Thursday, 3 February 2011

Logitech G35 Dolby Headphone Headset

"Dolby Headphone", the name given by Dolby Laboratories for their method/processing/thingy that takes surround sound input and modifies it to output through stereo headphones but still sound like surround sound.  I did not believe it at first, but then I found this (Must listen with headphones).




Reading around,  it sounds like this is old technology and that the demo actually is not a Dolby Headphone demo.  Whatever and where ever this came from and even if technically it is not surround sound,  I was impressed.  It is possible to simulate surround sound with just stereo headphones.

So, can surround sound games sound this good with Dolby Headphone headphones?  I bought the Logitech G35 7.1-Channel Surround Sound Headset to try out.

I tried the G35 with 5.1 and 7.1 audio settings.  I cannot tell any difference between the two.  As for the surround sound, it definitely sounds different from normal stereo. But I did not get the true feeling of surround sound.  Sounds coming from the front sometimes sound like they were in front of me.  There have been several times where the ambient sounds did sound like it was coming from behind me.  I turned my head in real life quite a few times because I thought someone came into my room.  Overall the surround effect seems to work half the time and the other half just sounds normal.  It definitely does not sound as good as the Dolby Headphone demo with normal stereo headphones on.

There is surround sound coming from Stranglehold but because of all the bullets flying everywhere, things breaking everywhere and debris flying everywhere, I cannot place what is coming from where.  Although different to the stereo war zone mess, it still sounds like a war zone mess.  As such, the surround sound was not very apparent.

Test Drive Unlimited
There were sounds that sounded like it came from behind.  Most of it occurred when I heard cars crash behind me or when debris from a car crash lands behind me.  Unfortunately I have not noticed sounds of cars driving past me at the back.  Also mid-engine cars engine sound does NOT sound like it was coming from behind, it still sounds in head like a stereo headphone.  Front sounds and the overall surround experience was about the same as Dark Messiah of Might and Magic.

I played it with the Oblivion Lost mod.  So far S.T.A.L.K.E.R. gave the most convincing surround sound experience with the G35.  I would even say it is almost as good as true surround sound.  Maybe it is due to the quietness of the game, but most of the time I could pin point where something was, based on the sound.  Gun fire, barking mutant dogs, people talking, choppers flying, they all sound like coming from their appropriate directions.  Strange though, the G35 did not register S.T.A.L.K.E.R. as being an application that outputted surround sound, yet it has the best surround experience out of all the games I have tried out so far.  This was the closest game experience to the Dolby Headphone demo.  The only thing missing now is the above/below sounds.

Other than games I also tried out the G35 with Star Wars Return of the Jedi DVD.  When I ran the THX Optimizer on the DVD, the test sounds just sound washed out to me.  But playing the movie with surround is a big improvement on playing it  with stereo.  To me it sounds as good as watching other movies with the real surround setup.  Unfortunately I don't remember what it was like to watch Return of the Jedi with a real surround system so I cannot compare the real with the G35.

Overall the G35 does a very good job reproducing surround sound,  but I don't think it is as good as if you had the proper surround speakers setup.  So why did I get a Logitech G35 headset rather than a real surround sound setup?  Plain and simply because I do not have space to place surround speakers around me.  Plus I won't annoy the people around me with screams, gun fire and screeching tires.

There are true surround headphones as well, but since they are too difficult for me to acquire at the moment,  the Logitech G35 will do just fine.


The Headset Itself
Logitech G35 7.1-Channel Surround Sound Headset
The Logitech G35 is the heaviest and largest headset I have ever used.  But it is very comfortable.  The package comes with three interchangeable head pads and I switched to the thickest one.  The length adjuster for the ear pieces feels a bit loose compared to other headsets.  A few times when I picked it up,  the adjustment moved.  The ear pieces fit nicely over the ears and work like mufflers.  Even when there is no sound from the speakers,  I can hardly hear things coming from the outside.  The foldable microphone works very well and is well placed.  when folded up, it automatically mutes.  Although it has been performing brilliantly since day one, the unit feels a bit flimsy to me.  Each time I pick it up,  I can hear creaking, I am not sure from what.

On the left ear piece there are the volume control roller, mic mute button (in case you don't want to fold it up), Dolby Headphone on/off switch and three customisable buttons.  The volume roller and the Dolby Headphone switch  works well, but I have not used the rest of the buttons.  The customisable buttons can only be used for controlling base/treble/mic levels and a handful of applications like Ventrilo and WinAmp.  There is also an inbuilt voice morphing application which can be controlled by the customisable buttons.  So far I have not needed to use any of these.

Being a USB headset, the use is pretty much confined to computers only.  I have only used it on Windows XP so I do not know if it will work on other operating systems.

Compared to my now second best headset, the Logitech Clearchat Premium, the G35 surpasses it in every aspect except for the fact that it is USB rather than a 3.5mm connection.  Everything sounds better with the G35, the microphone is clearer and despite its size and weight, it is actually more comfortable than the Clearchat Premium.


Biases
  • All my experience with real surround sound is watching movies with 5.1 systems at friends' houses.  I have not actually owned a surround sound system.
  • I do not know much about audio technology except what I have typed in this article.
  • I do play a lot of PC games with stereo headphones.
  • I have used several headsets before and the best one before the G35 came along, is the Logitech Clearchat Premium. 
  • Although I say that I can hear the simulated surround sounds coming from the back sometimes,  I still wonder whether it is my mind processing the sound with the visuals.  I mean if I hear a sound in both ears and I cannot see anything in front of me,  it only makes sense that the sound is coming from behind.

Updates
2012-04-07
I can verify that the G35 works on Windows 7 64 bit.  New drivers must be installed though.  They can be downloaded from Logitech.

Just a little over a year old and I have noticed that the skin of the ear padding is ripping.  That is pretty poor materials or workmanship for the ear pads.