5.1 / 7.1 gaming (speakers) - worth it?

Gimpymoo

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Oct 3, 2007
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How is surround sound gaming nowadays?
Is 7.1 even a thing for gaming nowadays?

Is it worth me running the cables, mounting the rear speakers etc or is it just not worth it?

I have been stuck with 3.1/Headphones for two decades. Headphones are OK (Stereo).. Do not get me started on 7.1 headsets (emulated or actual).. but for me, nothing beats ACTUAL speakers, just like films.

I do think the days of 3D hardware driven sound was the pinnacle, never really recovered when MS screwed up the DX sound api.

I was thinking that with gaming being more accepted in the mainstream as something in the "living room" more effort would be made regarding surround sound, especially thinking of console releases which are played in the living room but people seem to be less interested in audio nowadays, slap in a budget soundbar and be done with it which are rubbish.

I do find when supported, 3.1 is a good compromise, works VERY well on a PC setup to separate dialogue but a lot of times, devs do not even get that right and they mix it with the L/R channels for some reason or just get the overall mix wrong.

Everyone talks about graphics enhancements but sound seems to get more and more neglected in games. The movie industry gets it right (some of the time) but games seem well behind.

Then again, on a seperate topic, current generations seem less interested in audio fidelity and just want convenience.

Also, if using surround sound, is a PC speaker setup worth it or get a AV Receiver and some solid hifi seperates?

I currently have a Z5500 in great working order, I love that thing, not sure my neighbours do 1f603.png:D

It is interesting how the PC audio market has changed over the decades.
 

pendragon1

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Oct 7, 2000
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How is surround sound gaming nowadays?
Is 7.1 even a thing for gaming nowadays?

Is it worth me running the cables, mounting the rear speakers etc or is it just not worth it?

I have been stuck with 3.1/Headphones for two decades. Headphones are OK (Stereo).. Do not get me started on 7.1 headsets (emulated or actual).. but for me, nothing beats ACTUAL speakers, just like films.

I do think the days of 3D hardware driven sound was the pinnacle, never really recovered when MS screwed up the DX sound api.

I was thinking that with gaming being more accepted in the mainstream as something in the "living room" more effort would be made regarding surround sound, especially thinking of console releases which are played in the living room but people seem to be less interested in audio nowadays, slap in a budget soundbar and be done with it which are rubbish.

I do find when supported, 3.1 is a good compromise, works VERY well on a PC setup to separate dialogue but a lot of times, devs do not even get that right and they mix it with the L/R channels for some reason or just get the overall mix wrong.

Everyone talks about graphics enhancements but sound seems to get more and more neglected in games. The movie industry gets it right (some of the time) but games seem well behind.

Then again, on a seperate topic, current generations seem less interested in audio fidelity and just want convenience.

Also, if using surround sound, is a PC speaker setup worth it or get a AV Receiver and some solid hifi seperates?

I currently have a Z5500 in great working order, I love that thing, not sure my neighbours do View attachment 248145:D

It is interesting how the PC audio market has changed over the decades.
ive been rockin an avr and surround/5.1 for 15+ years.
get an avr and speakers. some have issues with taking just audio and need an adaptor/dongle to fool the receiver. you can get atmos now too.
those z5500s were great systems but not avr level.
 

Gimpymoo

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Oct 3, 2007
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ive been rockin an avr and surround/5.1 for 15+ years.
get an avr and speakers. some have issues with taking just audio and need an adaptor/dongle to fool the receiver. you can get atmos now too.
those z5500s were great systems but not avr level.

I already have an adequate AV system in the lounge, if the Z5500 will be fine for gaming only purposes, I will keep it.

Not used 5.1 for many years so want to try it again to see if missing out.

Just initially reluctant to running cables and mounting speakers etc.
 

pendragon1

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I already have an adequate AV system in the lounge, the Z5500 will be fine for gaming only purposes if is worth it.

Not used 5.1 for many years,
well use that or the Zs. 5.1 was just my example of what i use.. if you want or have 7.1, get it or hook it up. imo, it is worth it. BUT im sure some of the "audiophiles" around here will come in soon to tell us we're both wrong...
 

