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Surround Monitoring Headphone Products

For surround monitoring applications, check out these five surround headphone systems from beyerdynamic, DTS, Pioneer, Smyth Research and Sony.

DTS Headphone:X

Fresh out of CES 2013 in Las Vegas, DTS Headphone:X ($TBA) is capable of re-creating the surround sound experience using a pair of headphones. The system is scalable from stereo up to 11.1 and works on any headphones, within reason: DTS is in the process of certifying earbuds and headphones from a range of manufacturers to assure a similar consumer experience. The 11.1 room model starts with a standard ITU 7.1 setup then adds four “high” speakers that can be arrayed in pairs or as discrete channels. DTS uses a proprietary room capture system and is in the process of creating user tools so content creators can model their own spaces.

Sony MDR-DS6500


Designed and priced for the home user ($299), the Sony MDR-DS6500 wireless headphone system is compatible with a variety of audio formats including Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Surround EX, DTS, DTS-ES Matrix, and DTS-ES. The transmitter is designed to work with several Sony surround receivers, including the ES 7.2-channel Wi-Fi A/V Receiver, ES 7.2-channel 4K A/V Receiver and ES 9.2-channel 4K A/V Receiver. The circumaural headphones consist of a 40mm driver offering an effective wireless range of 300 feet with a 20-hour battery life. Other features include auto-tuning and a rotary volume control, both on the headphones.

beyerdynamic Headzone PRO XT

The beyerdynamic Headzone PRO XT ($3,437 without headphones) is designed to take a 5.1 mix and reproduce the experience on headphones. The system consists of the single-rackspace, fanless base unit, headtracker receiver rail (HR 2), HC 1 Headtracker clip plus FireWire and power cables, and software CD. The DT 770 PRO HT headphones (closed), and DT 880 PRO HT headphones (semi-open) must be ordered separately. Inputs to the base unit include 5.1 audio inputs on a balanced, 25-pin D-Sub, Digital 5.1 (FireWire) and AES/EBU (XLR), plus an additional communication input with volume control for talkback on a balanced XLR. There are three banks for individual setups that are accessed through programmable front panel buttons. The headtracker can be manually deactivated by a front panel button or is deactivated automatically when a second set of headphones is plugged in. More in-depth control is provided by a software control panel that is compatible with Windows 2000, XP, Vista, 7 (32- and 64-bit) and Mac OS X.

Smyth Research Realiser A8

The Realiser A8 system ($3,760 with headphones) is designed to model a room over headphones, giving the user the ability to hear a 2-channel mix as it would sound in a particular space with speakers. The A8 comprises a desktop processor/controller, RC-1 remote control, and HTM-1 miniature mic for in-ear measurements. Other accessories include the TU-1 wireless rechargeable head tracker for attachment to any headphones, TR-1 head-tracking reference for placement in front of the listener and Stax SR-202 headphones. The A8 is truly a custom experience because the system is set up specifically for each user, and a profile is stored in the system and can be reproduced over any headphones. Users can model and store different rooms for specific listeners. The TU-1 and TR-1 follow the listener’s head movement and adjust the audio so that the listener’s experience is similar to moving his/her head in the room.

Pioneer SE-DIR800CII


Promising a three-dimensional surround sound experience, the Pioneer SE-DIR800CII ($399) supports Dolby, Dolby Pro-Logic II, Dolby Digital EX, and DTS and DTS-ES formats. The battery-powered wireless units come with a base station that accepts both digital (Toslink) and analog inputs (RCA). The SE-DIR800CII has three Dolby Headphone settings including: DH1 (simulates a small room); DH2 (simulates an average-size room); and DH3 (re-creates the acoustics of a small movie theater).