Mentor Surround Sound headphones use a patented system which works with PCs, Macs, DVD players, gaming consoles and digital TVs. The headsets surround each ear with six independent chambers, creating the sensation that each sound is coming from a particular direction - this unique physical design distinguishes the Mentor range from attempts to create the Surround Sound experience using software alone.
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The Mentor range of headphones also utilise a proprietary that the manufacturers call Safebass Technology, which protects the listener's ears by combining audio signals from the right-front and left-front audio channels and converging the bass signals into a more moderate level to reduce eardrum-damaging high bass levels.
The headsets provide a front, centre and surround impedance of 32, 16 and 8 ohm respectively. Their frequency response is 20hz to 20Khz, and their sensitivity is 103db.
The Mentor range includes headphones that are designed for use with PCs, with Macs, and with DVD players, gaming consoles and digital TVs. They are available in the professional (330g) form factor for maximum comfort and sound separation, and in the deluxe (140g) form factor for maximum portability.
The model we chose to try was the Mentor RCH001 professional headset.
The RCH001 comes with a coaxial cable for connecting to a range of devices, and can be used with DVD players, digital TVs, Microsoft's XBox and Sony's PlayStation2.
We chose the RCH001 because it gave us the greatest opportunity to compare with existing non-surround headsets (for sound reproduction and external speaker surround sound systems on the platforms which offer the greatest existing scope for the population - DVD and game consoles.
How well did the headphones work? As good as any medium range speakers for sound separtation and sound reproduction and although lacking in comparison to high end headphones in reproduction, they do offer a true surround sound experience. In short they are sensational, offering a viable alternative to speakers when there are additional circumstances such as sound level restrictions due to neighbours or cohabitants or late night usage.
The RCH001 comes with a wireless remote control and a built-in amplifier/decoder. It carries an estimated retail price of $299, while optional second headphone sets are $115 (in the professional form factor) or $85 (in the deluxe form factor).
If you're planning to use the headphones with a PC, you have two choices of model - professional RCH100 with a built-in AC97 decoder and the RCH120 for computers with a sound card.
The RCH100 does not require a computer with a sound card, just a USB connector, which provides both power and audio-in. The driver software runs on either Mac OS X or Windows 98SE, ME, 2000 or XP and it sells for an estimated retail price of $259. The deluxe version of this headset is the $239 Mentor RCH110.
The RCH120 comes with 3 stereo plugs and a USB connector, enabling it to connect to any desktop or laptop PC that has USB 1.0 or later (providing power) and a sound card (providing audio-in). The driver software runs on Windows 98SE, ME, 2000 or XP. The headphone carries an estimated retail price of $249.
The deluxe version of this headset is the Mentor RCH125. It carries an estimated retail price of $219.
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