Do you really need 7.1 Surround Sound for Gaming? This a question that has been burning in the minds of gamers and casual listeners alike for a long, long time. While, according to advertisements, 7.1 surround sound DOES give you somewhat of a tactical edge, is it really necessary for you to spend some extra money for the feature? Well, that’s what we’re gonna find out today.
Do You Really Need 7.1 Surround Sound for Gaming?
When looking for a pair of headphones, specifically as a gamer, most of you would prefer cans that boast a 7.1 surround sound feature cause from the advertisements, reviews, and from other fellow gamers, you’re under the impression that THIS would somehow help you climb your ranks faster by giving you a tactical edge. While the gaming advantage is highly debatable, there’s no arguing that “surround sound” can be one of the best features in cinemas, but for gaming?
While being advertised the heck out of and with incredible reviews all around claiming how they help you to rank up faster, 7.1 surround sound, in our own personal opinion, is mostly a waste of time, money, and resources.
Why? Let’s find out.
What is Surround Sound?
Let’s start with an explanation of what surround sound actually is. Surround Sound is an audio technique that makes use of multiple channels to produce a sound that you can feel all around you since the said speakers are strategically set up in specific key locations in order to promote a full 360-degree listening experience.
7.1 refers to the number of main speakers and subwoofers combined, meaning seven speakers and one subwoofer. With that, it’s kinda obvious to see why it’s a bad idea to implement on a pair of gaming headphones. See, most gaming headphones with two channels, the left, and the right speakers.
There are a few exceptions, such as the Razer Tiamat, which comes with multiple drivers on each ear cup. However, that really doesn’t prove to be a better experience, which could explain why Razer stopped with the updates on that product lineup. If the Tiamat was actually as good as it was claiming itself to be, audiophiles would’ve easily noticed and proved its value over time. Essentially, it all boils down to how the concept of surround sound in gaming headphones is actually just an exaggeration of audio processing techniques, where most of them aren’t even that, just a basic run-of-the-mill equalizer preset. If you’re looking for Audio-Separation, you could easily go for open-back headphones, which could work as a great alternative.
What is HRTF?
Now does that mean surround sound is just actually a big steaming pile of garbage? Well, not really. When talking about surround sound, you cannot ignore the concept of HRTF (Head-related-transfer-function). In layman’s terms, this is basically the method of calculating the time and the position sound waves would hit the human senses, which is then applied to the signal to estimate how it’d sound on your preferred pair of headphones. The method is not completely perfect, since it’s reliant on a generic model head and ear shape, but it’s good enough for most people.
Why Use HRTF?
Surround Sound processors that make use of the HRTF function provide a relatively great experience, which is why going for DTS:X or Dolby Atmos Software Audio Processing will yield far better results. Why? Both of them use HRTF technology while processing the audio in a pretty impressive manner, where you get a sense of full 360-degree immersion.
What Are the Alternatives?
This makes you wonder if 7.1 is such a bad idea, what kind of headphones should you be going for instead? Well, if a good audio experience and 3D sound are all you’re after, we highly recommend you get a pair of headphones that don’t cost much and sound great to you on their own. After that, couple those headphones with Dolby Atmos or DTS Headphone X and you’re good to go! Microsoft even takes it a step further with its own HRTF software built into windows, though it’s not really good at distinguishing sounds from above and below.
If you reside in a place that’s generally quiet, open-back headphones could also be a great alternative, since they come with great spatial separation while sounding incredible. But they do have a tendency to leak out sound while not providing as much passive noise canceling as you’d get with other variants.
“In short, 7.1 Surround Sound for Gaming is not an absolute necessity. In all honesty, you don’t even need Dolby Atmos or DTS Headphone: X. In our opinion, you just stick to a good pair of headphones that sound good to you and easily rely on the audio design of the game, since competitive online games nowadays like Overwatch, Call Of Duty, or Apex Legends have enough audio cues to make you aware of your surroundings at all times. You could even go for a low-budget USB microphone and it will still sound better than your expensive, all-in-one gaming headset. With all that being said, are you still going to rely on 7.1 to climb your ranks?”