IdiotInCharge

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It's more that it isn't really worth it.

I wouldn't plan to use surround on a PC; I wouldn't not use it either, though. I've used it plenty. Just for gaming, I prefer headphones.

Of course that factors in the games that I play as well. Multiplayer games aren't well suited for surround sound, since inevitably you want to talk to people, and then you have whatever they say blasting out. If single player games are your staple, and they have great surround implementations, then there's still a draw!
 

sharknice

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I love surround sound. I think it provides a competitive advantage in multiplayer because it's easier to pinpoint the direction footsteps are coming from, etc., but when I play with voice chat I use headphones, and when other people are home I always use headphones. So I basically never get to use surround sound.

I use auto detection for voice chat and that has never worked well with surround sound, even push to talk is pretty annoying for other people when you have speakers, but I haven't tried RTX voice with it. Maybe RTX voice is good enough to be able to do that.
 

DoubleTap

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I had a really nice 7.1 system that I took down months ago and replaced with a very nice 2.1 system.

I used to like the positional audio in games like battlefield and overwatch but a few things happened:

1. I mainly play Apex Legends since early 2019 and it has poor (nonexistent?) Surround sound support.

2. I play a lot less Overwatch (thanks China!)

3. I always preferred the modern settings for battlefield over the WWI/II settings

4. I've been using discord since I started playing Apex and it just works better with a headset.

The surround sound was too often disturbing people outside of my home office so half the time I was on a headset anyway.

What I've found in Apex is that it's quite easy to get positional audio from stereo, especially when you're constantly turing back and forth while looking for enemies - you can hear the rotation of the sound stage and locate things very quickly.

I wanted better sound for music and I wanted a very simplified system with fewer cables and I got tired of hdmi and edid emulation and all of it.

Niw I just have an integrated amp with a single optical input, two speakers, a sub and a pair of headphones and I love it.

20200422_170224.jpg
 

djoye

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Reasons to use surround speakers:
  1. You have the space and can run the wires (whether you wanna run wires in the walls or elsewhere depends on how much effort you want to put into it)
  2. No one's gonna get mad that it's going to be loud or you can contain the noise
  3. You don't use a mic in online games
That's why I do it. I have an AVR with 7.1 speakers, it's typically loud, wife hasn't killed me, but it's surprisingly not very loud downstairs so that solid wood door I put up is probably helping. I'll probably buy an 11.2 AVR and do a 7.1.4 (is that right?) Atmos setup if those AVRs end up cheap on eBay and spatial audio becomes more common.
 

Mchart

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For gaming? I don’t think it’s worth it. For a lot less you can get a decent DAC/Amp and buy yourself some reasonably high end headphones. Pair that with the virtual surround of your choosing and you’ll get better positional accuracy than any speaker setup within a reasonable price point.

Decent DAC/AMP costs $200, fairly decent headphones anywhere from $200-300 depending on what you want, and finally Dolby Access is like 15 bucks for the virtual surround when you want it.

You’re spending a lot more than $500~ along with the time investment to setup the speakers properly to have a true 7.1 setup that will rival what I just described.

Also, I don’t agree that surround sound used to be better. I can run Dolby Access on up to 10 different devices at a time for only $15 on ANY DAC of my choosing and have surround sound that blows away the old stuff. Not only in quality, but just ease of use and the broad ranging support. The old way required me to run specific sound cards with drivers that caused BSOD’s every other day of the week, and quality external DACs really just didn’t exist with any meaningful level of driver support.

It took me 5 minutes to unbox my Schiit Jotunheim w/multi bit DAC, plug the usb in, and plug my T1’s in. Whenever I go to play a game with decent surround support I just right click the task bar audio icon and enable Dolby atmos. There is no way I could build a surround speaker setup that could rival this without spending an assload of money and completely rearranging my office to have the speakers setup correctly.
 
