JVC XP-EXT1 headphones: Dolby Atmos without all the speakers

JVC XP-EXT1 headphones: Dolby Atmos without all the speakers
(Image credit: JVC)

If you want to experience Dolby Atmos but can't accommodate a room full of speakers, or perhaps you do have an Atmos system but are too considerate to use it after an unsocial hour, JVC could well have the headphones for you.

The JVC XP-EXT1 ($999/€999) are essentially a multi-channel home cinema system for your head – headphones that can decode Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks and deliver them in a 7.1.4-channel presentation. The XP-EXT1s can not only natively play the best multi-channel Atmos and DTS formats but can also upscale stereo or 5.1 audio, too.

That's all thanks to the company's proprietary Exofield technology, which uses processing algorithms to create a 3D soundfield between their two ear cups.

(Image credit: Future)

You plug your sources into the four 4K-supporting HDMI ports on the supplied digital processor box, which is the middle-man between them and your TV, and does the audio decoding before wirelessly transmitting it to the headphones over a 5GHz wireless band. The box also facilitates customised sound calibration that allows for up to four audio profiles to be captured and selected for a more personal experience based on their listening environment.

The XP-EXT1s were announced at CES earlier this year and are now available. We got our hands on them at IFA 2020 this week and, from a short demo of DTS:X clips, found them notably more effective in creating a wider, more dimensional soundfield than, say, a standard pair of headphones with a surround sound mode on.

When we activated Exofield technology via the JVC companion app, the presentation opened up without losing much directness and focus, as is sometimes the case with surround sound processing. There was an obvious sense of sounds in the mix being precisely positioned in the soundfield, too, and bass was prominent enough to be called cinematic.

Of course, there's a limit to the surround sound experience through headphones – they can't compete with a room full of speakers, especially one kitted out with dedicated height channels – but first impressions are that they go a fair way to offer more immersion than your regular pair of headphones. Which is what you'd expect from headphones costing almost four figures.


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Becky Roberts

Becky is the managing editor of What Hi-Fi? and, since her recent move to Melbourne, also the editor of Australian Hi-Fi magazine. During her 10 years in the hi-fi industry, she has been fortunate enough to travel the world to report on the biggest and most exciting brands in hi-fi and consumer tech (and has had the jetlag and hangovers to remember them by). In her spare time, Becky can often be found running, watching Liverpool FC and horror movies, and hunting for gluten-free cake.