7.1 and 5.1 speaker systems have been in vogue since multiple speaker setups were invented. They are a staple in most home theater systems, and have provided years of realistic, encompassing sound for audiophiles.
These 7. 1 setups put, aside from the standard front left and right, a central or foreground/dialogue speaker, left and right surround speakers, left and right rears, and a good subwoofer
Too bad our iPhones can’t reproduce a 7.1 environment with its two paltry left and right earphones—or can they?
Enterprising app developers have been trying for a while to reproduce a home theater sound by emulating the 7.1 environment through a simple stereo headset setup on the iPhone, and through the years have come up with a few nice 5.1 emulators, among them My Tunes Pro from SRS Labs, and the Dirac HD Player.
We’d like to introduce you to an new iPhone app that tries to reproduce a 7.1 experience through your iPhone headset: the Audio-3D Player Headphones HD 7.1.
It does this by strategically placing audio streams coming from virtual directions within the earphones and other complicated, arcane routines that effectively make it seem like the audio is coming from a 7.1 setup even though you were only listening to your left and right earbuds. But never mind the specifics—it just works.
The app takes over the playback from your iTunes with a similar control system, and has support for over 40 of the most popular headsets out there, with forthcoming support for more as per user request. Some of the custom profiles included are for Marshall headsets, various Sennheisers, the Sony MDRs, a couple of Philips, some by Bose, Beats by Dre, AKG, Koss, and host of other earpieces.
The app reproduces audio in two ways: a 2.1 speaker setup, and a fancier 7.1 setup. You can use the default setup, or tweak the audio as per your own personal specifications under the 2.1 menu—there is a circular interface menu where you can adjust where the audio is virtually coming from. You can lock it down if you don’t want to experiment with it too much. But the 7.1 settings are more or less fixed. There are EQ adjustment settings, even a Bass Boost.
The app is optimized for the iPhone 5, but can work on older iPhones too. I tried it using Marshall Monitors, EarPods from Apple, and a pair of Beats by Dre, and they all sounded great. I even tried a pair that wasn’t on the list of headsets, the HiSense HB400C Bluetooth headset, set it to the default, and it sounded just fine. The 2.1 settings sounded full, but the app came onto its own with the 7.1 setting. On default it sounded fantastic already. The left and right surrounds were evident, although it couldn’t exactly reproduce the rear audio like they were actually coming from behind me. Not a deal-breaker though.
This app makes you want to have transferred your music using higher resolutions, it reproduces it so nicely. But there is, of course, the nagging realization in the back of your mind that it was just all being emulated, and you’re just being fooled by the app. But damn, it’s really convincing. Classical music sounded full and loud, jazz sounded like it was coming out right in front of you, and pop had a nice, encompassing surround vibe.
Audio-3D Player Headphones HD 7.1 makes for the nicest player I’ve come across recently on the App Store. It sells for US$5.99, but if you hurry, you can get it for free today only (August 6).
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