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IdiotInCharge

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Reasons to use surround speakers:
  1. You have the space and can run the wires (whether you wanna run wires in the walls or elsewhere depends on how much effort you want to put into it)
  2. No one's gonna get mad that it's going to be loud or you can contain the noise
  3. You don't use a mic in online games
That's why I do it. I have an AVR with 7.1 speakers, it's typically loud, wife hasn't killed me, but it's surprisingly not very loud downstairs so that solid wood door I put up is probably helping. I'll probably buy an 11.2 AVR and do a 7.1.4 (is that right?) Atmos setup if those AVRs end up cheap on eBay and spatial audio becomes more common.
This is on the 'it's worth it' side of 'is it worth it?' ;)

Basically, to do it minimally well enough to be 'worth it', you need to have or invest in the equipment and have the space to set it up and have a space where you can actually use it and have something actually worth playing on it.

When that all lines up, it's awesome! I'd love to do it again.


But my basic reality is that such circumstances are rare overall. The equipment investment is easy enough, but I can't really do the rest; and honestly, like DoubleTap above, I find a decent pair of speakers to have a pretty nice 'surround' effect with very clear stereo separation. Headphones, even entry-level hifi and integrated sound or cheap interface, almost always provide a better overall experience if positioning is critical.
 

Mchart

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Agreed with a HiFi setup as well. I don't even have a physical surround system anymore. My TV is setup with a fairly high-end stereo setup which doubles just to play music in that room - Which it does excellent. A good stereo setup will fill up a room with sound just as good as a surround setup. You only loose that theater like positional accuracy. However, to get theater like positional accuracy along with the sound quality is expensive, and a lot of effort.
 

Namx01

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Feb 4, 2008
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Recently resurrected my Klipsch 4.0 setup that I have had since they were introduced and they still work great. I don't think directional sound is as good today as it was back when it was hardware driven. I still prefer gaming with a headset though for the communication. Now if I could find someone willing to part with disc 3 of the DSOTM Immersion Set my Klipsch would be happy :)
 

fist003

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How do you wear headphones in the hot summer?

dude, i live in 30c/86f average country and i always use the hardphones. only have the fan on.

Also i dont think a 5.1/7.1 setup is worth it for gaming as you cant use them when you need to communicate in multiplayer games.
 

polonyc2

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I've been using a 5.1 system for gaming for years...5.1 will always beat 2.1...I have a dedicated computer monitor and speakers (I have a separate expensive set of 5.1 speakers for my TV with an AVR)...my computer speakers are not anything expensive ($150 range) but I love the surround activity during gaming...I've never used headphones or 2.1 for gaming so maybe the newer models have some magic software that simulates 5.1 but for me it's always 5.1
 

kalston

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I love surround sound for gaming. But I didn't go the cheap route: Genelec speakers and subwoofer (only 5.1 though, 7.1 doesn't add that much and I have my limits too) + a Umik-1 and a good number of hours (or maybe I should say days!) to setup the room and do proper room correction. All that is plugged straight into my PC's soundcard (using a USB one because the motherboard's one is too noisy). I also use that same machine for films and music (I don't upmix the stereo content, Windows actually handles that very nicely and plays stereo content on the left/right speakers without me having to change the speaker setup in the settings).

The result is of course awesome and there's actually many games with good surround sound (even really old ones) but then there's also plenty that do it terribly wrong which can be a pain (I'll sometimes force Windows back to stereo mode for that reason). And when I'm using voice coms for multiplayer games, I of course need to put my headphones back on anyway.

I do think most people are better off with headphones since you can get good quality for a really reasonable price (and with headphones you know exactly what you are going to hear based on measurements). Do please get quality stereo headphones though - until individual HTRF calibration for virtual surround becomes the norm that is.

Speakers are quite complicated when you get serious about it - what you hear is as much a result of the speakers as it is a result of the room (in the case of near-field use and smallish rooms the issue is mainly the bass). There are some great affordable speakers (like the JBL LSR305 or 308) but they might actually sound absolutely terrible when you put them in your room. It's not too hard to fix on Windows with a Umik-1 + RoomEQ wizard + EqualizerAPO mind you, but still a bit of extra time and effort.

Headphones, you just plug them in and you're done.
 
