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Virtual 7.1 Surround Sound processing in Headphones

Luke Lemke

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For me Virtual 7.1 Surround works very well, but it does heavily depend on which technology you choose to use, for instance so far it's only really SBX from Creative that works well for me. What you'd want to do is trial some different options and see which technologies produce the best surround positioning. In fact you can do that already by wearing your headphones and just listening to the files in the following post:
You'd want to make sure you have your headphone sound settings just setup in stereo in order to test out those different audio files, because the surround sound effects have already been baked into those files, so you literally have to play them in stereo rather than placing any additional surround sound processing on top. So you'd choose the technology that works best for you out of those demo files. As you listen to the files close your eyes and try to imagine where you here the sound coming from in relation to your head as each speaker position is tested - you'd choose the one that positions the 7 surround speakers most accurately. In terms of choosing a headphone, I know you have the K701, and that should make a good gaming headphone based on my experience with my K702, as they're almost the same headphone.......so try it with your K701. (You can also run a K701 Crinacle EQ at the same time if you like (if you can find one) or alternatively use Oratory's K702 EQ because K701 & K702 are very similar, if you want to even out the frequency response to Harman)
Thanks a lot, those test files are really nice. I've just got a HD800s a few weeks ago, I've tested the files with them.

My favorites samples were:

1641170462698.png


Which software should I download/purchase to achieve these results for gaming? I'm assuming it would be the software below + APO Equalizer.

Also, have you ever tried listening to 5.1 music albums with this technology? I own several DTS 5.1 CD's that I listen with my home theater. I was wondering if one could listen to these albums with a headphone and get the surround effect.
 
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Robbo99999

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Thanks

Thanks a lot, those test files are really nice. I've just got a HD800s a few weeks ago, I've tested the files with them.

My favorites samples were:

View attachment 176308

Which software should I download/purchase to achieve these results for gaming? I'm assuming it would be the software below + APO Equalizer.

Also, have you ever tried listening to 5.1 music albums with this technology? I own several DTS 5.1 CD's that I listen with my home theater. I was wondering if one could listen to these albums with a headphone and get the surround effect.
It looks like your preference is very close to mine. I too find SBX to be the best solution, and for me I prefer the 33 version. Ooo, and HD800s you have, well that's great! Should be a very good gaming headphone given their soundstage potential. Regarding from where you go from here, I suppose you could emulate SBX using HeSuVi, but I'm not not sure if there are any limitations with that with regard to compatibility with some games or CPU usage, etc......of course the SBX technology is a Creative Soundblaster technology, so to get the unemulated version then you'd buy something like the SoundblasterX G6 which is a USB soundcard. Unfortunately I don't know enough about HeSuVi to give you pointers on how to use it....you'll have to weigh up the positives negatives of using HeSuVi vs purchasing a Soundblaster card. I'm sure there's some people who have participated in this thread already that could fill you in on HeSuVi.

Regarding 5.1 music albumns, I've never tried listening to those, but theoretically that would work with Virtual Surround technology. For instance, it's not a trick, these Soundblaster cards are seen as real 7.1 channel cards so it does take each of the channels from the source to process down into virtual surround for your headphones. (You can also set the Soundblaster as 5.1, which I guess you'd do if you were listening to 5.1 music). You could also use virtual surround for movie watching, but I've not really done that, but if it works as well as it does in games, then it should be good.
 

Galz

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I returned the GC7 as I couldn't get good sound from SXFI. It gave good surround directions but horrible sound quality (using generic headphones with HD560S). The G6 is very cheap on Amazon now, 133.2$, so if anyone considered it now might be a good time (although price might reduce further, as they reduced it a few times already, but you never know with Amazon).
I also tried again with my G35 to turn surround on/off just to see how much the processing messes up the sound, and while direction-wise it was comparable to SBX surround, it did add unnecessary reverb that messes up the sound quality, although much less than SXFI. Haven't noticed it before as the G35 are in both modes significantly worse quality and power than the HD560S so I wasn't even testing what their processing does to the audio quality. With Razer THX the sound quality was hurt pretty badly as well. With Atmos/Sonic it's difficult to test as it seems like they disable the effect automatically for stereo sources. With SBX (surround set to 33) the sound quality hit for stereo content was relatively minor (I would still turn it off for pure mono/stereo source), which means it doesn't mess up the sound too much, while still giving excellent directional queues (better than Atmos/Sonic/THX, and about as good as the G35).

