KY-100 Headphone Review

Be Vewy Vewy Quiet

For most of us, the luxery of playing games with the volume shaking the walls and lossening fillings is a pipe dream. Children and wives need to sleep and your apartment neighbors may be homcidal maniacs, you don't know. 4tomsma4her brings us a review of the Kinyo KY-100-5.1 surround sound headphones to see if maybe we can approximate the effects of 5.1 sound without getting in trouble.
I'm a night gamer. This is due in large part to the fact that I have a four-year old daughter. The time from my workday's end to her bedtime is short - 2 to 3 hours - and this time is usually spent having dinner, making school lunches, reading stories, telling her not to jump on the dog or couch, et cetera. Besides, her imagination is full of fairies and princesses, which do not get along with headcrabs, nazis, or the undead. So there's no gaming until she's off to bed.

Once she's alseep, things around the house need to stay pretty quiet. In addition, my wife does not generally enjoy the sounds of weaponry and death. Plus, we live in a townhouse, and share a wall with a very nice older lady who probably does not like those sorts of noises either. As a result, I've been required to game with headphones. Which is fine. I like headphones. The problem, however, has been that setting found on so many recent games' audio options screens - the one that says "5.1 surround." For the reasons stated above - plus the fact a 5-speaker setup would completely take over my den, rendering it virtually impassible - gaming with a bonafide 5.1 setup has not been an option.

I'd been depressed about this for a while when, while wandering aimlessly through Circuit City, I discovered Kinyo's KY-100 headphones. The package promised true 5.1 surround sound, from a device that would stick to my head and that no one but me would hear. Could it be true? I decided that for the price - about 40 bucks - I was definitely willing to give it a shot.

Here's the disclaimer part of this review: I am not what you'd consider an audiophile. I like to buy expensive audio equipment when I have the money (which is almost never), but in my estimation, the difference in sound quality between a $500 Pioneer setup and the $1500 Bose equivalent isn't noticeable enough to merit the extra cash. Sacrilege, some may say. Well, that's where I'm coming from. I'm not an audio purist, and I don't know a thing about ohms or impedance or kilohertz. I just want stuff to sound reasonably good (end of disclaimer).

I was surprised to find that the KY-100s come packaged with a huge wad of cables and adapters. Unlike most audio products, they come with just about anything you'd need to hook them up to your system. Setup is relatively easy. Basically, you run your 5.1 audio output into the KY-100's small receiver/amplifier, which has 5.1 outputs for your regular speakers (if you've got 'em), a proprietary 9-pin output jack for the 5.1 headphones, and an on/off & volume switch.

The headphones sound pretty good. I'd compare the quality to what you'd get from a $60-$80 set of stereo headphones, except it's true 5.1 surround. There are actually three speakers in each earpiece, corresponding to rear, front, and center channels. Because the speakers are so close together, the channel separation isn't as distinct as it would be with a regular surround speaker setup, but it's dramatic improvement over simple stereo sound nonetheless. The KY-100s can also provide simulated surround from a stereo source, although it's not as impressive as the real thing.

Surprisingly, the headphones aren't any larger than those of ordinary stereo headphones of similar quality. Bass response is quite good, and the earpieces do an effective job of blocking out background noise. And despite the "KY" designation, no jelly was needed - the headphones were plenty adjustable and, although a bit heavy, were quite comfortable. The cable is long - I haven't measured, but I'm guessing it's a good 8 to 10 feet.

The KY-100's only real flaw is a subtle background hiss that's equally present at low and high volumes. It's the kind of thing that might be a deal-breaker for some, but I found that I only noticed it when I first switched the headphones on. Once I was playing games, it disappeared into the background. I also found that if I cranked the headphones to ear-splitting volumes (and they do get very loud) I picked up some interference from my hard disks and CD-ROM, but only when the receiver was right next to my PC.

I'd recommend the KY-100's to just about anyone looking for a low-budget way to dramatically improve their gaming experience. If you've been playing with stereo headphones, you'll notice a huge difference with games that provide true 5.1 sound. The switch from 2D to 3D audio with Doom 3 and Half-Life 2 was almost overwhelming at first. It really ups the level of immersion. In addition, it offers a substantial tactical advantage. There's nothing like true 5.1 sound positioning when you need to know where those bullets are coming from, or if you're trying to avoid being surprised from behind.

The KY-100s are probably not for the hard-core audiophile. But for under $50, they should satisfy just about anyone else.

- 4tomsm4her

Comments

Wow, I had no idea that I could have "wife-safe" surround sound so cheaply. I just placed the order and eagerly await their arrival. Excellent review!

Hrm. Both the constant hiss and the lack of jelly would be deal-breakers for me. I thank you for doing the hard work for me though. Great review!

Baggachipz wrote:

Wow, I had no idea that I could have "wife-safe" surround sound so cheaply.

IMAGE(http://img116.exs.cx/img116/1231/z7shysterical.gif)

After posting, I was afraid you would read that, Green. I wish unpleasant diseases on your genitals.

I love my Sennheisers, but those look really good.

Just looked at circuitcity.com, price seems to be 14.99 now after 35.00 in instant savings.

Think I will order em when I get home, I have an older pair of the Sony MDR-V600 which I love, but its starting to come apart, and $15 is more attractive than $80.

*edit* headphones listed are Centrinos not Kinyo, no Kinyo headphones to be found at circuitcity.com

**edit edit** newegg.com has the Kinyo for $40.49.

Oh I'm sorry Bagga but it was way too freakin tempting. You were there yelling at me - Green! I'm here! I've been bad! Please kick my ass! How could I refuse that to you?

