Introduction – WHY surround sound?

Is surround sound good for gaming or just a marketing ploy to sell expensive audio gear?

The short answer is that surround sound does make a real difference but only for certain games.

In fact, the need for surround-sound in-game has become quite a hot topic in the gaming community, particularly among gamers who play games that require spatial awareness—titles like APEX Legends, Overwatch, and PUBG.

But you’re probably wondering what, exactly, surround sound is.

How does it work? Does it improve my gaming experience?

And perhaps most importantly, is it worth investing my money to get surround sound equipped gear?

In this article I’m going to do my best to answer these questions for you in easy to understand, plain ol’ English. 

 

What is Surround Sound?

First things first. Let’s have a quick run-through of what surround sound is.

If you’re reading this, you probably already know that are several different types of audio configurations, such as:

  • 1.0 – also called “Mono Sound”. 

    This type of audio configuration uses only a SINGLE speaker. Needless to say, it’s not ideal for gaming because it doesn’t provide the intended spatial awareness.

  • 2.0 – the ever-popular “Stereo Sound”.

    This configuration uses two speakers with two separate channels. This setup is widely used because of its decent spatial awareness and sound quality.

  • 2.1 – similar as 2.0, but with a subwoofer.

    (A subwoofer is a speaker that’s designed to produce low-frequency sounds. Because of this, you get to feel the thud of the bass you hear.

  • 5.1 – the first surround sound setup, consisting of 5 speakers and a subwoofer.

    Speakers setup is shown below. (image inserted here)

  • 7.1 – the most immersive surround-sound experience possible, with a total of 7 speakers and a subwoofer.

    Check out the image below for the usual setup. (image inserted here)

How Surround Sound Works in Video Games

Now that we’ve covered the basics, the question remains: Is surround sound worth it for gamers?

The answer is a solid YES.

Most (but not all) of today’s games are developed with immersive gaming experience in mind.

This allows you to hear even the most minute in-game details, like the sound of footsteps approaching or the direction of a bullet being fired at you.

With a 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound setup, you’re sure to have an immersive gaming experience that’ll have you feeling as though you’re in the game itself.

Not to mention, there are certain games that you just can’t play effectively without being able to hear the direction that sounds come from.

True Surround Sounds vs Virtual Surround Sound: Is there a big difference?

So now you know that surround sound is a legit thing and not just a word salad used by creative marketing departments to push their electronics.

So, does this necessarily mean that you need a pair of headphones with surround sound or an array of expensive speakers to fully enjoy your favorite games?

The answer is…”kind of”. Let me explain. 🙂

While some games don’t really require surround sound, it’s almost a moot point because most of today’s gaming audio gear already offers at least virtual surround sound. 

While this isn’t true surround sound it still creates a reasonably good illusion of surround sound with the help of drivers built into ear cups (in the case of a gaming headset), along with the built-in sound card in your motherboard.

On the other hand, there’s audio gear that features true surround sound. 

For example, gaming headsets that come with 10 drivers on each earcup offer a truly immersive gaming experience for the user.

A good example of a gaming headset with true surround sound is the ASUS Strix 7.1 Gaming Headset.

However, true surround sound audio gear can come at a hefty price!

Luckily, even fairly inexpensive audio gear produces a believable virtual surround sound experience with the help of software like the Razer Synapse or Windows Sonic for Headphones.

These software programs work by “simulating” surround sound into your two-channel headset, earbuds, or speakers.

Ultimately, the quality of your gear will be the main determining factor for how good your audio sounds.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that surround sound is important for a good gaming experience, especially now in 2019 when so many games depend on directional sound to give you cues.

But in the world of sound technology, better hardware—which produces better quality audio—is generally correlated with price.

So your task is finding the best value audio gear for your price range.

A good rule of thumb is that if the main selling point of a headset or speakers is the virtual surround sound feature, then you’re better off looking for a different model. 

This is a dead giveaway that you’re getting cheap hardware that tries to make up for its poor quality by leaning on software.

There are plenty of affordable options with decent quality hardware. Combined with a surround sound simulation software, you can enjoy the gaming audio experience you want without having to break the bank!

If you have questions, suggestions and comments regarding this information please feel free to write them down on the comment section below.