Review: Soundgarden's Superunknown in DTS Headphone X

 Interested in DTS Headphone X versions of music? Read on for a review of the first DTS Headphone X  rock release, Soundgarden's Superunknown. 

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The First Rock Release in DTS Headphone X

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A&M

The DTS Headphone X version of Superunknown is available as an iOS or Android app, and it's available only to those who purchase the 20th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition of the album, which costs $92.27 on Amazon. The app combines a player with all the songs from the album with DTS Headphone X processing capability. You can switch between four modes, including stereo (DTS Headphone X off) and modes optimized for over-ear, on-ear and in-ear headphones. There's also a built-in DTS Headphone X demo with the same channel announcements I mentioned above. The Super Deluxe Edition includes 5.1-channel surround mixes of all tunes on a Blu-ray disc.

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Superunknown in DTS Headphone X: The Sound

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Brent Butterworth

For the purposes of this review, the DTS Headphone X version of Superunknown was listened to through two sets of on-ear headphones: the new Beyerdynamic T 51 p on-ear headphones and the vintage was Sennheiser HD 433. I don't have the special edition package mentioned on the previous page, but DTS provided me with a special code I could use to access the app. I downloaded the app onto my Samsung Galaxy S III Android smartphone, and once the code was in, the app automatically downloaded all of the tunes onto my phone.

Unfortunately, the DTS Headphone X tracks didn't impress. There wasn't a significant "out of head" effect, which is what headphone virtualizer technologies are supposed to deliver: an experience more like listening to speakers in a room, that gets rid of that "phantom image inside your head" effect headphones usually produce. 

What's worse is that the bass was very pumped up compared to MP3s ripped from the original CD, which made the entire recording sound dull. Playing around with the settings, it was apparent to that the technology assumes that on-ear headphones will have less bass than over-ear 'phones, and that in-ear headphones will have even less bass. So it takes the already boosted bass of the over-ear mode, boosts it even more for the on-ear mode, and even more for the in-ear mode. The best sound, even using on-ear headphones, was from the over-ear mode, which had the least bass.

Other listeners commented, "It sounds like someone threw a heavy blanket over a speaker," and, "It sounds like they extracted the out-of-phase information, mixed it all together, then put it back into the mix."

Though it's disappointing to pan anything that's attempting to deliver a better listening experience through headphones, it's hard to imagine that anyone would like the DTS Headphone X mix of Superunknown better than the original stereo mix.

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