As for the values, I mostly tested the rear channels, they sound the most "from behind" with the 33 setting. Too low and too high values make the rear sounds too much at the sides, and at extreme values even the fronts go too much to the sides. The fronts might sound slightly better with 25, but I'm not sure, and in any case the difference in the rears is more noticeable. Other surround solutions often failed for me when testing pure frontal sound vs pure rear sound (with atmos and sonic the difference is there very small, while with the G35 and SBX it was more obvious even for sounds I haven't heard before).

Arma 3 is a great platform for testing surround sound, as there is a mission editor and you can set up whatever scenario you want, and you have a compass to tell the exact direction, as well as scripting commands that can rotate your character to a random direction. You can use a different sound source every time so that you can test with sounds you haven't heard previously, as once you hear a specific sound with a virtualization system from front and rear, the next time you hear it you'll have an easier time to tell whether it's front or rear, so a more difficult test is to point the direction of a sound you haven't heard before.
 
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Robbo99999

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I returned the GC7 as I couldn't get good sound from SXFI. It gave good surround directions but horrible sound quality (using generic headphones with HD560S). The G6 is very cheap on Amazon now, 133.2$, so if anyone considered it now might be a good time (although price might reduce further, as they reduced it a few times already, but you never know with Amazon).
I also tried again with my G35 to turn surround on/off just to see how much the processing messes up the sound, and while direction-wise it was comparable to SBX surround, it did add unnecessary reverb that messes up the sound quality, although much less than SXFI. Haven't noticed it before as the G35 are in both modes significantly worse quality and power than the HD560S so I wasn't even testing what their processing does to the audio quality. With Razer THX the sound quality was hurt pretty badly as well. With Atmos/Sonic it's difficult to test as it seems like they disable the effect automatically for stereo sources. With SBX (surround set to 33) the sound quality hit for stereo content was relatively minor (I would still turn it off for pure mono/stereo source), which means it doesn't mess up the sound too much, while still giving excellent directional queues (better than Atmos/Sonic/THX, and about as good as the G35).

As for the values, I mostly tested the rear channels, they sound the most "from behind" with the 33 setting. Too low and too high values make the rear sounds too much at the sides, and at extreme values even the fronts go too much to the sides. The fronts might sound slightly better with 25, but I'm not sure, and in any case the difference in the rears is more noticeable. Other surround solutions often failed for me when testing pure frontal sound vs pure rear sound (with atmos and sonic the difference is there very small, while with the G35 and SBX it was more obvious even for sounds I haven't heard before).

Arma 3 is a great platform for testing surround sound, as there is a mission editor and you can set up whatever scenario you want, and you have a compass to tell the exact direction, as well as scripting commands that can rotate your character to a random direction. You can use a different sound source every time so that you can test with sounds you haven't heard previously, as once you hear a specific sound with a virtualization system from front and rear, the next time you hear it you'll have an easier time to tell whether it's front or rear, so a more difficult test is to point the direction of a sound you haven't heard before.
It does seem like a lot of us prefer the Creative SBX Virtual Surround vs other formats that we've tried, and I agree it doesn't degrade the sound quality much, up to 33 SBX anyway.
 

Sycraft

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It does seem like a lot of us prefer the Creative SBX Virtual Surround vs other formats that we've tried, and I agree it doesn't degrade the sound quality much, up to 33 SBX anyway.
I'm guessing because it doesn't really take the sound out of your head and still sounds like headphones. If you are someone coming from phones as the "right" way to listen to sound I can see what it would be something you'd like. Kinda the opposite for me, speakers are the "right" way to listen and so I want something that takes it out of my head.
 
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Robbo99999

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I'm guessing because it doesn't really take the sound out of your head and still sounds like headphones. If you are someone coming from phones as the "right" way to listen to sound I can see what it would be something you'd like. Kinda the opposite for me, speakers are the "right" way to listen and so I want something that takes it out of my head.
I would never use SBX Virtual Surround for music listening, I'm referring to use in mostly fps gaming where you enable the SBX 7.1 virtual surround sound. During fps gaming it certainly creates an "out of the head" experience where you can distinguish sounds in front of you from behind you, and of course differing depth created by the game modulating the volume based on the distance of the sound from you and also if physical structures are occluding the sound, etc. So certainly Creative SBX Virtual Surround Sound in gaming is an "out of your head" experience for me at least - so doesn't "sound like headphones", just sounds like "being in the world".
 

