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Virtual 7.1 Surround Sound processing in Headphones

Galz

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I assume this diagram is the eq needed to simulate the effect relative to where they expect the headphone driver to be? Are they assuming all headphone drivers are positioned in the same way relative to the ear? How come there is no direction for which the eq is flat (sound coming from the same direction as the headphone driver)? Doesn't the "room" which is being simulated have a strong effect on the necessary eq curves, which would require serious technological improvement of game communicating with the surround sound simulation software to provide information about the environment?
 

shevalier

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is the eq needed to simulate the effect relative to where they expect the headphone driver to be?
not driver.
rear.jpg


This is frequency response "in ears" from white noise source (flat response) with this position (direction and altitude).
Headphone with subjective response, like this, always will move virtual sources back, even if the sound source is in front.

For proper HRTF need very flat subjective frequency response.
The difference from it is the direction to the virtual source.
 

Galz

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not driver.
View attachment 167134

This is frequency response "in ears" from white noise source (flat response) with this position (direction and altitude).
Headphone with subjective response, like this, always will move virtual sources back, even if the sound source is in front.

For proper HRTF need very flat subjective frequency response.
The difference from it is the direction to the virtual source.
Does this mean I need to pergorm some kind of equalization before applying surround effects to get the best effect?

I am still failing to find oroper comparisons between sbx and sxfi battle mode. Overall it seems like the reverb from basic sxfi would make it inferior to sbx. And with sbx being configurable I don't really understand if the sxfi head mapping provides a real benefit or not.

While on Amazon the gc7 is 20$ less than the g6, local shop has it for 173$ which is even cheaper than Amazon's GC7 after you add Israel import tax. In Eilat, which is vat free, it would cost 148.5$, hiw ever it is out of stock there with no plans to restock even if I order it. This includes a 16$ Black Friday discount applicable until end of month, although granted they have suchsales relatively frequently. It is usually rare to have the price with VAT here beat Amazon on products that offer free shipping.
In the end though, price differences are small enough so that I will order whatever provides the best surround, so I need to figure out soon about the Battle Mode sxfi vs sbx.
 
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Robbo99999

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Does this mean I need to pergorm some kind of equalization before applying surround effects to get the best effect?

I am still failing to find oroper comparisons between sbx and sxfi battle mode. Overall it seems like the reverb from basic sxfi would make it inferior to sbx. And with sbx being configurable I don't really understand if the sxfi head mapping provides a real benefit or not.

While on Amazon the gc7 is 20$ less than the g6, local shop has it for 173$ which is even cheaper than Amazon's GC7 after you add Israel import tax. In Eilat, which is vat free, it would cost 148.5$, hiw ever it is out of stock there with no plans to restock even if I order it. This includes a 16$ Black Friday discount applicable until end of month, although granted they have suchsales relatively frequently. It is usually rare to have the price with VAT here beat Amazon on products that offer free shipping.
In the end though, price differences are small enough so that I will order whatever provides the best surround, so I need to figure out soon about the Battle Mode sxfi vs sbx.
Surround sound on headphones works by changing the frequency response and volume (maybe some other parameters too) based on where the object making the sound is located in reference to a 360 degree arc around your head, so if your headphones have somekind of crazy frequency response then this could theoretically muddy the waters when it comes to the frequency response changes that are being applied by the virtual surround system. I would EQ your headphones to either Harman Curve or Diffuse Field, I find Diffuse Field works better for virtual surround gaming. Harman Curve EQ's offered by Oratory for instance.
 

Galz

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Is the eq just fixed per headphone model that I apply or do I need to somehow measure the specific unit?
 

shevalier

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Does this mean I need to pergorm some kind of equalization before applying surround effects to get the best effect?
Yes, but no one knows which one. Harman`s curve is about "natural sound", not "spatial sound"
I don't really understand if the sxfi head mapping provides a real benefit or not.
This demo sounds like a simple bass boost.
As far as I understand, it does not use sound objects with their coordinates, like X-Fi (in the era of Windows XP and direct sound), but only directions to the "supposed" 5.1 / 7.1 speakers
And fantasies, in the sense of algorithms.
 

shevalier

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it is better to take a headset from Creative with superXfi.
If you like it, you will like it.
If not, even with headphones from Creative itself, there is no one to blame. No amplifier, no card, no headphones, no wires.
 

