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

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

  1. n2o

    n2o Member

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    just want to say thanks for the thread, based on your recommendation i spent the $100 on my first sound card and am blown away by the difference in the sound quality even on my shitty logitech 2.1 setup :thumbup::thumbup:
     
  2. bartman04

    bartman04 Member

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    Really good thread.
    I just bought a XIFI Titanium and am running this set up as per instructions. Compared to my Gigabyte\Realtek onboard it is chalk and cheese, huge difference. The only issue I noticed is that I have 2.1 speakers plugged into the soundcard then when gaming I plug my headphones into the front headphone jack. The auto switching between one and the other seems to have changed the Win 7 5.1 speaker setting. When this happens you can see the Creative console change output from 2.1 speaker to headphone and back when plugging and unplugging headphones which is pretty good but obviously to get the full effect it is better if Win 7 stays on 5.1. I have reset Win 7 speaker back to 5.1 again and now I notice that output in Creative console stays on Headphone with the headphones plugged in or unplugged. It will be interesting to see if the Win 7 5.1 speaker setting sticks this time, if not I may have to check this each time before I fire up a game.
    I have only tested the set up with Fear 2 and that sounds awesome with this setup.
    Great job :thumbup:
     
  3. BeepBeepimaJeep

    BeepBeepimaJeep Member

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    Just bought AD700s, onboard sound.
    Will I still be able to get positional footsteps in counter-strike source?
     
  4. bobbavet

    bobbavet Member

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    Thanks for this thread :thumbup:

    I just picked up some ad700's and an x-fi titanium. I am gobsmacked by the clearness of sound and surround emulation with music. Every instrument defined, totally eargasmic, like walking through the music.

    But gaming :thumbdn:. It's beautiful for Shift 2 but positional for BFBC2 is nothing like my G35's.

    I've tried everything, one problem I am having is in windows speaker set-up, only stereo is available. No quadrophonic,5.1 or 7.1. So the first step int the guide cannot be done. :(

    Any tips guys?
     
  5. bobbavet

    bobbavet Member

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    Mate ya gotta get a X-fi card. My AD700 were absolute crap on my UD5 mobo. I was like "What are people on about". Then I got the X-fi.......OMFG! :shock:

    I picked up 2nd hand AD700 and X-fi from the states off Ebay for 195 total inc postage. Best buy ever.

    How ever if I cannot get my positional right am going to try some Kaves. Don't get me wrong, these AD700's are the most awesome bit of kit, but I game more than listen to music.
     
  6. lithos

    lithos Member

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    That's 'cause it varies from game to game, depending on what audio engine is used in them. BC2 is hard-coded to Dolby Digital and Dolby's always been pretty shit for gaming, in my opinion. It's was designed for movie theatres (and the politics thereof...read on.)

    CMSS-3D does work with Dolby, but it positions sounds exactly how Dolby setups are meant to be: that is, the rear speakers are actually side speakers. (There were never any rear speakers in the original Dolby 5.1 spec; they were called side speakers.) Being primarily for movies Dolby focuses on clear dialogue, and trying to sell side speakers to movie theatres who had invested tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on stereo setups, and thus making the side channels as inexpensive as possible. That's my theory, anyway.

    What this means is that with Dolby in movies is that dialogue is hard mixed to the centre channel, no matter where the characters are in the scene, with the front left and right channels used for positioning important sound effects (like a character firing a gun, or opening a door, or a breaking window, for example,) and the side speakers used to "garnish" the scene with ambient noise - a flowing river, traffic, wind and rain. That's a rough idea of how movies are mixed in Dolby. There's still too much emphasis on the front channels, which is why those home theatre kits have big two- or three-way speakers for front left, right and centre, and little full-range mini speakers for the surrounds (and smaller speakers are easier to position around a living room.) Huge discrepancies in speaker volume and quality. It's also for redundancy so those listening to it on a stereo system still get all the important sounds.

    Unfortunately, games are turning to Dolby for several nasty reasons. One, seems nearly every game wants to be like a movie where you're an actor in it rather than someone who actually exists in the game world. Two, Dolby has a lot of marketing cachet. Three, the average bogan is more likely to spend his baby bonus on a Sony Muteki for his Xbox than a soundcard for his PC. So games end up getting mixed like movies, where even if the guy speaking to you is standing to your left he's still going to sound like he's coming from the front.

    All the Dolby system does in BC2 is say "This sound is coming from the front left speaker," and that's all the CMSS-3D in the X-Fi can do: make it sound like it's coming from thirty degrees your front left, where the front left speaker is ideally placed in a surround setup. Panning, two, isn't really well handled: it seems to "jump" from speaker to speaker, even when those speakers are virtualised via HRTF surround (like CMSS-3D or Dolby Headphone.) Dolby relies on room reverb to smooth out this jumpiness - more on that below.

