• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required as is 20 years of participation in forums (not all true). Come here to have fun, be ready to be teased and not take online life too seriously. We now measure and review equipment for free! Click here for details.

Virtual 7.1 Surround Sound processing in Headphones

OP
Robbo99999

Robbo99999

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 23, 2020
Messages
3,146
Likes
2,671
Location
UK
The problem is that it tells you which speaker should be making sound. A blind test without any audio or visual indication is needed.
I see what you mean, but if I select different Surround settings then I can definitely notice how the position of the speaker changes in the file I linked in my first post, so eventhough it's saying which speaker is playing means I can still notice differences in their positioning. In fact for some of the Surround Sound solutions that were listed in this post (https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...nd-processing-in-headphones.25613/post-888341 ), the CMSS-3D option and also the HeSuVi Steam Audio aka Phonon 3D both had no sensation of behind my head for the speakers in that test - so it seems I am not overly influenced by the voice saying which speaker is playing, instead I'm able to fairly objectively define the position of each of the virtual speakers.
 

Sycraft

Member
Joined
Apr 24, 2021
Messages
8
Likes
5
I really wish that companies were better about supporting their products in this area. It seems like they all just kinda of up in smoke. I don't know if the A16 is on sale anymore, you certainly can't just buy it even on their website. Waves still sells Nx (I actually backed this one on kick starter) but the software is flakey as heck. The VST plugin is a little better and does get updates, the Windows software has just been abandoned. Out of your head really impressed me in a demo but the software looks like crap, they are advertising Windows 8 support and talking about workaround for 10, like it is some new OS.

On the hardware side there seems to be very little. Audeze makes the Mobius which work pretty damn good, but have garbage electronics so you have headphones hissing at you. Dolby quit making their headphones.

It is strange to me that surround sound is so popular, headphones are so popular, but mating the two in a good way is something that there really isn't much interest in.
 

Galz

Member
Joined
Aug 8, 2021
Messages
85
Likes
25
Very nice thread, although I'm still lost as to how to determine what is the best solution for me.

Are all solutions that come bundled with headphone drivers (such as Asus/Logitech/Razer headsets) lackluster compared to those discussed here?

I currently have G35 headset and find the surround OK, but I want to upgrade them, to whatever will give me the best sound within reasonable budget, which might not include built-in surround processing so I might need a software solution (especially if it's actually better).
 
OP
Robbo99999

Robbo99999

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 23, 2020
Messages
3,146
Likes
2,671
Location
UK
Very nice thread, although I'm still lost as to how to determine what is the best solution for me.

Are all solutions that come bundled with headphone drivers (such as Asus/Logitech/Razer headsets) lackluster compared to those discussed here?

I currently have G35 headset and find the surround OK, but I want to upgrade them, to whatever will give me the best sound within reasonable budget, which might not include built-in surround processing so I might need a software solution (especially if it's actually better).
I've not tried the G35 headset or Logitech's implementations, but I have tried a number of different surround sound implementations, and Soundblaster's implementation of virtual 7.1 is most effective for me. I've tried the following different surround implementations and they were lacking in comparison to Soundblaster:
So my recommendations based on my own experience are Soundblaster implementations - I'm referring in reference to gaming and virtual 7.1 surround sound.

In fact, you can try some of the options by playing back those demo files in that post I linked above - make sure you have turned of all sound processing and are using your headphones in simple 2 channel stereo mode (no virtual surround sound active).....because the surround effects are already "baked" into those demo files.
 

Sycraft

Member
Joined
Apr 24, 2021
Messages
8
Likes
5
Very nice thread, although I'm still lost as to how to determine what is the best solution for me.

Are all solutions that come bundled with headphone drivers (such as Asus/Logitech/Razer headsets) lackluster compared to those discussed here?

I currently have G35 headset and find the surround OK, but I want to upgrade them, to whatever will give me the best sound within reasonable budget, which might not include built-in surround processing so I might need a software solution (especially if it's actually better).
I've never had one built in to a headset, with the exception of the Audeze Mobius, that was worth a crap.

In terms of software my current favourite is Redscape. It is pretty convincing with just the software itself, more than most others, but I find that software just can't do a great job without headtracking. It just sounds wrong when the surround image follows your head around. Redscape also has a headtracker, and it works well.

