At CanJam you walk by tons of booths and tables filled with Headphones, Amps, DACs and other peripheral gear all designed to give you awesome personal audio experiences. Walking by Darin Fong’s booth was at first a similar thing. The table was stuffed with gear. Top of the line headphones abounded, great amps were present. So when I introduced myself to Darin and asked what he was offering he said software…Software? What does it do? Darin grinned and said “Do you like Magico speakers?” Very much, I said, but they are very expensive. “What if you could bring a pair home for $149?” OK, you have my attention, how does this work? With that, Darin introduced me to his innovative Out of Your Head software.
Darin explained that he had been carefully recording high end systems, both two channel and surround sound, and then creating software to replicate the experience of listening to these aspirational rigs using a pair of headphones. You could actually plug into your computer’s audio out jack and let the software do the work. You could even use earbuds and in ear monitors. No special amp is required. For surround sound it can work with an existing on line stream or disc and not require rendering prior to listening. Real time processing with the joy of a high end surround sound processor and speakers. Imagine, said Darin, enjoying a movie in 7.1 with just your laptop and headphones. A full movie experience with minimal gear! Then he asked, do you have a good system at home? We can do specialized recording and “Capture” your home system sound and you can take it on the road with you.
It did not take long to understand that the number of uses for OOYH is extensive. Anyone with a smaller home understands how impractical it is to own large speakers. You can now own a favorite pair that fits your home and still spend some time with the big rig. These systems not only included the big speakers, but were driven by very expensive electronics. Now you can spend some time with those too. I have many friends who live in apartments or condos. Neighbors are not always going to sync up with your entertainment tastes. Want to listen to that new action movie with the jet’s whizzing by and the explosions? Get your headphones on and queue up OOYH along with your movie. Neighbors be D***ed…. Got that new Megadeth album? Bring on the decibels!
Taking a look at the Out of Your Head control panel on the flat screen TV at the booth I could see over 20 top of the line speakers available to experience including the previously discussed Magico 7’s. There were Planar, Electrostatic, Horn and conventional driver speakers many in the over $100,000 a pair category. Darin explained you could switch seamlessly between them as you were listening. Each was captured/recorded in a real room under real use conditions and the software’s job was to recreate that whole of that experience on the fly. Clearly, I needed to spend some time at home and get “Out of my head”.
Upon returning from CanJam I downloaded the software and after installation sent a registration code generated upon installation to Darin for confirmation and to receive the unlock code for the active license. Purchasing options include the software and one specific speaker preset for $149 with additional speakers available for $25 each. There is a master license for $475 that gets you the entire library. If you are a Gamer then there is a Gamer license for $24.95. Gamer’s will definitely appreciate the low latency in the processing. No lag when that grenade is coming from above and behind you! There is also a Demo version you can download without installing the software found at: http://fongaudio.com/demo.
The software has a Windows and Mac version. After receiving my active license via e-mail I placed it in my default download directory. The software will search for it there to verify your registration. I opened the sound area of my Mac Mini’s system preference folder and chose the OOYH sound device. Then I double clicked the control panel OOYH icon and launched the program. You can send the output to your favorite DAC. All of those choices are alongside the right hand side of the control panel dialogue box. I selected the PS Audio Directstream Jr DAC and noted that the resulting output came through as 24/44.1 even though the file I was playing was 16/44.1. Processing indeed!
The first pair of speakers in the Control Panel list is an “Affordable” high end favorite, the Acoustic Zen Crescendo’s coming in at just under $20,000. They are a contender for best value high end speakers. (I know…$20k?? Value??!!…Yep, welcome to high end two channel. If you can’t buy a house with it then it must not be high end!) The Crescendo’s are an incredible full range transmission line speaker that are usually demoed with top line tube gear at audio shows. If I had a really big room (and a much larger budget!) I would love a pair. Not gonna happen at this house, but after throwing on the LCD-X’s and firing up OOYH I was grooving to the throwback sounds of ABC’s Alphabet City and The Night You Murdered Love (Mercury 1987). What was interesting was the first word that came to mind was space. I was getting the spatial cues from a full room rather than the typical soundstage from my open planar magnetic headphones. This was very exciting. The LCD-X’s can deliver 20Hz-20kHz and so have the ability to convey the powerful dynamics of the Crescendo’s. What fun!
Moving down the list of choices I selected the Sonus Faber’s. These are huge +$100,000 speakers that are the flagship of the venerable Sonus Faber line. What I have always enjoyed when listening to the big Sonus Faber’s is how tight and precise drums sound coming from them. The OOYH software was able to bring that immediacy and impact through the headphones and deliver full measure to percussion. Again, the room scale was far beyond the general headphone experience. I decided to experiment here and switch to a closed back headphone and see if that same breadth of physical space was discernable. I put on my MrSpeakers Ether C’s and went for AC/DC’s Back in Black and Hell’s Bell’s ( 1980 Albert – Atlantic). This was the widest and deepest headphone experience I had ever heard. It was completely beyond the usual physical boundaries of a standard listening session. The critical thing here, for me though was that while the soundstage was clearly expanded it did not come at the expense of the coherence of the presentation. I got the same precision of placement with a much larger environment. I was moving my head to follow the left to right action as I kept expecting to need that movement to follow the show. I did not have to actually move my head, but the scale had my mind in the show. Rolling straight into Shoot to Thrill I spent the next several minutes digging $250,000 of gear that was not in my room! Who likes discount tickets to the front row? This guy!
