The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is the place where high tech companies go to get their new products seen. The 2009 edition was no different, and the Bigbruin.com crew was there again to see what was brewin' in consumer electronics. The show really is far too large to cover exhaustively in the few days it is open, and comprehensive coverage just isn't an option. With that said, this article is going to take a look at a cross section of interesting items encountered this year.
Psyko Audio Labs 5.1 Gaming Headphones:
Psyko Audio is a new company that is looking to change the way people think about surround sound headphones. In general, headphones isolate each ear from the environment and each other, so the sound each ear picks up is provided solely by the speaker mounted to it.
Psyko Audio Labs takes a different approach, using a total of seven speakers in their 5.1 headphones, with all of them sharing the same airspace via tubing in the frame. The five interlocking peninsulas seen on top are actually for the five main speakers (center, left front, right front, left rear, and right rear). Tubes of varying lengths are used to carry the sound from these speakers to your ears, and then there is a subwoofer mounted directly outside each ear in order make sure the bass response is delivered properly.
When you listen to typical speakers, you can hear the left front speaker with your right ear (for example), but with typical headphones you can not. Psyko Audio's design lets you hear all of the speakers with both ears, but they have varied the lengths of the tubes in order to create the appropriate delay to maintain the surround sound effect. The left front speaker in the Psyko Audio headphones may not be that much farther from your right ear than it is from your left, but the tubing design adds a bit of distance to create the slight delay and reduce the volume just enough. The idea seems simple, but is rather innovative.
I tried them on and did just a little bit of 3D gaming at their booth. The surround sound was very good, and the overall quality was impressive. Another cool feature included a boom microphone that was held on merely by a 1/8" audio jack. It was held in place securely, and could be adjusted for comfort, but you could remove it for all those times where you just wanted to listen and not talk. The clear plastic covers over the ears hide another cool feature right there in plain sight. The covers can be hinged open, which could prove to be useful if you want to get a bit of cool air in to your ears while continuing a long gaming session or if you need to be able to hear something happening in the real world while you continue on in your virtual world.
My initial impression had me thinking back to Star Wars, and that these headphones were reminiscent of the helmets worn by X-Wing Pilots [image link]. I'll admit the similarities aren't as strong now that I actually see the helmet again for the first time in a few years, but the general theme is still a match to me. Psyko Audio claims they went for a more substantial design, and didn't got for a sleek compact design on purpose. The look is cool, and the function may be far more important than the styling, but you definitely can't consider these headphones to be compact or particularly portable.