Is Surround Sound Good For Gaming?

In gaming, the quality of sound reproduction depends on your headset. With stereo, you’re investing in dual speakers where sounds go by the difference between right and left. In contrast, surround sound relies on directional and spatial audio. But is surround sound good for gaming?

Generally, surround sound is better than stereo sound, creating 360-degree sound effects that help create a more enhanced and immersive gaming experience. But for gamers who are into competitive FPS games, surround sound may be a no-go, as most competitive shooters are built with engines designed with stereo sound in mind.

Whether you’re a pro gamer or looking to upgrade your rig, choosing the perfect sound system is a top priority. To create a truly immersive gaming experience, you must start with the basics: What’s the difference between surround sound and stereo sound?

What Is Surround Sound?

Let’s have a quick run-through of what surround sound is. To find the best audio setup for gaming, you must first understand the various types of configurations, which are as follows:

  • 1.0 (Mono Sound) – This particular audio configuration uses only a single speaker. It’s not ideal for gaming as it doesn’t provide the intended spatial awareness.
  • 2.0 (Stereo Sound) – This configuration uses dual speakers with two separate sound channels. It’s the most widely used setup, with decent spatial awareness and audio quality (ideal for listening to music).
  • 2.1 – A speaker designed to produce low-frequency sounds is similar to stereo sound but with a subwoofer. With a subwoofer, you get to feel a richer, punchier bass.
  • 5.1 – The first and most common surround sound configuration consists of two front speakers, two surround speakers, a center channel, and a subwoofer.
  • 6.1 – Provides a slightly more enveloping surround sound effect than 5.1 (thanks to the extra discreet center channel in the back), with a total of three speakers in the front, rear, and a subwoofer.
  • 7.1 – Produces the most immersive surround sound effect possible, with a total of seven speakers and a subwoofer.

What Is Better For Gaming: Stereo Or Surround Sound?

Audio-wise, surround sound provides a better gaming experience than stereo. Serious gamers are enticed by the prospect of a truly immersive, 360-degree gaming experience. Surround sound sets a higher level of immersion, allowing you to get a better feel of your game.

The keyword here is localization. Sound localization creates a sense of realism, like the sound of an enemy’s footsteps coming from behind you or the rumble of an aircraft flying overhead.

Surround sound makes the gameplay feel more authentic, as it creates accurate, three-dimensional sounds that stereo cannot produce.

So, what about stereo? As mentioned earlier, it’s only ideal for music. That’s because music doesn’t require directional sound (compared to spatial audio where you need to determine where the sound is coming from) and is typically recorded to accommodate stereo playback.

Comparing these two sound configurations is like comparing office chairs to gaming chairs. Both are good, but one is simply better than the other, depending on the intended use.

Do Games Support Surround Sound?

Most modern gaming titles have special effects, ambient background noises, and soundtracks specifically recorded for surround sound.

Some PlayStation 5 games, for example, have their own immersive audio format called Tempest 3D Audio that supports surround sound, but only for streaming videos or when used with a built-in 4K Blu-ray player.

It’s worth noting that while there are still just a handful of titles that support surround sound, gaming consoles like the Xbox now support object-based audio formats.

This allows nearly-unlimited audio placement in a 3D sound field, which includes soundstage height and width. Sadly, PlayStation 5 doesn’t support this feature, at least for now.

Meanwhile, newer models of high-end gaming headsets are now designed to support spatial audio and simulated surround sound. But with the right software, you can still enjoy these features on any headphone you connect to your PC or gaming console.

Do Gamers Use 7.1 Surround Sound?

Do Gamers Use 7.1 Surround Sound

This audio setup adds a whole new level of fun and immersion to your gaming experience. Many video games are now built with engines that work best with 7.1 surround sound.

Some gaming companies even claim that gaming headsets with 7.1 surround sound give a competitive edge, but it’s not always true.

In fact, FPS games like Modern Warfare and CSGO, a 7.1 surround sound setup could put you at a disadvantage since their game engines are designed to accommodate stereo sound.

Without good support for surround sound, it’ll throw you off from the opposing player’s actual location because the sound system attempts to make your headset sound more open.

This is why a vast majority of pro gamers go for stereo gaming headsets. But while surround sound isn’t always ideal for competitive shooters, they work great for flight and racing sims and open-world games.

Another thing to consider is the cost. While 7.1 surround sound provides enhanced immersion, it costs more than stereo.

The thing is, a lot of 7.1 surround sound headphones rely heavily on software that makes things sound as if they’re in different places. Some gamers prefer surround sound, while others opt for stereo. It entirely depends on two factors: A) the type of games you play; and B) your budget.

A 7.1 surround sound headphone is perfect for a highly immersive gaming and cinematic experience, but only if you have the budget for it. Meanwhile, a stereo headphone makes for a cost-effective alternative, both for gaming and music.

Is Virtual Surround Sound Good For Gaming?

There are two main types of surround sound: true and virtual.

True surround sound has multiple speakers (usually five), with a subwoofer for bass and the speakers placed around the room. This setup creates an immersive audio experience for gaming (especially FPS).

Virtual surround sound works by adding special effects to stereo headphones, creating a stereo effect that provides an audio experience around the listener without using multiple drivers or speakers.

Many gamers prefer virtual surround sound in headsets because it gives the sort of immersive experience without the speaker setup, which often costs 100 USD or more. People would usually go for true surround sound solely for full-blast entertainment in their home theater.

It’s not popular among gamers because it’s more expensive than virtual surround sound. In the right room, however, true surround sound can create the most immersive gaming experience because its sound is more realistic for the individual.

However, it’s not the ideal setup for MOBAS, FPS, and games where you are not required to move around in an open environment. For these games, virtual surround sound makes for a better and cheaper solution. What’s more, it takes up less space since you don’t have to place multiple speakers in your room.

How Do You Get The Best Sound For Gaming?

Is Virtual Surround Sound Good For Gaming

Here’s the truth: A surround sound setup in gaming isn’t nearly as common as a multi-speaker setup. The average gaming setup still consists of multiple speakers spread out around the person, creating that desired directional effect.

But for the avid PC and console gamers who use headsets, this can be a huge obstacle, especially when there’s not enough space for a complete surround system.

On the upside, gamers can still enjoy an immersive audio experience even with just two speakers or a headset and a great deal of audio processing.

High-end gaming headphones, for instance, have built-in simulated surround sound. You can connect them to your PC or gaming console via USB, usually with their own surround sound cards built into the connection, or with software (usually activated with a code) that provides the surround sound feature.

It’s a seamless integration, but one that’s often device-specific. This can potentially be limited to just channel-based surround sound, especially if your headphones aren’t designed for spatial audio.

To make it a surround-capable device, you will have to install a companion app to enable the feature. It’s a simple process, sometimes with added options that will let you tweak the sounds as desired.

Setting up the sound system depends on the gaming platform and the model. With PCs, the audio configuration can be done through an app, while in gaming consoles, the whole process is usually handled automatically.

Summary

Surround sound is indeed best for gaming (unless you are a competitive FPS gamer). Still, you need to consider your needs and budget first. While it won’t help you become a better gamer, there’s a greater level of immersive experience in your games.

Take time to decide between virtual and true surround sound. While the latter provides a better gaming experience, it requires more space, can be disruptive to others, and costs you a fortune.

The bottom line is, go for the one that meets your needs and budget and has a decent sound performance. Combined with surround sound simulation software, you can enjoy the gaming audio experience you want without breaking the bank.

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.

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