It isn't perfect, it still doesn't sound quite as "real" as my Genelec speakers... but it is damn close. Close enough that I have had moments where I checked to see if I had properly switched from speakers to headphones.
 

Galz

Member
Joined
Aug 8, 2021
Messages
85
Likes
25
I've not tried the G35 headset or Logitech's implementations, but I have tried a number of different surround sound implementations, and Soundblaster's implementation of virtual 7.1 is most effective for me. I've tried the following different surround implementations and they were lacking in comparison to Soundblaster:
So my recommendations based on my own experience are Soundblaster implementations - I'm referring in reference to gaming and virtual 7.1 surround sound.

In fact, you can try some of the options by playing back those demo files in that post I linked above - make sure you have turned of all sound processing and are using your headphones in simple 2 channel stereo mode (no virtual surround sound active).....because the surround effects are already "baked" into those demo files.
I tried looking up the soundblaster but saw there are also headphones and sound cards.
What exactly should I be looking for? Is there a purely paid/free software solution that applies regardless of your sound card/headphones? Or does it require their hardware?
I'm also still trying to figure out if I should get a USB headset or a separate sound card and 3.5mm headset to get the most value for money (looking to spend a maximum of about 300$, assuming that can get a significant quality improvement over the g35).
 
OP
Robbo99999

Robbo99999

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 23, 2020
Messages
3,146
Likes
2,671
Location
UK
I tried looking up the soundblaster but saw there are also headphones and sound cards.
What exactly should I be looking for? Is there a purely paid/free software solution that applies regardless of your sound card/headphones? Or does it require their hardware?
I'm also still trying to figure out if I should get a USB headset or a separate sound card and 3.5mm headset to get the most value for money (looking to spend a maximum of about 300$, assuming that can get a significant quality improvement over the g35).
They don't do software only solutions. I'd recommend a USB sound card for ease of connection and the flexibility of using whatever headphones you want, also that gives you option of better audio quality because headphone of choice. SoundblasterX G6 is what I use, some people find it buggy on some systems, but it's been without issue on my desktop PC:
This one has also been reviewed by Amir & did well, so that way you know you're getting top quality in terms of music too:

You could also try this Soundblaster, but it's not been measured on here on this site, and it looks like it has worse audiophile specs:

In terms of headphones to combine for optimal virtual 7.1 surround sound then I'd recommend the K702 or the HD560s - the latter is more reliable and has less "issues" than the K702 and also requires none or less EQ than the K702. K702 & HD560s perform the best out of all my headphones in a virtual 7.1 environment - for me it has crossover to good "soundstage" abilities of a headphone which is another benefit when using them for music listening.
 

mysiak

Member
Joined
May 24, 2021
Messages
63
Likes
60
I've never had one built in to a headset, with the exception of the Audeze Mobius, that was worth a crap.

In terms of software my current favourite is Redscape. It is pretty convincing with just the software itself, more than most others, but I find that software just can't do a great job without headtracking. It just sounds wrong when the surround image follows your head around. Redscape also has a headtracker, and it works well.

It isn't perfect, it still doesn't sound quite as "real" as my Genelec speakers... but it is damn close. Close enough that I have had moments where I checked to see if I had properly switched from speakers to headphones.
I compared Redscape with other solutions and it was very similar to Creative SBX on default settings and comparable to SXFI with bigger room simulation in Redscape, so basically "very nice". However I had two major issues with Redscape:

1. CPU usage was up to 20% almost constantly, with or without an EQ. That's really too much stress for a laptop.
2. I couldn't get WASAPI mode working, the only mode which worked was ASIO and not all sound cards support this mode.

Also there is no demo/trial version, app developer was nice enough to provide me with personal time limited license though.

Btw. I tried head tracking with WavesNX and while it worked and was fun to try, I find it too distracting and don't miss it at all.

@Galz - I would recommend looking at Creative GC7 - it has SBX, SXFI, Dolby Digital decoding (should you decided to connect it to your TV for example) and many more. X3/X4 are nice too, but you are limited to usage with PC only. G6 is better on a paper, but it misses bluetooth interface and SXFI. I have GC7 for my TV/PS4 console and X3 connected to the PC, if I was to choose only one, it would be GC7 for sure.
 

Jumbotron

Member
Joined
Sep 14, 2019
Messages
27
Likes
18
Location
Spain
Since it has been mentioned, I have to say that I have owned a license of Redscape for quite some time now, and really, I never liked it much.