OK…We can do the “Scale” thing. What about a more intimate presentation? I went for a challenge, the Magico Q7’s. My understanding is that the Q7’s used for the recording are the original models coming in at $185,000 a pair and weighing in a 750 lbs. each! Jack Johnson has always been a favorite His On and On album has a number of terrific tunes using a small band. Rodeo Clown (2003 Universal) is a very intimate recording. Wow, I got the small setting but is was if I was listening live with the performers life sized in front of me. The deep bass and high hat framed the guitar’s clean and precise technique. Magico’s image like crazy and I was able to enjoy their spatial precision while at the same time I really was getting a great performance. Clearly, the OOYH software allowed me a smorgasbord of high end speaker delights.
The movie nut in me was itching to try 7.1 with some great movie action. Star Wars The Force Awakens anyone? (2016 iTunes, Lucasfilm – Disney) Once again I was using the MrSpeakers Ether C’s and once again it was an OOYH experience. The soundtrack and sound effects for all the Star Wars films are incredibly interactive. I was placed in the center 6th row of the theater. All of the sounds and vocals were exactly on point. You want explosions on the left, done. Something just behind you and slight above right, check. What I particularly appreciated was the clarity of the vocals in the midst of the action. Dialogue was clear and understandable throughout all the battle scenes. Light Sabre’s sound just as they should. The best part is I could turn it up as loud as I wanted without hearing a request to turn it down. Sweet!
Darin has really created something special here. The choices of systems he has captured are wide ranging and very well done. The option to “Clone your own” is very cool and allows personal audiophiles who have invested in significant systems to take them on the road. The movie surround sound implementation is among the best I have ever experienced. For less than 1/10’th the price of top end headphones you can enjoy a part of the best of what is out there…and do it Out OF Your Head!
- Low latency of processing makes it great for Gaming. • Extremely versatile sound management requiring modest computer specifications. • Large library of high end speakers to choose from • Surround sound for 7.1 movie soundtracks is exceptional well presented with headphones. • The three dimensionality of the special representation is at times astonishing. • Darin’s tech support is quick and effective. CONS • Better headphones will result in better results. The effect is not as dramatic with inexpensive ear buds. It does work though! • I wish there were more speakers to try in the library.
SPECS – (Taken from the OOYH website)
• Out Of Your Head works with any pair of existing headphones or ear buds. No additional hardware, special headphones, or amplifiers are required. All processing is done with software.
• Out Of Your Head works with all existing music and movies. No special encoding or pre-rendering is required.
• All processing is done in real-time.
• Out Of Your Head is compatible with all the major media playback software, including iTunes, Windows Media Player, VLC, and JRiver Media Center.
• Listen to different high-end brands and models of speakers without buying them.
• Watch a movie in full 7.1 surround sound with just your laptop and headphones.
• No need to purchase and install a home theater system. Just use Out Of Your Head software to get a full home theater experience.
• If you already have a high-end home theater or stereo system, you can have personalized measurements done to replicate your system exactly, so you can take your system with you anywhere you can bring your laptop and headphones.
• The sound of the speakers is not synthesized. It replicates real speakers measured in real rooms.
• You can switch between multiple speakers and rooms with a click of the mouse.
• Our Of Your Head allows for the ultimate side-by-side comparison of different speaker systems—all using just software, through your headphones.
• For the ultimate experience, you can have custom measurements done with your ears, for unparalleled realism.
Out Of Your Head is perfect for:
• Condos or apartments with no space to install a home theater system.
• Late-night listening without disturbing anyone.
• Students with no place to install a high-end stereo system or home theater.
• Watching a movie or listening to music at full volume on high-end speakers without disturbing family members or neighbors.
• Listening to mega-buck speakers and amplifiers for a fraction of the cost.
• Experiencing ultra-high-end 7.1 surround sound on speakers too expensive to put in a home theater.
• Listening to a full 7.1 home theater system while you’re on a plane!
• Listening to high-end speakers when traveling, in a hotel room, by the pool, on the beach, etc.
• Windows 7, 8 or higher. Requires 64-bit operating systems
• Mac OS X 10.8 or higher.
• Any headphones
• Coming (someday, we hope!) to iOS, and Android
• The retail price Out Of Your Head is $149. This price includes one free speaker preset.
• Each additional preset is $25.
• You must download and install the trial version of Out Of Your Head before purchasing a license.
Demo version of the software:
Mac Mini, Simaudio Moon Neo 430HA, PS Audio Directstream Jr DSD DAC, Audeze LCD-X, MrSpeakers Ether C, Toxic Cables Silver Widow SW22 Cables