Is 5.1 / surround sound gaming still relevant?

B00nie

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The typical speaker setup in 1999: A pair of crappy beige computer speakers or, if it were a surround setup, a skimpy Cambridge SoundWorks set with a tiny sub and most of the speakers crammed somewhere behind the monitor; that's like 99% of the speaker setups I've seen either at peoples' computers or even when they attempt to setup a home theater config in their living room.

The challenge with speakers is that you have to read the manual to perform a proper setup (physical placement of the speakers) and you then have to calibrate the volume levels of each speaker using either the sound card software or external amplifier's software, then you have to know how to configure Windows and sometimes games to work with it; people either don't know better or give up on it.

The real challenge with speakers is that you have to pay 7 times the price of a decent headphone to set up entry level speakers in surround. Most people go cheap and get a bad result.
 
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uhm, I wouldn't really no where to begin, I went with HD558's and then opened the cans up and removed the foam padding on the inside, essentially making a HD598

cost me like...120 bux for em? I wouldn't call em high end, but they certainly crush any other cans ive owned, and ive had some 400$ shures, ive had some turtle beach 5.1's...and a few others

edit: good luck finding some relatively cheap ones, didn't spend to long looking but quick amazon search turns up third parties selling them for a arm and a leg... 200-300+ for hd558-hd599

sennheisers site sells em for 179.99 though so.... might have to just go directly through them.
https://en-us.sennheiser.com/audio-headphones-high-end-hd-558




ya I have no doubt a decently setup 5.1 setup can be good...but had a friend in Texas around 2002 that had some Logitech 7.1s... I dunno the ones with the fancy desk digital dial thingy,.... even he recommended a good headset over it...

also what happended to CMSS3D? oh...windows.

"Headphones destroy speakers for gaming"

*the best speakers I've used were some logitechs ca. 2002*

:rolleyes:
 

Factum

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I have a 7.1 setup as it's gives WAY better positional sound that the pseudo-3D sound from headphones.

I have had people over, that before thought their headphones had great positional sound...until they heard a proper calibrated 7.1 setup.
I have yet to experience proper positional audio from any headphones.
 

DoubleTap

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I have a 7.1 setup as it's gives WAY better positional sound that the pseudo-3D sound from headphones.

I have had people over, that before thought their headphones had great positional sound...until they heard a proper calibrated 7.1 setup.
I have yet to experience proper positional audio from any headphones.

It's one thing to have a preference or a limitation, but I see a lot of certainty about things people have never tried.

My Xonar U7 has a decent headphone amp that includes virtual 7.1 if you want it and it works well enough with my M100s but literally the only thing I use it for is the very clean line-in jack (I have a BT/APTX adaptor connected and use it to listen to podcasts - on my speakers)

In the past, we've lived in apartments and had little babies that need to sleep and headphones have made a lot more sense, but I'll never chose them over good speakers.
 

sharknice

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I've used the virtual thing with stereo headphones and imo it barely makes a difference. It negatively affects the sound quality enough that I don't use it.

I have headphones that take a real 7.1 signal and have multiple speakers in them and they make a decent difference.

But even a properly setup plain 4 speaker surround sound system is way better for positional audio. It's way easier to tell where footsteps and gunshots are coming from. Even if it's just crappy little computer speakers.
 

Sycraft

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I've used the virtual thing with stereo headphones and imo it barely makes a difference. It negatively affects the sound quality enough that I don't use it.

If you get a system that uses head tracking, it actually can make a pretty good difference and be fairly convincing. Still not as good as the real deal, at least not unless you have an insanely high end personalized system like the Realiser A16 but still not bad. Waves has a setup called Nx that does a pretty good job. I have the head tracker and Nx plugin and it does a pretty convincing job of surround sound. I won't be replacing my surround speaker setup for it, but it is actually something that can make you believe sound is coming from external sources. There's also new headphones from Audeze that have the tracking and simulation as an included feature. I haven't tried them but will probably check them out.

Basically the problem with any of the simulations is that when there's no tracking, the image moves with your head, which isn't what is supposed to happen. That makes your brain say "that's wrong" and makes the illusion not very convincing. Add in head tracking and correct the image using it, sounds much more convincing.
 

sharknice

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I haven't heard of the head tracking thing. That sounds like it would work pretty well.
 

Sycraft

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I haven't heard of the head tracking thing. That sounds like it would work pretty well.

