Altec Lansing audio gear

Written by Brett Thomas

February 16, 2006 | 08:05

Tags: #altec #headphones

Companies: #etymotic

Altec Lansing Stereo Surround-Sound Headphones

The second headphones we’ll look at today are based more around gaming than portable music. Altec Lansing recently released their AHP625 model, which boasts surround-sound-like output from a stereo input.

The packaging for this model is a little underwhelming. The blister-pack does little to set the product out from the rest, and contains simply the headphones, a 3.5mm to quarter-inch converter, and a nylon bag for storage/carrying. Prayers to whatever deity you believe in are recommended before attempting to open the blister-pack, which seems designed to survive a blowtorch.

The headphones themselves are the standard “cans” design, which are surrounded by very comfortable foam that does a nice job at reducing outside noise without completely blocking your ability to hear around you. The cord comes down the left ear only and is quite long, making for comfortable wear at your desk chair without chaining you to only a certain portion of your desk. The cans are exceedingly comfortable for an average to large sized head. However, smaller ears may actually find them a little too spacious, and may not get a proper fit.

Altec Lansing audio gear Headphones Altec Lansing audio gear Headphones Altec Lansing audio gear Headphones Altec Lansing audio gear Headphones
About 1/3 of the way down the cord is a rather large dongle (for lack of a better word). This holds a single AAA battery, and has a volume dial on the right side, a power switch, and a 'Surround' dial on the left side. When the power is switched off, the headphones will sound like normal stereo headphones, albeit with above-average sound fidelity (as one would expect from Altec Lansing). When switched on, the headphones go into “Surround” mode, the strength of this setting is then adjusted to taste with the dial on the left.

In practice, this wasn't as great as we hoped it would be. Though definitely effective at adding more depth to the sounds, it is just not possible to reproduce good surround sound through stereo input and output. The effect can be more described like a “reverb” setting on a guitar amplifier, and I have a feeling that is the core component of the effect. It is not without its place, however, as the function of reverb is to create virtual space, which makes many first-person shooters feel much more realistic. Both FarCry and F.E.A.R. take great care in creating ambient sound effects, and these headphones give a much more immersive experience than can be reached without a surround-sound setup cranked up.

The execution is not exactly perfect, but the headphones are set to retail for only $79.95. In my opinion, the sound quality and comfort alone are worth this price, and the added immersion provided in FPS games (some music will also benefit, particularly good acoustic or live cuts) is almost like getting more than you’ve paid for. Though they don’t quite hit their (overly) lofty goal of surround sound, the AHP625 headphones provide a high-quality sound with a very useful effect, without costing an arm and a leg.
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