Hi, I'm fairly new to audio. I am planning on buying a 5.1 gaming headset. The motherboard I'm getting has 8 channel audio. I'm wondering if I would need an external sound card to use the headset. I want to get the full 5.1 surround.
I've been looking into getting a 5.1 headset for a few days now and I've decided, in the end, to go with stereo instead.
From what I've read, sound ultimately reaches your eardrums after being channeled and altered by the pinnae of your ears. Your brain then processes this information based on timings (and probably some other factors). Like this, how sound reaches your ears doesn't matter as much as how sound reaches your eardrums whether you're using 5.1 or stereo headphones/headsets.
While 5.1 headsets have 3-4 drivers in them, there's a good chance that each driver is of lesser quality than those you would find in similarly priced stereo headsets. So, you'll get lesser sound quality for 5.1 headsets than for stereo ones for the same price which means you might lose some details with 5.1 (though it's doubtful you'll be listening for such details in a firefight).
I found a series of recordings that convinced me that stereo headphones/earphones/headsets were actually very good at conveying 3D sound: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5G3HUiscW4 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tj9 [...] re=related
I tried both recordings off my MP3 Player using $3 in-ear earphones and was amazed at the results. The X-Fi series sound cards are supposedly very good at emulating 3D sound, so I what I would recommend is that you invest in a decent sound card (which is a good investment for pretty much any sound system you can get your hands on) and try them out with what ever you're using right now (assuming you currently have a set of earphone/headphone/headset) and you just might be amazed. Save up for a good headphones and get them when money allows.
If you absolutely have to get a 5.1 headset, avoid any of the 'cheap' ones (i.e. <$90) because, overall, they lack in durability. From the all the reviews I've read, the barracudas are probably the best you can get around that price (and they sound better than the medusas) but there have been tons of complaints about the headsets breaking after only a few months (or days even) of gentle use. Save up and get Tritton AX51 Pro. Very durable and comparable, though probably better, sound quality than the barracudas.