Galz

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it is better to take a headset from Creative with superXfi.
If you like it, you will like it.
If not, even with headphones from Creative itself, there is no one to blame. No amplifier, no card, no headphones, no wires.

I'm trying to avoid spending money on experiments, else I would just buy everything and try it myself.

SXFI is not object-based, it's another algorithm for virtual 7.1, it still appears as a 7.1 card for all I know, like all other surround solutions. It supposedly tries to make it sound like speakers in a room, which for gaming is unfortunate as it adds room effects that shouldn't necessarily exist in the game environment. Battle mode is supposed to remove the echos and be better for games, but I couldn't find details on exactly what it does - Less reverb (supposedly yes)? Any difference in EQ? Anything else? Overall it seems like for gaming sbx is better than sxfi... But I'm not sure about sxfi battle mode.

I guess the future would be 100% positional audio, either done fully in-game, or passed with positional data from the game to the sound driver/hardware. But other than maybe select few games like Overwatch which supposedly uses atmos (though I haven't had the chance to test if it's really fully directional including up/down directions, or just uses the atmos for headphones algorithms to simulate 7.1), we don't' really have that option nowadays. With some proper positional format the sky is the limit, because effects like reverb, distance etc can also be forwarded for the sound driver/hardware to handle, rather than every game having to apply its own algorithms (for example, to make outdoors sound like outdoors and indoors sound like indoors).
 
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mysiak

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This demo sounds like a simple bass boost.
You can't evaluate effects of SXFI from a random youtube video, it uses personalized HRTF/PRTF profile so unless you happen to have the very same profile as the person who took the video, it will sound wrong. The same happens when one doesn't follow instructions.

SXFI is not object-based, it's another algorithm for virtual 7.1, it still appears as a 7.1 card for all I know, like all other surround solutions. It supposedly tries to make it sound like speakers in a room, which for gaming is unfortunate as it adds room effects that shouldn't necessarily exist in the game environment. Battle mode is supposed to remove the echos and be better for games, but I couldn't find details on exactly what it does - Less reverb (supposedly yes)? Any difference in EQ? Anything else? Overall it seems like for gaming sbx is better than sxfi... But I'm not sure about sxfi battle mode.
I don't play competitive games, but I found SXFI battle mode to be sounding really weird so I switched it on only for a couple of minutes and then nevery tried it again. It reminded me too much of SBX scout mode, which I hated. But I will try it again so I have a fresh memory to be able to describe its effects better. :)
 

Galz

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At least I could compare battle mode vs no battle mode. But I mean I can't even find people's opinions on the matter.
If it has filters/compressions like scout mode then I agree that's a bit useless.

As for the DACs, there was a bug on Amazon tax calculation so I can actually get the G6 locally or the GC7 from amazon for basically the same price.

As for headphones, the HD560s are 38$ more locally compared to Amazon, but with 2 year official warranty. Not sure if the warranty is worth it.
 
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mysiak

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At least I could compare battle mode vs no battle mode. But I mean I can't even find people's opinions on the matter.
If it has filters/compressions like scout mode then I agree that's a bit useless.

As for the DACs, there was a bug on Amazon tax calculation so I can actually get the G6 locally or the GC7 from amazon for basically the same price.

As for headphones, the HD560s are 38$ more locally compared to Amazon, but with 2 year official warranty. Not sure if the warranty is worth it.
You can find opinions on SXFI and Battle mode (for example in Creative sub on Reddit), but they vary a lot. I'm afraid that SXFI is so personal topic that you will have to try it yourself (just make sure that pictures for your profile will be taken by someone else, I couldn't take them properly on my own). I was in a similar position as you, deciding between G6 and GC7 and at the end I ended up with GC7 which is far superior for my use case and it is able to drive HD560s perfectly fine. I don't regret the purchase at all. If you buy G6, you will just keep wondering how SXFI sounds.. :)
 

kyle_neuron

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Surround sound on headphones works by changing the frequency response and volume (maybe some other parameters too) based on where the object making the sound is located in reference to a 360 degree arc around your head, so if your headphones have somekind of crazy frequency response then this could theoretically muddy the waters when it comes to the frequency response changes that are being applied by the virtual surround system. I would EQ your headphones to either Harman Curve or Diffuse Field, I find Diffuse Field works better for virtual surround gaming. Harman Curve EQ's offered by Oratory for instance.
Lots of ‘surround emulation’ or 5.1 / 7.1 modes for headphones are using vector-based amplitude panning, with a ‘snowman’ head model for some shadowing effects like inter-aural time difference.