It does. The idea is quite old but never implemented much. Beyerdynamic made a really expensive system for awhile, and SVS has sold the expensive Realiser A8 for years (the A16s predecessor) but in terms of shit any normal person could afford, it is pretty new. Waves knows their shit, they are a major player in the pro audio industry and do all kinds of signal processing stuff. I bought the Nx head tracker when they released it and it is the first time I ever heard convincing headphone virtualization. Not flawless mind you, but convincing. You can see my speaker setup earlier in the thread to get an idea of what I compare it against.

If you have the money, and you are interested in having good surround on phones, I suggest checking it out (or checking out the Audeze phones, those I'm really interested in). Do note though how well it works also depends on how good your headphones are. The Nx app assumes your headphones are basically flat and neutral in their sound, so if they aren't it's calculations will be off. Presumably the Audeze version are calibrated for their phones.
 

spaceman

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Creative is supposed to be releasing a game changing headphone surround. I think it is via a USB dongle. They put a ton of money into the r and d if it.

Edit. It is called super xfi and a page on their website explains it. Not released yet but an emulator app is coming soon before the hardware release.
 
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Sorcerer_Tim

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I had a low-end to average (think under $300) Onkyo receiver with one of the smaller Definitive Technology 5.1 systems (ProCinema 600) and ran it through a Creative Z series sound card and DD Live. I thought the sound was pretty good, but then i changed out my main A/V receiver and swapped in my old Denon 4520Ci and connect from my video card to it via HDMI and it really sounds great. I am not willing to spend the cash to go Atmos for PC (I do use it for it movies and it is pretty neat), but the sound from the new receiver/HDMI is definitely a step up. The ProCinema series punches above its weight and may be something to consider. There are a lot of good receivers that are one or two models old that could work well for PC audio.
 

djoye

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is positional audio dead in games?
It seems that all of them are console ports and all they care about is loud.
Positional audio is a solved problem now days, so it's in just about everything; 7.1 is extremely common in mainstream games, very few only support up to 5.1, and many low-budget indie games are stereo only. Some problems that continue to exist are how well the positional audio is fine-tuned using occlusion and how well the audio recording is mastered so that it actually has dynamic range.

The real challenge with speakers is that you have to pay 7 times the price of a decent headphone to set up entry level speakers in surround. Most people go cheap and get a bad result.
I did the math, I've spent over $1100 on my setup, the bulk of that being a nice Klipsch front & center set ($700+) that I bought to replace a ~$250 Sony front & center set that I used for over 13 years. My advice to anyone wanting to do speakers (on a budget?): avoid tiny satellites, don't go lower than a 6.5" woofer on the speakers if you want mid-range and use at least an 8" subwoofer. Parts Express has a very decent Dayton 5.1 speaker combo for $310 that I think would be great for gaming, just gotta find an AV receiver to drive them; should be able to find something for less than $200 that can do that job.

I had a low-end to average (think under $300) Onkyo receiver with one of the smaller Definitive Technology 5.1 systems (ProCinema 600) and ran it through a Creative Z series sound card and DD Live. I thought the sound was pretty good, but then i changed out my main A/V receiver and swapped in my old Denon 4520Ci and connect from my video card to it via HDMI and it really sounds great. I am not willing to spend the cash to go Atmos for PC (I do use it for it movies and it is pretty neat), but the sound from the new receiver/HDMI is definitely a step up. The ProCinema series punches above its weight and may be something to consider. There are a lot of good receivers that are one or two models old that could work well for PC audio.
I'm not at all concerned about Atmos in gaming yet; so few games support it. Overwatch only supports headphone Atmos, and developers seem to hate niche tech so much that I doubt Atmos will catch on. then again, I'm really surprised to see more and more games supporting tobii eye tracking.
 

DoubleTap

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Positional audio is a solved problem now days, so it's in just about everything; 7.1 is extremely common in mainstream games, very few only support up to 5.1, and many low-budget indie games are stereo only. Some problems that continue to exist are how well the positional audio is fine-tuned using occlusion and how well the audio recording is mastered so that it actually has dynamic range.


I did the math, I've spent over $1100 on my setup, the bulk of that being a nice Klipsch front & center set ($700+) that I bought to replace a ~$250 Sony front & center set that I used for over 13 years. My advice to anyone wanting to do speakers (on a budget?): avoid tiny satellites, don't go lower than a 6.5" woofer on the speakers if you want mid-range and use at least an 8" subwoofer. Parts Express has a very decent Dayton 5.1 speaker combo for $310 that I think would be great for gaming, just gotta find an AV receiver to drive them; should be able to find something for less than $200 that can do that job.

