JVC SU-DH1 Review

MSRP $9,177.00
“You'll now be able to experience audio in a different way with 5.1 Surround and high-quality audio.”
  • Convincing Dolby 5.1 emulation; full of features; intuitive design
  • Short 3.5mm cord; doesn't excel with music


Dolby Surround Sound is an incredible experience for those with a great home theater system. However, not everyone can afford top-of-the-line equipment for every single room in their home, so in comes JVC with an answer: the SU-DH1 Surround Sound Headphone Adaptor. This little black device allows you to use any pair of 2-channel headphones to emulate Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound. You can use it with your laptop, MP3 player, PMP, or anything else with a 3.5mm headphone output. Come check out a convenient and easy way to get 5.1 Surround Sound anytime, anywhere for a price that is very affordable.

Features and Design

The SU-DH1 is a great looking little box that costs $130. The packaging it comes in makes it look like an old electronic device from 1985, but inside lays a powerful toy that audiophiles are sure to get excited about. The device JVC has come up with is a little black square containing everyone’s favorite logos, such as DTS and Dolby Digital. On the top is the display that is made up of red and green LEDs that let you know your settings. Two buttons let you switch between Dolby Headphone and Dolby Pro Logic II modes, which allows you to achieve the best combination possible for whatever you happen to be listening to. This device even comes with a soft, velvet-like carrying case to protect it.

JVC wants you to get big sound out of a small device. You’ll be able to achieve virtual surround from anything encoded with Dolby Digital, DTS, Dolby Digital Surround EX, DTS-ES, MPEG-2 AAC, and, of course, Dolby Pro Logic II.  Results depend largely on what you plan on listening to; for example, your brother’s favorite punk CD isn’t going to sound good at all using Pro Logic II emulation. However, that car chase from the movie The Transporter is going to blow your socks off. If you enjoy DVDs on the go, now you’ll enjoy them even more by being able to finally select the “5.1 Surround Sound” option when you’re on your laptop.

The left side features a lone power switch, while the right has a headphone output and a digital line-in input. There is also a switch that allows attenuation from 0db to –8db, in case your music isn’t loud enough or is too loud. There’s a volume switch on the front side of the device and a short 3.5mm jack on the bottom. The 3.5mm jack is designed to plug into your laptop, MP3 player, or whatever digital device you’re using with the SU-DH1. The problem, though, is that they give you about 4 inches of cord. So, using the device with my iMac was a real problem, since the sound ports are elevated off my desk.

You’ll only need 2 AA batteries to power the SU-DH1, which works just fine. If you’re wondering why there isn’t a spot for a power adaptor, keep this in mind: this is a portable JVC Surround Sound Headphone Adaptor. It is intended for use on a plane, a bus ride, a long trip, or watching a movie in bed. If you want true 5.1 Surround Sound all the time, go build up your home theater system and use speakers, or buy a very expensive set of headphones designed for 5.1 surround sound use. This device is designed to be used on occasion and for portability. By the way, it only weighs 3.5 ounces, so don’t worry about being weighed down.


Setup, Use, and Performance

Setting up the SU-DH1 is very easy. Pop the two included AA batteries into the bottom and power it on. You’re done. Now just hook up a pair of headphones and connect the device to a DVD player, laptop, or whatever you use to get your movie fix. I suggest using a decent pair of headphones that fit over your head with this device. Using earbuds will detract from both the experience and sound quality, and they are not designed for proper use with this device anyway. You don’t need a set of high-end Bang and Olufsen headphones, just a decent $50 pair will work great.

You’ll be able to re-create different environments with this device. Using the Dolby Headphone button on the top of the device, you’ll be able to reproduce the environment of either a mixing studio (DH1), a regular listening room (DH2), or a concert hall/theater (DH3). The first two sound pretty similar, but the DH3 setting really gives you a concert hall feel to your movies and music. Combined with the Pro Logic II button, you can select what sort of audio you’re listening to: Auto, Music, Movie, or leave it off.

I first tried out some music with the SU-DH1. I used lots of progressive rock from the 1970s and 1980s due to the overwhelming amount of sounds and instruments being performed at once. Using the “DH3” Dolby Headphone setting and the “Music” Pro Logic II setting, I achieved a concert-like atmosphere that sounded impressive. This was just using a simple MP3 file, too, I might add. No SACD or DVD-Audio here, just a nice 256-bit rate MP3. However, live concerts are not everyone’s cup of tea and I suggest leaving the adaptor off for genuine stereo quality.

With music out of the way, I moved on to a ThX-based Dolby Surround Test AAC file. It’s supposed to sound like a helicopter flying from behind you, to around you, to in front of you. With the adaptor off, it sounded like a bunch of helicopter noise, but when you turn on the adaptor and use the “Movie” Pro Logic II setting, it works like a charm. You can hear a helicopter in the distance behind you fly in and circle around you as if you’re about to be attacked. I’m very surprised it sounds so real from a cheap pair of headphones and a little adaptor from JVC.

Lastly, I put on a DVD of the original Matrix film. What better way to test out 5.1 Surround Sound then with a bunch of action and gunfighting? JVC has done it. This little device pumped out insanely realistic, high-quality Surround Sound at me. The scene where Neo and Trinity fight the officers in the lobby is spectacular and sounds like people are shooting behind you, in front of you, and in every single direction. Sounds are what you’d expect from Dolby and you almost can’t tell you’re using regular 2-channel headphones.

Although the market for Dolby 5.1 Sound is huge, not many companies out there have successfully emulated it on non-5.1 devices such as headphones. JVC is able to do it efficiently and correctly with the SU-DH1 box. The device is portable, powerful, and produces ultra-rich sounds that bleed quality.

There aren’t many other products like this to compare it to, but compared to conventional 5.1 Surround Sound the JVC SU-DH1 does a decent job. You’ll get great quality sound, but if you are an audiophile or a hardcore home theater enthusiast, you’ll find yourself wanting to go back to the living room. Keep in mind, though, that this is designed as a portable 5.1 Surround Sound solution, so it’s great for trips and places where you won’t find a 5.1 system.

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For $130, you’re getting a great deal for your portable devices. You’ll now be able to experience audio in a different way with 5.1 Surround and high-quality audio. JVC has made a great product that integrates well with almost any set of headphones and does a great job at emulating a technology that makes a movie more enjoyable. Anyone who travels, watches a lot of movies on their laptop, or listens to a lot of live music will get the most use out of this box.


  • Realistic Dolby 5.1 emulation
  • Sleek, wonderful design
  • Lots of options


  • Short 3.5mm cord
  • Doesn’t excel with music

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