The reason is that it’s very computationally efficient, and with a touch of light ‘room reverb’ the effect can be quite good. Consider that our threshold of detection can be quite large, up to 30 degrees for some stimulus.

High-order Ambisonics models are more accurate, and that’s what some of the modern headphones are using, based on binaural input data and spherical harmonic decomposition. It is much better for complex placement of multiple sources, and transitioning between ‘areas’ with their own environmental factors. The issue with that method is the extra horsepower needed, along with the increased margin of error.

Vertical imaging is the hardest thing to get right, especially using a generic or non-personalised HRTF. The algorithmically generated HRTFs, like Creative, Sony and Genelec appear to do a pretty good job, but it’s ‘semi-personalised’ as they're likely using a neural network to iterate through many principle component analysis methods relatively quickly to find the best fit.

As ever, there are diminishing returns and I question whether a £500 fee for a custom HRTF made from a video is really worth it. I did try to make my own from a photogrammetry mesh of my head and ear, but my phone's front camera and IR blaster lacks the resolution to make it worthwhile. If anyone has access to a laser scanner though, the tool I tried is very good:

Unilateral (single-sided) hearing loss really plays havoc with it too. For example, I only have a small magnitude offset in my right ear, and a tiny bit of tinnitus, but most 'binaural' experiments I've done show a significant vertical shift (most sounds feel to be above me) and severe front-back confusion on top.

You can play with hearing loss and placement of sources, with custom HRTF support from SOFA files using the 3D Tune-In Toolkit; it comes with VST plugins and a standalone app in the install folder. Free and open source:
 
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Robbo99999

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Lots of ‘surround emulation’ or 5.1 / 7.1 modes for headphones are using vector-based amplitude panning, with a ‘snowman’ head model for some shadowing effects like inter-aural time difference.

The reason is that it’s very computationally efficient, and with a touch of light ‘room reverb’ the effect can be quite good. Consider that our threshold of detection can be quite large, up to 30 degrees for some stimulus.

High-order Ambisonics models are more accurate, and that’s what some of the modern headphones are using, based on binaural input data and spherical harmonic decomposition. It is much better for complex placement of multiple sources, and transitioning between ‘areas’ with their own environmental factors. The issue with that method is the extra horsepower needed, along with the increased margin of error.

Vertical imaging is the hardest thing to get right, especially using a generic or non-personalised HRTF. The algorithmically generated HRTFs, like Creative, Sony and Genelec appear to do a pretty good job, but it’s ‘semi-personalised’ as they're likely using a neural network to iterate through many principle component analysis methods relatively quickly to find the best fit.

As ever, there are diminishing returns and I question whether a £500 fee for a custom HRTF made from a video is really worth it. I did try to make my own from a photogrammetry mesh of my head and ear, but my phone's front camera and IR blaster lacks the resolution to make it worthwhile. If anyone has access to a laser scanner though, the tool I tried is very good:

Unilateral (single-sided) hearing loss really plays havoc with it too. For example, I only have a small magnitude offset in my right ear, and a tiny bit of tinnitus, but most 'binaural' experiments I've done show a significant vertical shift (most sounds feel to be above me) and severe front-back confusion on top.

You can play with hearing loss and placement of sources, with custom HRTF support from SOFA files using the 3D Tune-In Toolkit; it comes with VST plugins and a standalone app in the install folder. Free and open source:
Well that's quite interesting that stuff, how do you know what models different companies are using? (any links at all)

You mention hearing imbalance between ears causing problems with virtual 7.1 - I've not had my ears measured but I think my right ear doesn't hear quite as well as my left, yet virtual 7.1 surround with SoundblasterX works very well in terms of identifying front & back for me.

I'll have to have a look at your last link another time as it seems quite complicated - the 3DTI Toolkit.
EDIT: and your last link there, can you use that practically in games for instance or is just a demonstration thing?
 
