How-to: Correct settings to ensure positional surround sound over headphones

Discussion in 'PC Audio' started by Mau1wurf1977, Jan 25, 2010.

  1. Mau1wurf1977

    Mau1wurf1977 (Banned or Deleted)

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2006
    Messages:
    13,706
    Location:
    Country WA
    As some of you know I was interested in improving my PC gaming surround sound experience...

    I got many replies, but I didn't quite get the specifics I was after... My main issue was finding out where the positional information is created. Well in the case of my soundcard (X-Fi titanium) it is the CMSS-3D technology...

    This thread is particularly for playing with headphones and enabling surround sound over headphones which uses virtual 3D positional audio technology...

    It is assumed that you have a soundcard which supports DirectSound3D, OpenAL and CMSS-3D.

    In my case I have a Creative Labs X-Fi Titanium PCIe. My headphones are Audio Technica AD700.

    Positional audio over headphones doesn't allways work with the default settings for every game. The default configuration is fine for most DirectSound3D and OpenAL titles, but there are exceptions.

    DX9 games tend to use DirectSound3D + EAX. Most DX10 games use OpenAL. Some games are DX9 and use OpenAL.

    DirectSound3D is the main technology for XP. OpenAL is the main technology for Vista/Windows 7.

    I have a dual boot system with XP and Windows 7. DX9+DirectSound3D games I play under XP. DX10 games under Windows 7. Some games use DX9+OpenAL (e.g. BF2142) so I play these also under XP.

    There is a issue if you try to play DirectSound3D games in Vista/Windows 7. Basically there is no more DirectSound3D under Vista. Most games will fall back to plain stereo... But Creative Labs wrote a application called "Alchemy" which allows you to enable surround sound for older games under Vista/Windows 7. It basically takes DirectSound3D commands and translates them into OpenAL commands. And OpenAL works fine under Vista/Windows 7. Alchemy uses game profiles, so not every game is supported!

    There are games that support hardware accelerated audio and there are games that do not and use a software renderer...This is the config that will give you surround sound over headphones regardless of the game using DirectSound3D, OpenAL or software renderer...

    - X-Fi has to be in Game mode.
    - CMSS-3D has to be enabled. This is the technology that creates positional audio over headphones. Set MacroFX and ElevationFilter to Auto. These will improve the positioning of sound sources very close to you and also from an elevated position...
    - Important: Untick the box "sync speaker settings with windows". Note that this option is only under XP. W7 doesn not have and need this box!
    - Creative speaker config has to be set to headphones
    - Windows speaker config has to be set to 5.1
    - EAX should be unticked. This setting applies chorus / reverb to everything. We don't want that.
    - Crystallizer is personal. I have it at off


    IF your game has a in-game option for speaker config, you have to set it to surround or 5.1. E.g. Dead Space won't give you surround over headphones unless you set the in-game options to 5.1. Very important!

    The reason why the windows speaker config has to be set to 5.1 is that some games query the windows speaker config to determine how to render audio. The reason why the creative speaker config has to be set to headphones is because otherwise you won't get positional audio over headphones.

    That is why the box "sync speaker settings with windows" need to be disabled...

    It ensures you get positional audio no matter where the game "looks" to determine how to render the sound.

    I hope this helps to clear some of the confusion and explains why certain setups will give you surround over headphones, while others do not...

    I am sure that many out there believe that they are getting position audio but they aren't...



    How does it sound? Absolutely amazing...

    A really good game to demonstrate this technology is BF2142. The experience is impossible to describe. I have also tried Dead Space. Despite it using a Software Renderer for audio, the sound stage is fantastic. It is quite a creepy game, so perfect for playing in the dark with your headphones on.

    Any question please let me know! Feedback welcome!

    I took a screenshot of the main settings...

    [​IMG]

    and for XP:

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2010
  2. Locky28

    Locky28 Member

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2009
    Messages:
    129
    Location:
    Rockhampton
    Good write up, I too am moving from onboard sound and the Zalman surround headphones to a Xonar DX and the AD700's, though I didn't take quite as much convincing to do it as you did :p

    I have the Xonar DX atm, was hoping the AD700's would arrive today but it looks like wednesday :(

    Anyway, here's a pic of the setup Mau1 has described with the Xonar software. Basically just ensure Audio Channel is set to 8 Channels (which will set 7.1 in Windows settings) and make sure you enable DS3D GX 2.0 mode in the bottom right to ensure EAX is emulated through the software.