    What sound engines like OpenAL and Directsound 3D do/did is actually tell the sound card exactly where the sound was coming from. "This sound is coming from 42 degrees off-axis to the left, and seventeen degrees above the player," and CMSS-3D will simulate that exactly (granted, the vertical positioning's not as great as the horizontal) - make the sound sound like it's coming from 42 degrees to your left and seventeen degrees above you. In short, there are no speakers in CMSS-3D, because each sound is placed where's coming from, rather than being mapped to fixed speakers. It's why I cringe when people describe CMSS-3D as "Headphone 7.1" - it's not, it's much better than that. It's headphone 0.0. There's no jumpiness or the need for excess reverb to smooth out the sound - in fact, Dolby HRTF method, Dolby Headphone, has artificial reverb plonked over everything to try to conceal the speaker positions.

    tl;dr version: Dolby seeks to simulate a theatre environment, while OpenAL/DS3D/FMOD/other dedicated game APIs seek to emulate the game's soundscape.

    No doubt your G35s are aware of these shortcomings of Dolby, and have tweaked the HRTF algorithms to widen the soundstage and shift the speakers around further. You might try, in the X-Fi console, to set your output as "2.1 speakers" instead of "Headphones" to try to widen the soundstage in BC2.
     
  7. bobbavet

    bobbavet Member

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    It is. :confused:

    Thanks for the reply.:thumbup:

    I might get the Kaves and check them out. Everyone has an opinion on 2.1 3D emulation, 7.1 usb emulation or the true 5.1. But I am yet to see anyone on forums to try them all for an opinion.

    The AD700 are a lovely bit of kit in music and movie, but gaming for me its all meh. I found the 7.1 emulation to be a truer direction but a lttle poor on fidelity and bass. Hoping the Kaves to be a happy medium.

    A tell you a set I was suprised with back 2005, that was the Vers1 of the AudioFX. They looked like ass but performed well for BF2. I am almost tempted to try Ver2.

    What is intriguing me with the Kave is it uses all the channels as intended in the game. Nothing emulated. I am also thinking they will be greatly enhanced by the signal quality from the X-fi Tit much the same as the AD700's were. Seriously, I didn't realize just how much on board sucks nuts. Might try and get a set to test on my week off over Easter.
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2011
  8. lithos

    lithos Member

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    You don't pay me enough, that's why.

    I don't recall Roccat being a big player in the audio world like Audio-Technica, Sennheiser, Beyerdynamic or even Sony or Phillips, but by all means go nuts. Don't know how their background is in sound engineering. I'm sure they've sunk dozens of hours into their audio R&D.

    If all you're playing is BC2, they might be worth it. How good speakers tiny enough to fit in a headphone ear cup sound is another thing. They'd certainly be directional enough. Whether or not driver spaced a few millimetres from the ear can throw out a believable soundscape without any sort of psychoacoustic trickery is another thing.

    In the end, it's DICE's fault. Everything they did on BC2 could've been done with OpenAL. The idea was to give the average game who'd spend money on a mouse pad before a sound card a game with decent sound was noble, but pointless. Those guys wouldn't have noticed the difference, and probably even would've been a bit miffed at the audio engine eating up CPU cycles. Could've been done in OpenAL. Could've been done better by paying for Creative's EAX 5.0/OpenAL 1.1 again.

    It's a noble idea, but more of a shame. I appreciate their intent, just not their execution.
     
  9. bobbavet

    bobbavet Member

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    Mate, I'm not claiming Roccat be the ducks nuts in audio engineering, but have heard reports of a more accurate directional sound than 2.1 and better fidelity and bass than usb7.1.

    I couldn't give a flap how it's done as long as it sounds decent and proportional. I'm not expecting the fidelity of my AD700, the sounds are clear just not directional or sorted from each other.

    However I did pick up on your above post on how games are going all "movie" with sound. So I tried playing in entertainment mode of X-fi rather than gaming and there is a bit of an improvement.

    Is there a game that you would call a "benchmark" in using EAX or OpenAl?
     
  10. lithos

    lithos Member

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    Any of the STALKERs or pretty much any game based on the Unreal Engine (Homefront, Medal of Honor single player, Mirror's Edge...)

    For the full-bore OpenAL 1.1/EAX tour, though, go for Prey, Doom 3, Quake 4...or any of the games based on id Tech 4. Believe it or not, the shadow technology used in that engine belonged to Creative, and Creative let id have it in exchange for using the full OpenAL/EAX sound system.

    Colin McRae Dirt and Dirt 2 are racing games that use it, too.
     
  11. lithos

    lithos Member

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    Ah. That's reminds me of that little experiment I did a while back when I was playing BC2. After you reminding me about the sound in BC2 and its poor positioning, I remembered what I did.

    Enabling more accurate surround positioning with headphones in BC2 using CMSS-3D

    What we know:

    * As it is, an X-Fi in Game mode that's fed a Dolby 5- or 7.1 signal feeds it as is. On headphones, this means "crowded" sound positioning, making for a narrow soundstage and it hard to position the sound. No further processing is done. It sounds like what you'd get if you taped surround speakers around your head.