I'm not at all concerned about Atmos in gaming yet; so few games support it. Overwatch only supports headphone Atmos, and developers seem to hate niche tech so much that I doubt Atmos will catch on. then again, I'm really surprised to see more and more games supporting tobii eye tracking.

The woofer size is so much more important on the PC. On a HT system, the surrounds are ambient, but on a PC, they are all more or less equally as important as the LCR speakers and smally, tinny sounding surrounds will ruin the experience.

If you don't need to listen to music, you could probably setup a really good gaming system with just the cheapo $50/pr 6.5 bookshelves and a refurb receiver.

Creative is supposed to be releasing a game changing headphone surround. I think it is via a USB dongle. They put a ton of money into the r and d if it.

Edit. It is called super xfi and a page on their website explains it. Not released yet but an emulator app is coming soon before the hardware release.

Good luck to them, but many companies have made that sort of claim over the years and most of the deliverables have been wanting. Maybe they found the old A3D tech in a box in the basement...
 
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is positional audio dead in games?
It seems that all of them are console ports and all they care about is loud.
Loudness war has penetrated the gaming scene?

If you don't need to listen to music, you could probably setup a really good gaming system with just the cheapo $50/pr 6.5 bookshelves and a refurb receiver
I have my trusty old JBL 3677 speakers for music. I don't link hifi audio with computer stuff. For PC gaming, I can sacrifice fidelity for positional audio, which is common in games (WWISE).
 
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Revenant_Knight

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I hate headsets for the most part. I have a Logitech Z5500 system and love it having discrete 5.1 audio while gaming. I've replaced the stock speakers with Klipsch reference series to improve audio clarity and depth. I use a Creative X7 external sound card. Wouldn't trade it for the world.


My living room PC is hooked up to a Pioneer receiver through HDMI. Sounds amazing.
 

IdiotInCharge

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I do like my cans... and actually don't get terrible positional audio out of my speakers, either. Stereo has a lot to offer.

Of course, I *am* going to have to try some sort of gaming on my living room setup when I get the Atmos and surrounds installed...
 

Hielo_loco

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I have 5.1 speakers, and when I play pc games with real positional audio, like Titanfall 2, the Unreal Tournaments, etc... they sound absolutely amazing. I also have a Nintendo Switch hooked up to my soundcard, with emulated surround through SBX, and it sounds good, especially with sounds like rain, but nowhere near discrete 5.1 sound. Sure, having surround speakers is a bit inconvenient, but man when a game takes advantage of them, the experience is unbelievable!
 

xmadror

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I have about 2x more "invested" in my 2.0 sound system vs my PC. The main purpose is not to game with it but it still does a really great job.
I had some sennheiser HD598 and HD6xx (HD650 from massdrop) and those were very good for the price but they could not compete with my current 2.0 sound system.
I've had many friends comment on how my 2.0 setup is a lot better then their (cheap) 5.1/7.1 for both gaming and movies.

I'd love a 5.1/7.1 sound system but to do it right, as in where is would at least sound nearly as good as my 2.0 system, would most likely be around $8-10k
I had a cheap 5.1 ±10 years ago and it was alright but when I got the HD598 for online gaming I soon found out they were a lot better then my 5.1 system (which I don't have anymore)

I prefer a good 2.0 system over an average/cheap 5.1/7.1 (for similar money) but I still use a set of cans for online gaming when I need to.
I also dislike subwoofer and prefer full range speaker.
 

gamerk2

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WHO IS USING OPTICAL CONNECTION FOR 5.1 Speakers IN 2020? :)

Optical is still horrid for PC use. Nevermind the necessity of using Dolby Digital Live to even get 5.1 to output, but base Dolby Digital is a horribly compressed audio format. There's no reason to just go uncompressed audio out via TRS or HDMI, depending on your setup.

The only reason Optical still exists is legacy equipment and cheap 5.1 headsets (that sacrifice way to much audio quality to fit three drivers per ear anyways).
 

DoubleTap

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I use optical from my pc to my parasound halo ia.

I could use usb or coax but why consume abusb port when i already have an optical out?

Also, I've had more issues (in the past) with usb connections vs optical and having the electrical isolation can be make or break for some people.

My parasound has no cutout issues at all and i doubt optical is going away in the forseeable future #LindyEffect
 

Domingo

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HDMI audio has worked great for me. I just run it from my video card to my AMP/TV. It outputs whatever my Windows speaker array is set to. Atmos requires a toggle, but that's quick and easy to do. Only a few games support it, but it also works with Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc. apps.

