A PC with 5.1-audio output and a decent speaker configuration can, to a certain extent, produce cinematic surround sound within the comfort of your living quarters. But while the setup is as good as it gets in emulating a cinema experience for enjoying DVD movies without stepping out of your apartment, such engaging surround sound has so far escaped the mass majority where personal and portable movie enjoyment is concerned. Although many modern soundcards offer virtual surround sound at the source level, audio is still being driven by stereo speakers/heaphones/earphones. Affordable audio units offering true native surround sound reproduction are generally few and far between, that is until Zalman decided to step up and plug the void.
Nope, you didn't read wrongly, Zalman, more renowned for its CPU and graphics card coolers, has expanded its product portfolio by jumping into audio products. In focus today is the Zalman ZM-RS6F 5.1 Surround Headphones. Due largely to its excessively wide cans that are attached to a compactable frame; the ZM-RS6F headphone has looks that appears to be too advanced for its time, and because of the dangling design for the cans when the headphone is unfolded, the unit also looks somewhat unsightly. However way you look at it, the design is far from the familiar shape of conventional headphones. Appearance aside, the headphone scores in practicality as it can be easily folded away for storage and portability.The cans themselves come in a circum-aural fit with spongy padding for extra comfort. It uses "Electro Dynamic Round Type Micro Speaker" within each can to achieve distinct front, center and rear audio channel reproductions - hence the unusual shape.
Like many 5.1 speaker systems, the Zalman ZM-RS6F connects to audio sources through three 3.5mm mini-jacks for proper audio separation.
These are colored in white, grey and black representing front, rear and center audio outputs respectively. For our test, the ZM-RS6F was hooked up to a PC that was installed with a Creative X-Fi Elite Pro soundcard. Immediately, gaming was found to be a key strength of the headphone. Direction of sounds can be determined instantly, which would be most useful for FPS games. Our 'U2 Vertigo 2005' Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS DVD certainly sounded much better on the ZM-RS6F than on traditional stereo headphones/earphones, but this was only after treble and bass were tuned. Because of the compromise for surround sound realism and definition, audio quality for stereo content was indistinct and lacked separation between left and right channels. Lead instrument/vocal tends to be muffled and we had to resort to the CMSS-3D Stereo Surround mode of the X-Fi to set the audio concentration towards the front for acceptable music playback.
Add This to Your Zalman Collection
The ZM-RS6F is basically a 5.1 speaker system fitted into a portable pair of headphones. Its ability to reproduce distinct surround channels is definitely present and more capable than stereo audio units where DVD movies are concerned. Sound stage is also wider than expected, helping to add depth to surround channels. Bass too is surprisingly strong, although the same qualities could not be said for stereo music playback. The interesting looking Zalman ZM-RS6F can be yours for a mere sum of US$50 and for that, you'll get a portable audio system that is truly capable of 5.1 audio. If you are a gamer who happens to own a series of Zalman Fatal1ty coolers, the ZM-RS6F couldn't be more appropriate for your gaming needs.