On the other hand, the much cheaper Waves NX App for Windows and Mac, for which I also own a license, sounds way better in my case.

I also owned the Sound Blaster X3 for some time, and Creative's Super X-Fi technology did not impress me. The sound profile it created for me was bloated in the low frequencies and lacked clarity.

The three of them were blind buys.
 

Galz

Member
Joined
Aug 8, 2021
Messages
85
Likes
25
With HD560s what do you do with the mic? Are clip on mics working well enough? Also having an easy mute and maybe some noise cancellation to not broadcast wife/kids noise would be very useful. I don't normally play with them around but often need to work and make calls.

I am also still confused about the various sound blaster solutions, there seem to be many and it is difficult to find the differences or even filter out the irrelevant ones.
 
OP
Robbo99999

Robbo99999

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 23, 2020
Messages
3,146
Likes
2,671
Location
UK
With HD560s what do you do with the mic? Are clip on mics working well enough? Also having an easy mute and maybe some noise cancellation to not broadcast wife/kids noise would be very useful. I don't normally play with them around but often need to work and make calls.

I am also still confused about the various sound blaster solutions, there seem to be many and it is difficult to find the differences or even filter out the irrelevant ones.
No idea, I don't use mics and not when gaming. It would just be an add-on that you'd have to work out. SoundblasterX G6 has mic capability though along with various settings to customise it - most gaming soundcards would have this capability I would have thought.
 
OP
Robbo99999

Robbo99999

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 23, 2020
Messages
3,146
Likes
2,671
Location
UK
@Galz , read your last post in a bit more detail & had some additional thoughts. It depends how much weight you put on music & gaming in terms of how much you want to enjoy & optimise that. If you place a lot of weight on music & gaming then buy two headphones - HD560s for music & gaming along with probably SoundblasterX G6 DAC/Amp because they're an optimal combination together in that scenario, good at both gaming (my experience) and music listening (Amir's review on this website re G6 DAC & my experience), and then buy some non-descript & cheap closed back headphones or noise cancelling headphones for work if you must. For music listening use the Oratory EQ for the HD560s:

re mics, I'm sure you can come up with some solution for that by buying an independant mic that clips on somewhere and plugs into the G6 for instance (via it's mic port).

EDIT: link to HD560s Owners Thread & post of measurements:
 
Last edited:

Galz

Member
Joined
Aug 8, 2021
Messages
85
Likes
25
Don't do much music but the main purpose is gaming and work is secondary, but both require a nice (not necessarily great) noise cancelling mic, for playing multiplayer. What must be great is the ease of use of the mic, so if the clipping or muting system is too weird it would be a no-go.

If I get some external mic I'd like it to be something that people have already been using with these headphones successfully, and not re-invent the wheel with trail and error.

Seems like for sxfi (still unclear how good it is, but battle mode sounds like a useful gaming feature) the only real option is the gc7 even though the sound quality of the g6 is supposedly better.
 
OP
Robbo99999

Robbo99999

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 23, 2020
Messages
3,146
Likes
2,671
Location
UK
Don't do much music but the main purpose is gaming and work is secondary, but both require a nice (not necessarily great) noise cancelling mic, for playing multiplayer. What must be great is the ease of use of the mic, so if the clipping or muting system is too weird it would be a no-go.

If I get some external mic I'd like it to be something that people have already been using with these headphones successfully, and not re-invent the wheel with trail and error.

Seems like for sxfi (still unclear how good it is, but battle mode sounds like a useful gaming feature) the only real option is the gc7 even though the sound quality of the g6 is supposedly better.
"Main purpose is gaming" so I think I'll still recommend you the HD560s, it's my most successful headphone for gaming along with my K702, but K702 has too much variance and unreliability (I have an individualised EQ for that as my unit was measured by Oratory, so variance doesn't matter to me for that headphone). For the mic you're just gonna have to research that on the Creative G6 website to see what functions they offer, they offer all sorts of sound processing in relation to the mic but I'm not interested in it and hence can't remember any specifics. And I'd recommend the G6 for the Virtual 7.1, it's been my best most accurate experience. In terms of different headphones I've tried for gaming, see my sig, I've tried a fair few good audiophile headphones, HD560s & K702 are the best of that bunch. You're probably gonna have to take it from here.
 