As far as how relevant surround sound is, I'd say more than ever. Most high profile releases (Gears, Assassin's Creed, Borderlands, GTA, Tomb Raider, and dozens of others) do a fine job with it. Sounds from from the direction they're supposed to for the most part. IMO, the area where things really shine is with ambient effects. Weather effects, water flowing, conversations in the distance, etc.
 

DoubleTap

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HDMI audio has worked great for me. I just run it from my video card to my AMP/TV. It outputs whatever my Windows speaker array is set to. Atmos requires a toggle, but that's quick and easy to do. Only a few games support it, but it also works with Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc. apps.

As far as how relevant surround sound is, I'd say more than ever. Most high profile releases (Gears, Assassin's Creed, Borderlands, GTA, Tomb Raider, and dozens of others) do a fine job with it. Sounds from from the direction they're supposed to for the most part. IMO, the area where things really shine is with ambient effects. Weather effects, water flowing, conversations in the distance, etc.

Sure, but HDMI audio is not a good match for people running high performance gaming monitors. Yes, you can use a second monitor or a ghost monitor, etc but none of the solutions are ideal.

I thought 7.1 was particularly good with Overwatch, but I don't play that anymore and Battlefield (but I have not enjoyed the last two versions as much as BF3/4)

Throw in that Discord is almost mandatory for small squads (Apex Legends) and I've been dragged into using headphones for gaming and I've gotten used to it.

For immersive single player games, if you can support it, I would agree that 7.1 is still the gold standard.
 
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For immersive single player games, if you can support it, I would agree that 7.1 is still the gold standard.
Played Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice recently on my 5.0 setup. I'm glad that Garm boss fight is made a lot easier with surround sound as one needs to find the direction in the dark.
 

IdiotInCharge

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Played Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice recently on my 5.0 setup. I'm glad that Garm boss fight is made a lot easier with surround sound as one needs to find the direction in the dark.
That's one where they highly recommend you play with headphones...
 

IdiotInCharge

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Because the market is either 2.0 stereo desktop speakers or headphones. Surround sound 5.1/7.1/Atmos gaming is extremely niche.
That's not really what they said, though. I get that speakers would probably work pretty well, but I'm not sure if that falls in line with the 'in your head' presentation they were going for with that game.
 

kalston

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Yes they literally did full on binaural recording for that game. Just take a quick look at the making of videos, or read the explanations they gave. They made it compatible with speakers of course, but the original and intended version is a binaural presentation for headphones only.
 

Seyumi

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Been rockin' a Logitech Z-5500 and now a Logitech Z906 for almost 20 years now. Blows my mind that not a single company has tried to make a competitive 5.1 PC speaker system in almost 20 years (there's other 5.1 systems out there, but are budget <$100 items). The only competition was the Klipsch ProMedia 5.1 that came out in 2003 (around the same time as the Z-5500). I've had multiple of those units but all eventually become faulty overtime (even with internal electronic upgrades).

Won't matter anymore probably by 2021. HDMI 2.1 & EARC are here to save the day and finally give PC gamers proper 5.1 / 7.1 with modern technologies & inputs. Same goes with TV's vs computer monitors. LG and their OLED's finally gave PC gamers what they truly wanted. Sad that our wants & needs are finally met by the mainstream home entertainment industry and not even companies that specialize in PC's and/or gaming in general.
 
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IdiotInCharge

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Been rockin' a Logitech Z-5500 and now a Logitech Z906 for almost 20 years now. Blows my mind that not a single company has tried to make a competitive 5.1 PC speaker system in almost 20 years
One would think that if there was a market for such a system, that it'd be made.... but it seems that even 7.1 'desktop' systems are a bit much.

I'd personally like to build a desktop surround setup again one day too, but at the same time, I'm in no real hurry as I'd posted above.

Won't matter anymore probably by 2021. HDMI 2.1 & EARC are here to save the day and finally give PC gamers proper 5.1 / 7.1 with modern technologies & inputs. Same goes with TV's vs computer monitors. LG and their OLED's finally gave PC gamers what they truly wanted. Sad that our wants & needs are finally met by the mainstream home entertainment industry and not even companies that specialize in PC's and/or gaming in general.
There's an economy of scale to this stuff driven by a level of demand. As it stands, one can use an HDMI receiver with ARC, and eARC should make that nearly universal.

What would be nice would be for that functionality to be slimmed down to a processor, essentially an eARC DAC, to feed either an array of amps or powered speakers / monitors, or both.
 

quiktake

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I think headsets with mics are more what did surround sound speakers in. Hearing teammates clearly and using a mic with any problems are only easy with a headset.
 
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