Reviewed by: Alan Wong

Provided by: Zalman USA

Estimated price: $50 Compare Prices

Introduction

With the wide variety of multimedia speakers to choose from, it is quite difficult to come to a decision on which speaker system to buy. To many, headphones are not as good as surround sound speakers but that has now come to an end. The Zalman Theatre6 5.1 Surround Sound Headphone is here to change all of that. If you have heard of Zalman, you probably connect them with their large silent heat sink fans and their wide variety of other hardware cooling supplies. Zalman is starting to expand into another field, audio hardware. With the wide variety of speakers and headphones, will the Zalman Theatre6 ZM-RS6F be right for you? Let’s delve into the Zalman Theatre6 and see if it can hold against the high standards of today’s technology…

Features

Unit Type

Electro Dynamic Round Type Micro Speaker

Frequency Response

50Hz ~ 20KHz (Extension Effective)

Sound Pressure Level

89 dB +/- 3 dB at 50mW

Impedance

16 Ohm at 1KHz

Nominal Power

0.02W

Maximum Power

0.15W

Weight

11.24oz (316.8g) without packaging

Cord

Straight, Triple entry 9.8ft (300cm)

Plug

3 headphone jacks ( 3.5mm)

 

Zalman states that the Theatre6 is able to substitute a surround sound system, which is quite a big claim. However, there may be some partial truth in this. The Theatre6 aren’t your average headphones with one jack. The Zalman Theatre6 consists of 3 jacks: 1 jack for Front 2 Speakers Channels, 1 Jack for Center (and subwoofer) channel, and 1 jack for the rear speakers’ channel. This is so that it can utilize the surround sounds to its full potential. To top that off, the jack plugs are made of gold, which is a great plus. Gold pins ensure better conductivity in sound and therefore provide better quality and even more volume than the conventional silver plugs.

 

The Zalman Theatre6 is also able to stand on its own "two feet." The headphones can be restracted and folded so that it can be compacted and stored somewhere else. Quite convenient, since the headphones do tend to take up a lot of space when not in use and not retracted.

Setup was extremely easy. It only took a few seconds. All you need to do is plug in the three plugs into their respective jacks. In this case, my motherboard could change the "Line In" Jack to the read surround channels and it also changed my "Mic" Jack into the front left and right channel. The installation of these headphone jacks into your sound card may go into a different place. Check to see if your sound card is able to support 5.1 Surround sound.

Test Setup

System:

Processor: AMD Athlon XP 2800+ (Barton Core)

Cooling: CoolerMaster Aero7 Lite CPU Fan

Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-7N400 Pro Motherboard

Sound: nForce2 Integrate 5.1 Sound

Graphics Card: PNY GeForceFX 5200 8x

RAM: Patriot 512 MB PC3200 DDR400

Hard Drive: Western Digital 200GB Hard Drive w/ 8mb Buffer (Model WD2000JB)

Optical Drive: Memorex Dual Format DVD Recorder

Case: PCMCIS 2008G ATX Case (300W)

 

Benchmarks:

Movies: InterVideo WinDVD 5

Cyberlink PowerDVD 5

Games: Unreal Tournament 2003

Music: Nullsoft Winamp3 (build 488)

Speaker Setup: nVidia SoundStorm

nVidia SoundStorm is a program that lets users customize their sound settings. It consists of an equalizer, preset equalizer settings, setup of speakers, as well as the helpful "Test Tone" feature. The "Test Tone" feature is a feature where your computer sends sound out to their respective speaker to test the location of the sound. For example, the sound "Left Speaker" will be heard where the left speaker is, the words "Right Surround" will be heard where the right rear speaker is suppose to be, and so forth.

Results: The sounds were projected where they were suppose to be. However, it was very evident that the front left and right speaker sounds were much louder than those of the center and rear speakers. The most logical reason for this would be because since most sounds that are played are usually 2-channel (e.g. music, games, etc…), Zalman tried to focus on the a stronger stereo sound, just in case the users that were using the headphones were playing 2-channel sound, such as an mp3. Center sound was where it was suppose to be, in the center of the headphones. Surround rear sounds were heard at the back of the headphones. However, the center and rear surround channels are faint, and so users would not be able to gain an equal amount of sound from every channel, unless you lowered the volume of the front left and right channels (which is annoying in my opinion).

Testing Results

Gaming

In Unreal Tournament 2003, sound was flawless. Voices, background sound, and music was heard very clearly. There was enough bass emitted from the headphones to make gamers feel the explosions.

 

Movies

In using the Theatre6 to listen to DVD Surround Sound was quite disappointing. The Zalman manual recommended to use Win DVD 4 or Power DVD 4, however both of these software are out of date, since version 5 of both of them are already out.

The newer versions of these DVD player software do not support surround sound for the Zalman Theatre6 (only the old versions did,; that is why Zalman recommended using the older versions). When playing Scene 1 from "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" Widescreen DVD, voices from the center channel and front left and right channels were not audible. Only when I set nVidia SoundStorm to "Dolby Surround Encoding" was I able to hear all the voices and sounds, but that wouldn’t be true surround sound then. *Note "Dolby Surround" means that the computer uses the 5.1 channel and bbasically turns it into 2-channels. Despite that fact, the quality of the sound was good. Currently, the test setup used was a nForce2 Motherboard integrated 5.1 Sound. You may be able to achieve true 5.1 channel sound with other sound cards (and maybe with different software other than nVidia SoundStorm).

 

 

Music

For music testing, 50 Cent’s "In the Club" was used to see if bass was strong and to see if voices were heard clearly. Bass was strong and the rapping voices were heard very clearly. We also used Lifehouse’s "Somewhere in Between" with the same expectations of clarity and high bass. The results were the same, exceptional clarity and strong bass. Playback of music was excellent.

Conclusion

After testing in all 3 areas of sound, there was a mixed feeling of performance. In gaming and music, the Theatre6 performed extremely well. While playing DVD’s, Center Channel and Front Left and Right Channels were not audible (the only way to hear "everything" would be to set the DVD software to play the stereo sound on the DVD, which meant that there would be no true surround sound).

Pros:

Cons:

After much deliberation, a decision was finally made. Due to its high performance in gaming and music (despite its lack of full utilization of 5.1 Channel Sound), the Zalman Theatre6 5.1 Surround Sound Headphones receives a rating of 8.5/10.



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