Gaming Headset 7.1 vs. Stereo (Which Is Better?)

With modern gaming headsets coming with more features than ever, deciding between 7.1 surround sound vs. stereo is daunting. Is one better than the other?

While 7.1 surround sound may be more advanced and delivers a movie-like gaming experience, stereo sound is still a better choice for many competitive gamers. In certain games like RPGs and racing and flight simulators, however, 7.1 surround sound creates a more immersive audio environment.

The choice between stereo and 7.1 surround sound gaming headsets depends on the type of game you play. Therefore, it can be helpful to know the difference between these two and which type of headset is more suitable for your unique gaming needs.

What Is A Stereo Gaming Headset?

A stereo gaming headset allows you to hear sounds with two speakers, left and right. With two sound channels, the listener has a more realistic listening experience than listening to sound through only one ear. With gaming, stereo enables you to hear a different signal in both ears.

Stereophonic sound is produced when two audio channels combine into a single audio source, allowing each ear to hear a separate channel. Simply put, when you’re using a stereo gaming headset, each ear hears a slightly different version of the same sound source.

The brain works by combining these two signals into a single source, allowing stereophonic sound to be heard by both ears simultaneously.

With gaming, stereo sound lets you tell the distance between you (the gaming character) and the action by the difference in volume. This is why stereo is the most common audio reproduction in gaming headsets.

What Is A 7.1 Gaming Headset?

Stereo vs. 7.1 Gaming Headset

Surround sound enhances noise depth by emphasizing the fidelity of the audio. Unlike traditional sound systems like stereo, surround sound has more than one speaker driver strategically placed around the room.

7.1 surround sound, in particular, is a sound system that recreates sound at various angles and distances, allowing the listener to visualize an object’s position and direction via sound.

It uses 8 audio channels: 6 standard speakers and two extra sound channels (subwoofers) that provide a slightly better sound quality than 5.1 surround sound. It’s commonly used in home theater systems and headsets that allow users to immerse themselves in a full sound experience.

Many high-end gaming headsets claim to offer some form of surround sound, but this isn’t necessarily true. Technically, gaming headsets use stereo drivers to reproduce sound and can’t create accurate sound acoustics like a multi-speaker sound system around you can.

The surround sound aspect in gaming headsets specifically comes from a specific audio processing technology, which you can configure to give you an impression of 360-degree audio. They are as follows:

Digital True Surround Sound (DTS)

A DTS gaming headset comes with 2 speakers in each earcup. With this setup, you can hear in-game sounds through multiple physical sound sources in each ear. This creates a more layered sound than stereo, much like being at the movies. But because it comes with smaller-sized speakers, DTS gaming headsets tend to produce sound with less quality.

Virtual Surround Sound

Virtual surround sound is when a stereo headset creates spatial sound via algorithms. The speakers in the left and right earcups reproduce 5 or 7 audio channels, making it seem like there are more speakers than the 2 built-in ones.

The user can enjoy multidimensional 7.1 surround sound without sacrificing sound quality. Combined with surround sound technology like Dolby Atmos or Windows Sonic, you can experience more realistic differences in height.

Stereo vs. 7.1 Gaming Headset: What’s The Difference?

7.1 vs stereo gaming headset

Sound reproduction differs from one gaming headset to another. Sound goes by the difference between left and right with stereo, while surround sound lets you experience spatial audio.

As mentioned earlier, stereo is when sound comes from two drivers or speakers. Technically, most headphones, whether for listening and recording music or for gaming, are stereo devices. On the other hand, surround sound is when sound comes from multiple different sources. However, this can be simulated (virtual surround sound).

Some games, like competitive shooters, are best played with stereo sound. But in open-world games, racing, and flight simulations, surround sound adds to the immersion. Many next-gen titles are now designed to complement surround sound setups, either a virtual or true surround sound experience.

Below is a comparison of stereo and surround sound gaming headsets:

Stereo SoundVirtual Surround SoundTrue Surround Sound
No. of speakers in each earcup114 or more
No. of audio sources2 (L & R)8 or more2 (L & R)
Sound difference between L & R speaker(s)YesYesYes
Sound difference between top and bottom speaker(s)Yes (due to volume)Yes, due to sound effectsYes (due to speakers)
Cinematic experienceNoYesYes, but with less quality

Stereo vs. 7.1 Gaming Headset: Which Is Better For Gaming?

This entirely depends on the type of game you’re playing.

The majority of competitive players prefer to use a stereo gaming headset with quality speakers. But for fans of cinematic RPGs, 7.1 surround sound will make you feel like you’re at the movies.

Generally, stereo gaming headsets produce better sound quality because the two speakers allow you to hear where the sounds are coming from through your left and right ear.

This is because each earcup has an independent audio channel, making it possible to pinpoint the direction of in-game sounds based on which earcup it’s coming from. This is crucial for competitive games that require the user to listen for sounds coming from specific directions, like in CS:GO and Call of Duty: Warzone.

On the other hand, 7.1 surround sound will always provide a more immersive gaming experience. However, it doesn’t always guarantee better performance and improved ability as a competitive gamer.

In fact, 7.1 surround sound in competitive shooters could only make things harder for you. It can position sounds where they’re not supposed to be, throwing off the proper location of an enemy and giving you a disadvantage.

Summary

7.1 surround sound is often advertised incorrectly by gaming companies. While it does add to the level of immersion, it doesn’t give you a competitive advantage. In the case of gaming headsets, it’s just a gimmick because it doesn’t make you a better gamer.

In fact, using it for MOBAs and FPS games will only throw you off your game in its attempt to make the gaming headset sound more open.

At the end of the day, most gaming headsets are still designed with and for stereo sound. It lets you hear whether a bomb goes off on your right or left in a game. Because of the difference in volume in each earcup, you can quickly tell at what distance it explodes.

7.1 surround sound gaming headsets add extra realistic sound effects—a welcome addition for those who play atmospheric open-world games and simulators and want greater immersion. It’s also the best choice for gamers who want a more cinematic experience when exploring various worlds in a game.

About cryogene

Cryogene is a review writer, graphic designer and a gamer. He loves writing reviews on gaming hardware and help readers choose which item they need for gaming. He is also a graphic designer that designs banners and print ads for a Celebrity Marketing in Orange County. An aspiring WordPress developer, he has developed multiple WordPress websites for local and international clients. During his free time he plays games and do live streams on several social media platforms. He loves playing first-person shooter and RPG. You can check his social media links below.