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Galz

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You can find opinions on SXFI and Battle mode (for example in Creative sub on Reddit), but they vary a lot. I'm afraid that SXFI is so personal topic that you will have to try it yourself (just make sure that pictures for your profile will be taken by someone else, I couldn't take them properly on my own). I was in a similar position as you, deciding between G6 and GC7 and at the end I ended up with GC7 which is far superior for my use case and it is able to drive HD560s perfectly fine. I don't regret the purchase at all. If you buy G6, you will just keep wondering how SXFI sounds.. :)

I play Arma 3, so while not competitive, I do play against others and being able to hear where the fire is coming from is extremely important, it's an open world so the shooter can be anywhere, you gotta know where to look. Even against AI it's important.
If I get the GC7 I'll wonder how much better would the G6 sound, and if I get the G6 I'll wonder how SXFI would sound... But seems that while SXFI sounds nice to many, for accurate positioning it seems to add too much reverb for most. The reddit doesn't have much about battle mode, it seems to new, and there is no documentation/measurement about what exactly does it do.

Does creative even support height information? I thought it was only 7.1?

Most 7.1 surround demos I've seen seemed sufficiently effective. But if I buy a new one, I want to buy the best one that fits the budget, as the Logitech G35 works fine but it's extremely old and newer ones are probably much better.

In the above youtube video there seems to be a major EQ difference between the SXFI on/off that it makes it hard to notice anything else, and no battle mode testing. Overall SXFI seems to hurt sound quality significantly (not talking about the surround, just the frequency response). The video doesn't do a very good job in demonstrating surround capability as they just run around rather than rotate around to demonstrate how the same sound would play when it's in different directions.
 

mysiak

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I play Arma 3, so while not competitive, I do play against others and being able to hear where the fire is coming from is extremely important, it's an open world so the shooter can be anywhere, you gotta know where to look. Even against AI it's important.
If I get the GC7 I'll wonder how much better would the G6 sound, and if I get the G6 I'll wonder how SXFI would sound... But seems that while SXFI sounds nice to many, for accurate positioning it seems to add too much reverb for most. The reddit doesn't have much about battle mode, it seems to new, and there is no documentation/measurement about what exactly does it do.

Does creative even support height information? I thought it was only 7.1?

Most 7.1 surround demos I've seen seemed sufficiently effective. But if I buy a new one, I want to buy the best one that fits the budget, as the Logitech G35 works fine but it's extremely old and newer ones are probably much better.

In the above youtube video there seems to be a major EQ difference between the SXFI on/off that it makes it hard to notice anything else, and no battle mode testing. Overall SXFI seems to hurt sound quality significantly (not talking about the surround, just the frequency response). The video doesn't do a very good job in demonstrating surround capability as they just run around rather than rotate around to demonstrate how the same sound would play when it's in different directions.
I am quite sure that you wouldn't be able to tell the difference in sound quality between G6 and GC7, especially with HD560s. Also forget about the video "demonstrating" SXFI, it's the same idea as "demonstrating" how different headphones or speakers sound over Youtube.

I just tried SXFI vs SXFI battle mode - with SXFI I hear sounds coming from all around my head. For example pure left channel is heard as if there was a speaker in front of me on the left side, so also with my right ear (as in reality with 7.1 setup). With SXFI battle mode the sound comes from much closer distance and more precise location. It doesn't sound natural at all, but it probably helps to pinpoint where the sound came from. Battle mode is advertised for FPS games and I believe that it works there (I don't play FPS games so can't advise).

Anyway, good luck with your purchase, you seem to be overthinking it a little.. :)
 

Galz

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I am quite sure that you wouldn't be able to tell the difference in sound quality between G6 and GC7, especially with HD560s. Also forget about the video "demonstrating" SXFI, it's the same idea as "demonstrating" how different headphones or speakers sound over Youtube.
I'm not sure it can be considered the same. After all you record the headphone output and play it on other headphones. So the conversions might lose some quality but overall the effect of the filters should remain.

Is the SBX on GC7 identical to the G6? It seems like it is, but seen some posts claiming otherwise.

.
This video is nice, but the SXFI was recorded with more noise so it's hard to tell what is reverb and what is noise, and it sounds really bad. SBX 50 sounds nice while SBX 100 sounds like front, surround and rear surround are all near the rear surround. DTS spacious seems to have excessive reverb.

Sounds like with the manual configuration SBX would be the most flexible, and at least in the demo video it sounded rather clean. Unless SXFI automatic personalization works better and the reverb won't ruin the experience...