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IdiotInCharge

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Headphones, you just plug them in and you're done.
Eh, you shouldn't cheap out on amp or DAC once you get above the requirements of headset-grade cans (which many nicer headphones can be). Doesn't take much and sometimes motherboard makers do it well, and sometimes they just fall flat.

There are some great affordable speakers (like the JBL LSR305 or 308)
Have the LSR305s... biggest tip is to not put them against the wall, but that's more or less the same with any rear ported speakers. Obviously head level, placed on an equalateral triangle etc., and well-mixed tracks will jump out at you. Center image on these is great, as it should be.

I will say that you want balanced output for these. I'm looking to get a decent audio interface to run them, as that's really the cheapest way to get a balanced output with a preamp. I'll probably get a real mic to use too, though separately, of course.
 

kalston

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Eh, you shouldn't cheap out on amp or DAC once you get above the requirements of headset-grade cans (which many nicer headphones can be). Doesn't take much and sometimes motherboard makers do it well, and sometimes they just fall flat.


Have the LSR305s... biggest tip is to not put them against the wall, but that's more or less the same with any rear ported speakers. Obviously head level, placed on an equalateral triangle etc., and well-mixed tracks will jump out at you. Center image on these is great, as it should be.

I will say that you want balanced output for these. I'm looking to get a decent audio interface to run them, as that's really the cheapest way to get a balanced output with a preamp. I'll probably get a real mic to use too, though separately, of course.

You're right, the quality of the output for headphones does matter (unless you get a USB/wireless headset) so it might be wise to invest in a reliable amp or amp/DAC. Some really cheap devices actually do the trick (like the Fiio K1) but that depends on the headphones you use though.

And yeah following a few simple rules to place your speakers does do wonders. Bass will always be far from perfect without any measurements but that's okay for most people. Bass in a room is a really complicated matter anyway.

I don't have balanced outputs right now but it is great to have. I've actually had to reduce the length of some the cables on this setup to avoid picking up some unpleasant sounds from the nearby gaming rig. Yea, it still happens with a USB soundcard somehow.
 

IdiotInCharge

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You're right, the quality of the output for headphones does matter (unless you get a USB/wireless headset) so it might be wise to invest in a reliable amp or amp/DAC. Some really cheap devices actually do the trick (like the Fiio K1) but that depends on the headphones you use though.
I'd say that's probably enough for most; the three cans I use on my gaming rig the most also run great on my Google Pixel 3a. Bigger issue is getting a quiet output, and for that I use my Topping DX7s with optical. Dead silent at volume!

And yeah following a few simple rules to place your speakers does do wonders. Bass will always be far from perfect without any measurements but that's okay for most people. Bass in a room is a really complicated matter anyway.
I've promised myself I'll do it right when I get a house. As it stands, the (very) shitty Rockville 10" studio sub (balanced L / R passthrough between DAC and the JBLs) puts out the boom if that's what I want. I do need to get a 1/4" pedal switch to toggle it on and off, after I figure out how those work and which one to buy...

I get a house, and an SVS is going in there. May not upgrade the monitors though, they're hard to criticize.

I don't have balanced outputs right now but it is great to have. I've actually had to reduce the length of some the cables on this setup to avoid picking up some unpleasant sounds from the nearby gaming rig. Yea, it still happens with a USB soundcard somehow.
That's really the long and short of it. I've been eyeing Motu's M2 for the mic preamps and the same level of DAC as in my Topping but they've been out of stock for months... but I just bought some stuff so I'll wait another month or two.
 
Joined
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Stll love 5.1 surround sound and use xlr mic for chatting. Also have 7.1 creative s750s and logitech 5500. Audio junky love my audio. Also have astros and other headsets. Prefer both.
 
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Bought 3 pairs of JBL104 for a 5.0 setup with my motherboard Realtek audio. Here are my disappointment:
- As I don't have a subwoofer, LFE (.1) signal in 5.1 is not delivered to the main speakers (despite unchecking the optional subwoofer option in Windows). LFE is totally lost.
- Surround sound in many games are poorly made. Main persona gun/weapon sound is played on LR speakers instead of C speaker. Only voice/speech is used for C speaker. Example: Halo games, Witcher3.
- Some games are modern but stuck at stereo. Example: Halo 2 Anni in the current MCC.
- Console games are not perfect too. In Super Mario 3D World, the front speakers play the music while the surround speakers play the main character sound.

