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How to set up surround sound with a pair of headphones on Win10?

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Apr 30, 2020
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Hello audio fanatics :), Im trying to get surround sound to work on my headphones and I need some help.

The Asus Xonar DG features a Cirrus Logic CS4245 (Audio Codec), a CS4361 (DAC) and a C-Media Oxygen HD CMI8786 processor i.a..
It's just an old entry level soundcard, still sold today, atrocious driver support, community drivers somewhat allievated that, but didn't want to repeat that mistake when it died and I have a USB DAC instead right now.

With that soundcard I picked the headphone mode in the driver, ticked the Dolby Headphone box and selected 8 channels to work with...
The headphone mode enabled some forced equalization and opened up amplifier options; Dolby Headphone enabled the actual surround emulation, further changing signal frequencies and adding reverb and delays and what not individually for the channels; the channel option determined the amount of channels, set the device to said amount of channels in the Windows sound options as well, and more importantly allowed me to go beyond stereo inputs I could then actually make use of, it also upsampled stereo signals to a 7.1 Setup, which I actually found quite enjoyable - sure, every recording has a specific playback device and mind [as long it is loudspeakers it's good, said my neighbor watching TV with a mask on], but sky is the limit and the more channels available the better I generally suppose.

I realized there were not just better DACs and AMPs, but better virtualizations DSPs around as well, even ones heavily integrated in Win10 such as Windows Sonic which I think I actually prefer over the Dolby Headphone and not just cause it's easily available.

Problem:
With my new DAC that doesn't need or even have a specific driver, Windows won't let me go beyond a 2 speaker set up with my headphones… First I suspected, or hoped, it was just like that not to irritate its users and that maybe it just showed how many channels were presently used, but actually it is just left and right channel, or front left and right with Windows Sonic... Now, nothing gets upsampled beyond stereo format, and multi channel formats higher than stereo won't get reocognized or at least just played back on virtual front left and front right at best. Some games will in fact just render Stereo now and offer nothing else.

Question:
How do I create more channels?

I am missing proper surround sound and I've stumbled upon a free program called "Equalizer APO". I haven't tried it yet, but it looked like it had a lot to offer and I felt like I was going in the right direction with that, cause after all it's just DSP that I need…
So, does anyone know if that's the proper way to do it or knows more elegant solutions to my problem, like from within core Windows?


I know this is kind of a nooby problem, but I feel like a lot of people are facing it too and to me seems to be awkwardly complicated to set headphones up. Thanks!
 

pozz

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I decided to go install Equalizer APO + HeSuVi on this VB-Cable. Really easy to set up, and frankly it's a lot better than what I am used to!

Now, I can even decided wether I want to upmix Stereo sound or not. :) There's lots of virtualizations to choose from and I haven't tested em all, but as I've hinted before I am finding Windows Sonic it to be far superior to Dolby Headphone and Atmos for headphonetoo, sounding much more true to the recording, not having that exaggerated bass. Glad, I didn't spend money on it... Pretty happy right now, but still not satisied. Never!

But you know, since I am using Windows Sonic only, I tried just enabling Windows Sonic on the VB-Cable, that's routed to my actual playback device. Whenever I do that, it changes the channel configuration back to stereo tho. There was a option below the Windows Sonic field to enable "7.1 virtual surround sound" once, but that option is gone today for me. When I use "Windows Sonic for headphones" on the usual configuration, it is just virtualized stereo sound... Is Windows Sonic nowadays just meant for stereo??? I tried to keep it as simple as possible, so that's why I tried to do it without EQ APO (and HeSuVi), also because I am kinda uncertain which supposed Sonic Version I am using and because I'd like to use it with sample rates beyond 48kHz, which the Impulse Response are supposedly recorded with, not restrict myself to it, cause I got recordings much higher than 48kHz and most of them are just 44,1kHz... Also I was having my doubts wether the -digital- recording of the virtualization was otherwise the same as the original source, and if how they did to manage to measure 7.1 if Windows Sonic was just stereo?!

Bonus question: On the official site of the Creative X-Fi software, I read full spectrum of the software was just up to 14khZ... Sorry, I can't find the source link right now, but can the same be said about Windows Sonic (for headphones) and does anyone know what its spectrum is like?

Figured, I really like to evolve, but all of that doesn't seem right. Like, how can setting up surround sound for headphones be this quirky and hard to do in 2020... What the hell... With surround sound set up like this, I am probably an absolute minority, most others probably never get there. *sigh
 
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