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ShearMe

7.1 Headphones?

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Posted · Original PosterOP

If you consume any gaming-related media, you've likely been assaulted by headset advertisements sporting 5.1 or 7.1 "Surround Sound" for the best 3-D gaming experience. "Well gee," you're thinking, "that must be great, maybe I should try a pair." However, between all the different options, and your general lack of knowledge about audio, you feel a bit lost. Don't worry - we can help. :)

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Surround Sound - what is it, and why do you want it?

Trick question! You can't get surround sound in headphones/headsets. Wait what? As our deer lord Linus once said, "You have two ears. You only need two drivers." Indeed, the majority of 'surround sound' headsets out there merely have two drivers. How do they intend to replicate a multichannel surround sound home theater setup with merely two drivers?

In real life, your brain interprets the lag between sound hitting one of your ears vs the other into directional information for you to process. It's what makes you aware of the predator sneaking through the grass behind you, or your prey hiding in the bush to your right. A home theater surround sound system imitates this by simply placing multiple channels of audio around you in a large room. Any sound from a single speaker will eventually arrive at both your eardrums within a small difference of time, and your brain can determine the location of the speaker afterwards. In a headphone, you only have two drivers to work with, and each driver can only be heard by a single ear. So, what do?

Software Trickery - Virtual Surround Sound

If a sound is played in one ear slightly louder than the other, your brain may interpret the sound as coming from that direction. The bigger the difference, the more towards that direction than the other. This is known as panning audio, but still only nets us with 2-D audio. The time difference which we talked about earlier gets us 3 dimensions to work with. So it's pretty simple really, just delay the sound going into one ear slightly and then send it to the other with a slight pan effect. Right?

The problem is, there's no consensus on the correct amount of delay or panning to achieve different virtual positions in a headphone. Even with all the scientific measurements that have been done over the decades, and all the math involved in virtual surround sound equations, science can't account for the fact that everyone's ear is shaped differently. Everyone's brain interprets locational information differently. What seems perfect to me may be disorienting to you. When you buy into a surround sound headset, you're accepting a static effect which may or may not even work for you. The worst of it is, many of these included effects also perform some EQ on the headphones making them sound too different to even accurately compare with/without virtual surround sound enabled.

Binaural Audio - Teaching A New Dog Old Tricks

Nature has spent billions of years developing the auditory sense in your head right now. If it aint broke, why fix it? Until recently, binaural recording has been an expensive niche hobby. Mostly because it seems too simple to be a good idea. All you have to do is use two microphones spaced like the average human's head width, one for each channel, and suddenly you have a natural vast 3-D landscape of sound!

If nothing else, recordings like this can prove to you that your current stereo headphones are perfectly capable of reproducing 3-D audio. You don't need a gimmicky hunk of plastic specifically marketed towards gamers in order to have directional audio. Most modern games have a "headphone mode" which emulates binaural audio as close as you're going to get in a game. If that mode seems insufficient to you for your headphones, that's where good open-backed audiophile grade headphones come in. Stereo imaging on open-backed headphones is typically phenomenal, and recently there has been quite a few good options on the market for relatively cheap. If you're playing a game without a headphone audio mode, and try Razer Surround, free downloadable software.

Mono vs Panning vs Delay vs Binaural - The Nerdy Explanation

"True" Surround Headsets - Even More Marketing Garbage

There are, of course, still those pesky pricey headsets out out there which throw multiple drivers into a single ear cup. This is bad because 1) you're spending money on a bunch of tiny inferior drivers as opposed to two good drivers and 2) a single ear cannot determine locational information. It's like being in a car with a single window rolled down - no matter where noises come from around the car, your brain will make you think they're all coming from the direction of the open window. These headsets still use DSP effects just like all the non-"true" surround headsets for virtual surround, it's just processed differently than the kind for two drivers.(*)

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Posted · Original PosterOP

So is there any benefit to Asus' upcoming headphones with multiple speakers in each ear according to this?

 

Nope. If it were smart, real audio companies would do it too.

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Thought this was gonna be a thread where someone was asking for advice on which 7.1 set to get, and I was going to advise against it.  Didn't realize who posted the thread till I got here.

 

Nice write-up.

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Posted · Original PosterOP

only way to keep this alive is to bump the thread

 

*bump*

 

I was just planning on linking it every time it needs linking.

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@ShearMe this is why u da bes.


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surround sound is the best for gaming, its obvious that Krakens are the best headphones ever.


my money is now all stolen from audio

 

 

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Posted · Original PosterOP

So I can get any pair of headphones and I'll have 7.1 surround sound if I get the software?

 

Yes in the sense that all headphones can utilize 7.1 virtual surround software - No in the sense that no headphone is capable of the surround sound you would get from a real speaker system

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no headphone is capable of the surround sound you would get from a real speaker system

Literally none on them. If it goes on or in your ears, you cannot get real surround sound, despite what the gaming companies would have you believe.


Hey! New SIgnature! 

 

I'm supposedly a person on the Internet, but you'll never know if I'm human or not ;)

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Literally none on them. If it goes on or in your ears, you cannot get real surround sound, despite what the gaming companies would have you believe.

Thats why i like my surround system.

 

BUt i also dont like it because my receiver is being stupid.

http://linustechtips.com/main/topic/434961-receiver-problems/


n0ah1897, on 05 Mar 2014 - 2:08 PM, said:  "Computers are like girls. It's whats in the inside that matters.  I don't know about you, but I like my girls like I like my cases. Just as beautiful on the inside as the outside."

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Yes in the sense that all headphones can utilize 7.1 virtual surround software - No in the sense that no headphone is capable of the surround sound you would get from a real speaker system

right of course. thanks for responding.

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Thought I'll add this one:

 

 

Although it's a sponsor video, the knowledge part is actually pretty good and easy to understand.

 

Can somebody explain the tank example at 4:15

 

Why does the surround sound processed audio sample sound better than the stereo recording? 

 

Is it because they've used a crappy stereo recording? 

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Posted · Original PosterOP

Can somebody explain the tank example at 4:15

Why does the surround sound processed audio sample sound better than the stereo recording?

Is it because they've used a crappy stereo recording?

The first example merely has the sound panned from one channel to the next. The second has HRTF effects applied to make it sound like it is truly circling your head.
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