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Need clarification/help on surround sound emulation for gamer headset

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May 14, 2013 5:02:05 AM

Greetings.

I need a headset for both gaming and movie/music for my home rig. I want it to have surround sound, meaning that i can discern where the sound is coming from in games, or can watch surround sound movies and hear stuff flying around.

Looking at gaming headset market, I found there are two solutions: true surround and virtual (emulated) surround. True surround is where they pack several drivers into each ear, and virtual is when its the same headset as your everyday earphones - one driver per ear - but it comes with a usb audio card that mixes the sounds, adding a distortion that tricks your mind to think the sound is coming from some direction.

I read product specifications, marketing stuff, read reviews, many of them, and came to a conclusion: basically, you cannot really achieve the true surround sound by putting several drivers into the headset's ear, because you need the sound to come from some distance in order for it to be percieved as such, you need it to reflect around your ear before entering, but you cannot achieve that with the size of your headset's ears, because drivers are located too close. So, you get a "somewhat" surround effect but no true surround. On the other hand, virtual surround tries to do this work (usually done by your ear) for you and therefore is pretty effective at tricking you into percieveing sound as coming from an exact direction. Also, those "multiple drivers per ear" headsets usually have way lower sound quality when compared to normal stereo headsets (one big driver per ear). So it would seem that I just need to pick myself a virtual surround headset (Corsair 1500, Razer Megadolon, Sound Blaster 3D Sigma, Senheiser PC 333 etc) and be happy. However, there is a problem with it.

And here is the question.

Most of those virtual surround headsets are just basically just a headset (with two 3.5 connectors - for headset and for mic) plus a USB audio card to plug those connectors in. So, that audio card does the mixing for you, and then it's just a simple headset plugged into it. But if it is so, why do I need the headset itself? Usually gamer headsets have lower sound quality than dedicated headphones, and I already have some quality headphones I'm satisfied with (Denon AH-D1001), so why cannot I just plug them into that USB audio card?... Can I?

Basically, my question is, if I'm going for a virtual surround headset, do I just need an audiocard that will mix 5.1/7.1 signal into 2.0 signal and then I could just use headphones of my preference? Or do I have to buy a "gamer virtual surround sound headset"? I mean, does the headset itself (which is just a stereo headset by the looks of the connectors it has) differ in some specific way from any other headset, or even the same looking headset with same stats that has no virtual surround USB audio card bundled to it? (for example, Seinheiser PC 333 vs Seinheiser PC 330)

Is there maybe an audiocard I can use, or a device, or software that would just do this mixing for me, and I'd be able to use my Denon headphones and have the virtual surround sound I need?

Thanks!
May 14, 2013 6:40:44 AM

Well yeah, I basically read about it and there seems to be several solutions:
- Dolby Headphone
- DTS NEO PC
- Creative CMSS3D
- Other stuff like Rapture3D etc

So, anyone has knowledge on those? I've read about DTS Heaphone X which is supposedly very good at virtual surround, but it seems to be just a demonstration and aimed at mobile devices, not audio cards. Some people say Dolby Headphone is not very convincing and lacking, others say it's fine.

I'm looking at ASUS Xonar DX right now, supports Dolby Headphone, but maybe there's better solution?
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