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|RumbleFX Force Feedback Headphones Review
RRP: US$60, Street Price $40
Reviewed by Ray "Falcon" Lee
Review date: July, 2001
Overview and Description:
Gamer "interaction" and "immersion" is one of the marketing pitches for gaming companies, in their ongoing quest to attract potential buyers. So from the
plethora of force feedback equipment currently available ranging from certain Steering Wheels
and Mice, to the somewhat more extravagant entire seats that massage your rear
end while fragging into the early hours of the morning, it was not too much of
a surprise to see another initiative taken into Force Feedback Headphones.
RumbleFX, part of Evergreen Technologies, has developed the
RumbleFX Force Feedback Headphones, which will let you feel the sound -
literally. This is done by using a digital signal processor in the feedback
control unit and transducers in each ear cup. The processor and transducers
allow for the detection of extremely low frequencies in any audio signal and
the translation of these frequencies to a vibration effect.
Technically this is not force feedback in the sense of
replicating the direction of force caused by an in game object i.e. In a game, while firing a machine gun it would be expected to vibrate and thus this would be converted to the joystick you are holding vibrating violently within your grasp. In a looser sense it is force feedback, whereby for example an explosion
nearby could cause a force against you, to be felt locally around the ears through the
vibration. It is however, completely dependant on the frequency of the sound signal and not necessarily by any force caused by an in game object interacting with you. The two are often linked though - earthquakes, explosions cause low frequency sounds and therefore can be detected and replicated through the processor/transducers.
What you get for your money:
RumbleFX Force Feedback vibration and volume control unit
2 AAA Batteries (~20 hours lifetime)
1/4 Stereo headphone conversion jack
Soft Cushion earcup on lightweight adjustable headband
90 day warranty
Max Power Handling:
40mm (1.57) diameter dome
57mm (2.24) diameter actuator
102dB S.P.L @ 1khz
Approx 4m (13ft)
3.5mm (0.14) diameter
The headphones are built sturdily but are still flexible enough to
fit comfortably without feeling flimsy, and in addition are lightweight (13.5oz)
and nicely padded.
These headphones are somewhere between an open and closed design. Their construction allows in/lets out less sound than typical open design headphones, but a low volume of sound can still be heard from outside. (A closed design means inside sound stays in and outside sound stays out. Good for keeping the surrounding environment totally quiet and for you to avoid distraction from outside noises - unless you're expecting an important call).
The RumbleFX headphones have the same features as any typical headphone set, except with the additional transducers and control unit.
Along the 14 cable connecting the headphones to the sound
output (s/card, music player etc), there is a small control unit containing the
DSP, which will allow you to place the batteries, control the volume, and set
the force feedback/vibration level from off to 1 and 2 (low/high). The force feedback unit is independent of
the volume control, and therefore you can listen to music/sounds normally
without the vibration. My only gripe about this setup is that the unit is
somewhat close to the headphones and a slight jerk could cause it to fall into
your lap or start dangling from your headphones with a noticeable weight.
Installation is simple; the headphones require 2xAAA
batteries (provided) in order to power the transducers that vibrate within the
earpads. For those of you suggesting perhaps using a USB port, the downside to
this is that it would have limited the use to PCs only, and would not be usable
with other home or portable equipment. Remember that the 3.5mm stereo jack can
fit into any standard audio output consoles, portable music players, PC
setups, etc. The cable only connects to one (the left) side of the headphones.
Onto the performance
evaluations and conclusion
Zalman: ZM-DS4F Headphones
An affordable, ultra-portable headphone set.