Zalman Theater 6 Surround Sound Headphones Review - Music
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I decided to test these headphones with CD music because it'sgenerally a better indicator of quality than MP3s, due mainly to thefact that it's un-compressed sound (and the closest thing to analogavailable). In order to properly test music, I decided it would be bestto treat the speakers as a regular set of stereo headphones.
I started with Itzhak Perlman's rendition of J.S. Bach's Partitas and Sonatas for unaccompanied violin. (I chose Partita N. 3, BWV 1006due to my familiarity with it. Having performed the piece on variousoccasions, I am particular to the nuances of the piece.) The headphonesreally exposed the Theater 6's biggest weakness. Sound fidelity(quality) was not up to par with what I'd expect to hear from a pair of$50 headphones. (Again, keep in mind that these are aimed at beingsurround sound speakers, so this isn't necessarily a fair comparison toa set of $50 stereophonic headphones.) The music sounded a bit papery,as if it lacked true depth. Fine for listening to, perhaps, but ifyou're a total audiophile, this will turn you off to these headphonesfor anything other than surround sound. The result was better using theZalman external USB card than when using the SoundBlaster Live! soundcard, but not by much. Again, this goes back to the frequency responseissue I touched on at the beginning of this article.
The second CD I put in was a Beatles compilation. Strawberry Fields, Across the Universe, Taxman, Ob-la-dee, ob-la-da,and a few others fill this collection. My findings here were prettysimilar to my experience with the Perlman CD. However, as with themovies, I found myself finding bits of the music which I would hear inan average pair of headphones. A pleasing surprise, to be sure. What Ididn't find pleasing was the lack of control I had over the particularspeakers with my Creative Live! sound card. This wasn't the case withthe Zalman card. Using the surround sound 5.1 setting, as opposed tothe stereo 2.1 setting, I didn't find that it detracted from the sound.In fact, the panning was rather good. (Especially obvious in during Help Me!)
I moved on to something a little more modern with some Deep Forest.From the very beginning, the stereophonic effects in this music were infull gear. The quality didn't seem as lacking as in the Perlman CD, andin fact, was rather good. As I mentioned before, these headphones areaimed squarely at the gamer market, and the sound quality in this typeof music shows it. The sound was enjoyable, easy to listen to, and theZalman USB sound card's "concert" effect - where it delays the soundamong the speakers just enough to create the effect of a full surroundsound studio - was a great addition. (This has not always been thecase. In some of the previous music, as well as in certain moviemonologues, the effect got in the way of the effect the movie or CD wasattempting to create.)
As I've mentioned before, music is not the focus of theseheadphones. Unfortunately, that's all too obvious, although modernmusic, like that found in most games and movies, plays rather nicely inthese headphones. Just don't expect to be enjoying the intricaciesfound in the music of Charles Ives with these.
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