allowing it to transmit 7.1ch of audio at the highest 2.4Ghz wireless signal right to your headphone, at a maximum distance of 30 metres. It includes support for HD sound effects such as Dolby TrueHD, as well as linear PCM, and it is also compatible with the HDMI CEC functions for Sony BRAVIA televisions. There are 3 HDMI input ports and 1 for output at the back of the base unit, making it possible to utilise the unit as a HDMI splitter (this function means that a single HDMI cable can be used with another AV receiver, so when the MDR-DS7500 is switched off when the AV receiver is switched on, an adapter cable is not necessary); there is an optical input and output port, as well as a stereo surround sound (RCA) input and output port; and its dimension is: 252x159x36mm (width*height*depth).
Now let us take some time to appreciate a few unboxing photographs of the SONY MDR-DS7500:
(a) 7.1 channel wireless headphone overall appearance. Doesn’t it look impressive!
(b) The diameter of the headphone is 50mm, and it has a sealed closed-back ear cup design; as you can tell from the photo, its workmanship is pretty good.
(c) You can adjust sound volume, select input option, activate surround sound settings, and switch on DSP effects among other controls directly on the headphone itself. Whenever you put the headphone on, the sound decoder and headphone switches on automatically. And likewise, when you remove the unit, the headphone will power off immediately, and the decoder base unit will turn off within 5 minutes as well.
(d) The decoder base unit is approximately 252x159x36 mm in dimension, and weighs about 480g. It has 3 HDMI input
ports and 1 output port, and can be used as a HDMI splitter as well; there is an optical input and output, and a stereo surround sound (RCA) input and output port, one each. The main unit is equipped with 2 DSP, giving it double the processing power. From this small base unit you can see how technology has truly evolved.
Let’s move on to the actual review of my experience:
1. Putting on and Wearing
The headphone itself weighs 325g, and the ear pads portion is extremely soft. It is very comfortable when you put it on, and does not feel tight at all. I personally wear glasses, and I do not feel any discomfort even after using the headphone continuously for 4 hours.
2. The Movie Experience
When no particular soundstage is selected, the audio from the movie is very claustrophobic, and the sound feels narrow and enclosed, as if all the acoustics are squished together, and the sound effects are quite ordinary. When the CINEMA theatre mode is activated, the entire audio feels airy and open at once, and the sounds that reach the ear are immediately layered and elevated: the dialogue is distinguished, the background music feels like music, and all the sound effects that occur on screen is immediately imprinted in our minds. Particularly its performance in the handling of the finer details, such as background sounds, sound of the wind and of breathing; those audio that we do not normally pick up easily when using a stereo, we can basically experience fully and on this headphone.
It certainly elevates the ambiance of the scenes greatly. In addition, its bass effects are also very impressive, and are the best from the headphones that I have used so far (of course, this is most pricey headphone I have used as well). It will definitely suffice most people’s appetite for bass. When Dolby ProLogic IIz is activated under the CINEMA mode, the sound becomes even more spacious and immersive. Based on Sony’s advertising, this headphone allows users to experience the audio in a spacious dynamic manner, and it is indeed so.
When tested during the movie “Black Hawk Down”, as the helicopter glides overhead, you can distinctly hear that the helicopter’s sound is coming from above the head. The dialogue is also positioned a few layers forward, further enhancing its sense of surround sound. Some may ask how multidimensional the audio truly delivers, and to this, I can say it does provide a slight dimensional experience: under more unique scenes you can discern it best and most compellingly, but under regular scenarios they do not fare extraordinarily. When Dolby ProLogic IIx is activated under the CINEMA mode, it does not differ much from the regular CINEMA mode. However, the bullet sounds and conversations dialogue is enhanced than in other settings. It seems that this mode might be more suitable for playing First Person Shooter (FPS) games.
Conclusion: When watching movies, you should definitely switch on the headphone’s CINEMA mode. As for activating the Dolby ProLogic IIz option, it is more of a personal preference. Personally I prefer to have the Dolby ProLogic IIz mode turned on, since it is the DS7500’s special feature after all.
3. The Gaming Experience
It seems that if we do not give the headphone a trial run when playing a First Person Shooter (FPS) game, we won’t be able to experience its precise audio positioning effect. As I am not a FPS gaming enthusiast, I only found a copy of “Uncharted 2” (which has LPCM7.1 surround sound). When no soundstage mode is selected, it fares basically just as abovementioned, the sound feels duller and narrower. When the GAME mode is activated, the audio immediately feels broader and lively. You can hear so much more sounds based on their spatial cues from the headphone, such as gunshots firing behind, footsteps of guards patrolling on your left side, conversations chatter from a distance – all these are clearly discernable and are delivered right into your ears. I believe that this depth and dimensional capability would be of a great help for FPS game fanatics.
When the Dolby ProLogic IIz and Dolby ProLogic IIx modes are compared, the situation is basically quite similar to what I mentioned earlier. However, because the occurrence of sounds that might appear at the top of our head is more frequent in gaming than in watching movies, it is really quite a dilemma to choose between a surround sound front-height channel and a wraparound effect. However one thing is certain, for non-FPS games, you should choose the surround sound option.
4. The Music and Songs Experience
For this purpose we played some lossless APE format music output via the computer optically, and compared the DS7500 with Audio-Technica’s ATH-A500, and Creative’s Sound Blaster 2. Obviously we cannot use the CINEMA nor GAME modes here; as for the VOICE mode, not much difference is felt whether the mode is activated or not. The only slight difference is that the voice itself is indeed slightly amplified. And what is certain, is that for musical purposes, this headphone fares better than Creative’s Sound Blaster (this is the headphone that I regret buying most) very noticeably.
Because Audio-Technica’s ATH-A500 is essentially a novice model for monitoring purposes, there are quite a number of differences from the DS7500, and the key ones are:
Sound Quality: The DS7500 is smoother than the ATH-A500, but the ATH-A500 sounds are more crisp (actually, that’s the main feature of a monitor headphone).
Bass: The DS7500 has a clear advantage here, and it will be a blast to use it for listening to rock music.
High notes: Audio Technica always gave high notes the preferential treatment. And the DS7500 is certainly not as clean, crisp and clear in this aspect when compared to the ATH-A500.
In terms of overall impression, if you are not a purist in terms of music, the DS7500’s performance can definitely satisfy you. However, that is not where its strengths lie. Also, listening to Michael Jackson’s “This Is It” on this headphone is truly awesome.
Although the decoder base unit is quite big in dimensions, it is extremely lightweight. As I have only just started using this, there are functions and details that I have yet to cover. I will come back and provide further feedback if time permits. The above review is all based on my personal experience and opinion; and each pair of ears perceives and feels differently to sounds. Another point that I have to mention is that the DS7500’s wireless transmitting function is superb, and it does its job without any signal interferences. My home is highly-connected wirelessly – with notebook computers, mobile phone, cordless mouse and keyboard units, joysticks, a set of MOVE – and yet even when every wireless device is switched on, I have never once experienced any kinds of signal drop and noise interference.
The DS7500 is a headphone that is not just comfortable to wear, but also provides brilliant sound performances. For most users, its performance can certainly leave them satisfactory. Similar products that you can compare and choose from are: Audio Technica ATH-DWL5500, Pioneer SE-DRS3000C. Because Audio Technica is quite cool, and Pioneer products are relatively cheaper, you can make your choice quite easily.