Recently I have come into possession of two lovely gadgets that have increased my sonic pleasure immeasurably.
The first is a used Thrustmaster T510 from eBay for about £25. An absolute bargain with fierce bidding in the final few seconds for this baby. This unassuming little thing converts an analogue or digital surround sound feed into Dolby Headphone format. This effectively lets one achieve surround sound with regular headphones. I have tried it with two videogames – Metroid Prime (which by the way is just an amazing, fantastic game) and Final Fantasy XII. Both have excellent surround sound mixes, Dolby Pro-Logic II to be precise.
Final Fantasy XII in particular sounds superb – the battles are now more “spacial”, I can hear my archers arrows whoosing from behind my viewpoint over my left or right shoulder and the metallic clang of my swordsman in the center of the melee. Aside from that it means I can enjoy glorious surround sound from both games and movies without disturbing the rest of the house or at night. w00tage!
The other thing is a headphone amp – this is a gadget I’ve wanted to own for a long time actually. It amplifies the audio from any source with a 3.5mm jack and is especially suited to digital media players. You see these days a lot of sneaky manufacturers (like Apple), tend to put weedy amplifiers into their sleek mp3 players to lengthen the battery life. Sadly this is with a cost of crap sounding music.
This was partly my decision to switch back to MiniDisc because Sony, for all their other faults, know how to do music electronics properly. Anyhow, I eventually bought a “CMOY Amp” model from a friendly Latvian chap called Zigis. This guy hand makes his own stuff and matches the capacitors and resistors for a purer signal. I can safely say that the sound is much more punchy and detailed with new layers of details being revealed on familiar listening material. Well worth the £30 I paid.