Sycraft

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I would never use SBX Virtual Surround for music listening, I'm referring to use in mostly fps gaming where you enable the SBX 7.1 virtual surround sound. During fps gaming it certainly creates an "out of the head" experience where you can distinguish sounds in front of you from behind you, and of course differing depth created by the game modulating the volume based on the distance of the sound from you and also if physical structures are occluding the sound, etc. So certainly Creative SBX Virtual Surround Sound in gaming is an "out of your head" experience for me at least - so doesn't "sound like headphones", just sounds like "being in the world".
I find it very different. When I tried it, the effect was not great. It gave a little bit of a surround effect, but didn't at all move it out of your head and make it sound like speakers. Hence why I use different software that does and, while not quite 100% accurate, is pretty close to being able to fool me in to thinking I'm listening on my speakers.
 
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Robbo99999

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I find it very different. When I tried it, the effect was not great. It gave a little bit of a surround effect, but didn't at all move it out of your head and make it sound like speakers. Hence why I use different software that does and, while not quite 100% accurate, is pretty close to being able to fool me in to thinking I'm listening on my speakers.
That's fine, it didn't work for you then. But to be clear, I'm only talking about SBX usage for games rather than music....I'm only emphasising that fact because you keep bringing up "listening on speakers" and when you're gaming it's not about anything sounding like speakers or headphones, it instead is hopefully an "out of your head" experience where the game sounds appear that they are coming from all around you, in front & behind and with depth forward and behind you and to the sides of course.....it's just nothing like music listening. And for me it's Creative SBX Virtual Surround that works the best for that.
 

Galz

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It shouldn't sound like speakers. It should sound like you are in the game world. I think it's more up to the game to modify the sounds so that they sound as if you are there, and your surround virtualization should just take care of the directions. SBX seems to do that best. Atmos and Sonic had issues with rear sounds. THX and to a lesser degree the G35 modify the sound too much beyond what is necessary for correct direction (although in the G35 it wasn't too bad and directions were about as good as SBX). SXFI gave good directions as well, but royally messed up the sound for me even with battle mode, although some say it is much better with officially supported headphones, or just depends on luck of how well the algorithm works for your ears.

Speakers have a lot of benefits and a lot of limitations. In most rooms (and even more so when gaming on a desktop) you won't get accurate directions with speakers. You will (if set up properly) get better audio quality in terms of frequency response. For games I find the directions more important.

When listening to mono/stereo source, I find it sounds best without messing with the target curve beyond just the Harman target. Even the relatively minor EQ change of SBX to move the stereo sounds to the "front", while making it sound more "from the front" also make it sound worse, and not surprisingly because there is probably a reason the Harman curve is used and not what SBX (or any other surround virtualization) does.

While I probably didn't experience SXFI properly because it was working really bad for me, I still think just trying to simulate speakers isn't what you want for neither gaming nor stereo, and probably also not what most would want for anything else, either.

Arma 3 is an open world game for which SBX 33 worked very well. Before returning the GC7 I played through the whole "Contact" campaign which I got on a Steam sale, and the sound was great, and whenever I heard something that wasn't in front of me, I could turn around and see that it came from the correct direction. SXFI was usable but didn't sound anywhere nearly as good.
 

phoenixdogfan

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Just an update on my progress with the A16 System. I did complete a 12.1.10 system using the Metas and SB2000 in my living room. Unfortunately, I screwed up the height channels which were on elevated stands and angled down using tie down bungee straps. Those straps vibrated and wrecked the 6 of the 10 height channels. I substituted the height channels from my first original LS50's, and now it sounds great. I will eventually re-do with the Metas.

But the really big news was I had an opportunity to have a bespoke PRIR made in a studio. 3D Soundshop made me a custom, in person, bespoke, 24 channel PRIR of Dutch & Dutch 8C's, and that one is absolutely phenomenal. It has become my daily driver. :cool: And yeah it sounds just that good--as good as what it sounded like in the studio.

Now I'm shopping for OLEDs, because I no longer see a path to improve upon what I'm hearing.

3D Soundshop is selling the universal version of this PRIR, and everyone who bought it loves it, but my my bespoke version is the unicorn.
 
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