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Review of Sennheiser DSP Pro

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
Introduction:
As many of you know, I am new to this whole headphone thing, but I decided to jump in the deepend when I went from a pair of cheap Sony's to my HD600s, and about a week later I picked up the DSP Pro on E-bay for $45. I would just like to say that it is a fun little gadget that is easily worth what I paid for it, I don't know about the $199 it retailed for, although I think most people got it bundled with their HD580s. Anyway, here goes...


Physical Description:
If there is one thing that the DSP Pro is, it is solidly built. Weighing in at 24.5 oz. it's case is solid metal. It's like a tube that has been flattened to be about 8 inches long, 3 inches wide, and 3/4 inch thick. The ends have plastic covering them with the input going in the top and the outputs at the bottom. The input consists of a 6 pin plug (shown in the picture) that takes care of the left and right audio channels as well as power, at the other end of this 12 foot cable you will find 2 rca plugs and a jack to plug in the end of the AC adapter. This allows you to plug into the outputs of your receiver and sit at your couch and have full control. At the bottom are 2 1/8" jacks which are for either 2 sets of headphones (each with independent volume control) or to output the L,R,C,S channels through the use of 2 stereo 1/8" to RCA connecting cords I used it solely for headphone listening so I cannot comment on it's performance in those aspects.

Equipment Used:
Source: Macintosh G3 playing CDs and DVDs on it's internal DVD player as well as a few MP3s
ICs: I plugged a stereo 1/8" to RCA Monster cable into the G3's headphone jack. Since both the DSP PRO and this 1/8" to RCA cable were terminated with male RCA plugs, I used Monster Female to Female RCA adapters to connect the two.
Headphones: Sennheiser HD600

Features and Performance:
This device is loaded with user adjustable features from bass control to dual volume controls, and even the ability to adjust where you are sitting in the soundfield.

The first step is to choose which set of "ears" it uses to creat it's effects. The DSP Pro has 15 different HTRFs programmed into it, and the first thing you need to do is listen to a series of clicks with your eyes closed and try to imagine which set sounds like speakers placed 1 meter directing in front of you, it's kinda tough, the differences are very subtle. It's pretty easy to tell which ones sound very wrong, but it's not so easy to tell which is right, I just kept it on the default setting for my tests, I imagine that changing this could have large differences in surround imaging.

I then used the test signals to see if this thing could really create surround imaging, cycling through the 5 speaker positions with the hissing noise sounds really incredible, you really can pinpoint where the speakers are supposed to be coming from.

On with the movies, the best part, I chose for my first demo the scene in Gladiator when Maximus is taken into the woods to be killed near the beginning of the movie (I'm sorry, I forget what chapter) and at one point, he throws a sword at someone, and I am so familiar with how real that sounds on my home theater that I thought it would be a good choice. And the verdict is...WOW!!, it did sound like it was traveling from right to left BEHIND me, as it should.

You can select 3 different rooms (Hall, Club, and Theater) and 3 different channel modes (Dolby Surround, Stereo, and Mono). I was using the theater setting, and cycling between Dolby, stereo, and mono, and the difference between stereo and doly was incredible, the soundstage really filled in front to back in addition to side to side, I think I might actually use this little gizmo to watch DVDs this semester (until my parents release my DVD player back to me).

You can also adjust the ambience, which they vaguely describe as how intimate the room is, i think it adds a delay of some sort, which effectively makes the room sound bigger. The other cool feature is the seat adjustment button, what this does is move you to the front or back of the soundstage (by adjusting the ratio of the volume of the front and rear speakers). On Metallica's S&M DVD it really was incredible how you could close your eyes and imagine whether you were sitting either at the front row or the back row or anywhere in between. Towards the extremes though it sounds a little unnatural and distorted, but it does allow some nice fine-tuning of the sound.

Final Word:
The surround effect on DVDs was incredible, I can't wait to use it some more, i will post a followup to this at some point, although it may not be until i get back to school in the fall. Overall, it is worth $50 easily, but my biggest problem with it is something they call a feature. The AVC (Automatic Volume Control) which "compensates for great differences in volume" which should be written as "distorts the dynamic range intended". It sounds like you are listening to a Sony portable with AVLS (Auto-Volume Limiter System) turned on, which distorts the sound by chopping loud sounds above a certain threshold to be the same level as much quieter sounds and detroying the dynamic range of the recording. And unfortunately, as far as I can tell, you can't turn it off. So, while the imaging and surround effects were great, the volume tended to be distorted rather noticably. Don't take my words to strongly though, I think if I adjust the 3 different volume settings in the chain (DVD audio control, computer volume control panel, and then the DSP Pro) so that I can still get a loud enough signal without having the DSP's volume turned up high, it may not become as distorted, but aside from that, I would recomend this device for late night listening or maybe just extracting the surround effects while watching a DVD on your computer.
post #2 of 11
Very nice, thorough review grrr223. I picked up one of those things a few weeks ago from the "for sale" forum here and have been very pleased so far. I'm really not one for home theater systems.....I'm more of a stereo kinda' guy. Anyway, it does as you say, and does it extremely well. It really does improve the movie watching experience. Everything is so clear and crisp....the surround effect is amazing, considering it's headphones.
To be honest, I've not had a problem with the volume. I wasn't aware of that built in volume limiting system. I have more than enough volume and dynamic range. Thanks again for the review.
post #3 of 11
Great Review Grrr!!

