5.1 Headset

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The defining feature of a 5.1 headset is really a Dolby Digital to Dolby Headphone transcoder that downmixes all five discrete and the one indiscrete channels into two channels with very careful timing. Technically speaking, this could of course be implimented on a sound card (and Creative Labs is working on drivers to do just such a thing) and there are DVDs with Dolby Headphone tracks which will work fine with any old stereo headphones. My Pearl Harbor DVD from several years ago (I think 3-4) even has such a track on it, and it is quite impressive.

This is the same technology that Disney showcased at the Disney/MGM Studios (okay, now just Disney Studios) for years and is now at Animal Kingdom. By timing things slightly differently and very carefully, you can put sounds very close to somebody’s head (the preceived distance can be less than an inch).

So, in short, expect these things to be relatively short lived on the market as the playing devices themselves get the intellegence necessary to do exactly what the headphones are doing.

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