In 2004, when I was an undergrad student with a part time job and plenty of money to be irresponsible with, I bought a 7.1 surround sound system (you can find the review in my profile) and hooked up my games consoles and DVD player to it. That sound system transformed my gaming and movie experience, albeit at a great cost financially and aesthetically. (It's hard to conceal one hundred cumulative metres of wiring and eight speakers.) I was able to contrive a fairly neat wiring arrangement in my second flat after the purchase, but I simply haven't been able to set up those speakers since.
Flash forward to 2012 and there are a lot of pressures on my gaming time, and loved ones sharing my living space who don't always like the thumping acoustics of Mass Effect 2. Ironically I now own a halfway decent HDTV rather than a 14-inch portable, but my acoustic options have been reduced to TV speakers or nothing at all (my TV has no headphone socket). Combine these pressures and you have a great incentive to get surround sound headphones, and careful consideration of my budget and needs led me to the Turtle Beach DSS. It's a decision that's paid off brilliantly.
First and foremost, the virtual Dolby Digital surround sound is excellent. Although billed as "7.1", the effect never quite manages to fill in the rear centre the same way as physical speakers, but it's definitely on a par with a 5.1 system. The positionality of the audio is impressively accurate, although sounds from the rear never really sound particularly far away (although I'd be willing to put that down to the sound mix on the games I've tested). My definitive test for positional audio is the "dodge bullets" scene from The Matrix, which was recreated flawlessly. "Government lobby" also impressed. The usual gaming suspects (Halo, Mass Effect) are atmospheric and roomy, and I can finally avoid Minecraft's creepers effectively.
Sound quality is good in. Not earth-shattering, but nothing to sniff at at the price, and certainly the equal of a surround system four times the price. The result depends a great deal on what headphones you use of course; mine are the Sennheiser PX-100-II, and I find that the low end is a bit too heavy (even with the bass boost at zero) and the treble is a bit tinny with the surround processing switched on (which makes me suspect that it's partly a result of the algorithm). This is nit picking really, given that the quality is a world away from my TV speakers. After playing a few hours of Mass Effect 2, I became acclimatised to the way the DSS sounds and simply stopped noticing.
The DSS gizmo itself is very nicely designed. It's low profile, not much more than a matte black box the size of a deck of cards with a highlight of gloss and a chrome pinstripe near one edge, and looks perfectly at home next to the slim Xbox 360. The few controls are a nicely contructed volume dial, a less pleasant power switch, analogue gain and bass boost controls, and a toggle button to switch from plain stereo to virtual surround sound output. As a result it's easy to use, but there's almost no configuration to speak of. As mentioned above, the surround effect is set up well enough that this isn't an issue. (One of the benefits of virtual surround is not having to balance speakers to make up for an asymmetrical room!)
The number of inputs is limited, but sufficient. There's one digital optical socket for Dolby Digital 5.1 which covers current-generation consoles, the Xbox, Blu-rays/DVDs, and HD boxes, and one analogue audio for Dolby Pro Logic II, which covers the Wii and Gamecube, but also some PS2 games. Pro Logic II will also decode old-fashioned Dolby Surround in some PlayStation games, TV shows, and VHS tapes, which is worth a crack when there's a movie on TV. (It'll also "upmix" a plain stereo signal; the effect's nothing to write home about.) The upside of this is I simply fed the analogue output from my TV into the analogue socket, so I get any stereo signal that's going through to the TV, and connected my Xbox 360 to the optical socket directly. The only other connection is a USB cable for power (the Xbox doesn't have to be switched on to power the DSS) and of course the headphone socket (I had to use an extension to reach the TV stand from my couch). On the down side, most TVs won't output Dolby Digital 5.1, so a direct connection between the console and DSS is your only option for digital surround sound. If I ever get another games console (or a Blu-Ray player) I'm going to have to swap wires around or mess around with an optical cable splitter. Hopefully by the time that happens I'll be in a position to upgrade to a more sophisticated system.
Unfortunately the way the DSS handles Pro Logic II signals leaves a lot to be desired; whether on the analogue or digital input, the signal is very strongly biased to the left. This seems to be an issue with the algorithm. If I replace the stereo signal with mono, or simply turn off Pro Logic II, then the sound is properly balanced. I'm in contact with Turtle Beach to see if I've got a bad unit or there's an inherent flaw in their algorithm.
That said, the DSS represents a good first step into the realm of surround sound gaming. It's reasonably inexpensive (for this class of product), easy to use, compact and tidy, and well put together. The RRP is a little high, but shop around like I did and it's arguably the best money you can spend on your gaming system.