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DTS headphone surround-sound technology

Bona fide surround sound over conventional headphones has been touted before; will DTS Headphone:X deliver the goods?

Steve Guttenberg
Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
Steve Guttenberg
Steve Guttenberg/CNET

DTS demonstrated its new Headphone:X surround processing system at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month. The system is capable of reproducing up to 11 channels of surround sound over conventional stereo headphones. I didn't hear it, but a few friends at the show who heard the Headphone:X demo came away impressed with its ability to project a sound field well outside the confines of the headphones. DTS is promoting Headphone:X technology as HTiP -- Home Theater in Pocket, and claims that the system can emulate the DTS reference listening room or a professional Hollywood mixing stage.

For Headphone:X to work, the program material must be DTS-HD encoded, so Dolby-encoded films, music, TV shows, and games may not be compatible with it; we'll see.

I auditioned another headphone surround technology, from Smyth Research, in 2010. The product, the Smyth Realiser A8, worked quite well, but it sells for around $3,000. That company's founder, Stephen Smyth, developed the algorithm that was later selected by Digital Theater Systems (DTS) for the cinema audio system that premiered with Steven Spielberg's "Jurassic Park." According a DTS spokesman, Smyth wasn't involved with developing Headphone:X, but it is an interesting coincidence.

DTS Headphone:X processing will likely show up in AV receivers or bundled with computers and phones, or as an app. Specific details about products and availability dates aren't forthcoming from DTS.