I'd highly recommend NOT buying the Centrino 5.1 headphones from Circuit City. When I went to buy them I found that they were just stereo headphones with non-standard battery powered amplifier and a large size phono jack. The package had no information concerning the statistics of the headphones nor did it mention that the specialized batteries were sold separately.

Yeah, I have been using GWJ's handy dandy search function, and rememberd your post on the Centrino, and will be avoiding them even at $15.00. The great thing about newegg is they have full product description of the Kinyo and lots of photos as well, truly looks like a nice package.

I am curious as to 4tomsma4her's ability to pick the Kinyo up at CC, and yet its not to be found on the web site. Can CC stores carry items that CC web doesn't?

Nice review, thanks. I've been thinking about buying some headphones like this, but I'm holding out in hopes that they'll make one with a mic.

Thanks for the nice review, 4tomsma4her. Sounds like a great product for the price, especially for those of us who have odd computer/DVD player placement that pretty much rules out a real 5.1 setup.

What are some good Sennheiser headphones similar to these?

How easy is it to switch between your regular computer speaker 5.1 set up and these headphones? Lots of wires to unplug and replug? My wife uses the regular speakers while she surfs during the day and does the finances (Quicken), and I game 2-3 nights a week where I'd use these headphones.

Draco wrote:

How easy is it to switch between your regular computer speaker 5.1 set up and these headphones?

Do you have a headphone hole in your preamplifier? If so it should be just a turn on and off switch.

KrazyTaco[FO] wrote:
Draco wrote:

How easy is it to switch between your regular computer speaker 5.1 set up and these headphones?

Do you have a headphone hole in your preamplifier? If so it should be just a turn on and off switch.

It doesn't work that way if your sound-card only has one digital out and both the headphones and the regular speakers have to use it to run. You would have to reach behind your PC everytime you wanted to change, which is coincidentally what I have to do now when I want to use my old Boston Acoustics 2.1's for something.

[quote="4tomsm4her "]

Basically, you run your 5.1 audio output into the KY-100's small receiver/amplifier, which has 5.1 outputs for your regular speakers (if you've got 'em), a proprietary 9-pin output jack for the 5.1 headphones, and an on/off & volume switch.

Ahh, this part of the review didn't sink in the first time I read it. So I plug the cables from my sound card into the KY-100's amp, then plug my speakers into the amp, so it's acting like a bridge. Then I just plug the headphones in when I want to use them. Brilliant! No cable switching!

I might pick these up if I could just find them in a store around here. CompUSA and Best Buy's website comes up with nothing, and Circuit City's website is just gibberish for some reason.

I have the Zalman 5.1 surround headphones wich received very positive reviews and won a few awards and while they do sound good and have all the inputs for 5.1 (sans .1) surround sound it doesn't come close to offer surround sound at all. I don't regret buying them because they're comfortable, sound good and were pretty cheap, although a little pricier than those reviewed here. You will not get real surround sound from headphones unless there is special signal processing like the Pioneer SE-DIR800C. These are the headphones Bungie gave to the reviewers for the in-house pre-release Halo 2 reviews. It works, but it's 399$.

Great review. I'd not really use them for gaming, but I'd love to hear some of my movies and whatnot in 5.1 when the boy is asleep. I'll probably have to go test them somewhere though...the hiss might be a deal breaker for me. I'm one of those people that owns nightclub amps and Infinity speakers because I'm pretty picky about sound.

Well I have a 5.1 system for my PC this seems like a smart add-on. 40 bux nice find CERTIS.

Well I have a 5.1 system for my PC this seems like a smart add-on. 40 bux nice find CERTIS.

My god Satan, you're still alive?!

Wow.

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I have the Zalman 5.1 headphones as well (with the add-on mic). They aren't bad, not perfect, but better than most headphones that I've had. In so far as the question on switching between the headphones and a set of surround speakers, as you're working with all of the inputs (Front L/R, Surround L/R, Centre and Sub) it is a pain. I ended up buying the Zalman pre-amp (I can't recall the model number) that provides two outputs. I have the pre-amp connected to my sound card and my surround speakers as well as the headphones connected to the pre-amp. Each output has independent volume control which is nice.

Chief Value has these for $42 shipped, buy.com supposedly has them through pricewatch for slightly cheaper, but the web page shows it at $50 (you might have to call, all in all I'd rather spend the extra $10 and know I am getting them at that price without the hassles)

KrazyTaco[FO] wrote:

Wow.

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A man of brevity. He speaks only when something is important to him. I applaud his almost zen-like silence on all but the most compelling issues.

SwampYankee wrote:
KrazyTaco[FO] wrote:

Wow.

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A man of brevity. He speaks only when something is important to him. I applaud his almost zen-like silence on all but the most compelling issues.

If I was him I would quote that. But then of course that would destroy the whole idea of who this masked man is. Quite a conundrum. Quite a conundrum.

Yeah, if he did he'd instantly be lowered into the muck that is the rest of us posting fools....

My god Satan, you're still alive?!

I didn't read his name before you responded and man did that seem odd. Not even OoCT odd, just Japanese politics odd level.

Do the Zalman have the hiss? Also, do the Zalman cushions rest against the ears, or do they surround the ear and res against your head? Thanks!

KrazyTaco[FO] wrote:

Wow.

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I was much the same, several months ago:

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