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Dolby Dimension is a $600 wireless Bluetooth headphone with 'cinematic' sound

Dolby's first consumer electronics product has been designed first and foremost for the home entertainment experience -- with an emphasis on home.

10-dolby-dimension
Sarah Tew/CNET

Dolby, the company known for surround sound, has released its first consumer electronics product... and not surprisingly, it has something to do with sound.

Meet the Dolby Dimension, a $599 Bluetooth headphone that's been designed first and foremost for the home entertainment experience, with an emphasis on home. Sure, you can wear it around the streets on the go, but the idea behind it is to be able to get immersive "cinematic" sound from your TV and mobile devices at home without bothering anyone around you.

While it's a little heavy at 11.6 ounces (330 grams), it's comfortable to wear and looks and feel swanky -- it better for $600 -- with a synthetic leather finish and a sturdy aluminum frame. It reminds me a little of Parrot's Zik headphones. (UK and Australian details are TBA, but that's about £460 or AU$830.)

It comes with a charging dock that has a magnetic connection and makes it easy to store the headphones when not in use. There's a USB port for charging the headphone on the go with the included cable, but it's Micro-USB not USB-C, which is too bad. I also thought for the price it should come with a more protective case than the simple cloth bag that's included.

You're probably wondering whether this is a surround sound headphone, and the answer is sort of, but not really. Equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon quad-core ARM processor, the Dimension has a digital processing feature called "virtualization" that Dolby says dramatically enhances the sound of all your movies, shows and music. And when you play content created in Dolby Atmos, you automatically get the best sound for it over a Bluetooth connection.

What you get in the box.

Sarah Tew/CNET

While you shouldn't expect true surround sound, I did think it created more of a theater sound than your typical premium Bluetooth headphone does, with everything sounding a little more amped and open. The mix was balanced and dialogue was clear and well-defined.

Meanwhile, the Head Tracking feature makes the sound seem like it's always coming from your screen, even when you turn your head. It's supposed to create a more consistently realistic experience. I thought it was weird at first, but I got used to it. I'll have to use the Dimension for longer to determine how much of an enhancement it is.

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Noise-canceling -- and amplified transparency

This is a noise-canceling headphone and the noise canceling is effective. At the same time, there's also a transparency mode -- Dolby calls both transparency and noise-canceling modes "LifeMix" -- that allows you to hear everything around you and talk to people while you're listening through the headphones.

The headphone has five beam-forming microphones and works well for making calls -- at least indoors. The microphones are incredibly sensitive and with the transparency set to the highest "boost" level (11, of course) you can literally hear sounds that you normally wouldn't pick up, such as your hand rubbing lightly against your clothing.

The three "preset" buttons allow you to toggle Bluetooth connections between three devices.

Sarah Tew/CNET

On the right earcup there are touch controls for volume, pausing and playing tracks and skipping tracks forward and back. Tap the earcup twice and it toggles between transparency and noise-canceling modes.

Aside from the power button, the only other buttons on the headphone are three source buttons designated by three dashes. You could pair the headphone to your TV, tablet and phone, then use the buttons to quickly toggle between the devices as you switch from one to another. Just be aware that some TVs and cable or satellite boxes don't have Bluetooth, so that could limit your TV watching.

Over the years I've reviewed a handful of so-called "TV" headphones, including the Sennheiser RS 220, which I liked but has been discontinued. Sennheiser's popular RS 175 is still around, however, and sells for around $225. It plugs into the optical output on your TV and uses RF, not Bluetooth for wireless. It has bass boost and faux surround modes and is mainly designed for late-night watching without disturbing others in your house (or bedroom), as well as those who are a little hearing challenged.

The Dimension shares some similarities with these types of TV headphones, but it's more versatile because it can be used with any Bluetooth audio device. I paired it with an iPhone ($1,199 at Amazon), iPad ($340 at Amazon) and Apple TV 4K connected to a 65-inch LG OLED TV. I also tried it with a Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus and Amazon Fire HD 8, but I only had access to an early version of the iOS app so I stuck with the iOS devices as my three "presets."

I watched various scenes from Ready Player One using the Dimension and compared the listening experience to other premium Bluetooth headphones such as the Sony WH-1000MXM3 and Microsoft Surface Headphones. I came away thinking the Dimension delivered richer, more visceral sound, with better detail and separation.

Transparency boosted to 11.

Sarah Tew/CNET

With the LifeMix and Virtualization turned on you can get up to 10 hours of battery life and up to 15 hours in a power conservation mode. Those wouldn't be good numbers if this was a mobile headphone, but the idea is that you'd watch for a few hours, then put the headphones back in their charging dock. You can get 2 hours of battery life from a 15-minute charge and the headphone fully charges in 2 hours.

Interestingly, there's no cord that comes with this headphone and thus no wired mode. It's one of the few headphones I've seen that's Bluetooth-only.

At its price point, this is obviously not a headphone for the masses, and it's targeted at folks who have plenty of extra dough to drop on a pair of high-end headphones that offer some enticing convenience features. If you can overlook the price, they're fun to use for movie watching and music listening (although you can get better sounding music headphones for $600). I like them, I just wish they were less expensive.

I'll post a final, rated review after testing the product longer, and using the shipping version of the headphones' app.

Dolby Dimension key specs

  • 40mm custom-designed drivers
  • 11.6 ounces (330 grams)
  • Power Base charging dock included with Micro-USB cable for charging on the go
  • Frequency response: 20Hz to 20kHz with custom Dolby EQ
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon quad-core ARM processor
  • 5 omni-directional microphones for LifeMix (noise-canceling and transparency)
  • 10 hours of battery with LifeMix and Virtualization; 15 hours with low power mode 
  • Get 2 hours of battery life from a 15-minute charge
  • Full charge after 2 hours
  • Bluetooth classic A2DP codecs: AAC, aptX, aptX Low Latency and SBC
  • Bluetooth range of up to 100 feet (33 meters)
  • Can pair with and remember up to eight devices
  • Carrying pouch included
  • Price: $599

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