    * Dolby is a speaker-based, not headphone-based, technology that was designed with room acoustics in mind. It relies on room reverb for the wider soundstage, as well as the more distant placing of surround speakers compared to headphones. In fact, Dolby Headphone, Dolby's headphone surround system, has reverb filters built into it to simulate this (as I understand it, from screwing around with the Dolby Headphone plugin for FOOBAR.)

    We need a way to tell our X-Fi to simulate surround speakers (like Dolby Headphone does,) not a soundscape (like CMSS-3D does when fed a decent gaming signal.) Basically, to simulate Dolby Headphone.

    There is a way. You just need to treat Bad Company 2 like a movie, not a game.

    With a normal X-Fi (ie, anything but a Titanium HD):

    1) In Entertainment mode, with the speaker settings for the X-Fi set to "Headphones," open up the Console and go to the CMSS-3D panel.

    2) Enable CMSS-3DHeadphone.

    3) Play the game with these settings.

    Note that you may have to tweak the Stereo Envelopment slider a bit, putting more emphasis on the front channels than the back. Bad Company 2 seems to compensate for the normally poorer rear channels by mixing them louder. I have mine set at 33%.

    There's a little flash demo of what you need to do here:

    http://www.creative.com/products/so...asp?filename=EntertainmentInter_Headphone.swf

    For Titanium HD users - who are all using two channels, anyway - simply go into the THX TruStudio PC menu in the Entertainment console, and turn on the Surround feature. (All those fancy THX-settings are just bullshit re-branding of the old settings on regular X-Fis.)
     
  12. OP
    OP
    Mau1wurf1977

    Mau1wurf1977 (Banned or Deleted)

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    Awesome to see this thread is still moving along :thumbup:

    I also found that BC2 is one of the few games that don't work well with CMSS-3D.

    You can tweak it somewhat, but my ears were tuned for all the other games that used OpenAL and EAX, so this games will always sound "out of place".

    They wrote their own sound engine for this game, instead of using existing openAL or other frameworks available.

    This positional audio technology does improve as you get used to it (and your brain). So when there are differences between games, it doesn't work as well. With EAX under XP, all the games had this amazing 3D positional audio. It was a great time!

    To be honest, IMO the best games for CMSS-3D are all the old school XP games that featured EAX.

    Games such as Doom3, BF2142 or Splinter Cell Chaos Theory are simply amazing. I found that Mass Effect also had terrific positional audio and there is also Dead Space, which I highly recommend for some creepy surround action.

    BF2142 is one of the best experiences I had. The sound when you fire tank shell is so unique. With the onboard realtek and speakers / cheap headphones you get a loud shake and beak, but with the X-Fi and AD700 you get this sound, layered with detail. It's very metallic, as if you can hear the shell ramming against the cannon.

    Splinter Cell Chaos Theory is also amazing. In the first level (light house), there is a part where there are tents and it's raining. And as you sneak around you can hear rain all around you, but then you hear positional rain which falls onto the tents. And the conversations of the bad guys are also pinpoint accurate. It makes this game so much better, because you can hear people around corners or behind doors and in this game, this is a huge bonus!
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2011
  13. Linkin

    Linkin Member

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    Might have been said already, but CMSS-3D makes music sound like garbage, so always disable it when not gaming :thumbup:
     
  14. randomman

    randomman Member

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    Got an X-Fi Forte and AD700's. The first post was good, sounds good in games. But I've got an issue, 7% volume in Windows is the max I can listen to. Obviously this causes problems because I can not adjust the volume much either way... anyone know of any solutions?
     
  15. lithos

    lithos Member

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    I had the same problem. Didn't fix it, as my Forte shat itself before I had the chance to do anything about it. The easiest solution would be a pair of high-impedance cans, I'm afraid.
     
  16. amisty

    amisty Member

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    can i ask has anyone setup positional/ surround on the asus essence software with ad700's. i can her differences when music is playing but not in gaming.
     
  17. seowebdesignmel

    seowebdesignmel New Member

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    Thank you!

    was wanting top quality sound positioning and sound :thumbup:
     
  18. Little Man

    Little Man Member

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    Whats the best setup for BF3?

    I've got AD700s and an X-Fi Titanium.

    My settings:

    - CMSS-3D enabled
    - Windows speaker configuration set to 5.1
    - BF3 Set to 5.1

    This okay?

    EDIT: Why does EAX effects have to be disable?
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2012
  19. lithos

    lithos Member

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    That's fine. Try with "War Tapes" as well; it's still 5.1. Are you in Game Mode?

    It doesn't, it shouldn't matter if you're in Game Mode. Frostbite has its own reverb engine, so it ignores EAX anyway - unless you're in Entertainment Mode and have one of those presets selected.
     
  20. Little Man

    Little Man Member

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    Yeah in game mode.

    You're right, tried turning EAX on and off made 0 difference.:thumbup:
     

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