I did have a little regret though. I thought WWISE make gaming sound perfect. But it seems these bugs will never be fixed because majority are using stereo or a pair of headphones. Developers ain't gonna fix it.

Don't really like to game on headphones because it is freaking hot here at 35°c / 95F.
 

kalston

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Bought 3 pairs of JBL104 for a 5.0 setup with my motherboard Realtek audio. Here are my disappointment:
- As I don't have a subwoofer, LFE (.1) signal in 5.1 is not delivered to the main speakers (despite unchecking the optional subwoofer option in Windows). LFE is totally lost.
- Surround sound in many games are poorly made. Main persona gun/weapon sound is played on LR speakers instead of C speaker. Only voice/speech is used for C speaker. Example: Halo games, Witcher3.
- Some games are modern but stuck at stereo. Example: Halo 2 Anni in the current MCC.
- Console games are not perfect too. In Super Mario 3D World, the front speakers play the music while the surround speakers play the main character sound.

I did have a little regret though. I thought WWISE make gaming sound perfect. But it seems these bugs will never be fixed because majority are using stereo or a pair of headphones. Developers ain't gonna fix it.

Don't really like to game on headphones because it is freaking hot here at 35°c / 95F.

You should mix the LFE channel into your mains, using Equalizer APO for example. That is actually what I do despite having a subwoofer, because my speakers are connected to it - rather than the soundcard directly. The subwoofer handles the crossover better than any software solution I've come up with (it's Genelec hardware so not exactly surprising) so this works best for me.

Also, the central channel is not important if you are a single user. A "phantom" center with properly setup L/R speakers is just as good (in theory there is a very subtle loss of speech intelligibility but good luck telling the difference). Of course if you do that you need to (again) use Equalizer APO to mix the center into the left and right channels (with -3db so it doesn't sound louder than the other speakers). However the "phantom" center falls apart instantly if you move to the left or right so not advised if you for example want to game or watch a movie side by side with someone. But with limited space/budget the "phantom center" trick is a godsend. Also gives more freedom for monitor/TV placement.

If you don't like the surround implementation of a specific game you can always fall back to stereo (I do wish Windows made it easier to switch between the 2 modes). I don't agree with you about Witcher 3 though, it sounds superb to me. Using the center channel for mostly voices is kinda standard practice nowadays but that does not matter much. If everything is setup properly the L/R can make you hear things in front of you just fine already. The center channel was originally added purely to help with large rooms so that people off-center still get a good experience (clear voices in particular).

I agree that many games do it poorly though. What I dread the most is those that send sounds such as voices on ALL channels at once... It sounds louder than everything else and completely unnatural. I have not seen that on any recent game thankfully.
 
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Tol

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I just recently put together a great 6.1 setup through an AVR and I'm loving it. It easily gives 50% more if not double the enjoyment in every game. I've got good headphones for multiplayer but the experience just doesn't compare....hopefully the new consoles will help push virtual surround closer to the real thing, though.

In case anyone comes into this thread looking for advice, my tips would be:
1. Don't skimp on the subwoofer. Spend as much as you can on it. In games, there have been a few times when I've noticed that the speakers sound good...there have been lots of times when the subwoofer just thumps and makes me smile. :)
2. Try to have all your speakers "match". Unlike movies where the camera is always facing the action and there's a focus on the L/C/R speakers(particularly C), I've found that I get quite a bit of full audio from my surround and back speakers while gaming. At least having the same tweeters in the speaker should help.
3. Don't buy a center channel until you've tried the setup without one. If you're sitting at a desk and are the only person listening, chances are you can position the L/R speakers to properly image sounds across the entire front stage. Doing this saved me the huge hassle of mounting a center channel above my monitor.

I've also told my friends to just consider getting a nice pair of bookshelves and AT LEAST get good stereo sound if the wife will allow it. I swear I'm not a headphone hater but speakers really are just a different gaming experience(with a sub :) ).
 
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