The conventional audiophile wisdom insists that 5.1 headphones simply do not even come close to even standard stereo headphones. Initial responses to the new 5.1 headphones were far from excited. The expectations of most audiophiles for 5.1 headphones were for them sound flat and for saturations to become very apparent with louder volumes. Some have even cited that there’s no way that 5.1 headphones can be as efficient as stereo headphones in reproducing sounds from speakers. They mention the fact that 3D sound standards are designed to work with radio systems and not with 5.1 headphones.
With such gloomy predictions to start from, I decided to test several 5.1 headphones myself to see how they stack up to the competition. Since the individual performances of these 5.1 headphones are pretty much similar to each other, I will only share general impressions instead of providing different detailed reviews for each of these 5.1 headphones: Pioneer Wireless SE-DIR800C Dolby 5.1 Headphones, Zalman 5.1 Headphones, the Kinyo KY-100 and the Mentor 5.1 headphones.
Are 5.1 Headphones Good for Gaming?
When tested with Condition Zero, Unreal 2, Counter Strike and Grand Theft Auto, these 5.1 headphones performed pretty well. These 5.1 headphones successfully put me in the game environment. Surround sound quality on these 5.1 headphones were was excellent on the highs and decent enough on the bass, although noticeable nowhere near as good as the bass from stereo headphones. The bass difference between the 5.1 headphones and the stereo headphones was most noticeable on the background tracks, not so much on the game effects.
What is Music Like on 5.1 Headphones?
Just like with gaming, the low end of the range is where the 5.1 headphones underperform when it comes to listening to music. The same is true when listening to rock, reggae or jazz. Using 5.1 headphones to hear to rock music, in particular, did not the same booming power it has using stereo headphones.
Movie Watching on 5.1 Headphones
Watching movies on 5.1 headphones were quite similar to the experience of using it on games. It was easy to immerse myself in the surround sound coming from the 5.1 headphones. Again, it was only in the low ranges on the movie music tracks that I felt that something was missing.
All in all, the performance of these 5.1 headphones were excellent for the most part and decent enough for the bass. The only other thing worth mentioning is that there were times that a little hiss was noticeable with the wireless 5.1 headphones. This is typical of wireless 5.1 headphones though, and it was only noticeable when listening to high volumes. Granted, these 5.1 headphones were not as good as stereo headphones, but the price and the portability make up for the slight underperformance. Bottom line as long as you are not an audiophile, 5.1 headphones are good enough for quiet late-night gaming as well as a mobile option for entertainment when on vacation.