    [​IMG]

    The Dolby Headphones option gets nods and shakes from what I've seen. Though once I get my AD700's I'll prob leave it on as I think it's party of the surround sound emulation over headphones for the Xonar's, even though by the way it's set out it looks like this option only applies to digital out??? :S The DH-1 DH-2 and DH-3 options that appear when Dolby Headphones is ticked looks to change the sound of how far spread out the speakers seem, therefore I imagine DH3 would give the best sound stage.

    If anyone with more knowledge on "Dolby Headphone" could confirm or correct what I've said that would be great.
     
  3. Mau1wurf1977

    Mau1wurf1977 (Banned or Deleted)

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2006
    Messages:
    13,706
    Location:
    Country WA
    Nice!

    Yea well I'm a bit of a perfectionist and need to know all the answers first before I rush out and buy something :)

    I believe Dolby Headphone and CMSS-3DHeadphone are very similar technologies...

    They basically create virtual 3D positional audio through synthesized binaural cues / HRTF.

    But for music you don't want this on!

    Thats why creative has a game mode and a entertainment mode. Stereo music sounds crap with CMSS-3DHeadphone... But CMSS-3D can be used to upmix if you have surround speakers...
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2010
  4. mtma

    mtma Member

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2009
    Messages:
    4,334
    I have NFI whether this works, but there's an option to enable it on my Realtek ALC889 as well. I'll test it later.

    [​IMG]
     
  5. Mau1wurf1977

    Mau1wurf1977 (Banned or Deleted)

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2006
    Messages:
    13,706
    Location:
    Country WA
    Dolby headphone sound like it should do the trick!

    What games have you got?

    Bioshock and BF2142 use openAL... I am sure there are others but don't remember...
     
  6. Locky28

    Locky28 Member

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2009
    Messages:
    129
    Location:
    Rockhampton
    I play a lot of BF2 and occasionally 2142, and I bought Bioshock on special a couple of weeks ago but have only played a bit, waiting for the headphones as I've heard it's got great atmosphere so really want to enjoy before Bioshock 2 :D . On my last PC I went from onboard sound to an Audigy 2 ZS it sounded great even with the shitty Zalman headphones. I've got my EAX effects back with the Xonar but can't wait for these AD700's GRRRRR.
     
  7. Mau1wurf1977

    Mau1wurf1977 (Banned or Deleted)

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2006
    Messages:
    13,706
    Location:
    Country WA
    Oh its a sticky! :thumbup:

    Thanks to everyone!

    If you are serious about gaming, all I can say is invest some money into a decent soundcard and a decent set of headphones...

    I admit I am a Creative Labs Fanboy. My very first soundcard was a mono Soundblaster for the ISA bus :)

    For Gaming I believe the X-Fi Titanium is the way to go. Its just over 100 bucks.

    For headphones I can recommend the Audio Technica AD400 or AD700. They go for 150-200 bucks...

    Surround audio is especially important if you play online. It will give you an edge...
     
  8. Locky28

    Locky28 Member

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2009
    Messages:
    129
    Location:
    Rockhampton
    Just had a quick listening test with the Dolby Headphone mode. Battefield 2 was much better, just sounded like more was going on and you were right in the action.

    Music wise Audacity of Huge by Simian Mobile Disco sounded better with it turned off, as did The Space on the wall by Dead Letter Circus, but To Protect and Entertain Crookers remix by Busy P sounded much better with it turned on.

    Having it on certainly gives you a feeling of being in a room, rather than the sound being in your head with it off.

    If you do have it on, the DH-1 setting seems the best.
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2010
  9. Mau1wurf1977

    Mau1wurf1977 (Banned or Deleted)

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2006
    Messages:
    13,706
    Location:
    Country WA
    Awesome...

    I will also update the first post and add some info about Creatives Alchemy software...

    Also was just playing Bioshock and I thought that surround wasn't really working. I mean the quality was good, but I wasn't getting any position from sound sources behind me...

    Had a look in the game settings and bingo: There is a slider which you can move from Stereo to 5.1 :)
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2010
  10. whizzbang

    whizzbang Member

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2010
    Messages:
    8
    Great info.

    I'm looking at getting my first sound card and was thinking about the
    Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi XtremeGamer($89 at pccg), which also seems to have this CMSS 3D.

    I also saw the Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium PCIe are on special at $99, is that the model you have Mau1wurf1977? The listing doesn't mention the CMSS-3D on it....only on the Fatality versions?