Galz

Member
Joined
Aug 8, 2021
Messages
85
Likes
25
I also got recommendations for the 6xx due to it being on sale. Is it really better? I can't find the sale on amazon, but on drop.com it's less than 194$ (including 15$ shipping), very high chance to get charged local tax another 33$, and depending on the shipping method they use additional 0-40$ handling fees, so total 227~267$. 560s on Amazon is $180 + $53.59 shipping and tax, paid in advance (so no surprise fees, but also no chance to evade tax), for 233.59$ total.
Again, the main goal is getting the best possible virtual surround effect, probably with the G6 or GC7.
 
OP
Robbo99999

Robbo99999

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 23, 2020
Messages
3,146
Likes
2,671
Location
UK
I also got recommendations for the 6xx due to it being on sale. Is it really better? I can't find the sale on amazon, but on drop.com it's less than 194$ (including 15$ shipping), very high chance to get charged local tax another 33$, and depending on the shipping method they use additional 0-40$ handling fees, so total 227~267$. 560s on Amazon is $180 + $53.59 shipping and tax, paid in advance (so no surprise fees, but also no chance to evade tax), for 233.59$ total.
Again, the main goal is getting the best possible virtual surround effect, probably with the G6 or GC7.
HD600 is my worst gaming headphone due to narrow soundstage, which is essentially how the HD6XX/HD650 would perform considering they're the same physical cup constructions. HD560s is way better in gaming for me than HD600. I also enjoy the HD560s more than the HD600 for music listening too - due to better bass as well as that better soundstage.
 

Galz

Member
Joined
Aug 8, 2021
Messages
85
Likes
25
From the list on creative website those are the ones that work with SXFI:
  • HD280 PRO
  • HD569
  • HD598
  • HD650
  • HD800

What does it mean for me that the 560s is not on the list? Is one of the listed ones similar enough to be used? Or is there a "generic" profile that is worth using? If I can't effectively use SXFI then it makes the G6 a possibly better option than the GC7.
 
OP
Robbo99999

Robbo99999

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 23, 2020
Messages
3,146
Likes
2,671
Location
UK
From the list on creative website those are the ones that work with SXFI:
  • HD280 PRO
  • HD569
  • HD598
  • HD650
  • HD800

What does it mean for me that the 560s is not on the list? Is one of the listed ones similar enough to be used? Or is there a "generic" profile that is worth using? If I can't effectively use SXFI then it makes the G6 a possibly better option than the GC7.
I think they list compatible headhphones because they provide an EQ specific to that headphone to work alongside their 3D Virtual Surround processing. I don't think that's particularly required - you can use an Oratory EQ for the headphone at the same time that you have your Virtual Surround active whilst in-game. I can't really comment on the SXFI system as I've not tried it, but I do know that HD560s & SoundblasterX G6 is the best combination for me for virtual 7.1 surround sound out of the all the different surround options I've tried (which I listed earlier). Actually I've found a Diffuse Field EQ works best for virtual 7.1 surround sound gaming, but those EQ's don't really exist often in the wild for different headphones, it's one I've created myself using Oratory's measurements and the diffuse field target curve.
 

mysiak

Member
Joined
May 24, 2021
Messages
63
Likes
60
From the list on creative website those are the ones that work with SXFI:
  • HD280 PRO
  • HD569
  • HD598
  • HD650
  • HD800

What does it mean for me that the 560s is not on the list? Is one of the listed ones similar enough to be used? Or is there a "generic" profile that is worth using? If I can't effectively use SXFI then it makes the G6 a possibly better option than the GC7.
Headphones profiles in SXFI are supposed to provide better sound, I believe that they are just EQ settings for particular models. I personally find combination of generic SXFI profile + personal/modified Oratory EQ the most natural sounding. SXFI EQ profiles sound rubbish to me and they alter the sound way too much, but some people like them. There is no hurt in trying different profiles, you might find one which sounds good to you with your headphones. For all my headphones (including HD560s) I use generic profile, even if they have dedicated profile (Beyerdynamics, Koss porta pro, etc.).
 

shevalier

Member
Joined
Nov 21, 2021
Messages
5
Likes
1
From the list on creative website those are the ones that work with SXFI:
any subjectively even headphones, because HRTF is just a set of equalizers and delays. If the headphones are curved, then they by themselves will incorrectly position the sound source.
hrtfs-overview1.png

Picture taken from here:
 
Top Bottom