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    ROG Enthusiast Array Spook50's Avatar
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    MyEars surround emulation review

    Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with MyEars. Just a happy and very impressed customer.

    For those who haven't heard of it, it's essentially a 5.7/7.1 to binaural conversion software that works in real time with stereo headphones and is tuned exactly to the user's ears and hearing patterns. I was curious to try it out after doing some research on surround sound headsets for three reasons: 1) it's much less costly at $20 versus $60+ for a surround headset, 2) it simulates surround based on YOUR ears rather than use a generic surround pattern like mass produced headsets, and 3) I travel a ton and don't want to carry a bulky headset, plus my UltimateEars canalphones with Comply foam tips have the absolute best sound reproduction and noise isolation of any phones or headset I've ever used, and I've owned Sony Studio Monitor series, Sennheisers, and Bose Quiet Comfort phones (the Bose suck, for the record). Another problem with surround headsets due to the generic surround pattern is that what might sound like great surround to one person could easily sound like garbage to someone else (and vice-versa), which renders pretty much any review of their surround capabilities useless since it'll vary greatly from person to person.

    I happened to stumble upon MyEars while searching for a software based surround emulation for stereo headsets. Figuring that many surround headsets operate off this principle using a firmware/software control, I was hoping to find something that I could use with the phones I already have. I saw MyEars mentioned on another forum and took a look at their website. There's about a 35-45 minute calibration process that they let you do for free on the website, then you can listen to three different demonstrations based on your individual configuration. Then if you choose, you can download the software for $20. It basically emulates an 8 channel audio device through Windows (Win7 in my case) and sits "between" whichever program you're using and the stereo headphone jack of your computer. After setting up my profile on their site, I checked out the demos and was pretty impressed by how accurate they sounded. So I paid the money, downloaded their software and set my profile to it. The first "real world" test I did after installing it was in Skyrim (seriously, this game is like crack for me) and it's amazing. Not only does MyEars work flawlessly with my RealTek onboard audio, but the virtual soundstage is amazingly accurate. I could hear conversations around me in populated areas and discern who was where in relation to my character, and fairly accurately figure their distance from me. Ambient sounds made environments incredibly immersive and really sucked me into the game. Fights against multiple enemies were actually easier now that I could tell exactly where an opponent was and how close or far off they were. In a nutshell, it added a whole new dimension to the game for when I'm not able to play it through our entertainment system. I can't wait to try it with Quake 4 and War in the North.
    Next, I experimented with a couple movies (ripped movies in the Matroska container using VLC and Blurays using Corel WinDVD Pro 11). Initially I noticed that the sound stuttered a bit during the first movie I played (Dredd, through VLC) and I figured out that you need to dial in the latency of the MyEars program a we bit to eliminate the stutter. I couldn't find any clear explanation as to how MyEars uses it, but from what I gather it has to do with how far ahead the buffer will "preload" audio and feed it to the sound card. I set mine to 55ms and the "Count" indicator to 5 and that quickly solved the stuttering I was hearing. Now I could hear rounds ricocheting all around me during shootout sequences and a damn near perfect reproduction of the movie's surround channels. Afterwards I watched a few scenes from my Black Hawk Down and The Two Towers Blurays and again I was amazed. BHD has an uncompressed soundtrack, and has some of the best movie audio I've ever heard. I was curious how MyEars would handle it, and it performed excellently. Partly because the movie's audio was produced so well, but also because MyEars gave such an accurate reproduction of the surround with my earphones, BHD sounded like I was right there in Mogadishu (ugly thought for sure, but the sound is just that damn good). The Helm's Deep battle scenes in The Two Towers again left me very impressed. Clanging of swords and the "swish" of arrows passing by all around made me giggle like a little girl.

    Overall, I'd give MyEars a 9 out of 10. Everything worked as advertised and it integrated seamlessly with my onboard audio. The technology is still in its infancy, but if they continue to improve, I can see software solutions like this completely replacing the market for surround sound headsets. Why pay $60+ for something tuned to a generic hearing pattern when you can pay $20 for something that's tuned specifically for your ears and the style of headphones you're using? The only caveat is that you have to take the time to configure it correctly for it to be accurate. It's very much worth it though.
    Another point to mention is that the $20 is an annual payment (not automatic, however) in order to be kept current on their updates and refinements to the technology. What you've downloaded will still be usable forever after one payment, but you just won't get any updates after a year unless you pay another $20. Not a big deal IMO, but some might think it is.

    Their website is http://www.myears.net.au/

    Again, no affiliation. Just a very happy customer.
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