Hey folks, Valkor here. I can't believe CES 2011 is just around the corner. I'm not only excited for the show, but also the after parties, which you'll find a list HERE, of events I'll be in attendance. But at CES 2010, I had the chance to meet with a company, whose products I thought would never get a feature in the cave; not because they weren't any good, that's simply not the case, but because it's mostly PC base, and we don't cover too many PC components. However the folks at Zalman have other PC related products under their belts that the average user can appreciate and enjoy. So journey with me as we take a test drive of Zalman's ZM-RS6F Surround Sound Headphones.
The ZM-RS6F headphones come in a nice fold-up, compact design, making them easily portable. They come equipped with a 9.8' cord and volume control that's not its own, but works from the PC. The look is very futuristic and robotic; hell after you unfold the headphones, they can actually stand on their own, lookin like robot feet and legs. It's pretty funny. So in testing the ZM-RS6F headphones I ran the usual gamut of tests – high to low level MP3 music, Polar Express DVD, and an assortment of video files I keep for just such an occasion.
MP3 Audio: – With digital music not only did I use mp3 files, but also added the site GrooveShark to help complete testing. On the low scale (128 – 160kp), sounds were soft and grouped together with the vocals, but directional sounds were definitely there's separation of the left and right channels, plus you can pick out small audio bits that you can't hear with regular headphones. As you go in the higher range (192 – 320kp) you'll start to here the audio breathe, because now you're totally immersed with sounds coming from everywhere.
Video: Now this is where the true test begins, this is most important because if you fail here, then it's all over. Here my qualms with the audio apply here, though you have more immersion. However, in a scene like "Hot Chocolate" from Polar Express, there's too much sound being grouped together, so things become muddled. But for the most part you get rich surround sound from every direction.
There are a few things I need to note: for one, audio quality is dependent on your soundcard, so if you have an amazing soundcard then expect great reception, but your ride may vary. Second, again this is dependent of your soundcard; you may have to do some adjusting to help improve quality. And with that out of the way, we move on to…
The ZM-RS6F for the most part, isn't bad as a pair of surround sound headphones. The fact that when you plop those headphones on your ears, start up your favorite song or movie, your completely enveloped from the outside world and caught up in your own. Great separation of sound, excellent representation of the left/center/right channels, and the bass isn't too overpowering. The cushioning on the ear cups and the top of the head are soft, comfortable and the headphones themselves don't weigh too heavy on the skull. Eerily enough, the RS6F actual sound quality is clear enough and loud enough that they make better speakers than the defaults on my laptop. I can be in another room, door closed and I can still hear my music. Ok not THAT clear, but audible enough that I know what's playing. Finally the length of the cord is a major plus, especially for a guy like me who rolls in his chair between two PCs; I don't have to stop rocking when I change up.
For starters, though the bass isn't too heavy, it could use a bit more. This can be remedied by adjusting the equalizers, but you'll be doing that for each different piece of media you play. Second is when things get to heavy on the screen, the audio becomes jumbled together. Again we go back to the "Hot Chocolate" scene, where on my Orbitsound Soundbar speaker, you get better separation than with the ZM-RS6F. It's not a complete disappointment and you'll still get great sound no matter what, but you might want to consider this factor if you're interested in owning these headsets. Please note that your experience may vary from mine. I thought because it's USB I could use them with my PS3 or Seagate FreeAgent Theater+, but this is strictly PC headphones.
So when all is said and done, taking in the good with the bad, I'd say Zalman has a winner with the ZM-RS6F Surround Sound headphones – great sound quality coupled with an amazing design make the RS6F a success in the Val-Cave. And out of TOV 5 stars, I'm giving the ZM-RS6F 4 stars. And they've been Valkor tested, TOV Approved.