Dolby's Dimension headphones feel like a cloud and sound like a home theater

Jacob Krol, CNN Underscored
Updated Mon March 11, 2019

Story highlights

  • These over-ear headphones are incredibly comfortable
  • The Dolby Dimension headphones are available now for $599

Dolby recently surprised almost everyone with its first consumer product. Yes, this is the same company that creates the 3D sound in many movie theaters and smartphones and possibly in your home theater setup.

The Dolby Dimension Headphones ($599; amazon.com) put a twist on noise cancellation, but the goal is to create almost a home theater for your ears. These over-the-ear cans certainly aren't cheap at $599, but Dolby is going after a particular audience with the feature set -- those who binge television content and music.

Most high-end headphones (like the Bose QuietComfort 35 II ($349; amazon.com) or Beats Studio 3 ($399; amazon.com)) pack in noise cancellation, and so do the Dimensions; but Dolby also created LifeMix for people who want to be immersed in content, but also need to hear noises from the real world.

The companion app allows you to control (down to the exact level) LifeMix, traditional noise cancellation, connected devices and playback. Dolby also has added lots of tech inside the Dimensions that make them a costly but highly optimized experience.

As expected, these headphones are super high-end

Expensive headphones tend to be super comfortable, made with high-end materials, and Dolby checked off both of those boxes. For starters, the headband is made of stainless steel and the side facing your head is wrapped in synthetic leather with a proprietary foam underneath. It's very comfortable, and unlike other headphones that can tighten around the head, these have plenty of stretch to them.

You can extend the length of this band by pulling down the earcups to your desired length. Both earcups have a fully synthetic leather-wrapped design, with a stainless steel outer cup. The mix of synthetic leather and this soft foam make them feel like clouds over your ears -- kind of like Ugg slippers for your ears that double as headphones.

There is a decent weight to the Dimensions, nothing crazy but these do feel substantial and heavier than other headphones. The one downside of the design is that you can't fold them for traveling, so you'll need to save some space. To help with this, Dolby includes a nice carrying pouch.

Even so, these are probably the most comfortable over-ear headphones I've ever worn.

So what is LifeMix?

The new mode that Dolby has invented is LifeMix. It's kind of like active noise cancellation reversed and on steroids. You can be streaming "Black Panther" with your headphones on, but not be absent from the real world. Thanks to the boatload of microphones and other tech built into the headphones, they can let sound in, and they can specifically pick up on voices. So if you're streaming and listening and your kid calls you, you'll hear it.

You can set how much sound you'd like to let in via the companion app for iOS and Android. This is something you need to hear to believe. It works really well and might just be a game-changer.

Fully wireless

Dolby chose to make the Dimensions fully wireless. Through the power of Bluetooth, they can pair with the companion app for control and connect to other devices for usage. The only port on the Dolby Dimension is a micro USB port for wired charging. Dolby also includes a wireless charger that clicks into the ear cups for a dock-like charging experience. Either way, zero to 100% will take about two hours.

Since Dolby wants you to binge watch with these, you can pair them to almost any Bluetooth device. I got them working with iOS and Android devices, plus an Apple TV, Samsung Smart TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick and a Roku. They should theoretically work with any Bluetooth device.

The real magic is the three dedicated "source" buttons which let you quickly switch between connected devices. With these, you can have quick access to your favorite and most used devices. In my case I had it connected to my iPhone, MacBook Air and Apple TV. It allowed me to easily use the Dimension on my commute, pair with my laptop at work and wind down the day streaming some content on the big screen.

Given all the technology and hardware inside, it does take a toll on battery life. With ANC and LifeMix turned on, I got close to 10 hours of listening. With both of these features turned off and just streaming content, I stretched it out to about 15 hours. A quick 15-minute charge can give you around two hours of use. As a whole though, battery life is less than the latest headphones from Sony or Bose.

Most importantly, let's talk sound

The most crucial test for any headphones is ultimately the sound quality. And the Dolby Dimensions don't disappoint. In addition to LifeMix, you get Cinematic Sound. Essentially, the onboard Qualcomm Snapdragon Processor and proprietary Dolby technology provide 3D-like sound. It's not like Atmos but still mixes the tracks well. If it's not the best fit for the content you're watching or listening to, you can turn it off.

For audio, it makes the experience a bit richer and can take high or low tones to the next level. With movies and TV shows, it helps to make sure you hear everything that is going on. It also manages to make it sound a bit crisper. I think a good first listen with these is to your favorite film or maybe one that stuck out as a favorite in the theater. Chances are the Dimensions will do an outstanding job at replicating the sound.

Dolby also packed in Head Tracking, which is excellent for watching TV or movies. It keeps the location of the sound tied to the screen. So when you turn your head, you won't be blasted on all sides, and you'll know where the sound is directed from. Head Tracking paired with Cinematic Sound and the feel of the Dimensions makes them a 10 out of 10 experience.

The Dimensions cost a lot, but you won't be disappointed

Of course, $599 for headphones is not cheap. It's on par with the cost of a sound system for your TV. However, for that price, you're getting headphones with a specific purpose that sound amazing and feel even better.

If you're a technophile or an audiophile, I think the purchase is worth it. For the average consumer, it's likely a harder sell. I'd say if you binge watch a lot of content and like the appeal of LifeMix, the Dolby Dimensions ($599; amazon.com) are worth a look. Being able to hear your partner, kid or dog is a real game-changer.

And you might never want to take them off when you hear the sound quality and feel just how comfortable these are.

Note: The price above reflects the retailer's listed price at the time of publication.