Overall I trust the game to make the sound sound at the correct distance (I think it's the game's responsibility) with the correct amount of reverb, and the headphones shouldn't add anything to this effect. Or am I wrong?
 
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mysiak

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I'm not sure it can be considered the same. After all you record the headphone output and play it on other headphones. So the conversions might lose some quality but overall the effect of the filters should remain.

Is the SBX on GC7 identical to the G6? It seems like it is, but seen some posts claiming otherwise.

This video is nice, but the SXFI was recorded with more noise so it's hard to tell what is reverb and what is noise, and it sounds really bad. SBX 50 sounds nice while SBX 100 sounds like front, surround and rear surround are all near the rear surround. DTS spacious seems to have excessive reverb.

Sounds like with the manual configuration SBX would be the most flexible, and at least in the demo video it sounded rather clean. Unless SXFI automatic personalization works better and the reverb won't ruin the experience...

Overall I trust the game to make the sound sound at the correct distance (I think it's the game's responsibility) with the correct amount of reverb, and the headphones shouldn't add anything to this effect. Or am I wrong?
Again, SXFI is PERSONALIZED solution, unique to everyone (to some extent). If I record my profile and put it on Youtube, it will sound natural to me (and maybe a few other people), but rubish to anyone else. SXFI simulates 7.1 speaker setup in a room, SBX virtualizes 7.1 sound in headphones. Also many hatefull comments were based on the first version, SXFI v2 is having less reverb (which some still don't like). As for which one you will like better is not possible to tell unless you try it.

P.S. most of the other headphones virtualization methods like Dolby, DTS, SBX, etc. can be compared from a video as these are generic algorithms and will be the same for everyone.
 

Galz

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Yes I understand the sense of direction is personal, however I doubt the amount of reverb is personal. SBX is supposedly also personalized with the parameter 0-100, isn't it? From videos it seems to a make a noticeable difference to perceived virtual speaker positions.
Basically, for games we don't actually want that "speaker simulation". We want a simulation of the environment in which we are located in the game, which the game engine is mostly responsible for, with the headphones just being responsible for the directions when the game outputs in 7.1. At least in theory that's how I understand it... But then again on the marketing side they market the SXFI as a gaming feature...

On reddit I saw someone claiming the quality on the G6 is noticeably better. God knows if I would actually notice the difference between that and the GC7, though...
 

mysiak

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Yes I understand the sense of direction is personal, however I doubt the amount of reverb is personal. SBX is supposedly also personalized with the parameter 0-100, isn't it? From videos it seems to a make a noticeable difference to perceived virtual speaker positions.
Basically, for games we don't actually want that "speaker simulation". We want a simulation of the environment in which we are located in the game, which the game engine is mostly responsible for, with the headphones just being responsible for the directions when the game outputs in 7.1. At least in theory that's how I understand it... But then again on the marketing side they market the SXFI as a gaming feature...

On reddit I saw someone claiming the quality on the G6 is noticeably better. God knows if I would actually notice the difference between that and the GC7, though...
SXFI on the video is either first generation of the algorithm, or the amount of reverb is caused by non-compatible profile. I certainly don't hear so much reverb with my personal profile and second gen SXFI. The reverb is still there, but I guess that it's inevitable for a "speakers in a room" simulation. That being said, I would appreciate if I could choose a smaller "room size" to have even less reverb.

SBX is customizable, but not personalized. It is more transparent effect with less convincing surround simulation. Directional clues are good though.

On reddit you can find claims that some people hear a difference between two headphones cables, so..yeah, they surely can "hear" a difference between G6 and GC7 too, like they can "hear" a difference when using direct mode etc.. :)
 

shevalier

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it uses personalized HRTF/PRTF profile
It is impossible to determine the direction to a source of frequency less than 100Hz.
Therefore, it is very strange that a personalized profile is so willing on bass boost.
3D Tune-In Toolkit
@kyle_neuron has created a great video for testing audio positioning.
sources move in the same plane (at ear height) back and forth.
Neither up nor down.
If you hear displacement vertically on your headphones, or from your head backwards, then your headphones + head will not create the correct sound source positioning .
You need to pick up other headphones.
algorithms will only give better / worse results. If there is a big error in positioning, algorithms will not save you.
 
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