If you had to use one word to describe these Sweex headphones it would be "bulky". The sheer size of the headphones themselves will scare small children reared on iPods, to which you can add the external amplifier come cable breakout box and the power supply of course.

If you were allowed a second then "value" would do it. Not that Sweex is the cheapest surround sound headphones available, but they are as good as the cheap end of the market when it comes to audio performance and with a better build quality. Throw in the excellent 3-year warranty and the value proposition piles up.

Things get a little complicated when you start thinking of more suitable words though. We can rule out three in one go: superb audio quality.

While these Sweex 'phones are preferable to the sound you’ll get pumped out through an average laptop, and as we’ve said of similar standard to other cheap products, they struggle to keep up with the higher end Media Centre PCs that are most likely to be used for watching movies where you might expect to want to enjoy that 5.1 surround sound capability.

Annoying can also be applied, although your mileage may differ on this one. We didn’t much care for the "active bass with vibration function" that is meant to bring fights, thunderstorms and pursuits to life.

It just gave us a headache and earache in one, but maybe the reviewer is betraying his "old fart" status here and you young whippersnappers with eardrums accustomed to popular beat combos will fare better.

Ah, we’ve thought of some more words that do apply. Comfortable is one, rather surprisingly given the strange size and shape of the reviewers bald dome that often makes headphones hugely painful after short periods of wear.

Even more surprisingly given the unyieldingly hard, plastic finish of the things. Yet they were lighter in wear than they look and feel to hold. Controllable can be added to the lexicon of love as well, because headphones don’t often have this much fiddleability built in. Or rather, built-out. To re-use our first word, there is a bulky remote control wired into the lead. This controls volume controls for front, rear and centre/subwoofer speakers as well as a switch to toggle between straightforward 2.1 audio reproduction and full on 5.1 surround sound.

Verdict

Overall there’s not a great deal that’s really bad about these headphones, assuming you understand their limitations and are not looking for top notch audiophile kit. But we can’t help wondering just who they are aimed at: the associated cabling and external amp make them too bulky to be truly portable, which rules out the obvious laptop users while the relative lack of performance makes them a tough call for the PC movie watcher with an existing set of surround sound speakers.

Where they come into their own, of course, is for the PC games player who wants to exploit the audio capability of the latest 5.1 surround sound driven game soundtracks without destroying their relationships with a) partner, b) children, c) pets, d) neighbours.

One for the watch it alone PC movie buff without the desktop space for proper surround sound speakers, or the games player with everything except privacy. Anyone else might find it hard to figure out why they need them...