I want real 5.1 sound in my games, what should I buy?

WOM, HD 457’s are normal stereo headphones.

Hanzi’s query is in regards to headphones like the Zalman that provide 3d spatialization from a 5.1 sound source. I only know of the Zalman and the Sony.

The Zalman, for example, has three headphone jacks that you plug into your soundcard’s 5.1 output. The headphones sound is mixed into six-different drivers (3 drivers per ear) to recreate a mini “home-theatre speaker” environment around your ears. These headphones are about $50.

The Sony MDR DS-5000 has an external base unit that converts the 5.1 signal into a bi-aural signal that your brain will decode back into surround. You can use their wireless headphones, or you can plug in your own into the base. This unit costs about $500.

Hmmm. I have one of these Sony’s in my living room. My dad must have bought it before he went on his trip. Let me find an optical cable and check it out (he’s apparently only using it for analog sources). Dammit. Now I gotta drive to Fry’s.

Okay. Verdict:

The Sony dp-if5100 digital surround processor is useless for computer games. The optical out of a sound card only puts out a stereo signal for games.

In basic terms, this is because games put out uncompressed audio streams. There’s not enough bandwidth to transfer 6 channels of uncompressed sound. Optical out can transfer compressed AC3 streams from DVDs to the surround decoder, but this doesn’t help us gamers.

Even for DVD playback, though, it still sucks. The center channel is full of echo artifacts that make voices sound bad. The separation between front and rear channels is also poor. Although rear center is easily distinguishable from front center, front left and rear left both sound confusingly similar. (I have an AC3 sound stream that takes each speaker through its paces)

From what I read, the Zalman is better than nothing, but the drivers are too close together to really separate the sound channels. Haven’t tried it myself, though.

If anyone has a surround headphones for gaming solution that works, please post.

Most A-list titles ship with 5.1 support. A much smaller subset supports 6.1. I don’t recall seeing any 7.1 options in any games.

There’s the truly bizarre case of DX2- it only supported 5.1 if you used an NForce Soundstorm or something like that. No EAX or Directsound 3D out of the box (may have been added in the patch, I’m not sure). Drove me batshit- I seriously have a hard time playing any FPS these days that doesn’t support surround. Aliens Vs Predator 2 is another title that a lack of 3D surround support notably detracted from the game.

I use an Audigy 2 with Klipsch 5.1’s and I couldn’t be happier. Great sound quality and I’ve never had an issue with the Audigy 2.

I will say that I find Doom 3’s 3D sound support disappointing. I know id made a big deal about using their own in-engine 3D sound but I don’t think it can hold a candle to EAX. Isn’t there supposed to be a patch for creative cards down the line?

Thanks to everyone who posted their thoughts. I ended up getting an SB Audigy 2 ZS and the Klipsch promedia 5.1 ultra speakers. I haven’t had sound fidelity like this in a long time on the PC - I forgot how good it can sound. ;>


One of us… one of us… one of us…

Yeah the Audigy 2 ZS is about as good as it gets. The sound quality is far better than my integrated SoundMAX sound on my motherboard.

the 2 and 2ZS also sport better SNR and better DACs…