As S+V tech editor Al Griffin and I were wandering the floor of the Indiana Convention Center Friday afternoon, we came across the Mozaex booth. The music server manufacturer had some of those on display, ordinary enough for CEDIA — but wait. . . hadn't we gotten a press release announcing something called BluWavs that seemed vaguely unbelievable, with dodgy graphics to boot? Something that Dr. Loof Lirpa might have cooked up, a monstrous surround headphone with discrete drivers for each channel?
Oh. . . there it is. It's real.
The headphones themselves are bulky and somewhat retro, reminiscent of some of the vintage cans that Brent Butterworth wrote about in his recent report from Vancouver's Innovative Audio. They connect to the electronics unit (what appeared — at least judging from the front panel — to be based on a modified Behringer graphic EQ, preamp, and 8-channel headphone amplifier) via a pair of Cat-5 cables.
The company promises several packages will be available, with pricing beginning at $1,495, some with EQ, some without, and a couple of deluxe versions including an AVR and HDMI switch. For those picking up the versions with a second headphone amp, additional headsets will be $895. It's pricey (and maybe somebody buying a pair of these should really be looking at a full traditional surround setup), but the company is targeting gamers and apartment dwellers who simply can't get loud at home and still want and immersive surround experience.
But let's cut to the chase — this really is a working surround headset, with adjustable levels per channel (you can also adjust the EQ for the fronts).
The unit we tried had more than a bit of a DIY vibe to it — making the promised November 1, 2012 shipping date seem just a bit ambitious — but everything appeared to be in working order.We got a brief demo, with 5.1 tracks from Peter Gabriel and Pat Metheny, played back from Blu-ray, and you know what? Mozaex does indeed seem to be on to something with the BluWavs.
Surprisingly, given that they contain 10 (yes, 10) drivers, they aren't unreasonably heavy. But there definitely seemed to be real information in the fronts and surrounds, which we were able to tweak to create a satisfying soundscape, and they delivered plenty of low end. Mozaex tells us their
We checked out a 5.1 demo, so we can't comment on performance with higher channel counts, but surround material was certainly convincing, and significantly different from playback of two-channel material on the BluWavs. More importantly, it sounded a lot more convincing than any virtual surround headset I've yet heard. The presentation was really effective.
Sound quality was a bit of an issue — perhaps another sign that the electronics are be a work in progress, there was some evident hiss aside that wasn't in the program material, and I got the sense that the headphones were a bit underpowered, but suffice it to say that the concept seems, well, sound. . . and that we're all very much looking forward to hearing the production version of the BluWavs.
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