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May 24, 2010

Upgrade Any Stereo Headset to 7.1 Channel Dolby Surround Sound with Turtle Beach’s Ear Force DSS

Audio junkies and gamers listen up – imagine a device that could easily “upgrade” any stereo headset to 7.1 Channel Dolby Surround Sound. Turtle Beach is lifting the covers on a device that does just that. Today, Turtle Beach is announcing their Ear Force DSS product – a surround sound processor that takes in audio from an analog stereo source (like a stereo headset) and upgrades it to Dolby Pro Logic IIx for virtual surround sound (7.1 Channel Dolby Surround Sound). With any stereo headset, you can use the Ear Force DSS to get 7.1 Channel Dolby Surround Sound while watching movies and TV (or Internet TV) through Windows Media Center, Blu-ray movies, or playing games all on your Windows PC. Turtle Beach makes some amazing headset products that the Ear Force DSS serves as a perfect complement to such as the Ear Force X31, X11, XLC, Z1 and PX21. The Ear Force DSS and Ear Force headsets are perfect for gamers looking to have impressive audio capabilities while gaming – and work not just with Windows PCs, but also with Xbox 360’s (and PlayStation 3’s) as well.

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Turtle Beach sent along an Ear Force DSS for me to try out this weekend. I was traveling this weekend so it actually worked out to be a great weekend for me to try out the Ear Force DSS. I brought along Turtle Beach’s Ear Force X11 headset with me. And of course I had my Dell Studio 15 (“The Goat”) with me too. I didn’t bring any movies or TV shows to watch but I’ve been really into Batman: Arkham Asylum lately. I had Batman: Arkham Asylum installed on my laptop and intended to do a little gaming this weekend. Incidentally, Batman: Arkham Asylum has Dolby as a partner – even better! I didn’t want to bother those around me so I connected up the Ear Force DSS and threw on the Ear Force X11 headset.

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Wow. With the DSS, the sound coming out of the headset while playing Batman: Arkham Asylum was amazing. In particular, Mark Hamil’s voice as The Joker truly stood out in the game, with the creep-factor amplified. I also found I could hear a lot more of the background sound effects than I was used to hearing. And the audio for explosions and weapons fire and throwing batarangs were enhanced within the game thanks to the built in bass boost.

The DSS is a pretty small, basic device. You connect it to your PC (or Xbox) to power the device. It also serves as a USB pass-through where you can connect a USB device to the USB-in port and it will connect the device to your PC as if it were physically connected to your PC. There are several display lights on the top of the device that tell you what the device is doing. You’ll notice in my photos above that the light for “PLIIX” is lit up. This means the device is processing the audio input to Dolby Pro Logic IIx. There is an output volume control and an input audio control. You can also control the level of bass boost (I mentioned bass boost above). And there are 2 buttons: a power button on the side and a Dolby Bypass button on the top. The Dolby Bypass button lets you turning off all audio processing – and is a good way to hear what the audio would sound like without any processing by the DSS. I used this to see the difference between having the audio processed or not while playing Batman: Arkham Asylum. I really did see a difference too!

Admittedly, as I wrote this blog post I also enjoyed listening to music from my collection in Zune with the Ear Force X11 headset and the DSS. The audio in this situation was also very impressive.

Again, for someone who wants impressive high quality audio when playing movies, TV, or games on your Windows PC, the Ear Force DSS is the perfect device to let you hear everything you want to hear (and maybe more).

The Ear Force DSS will be $89.95 (MSRP) and is available starting today from the Turtle Beach Web site. It will also be available soon at other online retailers and major US and Canadian retail stores.