This can also vary from game to game. Just look at the painstakingly crafted sound design Overwatch, where each step and vocal sign convey key information to the player. Or how Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice uses binaural sound recording techniques to reproduce the effects of psychosis, with voices in Senu’s head as if whispering just above you. Adding filters that adjust the game’s sound mix – at least without the influence of the game’s developer – could do much harm to the game’s design intent.
Therefore, after years of testing headphones and experimenting with different games, I generally don’t recommend the virtual surround sound feature built into gaming headphones. But if you’re still interested in technology, here are some shopping tips while filtering out noise.
First, remember that virtual surround is an improvement, not an ability to create or break — so give it priority accordingly. There are many other things that go into good gaming headphones, such as comfort, reliable wireless connectivity, and overall sound quality (for standard stereo signals). All of this is key to a good experience and there’s no point in compromising with those because of the “nice to have” extra like virtual surround.
Then consider software solutions that are not tied to specific headphones. Some games, like Overwatch i Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, have their own free surround features in the appropriate settings, which are often better than those that come with gaming headphones. Even if the game doesn’t have a “virtual surround” option, it can allow you to choose between speakers and headphones, which can change the way sound is presented.
In addition, Xbox and PC users can try the built-in Windows Sonic surround feature, which is free and works with any game. You can also download Dolby Access Dolby Atmos headphone test application and DTS sound without connection for DTS headphones: X, two other virtual surround algorithms that work with Windows surround sound throughout the system. They work with any game, but some games come with built-in support for position data that will provide more accurate results. In my testing, both Dolby and DTS sound much better than your typical “7.1” gaming headphones. The DTS even has some configuration options to customize their algorithm to your liking and the specific set of headphones you use — whether it’s toys or a pair of traditional earplugs. Dolby and DTS cost $ 15 and $ 20, respectively, but you can try their free trial before you buy.
If you’re playing on a PS5, you can’t use Dolby or DTS, but Sony has its own 3D audio system that you can configure in the sound settings.
None of this means you need to to avoid headphones with a built-in virtual environment. This feature usually comes standard on mid-range and high-end headphones, and many of them are still worth the money compared to other merits. I love it too HyperX Cloud Flight S due to its convenience, ease of use and wireless charging – I simply omit the surround function most of the time (although I occasionally play with Dolby Atmos). And I often play on my computer wired audiophile headphones since I don’t need a wireless connection – and they provide better sound quality than any other gaming headset.
Of course, your ears are different from mine, which are different from your favorite hardware reviewers, so no one can tell you what sounds best to you. It largely depends on how well your ear responds to that specific HRTF algorithm and how the sound of a particular game works with it. I would just warn you not to pay extra for the addition of USB surround headphones or to pay extra only for headphones because has that trait. Instead, get headphones that best suit your needs. If they contain a virtual surround function, feel free to try it out — but compare it to the software options, along with the standard two-channel mix. That way, when you finally decide what to use, you’ll be sure that it’s actually an improvement – not an echo that the marketing has planted.
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