Do i need a soundcard for virtual surround?

Ajoc82

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Jun 29, 2014
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Hi,

Ive read that regular 'audiophile' headphones are better than gaming headphones so im interested in getting a pair of sennheiser HD 598. Before hand i was tempted by the arctis 5 from steelseries because of the virtual surround.

So to get virtual surround on a 5 year old pc would i need a sound card? (and if so any you can recommend on a budget?) or would software alone suffice?

I forget the model of the motherboard but the pc is running an old i5 2500k

Thx
 
For surround sound, you'd need an audio device with more than two channels. These headphones are stereo-only, and in that case your motherboard most probably has appropriate speakers-out jack,

If your source audio (eg MP3) is stereo only, "virtual surround" applications "invent" spatial information before outputting it to the surround speakers / headphones.

Bottom line: If the headphones you like have USB interface, and claim to support "surround-sound", you don't need additional sound card. If these headphones have multiple audio jacks as input, you'll need a sound card with surround support. Most cards have drivers / application which can make "virtual" surround.
 
For surround sound, you'd need an audio device with more than two channels. These headphones are stereo-only, and in that case your motherboard most probably has appropriate speakers-out jack,

If your source audio (eg MP3) is stereo only, "virtual surround" applications "invent" spatial information before outputting it to the surround speakers / headphones.

Bottom line: If the headphones you like have USB interface, and claim to support "surround-sound", you don't need additional sound card. If these headphones have multiple audio jacks as input, you'll need a sound card with surround support. Most cards have drivers / application which can make "virtual" surround.
 

gamerk316

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Jul 8, 2008
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Most motherboard chipsets don't support any type of audio virtualization; you'll need to check your motherboard documentation to know for sure. Most soundcards do support this functionality, though again, check first.

The most common method of virtualized surround is Dolby Headphone, which 99.9% of all "surround" headsets use.

From my personal experience:

"Real" surround headsets do offer a better surround experience, but there are gaps in the soundstage as audio moves from one driver to the next. In addition, the overall audio quality suffers horribly.

"Virtual" surround headsets OR using Dolby Headphone does an "Ok" job of virtualizing surround; it's not as apparent as a real surround headset, but you can get the impression of front/back that you normally don't get. Audio quality does get affected though.

Personally? Outside of "serious" gaming, I just use a stereo headset for the best overall audio quality.
 
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