    Only running dirt cheap Logitech X530 speakers but want to get some decent in-game positional sound working with my proposed i5 pc upgrade shortly...maybe with some headphones.
     
  11. ascl

    ascl Member

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2009
    Messages:
    448
    Location:
    Sydney
    Mau1wurf1977: Thanks for posting this... its not often you see someone admit they were wrong (in the original thread on this) on any forums... let alone turn around and produce some very useful information about the very topic! kudos! I've learnt a lot from the whole exchange...


    Anyway, for my sound card (Onkyo SE90 w/ via Envy24 chip) I have to run the Via Audio Deck and enable Advanced Control->Immezio 3D Effects Enable. Then in the sound effects tab (only visible after selecting 3D Effects Enable), enable QX and Headphones.

    Switching this on and off is a bit annoying, but none-the-less, awesome to know about it!

    FWIW my plantronics USB headset does not seem to support any 3D sound, and the default Win7 drivers for the onboard RealTek don't appear to either (however, given mtma's post, I'd say if I installed better drivers it might work... don't use onboard sound for anything).
     
  12. mtma

    mtma Member

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2009
    Messages:
    4,334
    It turns out the Dolby effects are licenced per manufacturer, so although you may have capable hardware, if your manufacturer chose not to pay Dolby any money, you won't get any of the Dolby features. This seems to be why the Realtek driver package is huge as well, because it actually contains all the manufacturer specific data and information in the package.

    Also pretty cool that the Envy24 supports it too, I've got an SE-200PCI that I've been using exclusively for music at the moment.
     
  13. ascl

    ascl Member

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2009
    Messages:
    448
    Location:
    Sydney
    Hmm that is interesting. I have the same chipset (ALC888), but do not have a dolby tab even after installing the realtek drivers. I do have some virtualisation setting, but they are provided by MS and probably crap. My motherboard is Gigabyte, and maybe they didn't license dolby. What brand is yours?
     
  14. mtma

    mtma Member

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2009
    Messages:
    4,334
    Mine's gigabyte too, but ALC889 (GA785GPMT-UD2H)
     
  15. ascl

    ascl Member

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2009
    Messages:
    448
    Location:
    Sydney
    Ah I misread your post and thought it said 888! Sorry my bad.

    EDIT: I have headphone virtualization enabled but no dolby tab. Doesn't sound very good in TF2... I'll keep playing. On the plus side I found RealTek's beta EAX2 emulator for use on Win7.
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2010
  16. Mau1wurf1977

    Mau1wurf1977 (Banned or Deleted)

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2006
    Messages:
    13,706
    Location:
    Country WA
    Yup that's the one I have!

    Best soundcard for games IMO. Anything that is DirectSound3D or OpenAL sounds amazing.

    e.g. in Splinter Cell Chaos Theory you can even hear the rain falling on a tent vs. to just rain. And all of that with fantastic positioning.

    It's a real shame that many new games don't use DirectSound3D or OpenAL anymore. E.g. Bad Company 2 has it's own sound engine. Fantastic soundstage, but the positioning is nothing compared to what you got with BF2 and BF 2142.

    X-530 are very good value, but you will struggle to hear a difference vs. onboard sound.
     
  17. -Rift-

    -Rift- Member

    Joined:
    May 21, 2002
    Messages:
    4,304
    Location:
    WA
    What should you do if you want to switch between headphones and stereo speakers?

    Also does Dolby Headphones work for simulating 5.1 movies over headphones?
     
  18. Mau1wurf1977

    Mau1wurf1977 (Banned or Deleted)

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2006
    Messages:
    13,706
    Location:
    Country WA
    Well with the X-Fi I had "Entertainment" set to pure stereo and "Gaming" for 5.1 over headphones.

    The X-Fi 3D over headphones also worked for movies / TV shows. I am sure that Dolby Headphones also works.

    Most DVDs should have a THX meny where you can test the surround. You should clearly hear the rears when Dolby Headphones is enabled.
     
  19. cowboyjai

    cowboyjai Member

    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2007
    Messages:
    138
    Can this stuff be done with the Asus Xonar cards? I'd just get the X-fi listed in the op but I don't have any spare PCI-E slots
     
  20. Frontl1ne

    Frontl1ne Member

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2008
    Messages:
    3,886
    Pointed to this thread by Mau1 himself, just a few questions. My motherboard supports Dolby Prologic IIx and I've just been playing around with it. I've found it to be okay, but it doesn't really give the "whoa gun fire from behind!" feel Do better sound cards improve on this virtual surround?
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2010

Share This Page