I have a DVD-Rom... and I have the SB-Live, so it has the capability for 5.1 (in a sub-carrier I guess?) But I don't have a home theatre setup?

So, This would this be a cheaper way for me to get into home cinema... I might just go and try and hunt one down at the weekend
post #4 of 11
grrr223,

Great review! I was going to move it to the full reviews section, but I see one of the other moderators beat me to it. Again, that was a very good read!

-- Jude --
post #5 of 11
Thread Starter 
Thanks Jude, and whoever did actually move it, I feel special now, like I've finally contributed to this community .

Duncan, I am not familiar with the SB Live card (I have a Mac so I basically just use the headphone out which is still good quality, although I did just see SB has just released a Mac soundcard which I am very excited about, although I don't think i'll ever realize my dream of being able to output Dolby Digital from my Mac to my receiver)

I guess my question to you is: Do you want to use the DSP Pro as a decoder for a speaker based system, or are you just referring to home cinema as using your headphones to watch movies using this device?
post #6 of 11
Hmm... now you mention it Grr... Do you think the unit could it work as a speaker based decoder??

Primarily I was thinking of headphone based though, just to get that panoramic feel... From what I understand, there is extra "data" sub carried with the normal sound, so i presume that my DXR3 / SB-Live combo would be fine

OT... It was me that posted you to the full review section... and well deserved the accolade is too, and... apologies for the couple of moments that your thread was locked... is what happens when you lose control of your wheelie mouse
post #7 of 11
The DSP Pro can be used as a decoder for speakers. The manual explains how to hook it up. I haven't actually heard of anyone trying it though.
post #8 of 11
Thread Starter 
I recommend it for headphone listening, mainly because there are very few other alternatives, especially once you move away from your computer, and as you see in my review, it's a fun toy that does as advertised quite well, and since other people aren't having the volume problem I'm having, it may be even better than I think it is, I still need to mess around with which ear setting to use.

I would not recomend it for speaker based listening. If you consider that with a speaker based system, you still need 5 channels of amplification to hear the 4 channels of surround audio (the surround channel is mono), you might as well just buy a receiver with Dolby Digital decoding already built into it. I bought my Sony DE???-545 receiver with everything I could ever want as far as switching and decoding capabilities for $250 last summer, the only thing it's lacking in is the quality of the sound, although it was easily worth the money. But it is still probalby better than the DSP Pro for speaker based systems.

The DSP Pro I think only has a noisefloor that is at -85 dB which if I understand correctly isnt' veyr good, so at high (possibly normal) listening levels, you'll hear a lot of his.

So in conclusion, if you want to watch DVDs in surround sound, I would recommend the DSP Pro highly for headphone listening, but get a receiver if you want speakers, unless you already have amplification, then it may do the trick.
post #9 of 11
I second the review ( nicely done! )

/redundant mode starts .....

I use it with my hd600 and it also sounds GREAT.

some dvds I watched( 2nd or 3rd time) recently are

U-571 ( great depth charge sound effects, water explosions, excellent soudn effects)

Saving private ryan (bullets and motars... just great)

Sleepy Hollow ( great creepy sound effects, especially the headless knight riding the horses back n forth, sound of the leaves as being crush by the wheels of carts.. just Really great)

Brave heart ( when they battle, you really get this sensation of right there in the middle of it, with swords and shields clashing against each other. esp the sound when that sword goes in the flesh.....)

Jurassic Park 2 ( Raptors behind me ! OMG they are to my front right side too! great stuff)

/end of redundant mode

Tides
post #10 of 11
Nice review! I've been wondering about this unit for a couple years now. I've always heard "bad for headphones" but that's usually from people who tried to use it for music. I'm glad to hear that it's good for movies. Since I watch movies a lot on my iBook on flights and even at night in bed while my better half is asleep, this seems like it would be a nice addition. I'll have to look out for another one on ebay
post #11 of 11
MacDEF~~

You will love it with movies. It kicks ASS with movies.. on the other hand....
it SUCKS hard with Music. I tested with some classical/rock/jazz using it.. SO BAD... then again.. most of us here are spoiled with a dedicate headphone amp so........................

( enough periods ? )

Tides
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