Sugg. Retail: $229.00 (CAN)
Distributor: Realtec Corporation Canada Inc.,
(Reprinted from the Spring 2004 Audio Ideas Guide)
The Menttor is a plug-and-play 5.1 surround system, but here it is through headphones, and therefore may be of interest to many who like music, movies, or TV at hours when others in the home are sleeping. This quite large, but very light, headphone system, has 6 drivers, and the amplifier/DAC box, which is very small, has a Dolby Digital/DTS chip, and 6 channels of amplification. There are 2 headphone outlets, using a special multichannel 1/4″ jack/plug arrangement to carry the 6 discrete channels that is also compatible with stereo 1/4″ headphones.
Also included in the system are a headphone extender cable that is about 12 feet long, and optical and coaxial digital cables. The processor/amp accepts either Toslink optical or coaxial digital signals, and a DVD player can thusly be plugged right into it. There are also stereo analog outs on the rear panel. This is, I must say, quite a package at the price.
As well as Dolby Digital decoding and amplification, you also get remote control, though the sub-credit-card-sized remote kept disappearing on me; it’s one of those which loves to sneak down in around the couch cushions, or even fall through them to the floor under the couch. Ah, the perversity of alleged inanimate objects. It controls On/Standby, Volume, and Mute, if you can control it.
I connected the Menttor to my Pioneer Elite DV-AX10 player first via a Toslink cable, and then with a coaxial digital connection. There is a switch to select between them on the rear panel. There didn’t seem to be any difference between the two digital connections sonically in initial listening, so I stuck with the coax input.
This headphone is a discrete 6-channel system, with 3 drivers in each earpiece. Putting a Dolby/DTS decoder and 6 channels of amplification into this little box was quite a trick, and it works. The Menttor is very physically comfortable, encircling the ears, the drivers positioned to use the ears outer folds to provide directional cues. It’s very light in weight, and the soft foam-filled earpads are very light on the ears.
The next thing I discovered with this headphone physically, however, was that there was a disconcerting physical noise whenever I moved my head, and some research showed it to be from the spring loaded headband, a rubbing of the band against the top of the earpieces on either side, which was transmitted through the plastic structure. I did find a solution, by using a twist- tie to secure it just higher enough relative to the metal suspension piece between the phones to stop the rubbing noise.
The good news is that this complete digital decode/reproduce system works well, and provides convincing surround sound, with excellent bass. Of course, given ear and head shape differences, the surround effect may vary from listener to listener.
I did find the remote volume control a little fast, so discrete pushes of the buttons are preferable to holding them down when increasing level if you want to avoid deafening yourself. I also felt that at higher levels distortion was a little high, suggesting that the small IC amps may have limitations. But there are few limitations when it comes to progam material. The Menttor plays back Dolby Digital, DTS (both DVD soundtracks and CDs), and 96K DADs (stereo DVDs), as well as CDs. It will also play DVD-Audios’ PCM stereo or Dolby Digital layers, but not DVD-A, and also proved negative with SACDs unless they were hybrid, in which case it would play the CD layer. One concern is that when there is no digital signal, the DAC puts out a fairly high level of white noise; I would keep it in standby when not listening.
Some of the recordings I played in assessing format flexibility were Kind of Blue/Miles Davis (Sony Master Sound CD), Both Sides Now/Joni Mitchell (DVD-A/PCM Stereo), a 1999 dts 5.1 demo music disc, with Lyle Lovett, Diana Krall, Boyz 2 Men, and Livingston Taylor’s Ink (Chesky DAD). In this latter case, I wasn’t sure whether the DAC was downsampling to 48K, or reproducing the 96K signal completely; I suspect the former. There is, of course, no technical information supplied beyond what is on the colourful box.
And I listened to a number of movie soundtracks, both full films and excerpts, including Gladiator, The Fifth Element, The Eagles’ Hell Freezes Over, and others. There will be many more at the cottage this summer, after I put together a simple 9-volt DC power supply.
Sonically, one trades a little centre channel muffling for exceptionally tuneful, clean and extended bass. The side and rear channels are clear, and the whole effect is very exciting with good surround soundtracks.
This is a very good headphone, and an unusually innovative product at an amazing price for what’s in it. For those who need some surround excitement when everybody else is asleep, the Menttor DAC/AMP/Headphone system is a no-brainer buy.