While surround sound gaming headsets aren’t the most common choice for professional gamers, sometimes you just have to go beyond the average set of stereo headphones. In order to fully immerse yourself in your games and movies, it’s important to invest in a quality audio experience that can fill your entire world with sound. Today we’re going to take a look at the best surround sound gaming headsets and the benefits of owning them.
- What are 7.1 Surround Sound Headphones?
- Explaining Surround Sound – How it Works and Why it’s Important
- The Purpose of Surround Sound Headsets in Gaming
- The Best Surround Sound Gaming Headsets
- How to Pick the Best Surround Sound Gaming Headsets?
- Answer & Questions Regarding Surround Sound Headphones
- How to add surround sound to headphones? Adding virtual surround sound through software to your gaming headphones
- How much does a good surround sound gaming headset cost?
- What headphones benefit the most from surround sound virtualization?
- What are the pros and cons of surround sound virtualization?
- Can I use surround sound headsets for music?
What are 7.1 Surround Sound Headphones?
Surround sound headsets are designed to use virtual imaging technology that generates a 3D soundscape. This technology allows people to enjoy high-quality 3D audio effects by reproducing sounds as if they come from multiple sound sources, giving your games a whole new dimension. For some, the result is quite exciting! The 7.1 surround sound represents an immersive eight-channel audio system and offers decent audio quality on gaming headsets, but nothing extraordinary.
Since most gaming headsets with 7.1 surround sound do not have six speakers to act as a front, center, surround, rear and two subwoofers, the stereo sound of the two drivers is rendered virtually using an algorithm in a DAC surround sound processor or software that decodes the surround sound. These headphones are called virtual 7.1 surround sound headphones. Some of them have multiple discrete drivers that act as mini speakers. The sound comes from multiple audio channels for a true 7.1 surround sound headset, but this requires very expensive hardware, which is why they are not offered by most gaming device vendors.
It is very important to note that surround sound headphones function differently than headsets with an ample soundstage and open-back design. With open-back gaming headsets, the listener can hear a much more natural three-dimensional sound with a fuller soundstage, but they are susceptible to external environmental noise. Still, we wrote this article for people looking for gaming headsets with true and virtual surround sound.
Explaining Surround Sound – How it Works and Why it’s Important
With surround sound audio, sounds are rendered as if they come from multiple directions and channels, making gamers feel like they are sitting in a theater. Gaming headsets offer two types of surround sound
- Virtual surround sound
- True surround sound
Virtual surround headsets require a surround sound encoder, digital signal processor or signal processing techniques to create a three-dimensional audio experience, whereas true surround sound headsets are equipped with multiple discreet drivers in each ear cup. The sound isn’t stereo as it’s reproduced from multiple audio channels (more than 2).
With virtual surround sound headsets, 5.1 or 7.1 headsets use algorithms to adjust the volume, delay of sound, and so on to simulate surround sound systems for a realistic 3D audio experience. Digital surround sound technologies are often called virtual surround sound/faux surround or VSS. These technologies use functions such as HRTF, HRIR, and Binaural Rendering at their core algorithms.
What is HRTF?
More information about HRTF: https://www.ece.ucdavis.edu/cipic/spatial-sound/tutorial/hrtf/
Free surround sound – Games with Built-in HRTF
Some games like Valorant and CS: GO (Counter-Strike: Global Offensive) offer a surround sound feature with HRTF for free. All you have to do is enable it in the Audio settings. Not all games provide HRTF, but if the games you play offer it, you are free to enjoy it without buying a surround sound headset.
What is HRIR?
To understand the intensity of sound from a location and create a virtual surround sound, surround sound algorithms use HRIR to build a 3D sound profile that takes into account the position and intensity for each sound element. The impulse response varies depending on the size and shape of the ear; a delay can also be perceived between the HRIR of the left ear and the HRIR of the right ear.
With this new acoustic function, realistic sound images are created in space and time based on your ear morphology. The HRIR can be measured using microphones built into a head-mounted microphone reference system. Also, HRIR can be measured using two microphones, one for each ear.
Because HRIR isn’t perfectly tuned for your listening, some virtual surround sound technologies fail to provide a clear sense of direction.
What is Binaural Rendering?
When you wear headphones while listening to binaural sound, it appears as if the sound sources are moving around your head, and therefore appear realistic to your ears. In other words, when you play games that use binaural rendering processing, it will give you the feeling that something is going on around you. This algorithm has been used in entertainment, music, movies and gaming for a while now.
The Purpose of Surround Sound Headsets in Gaming
It’s common for people to be concerned about what surround sound headsets are used for. A common concern is that surround sound headsets provide an unfair advantage when playing online.
However, the result depends on more factors such as the virtual output technology, number of channels (5.1 vs. 7.1), drivers’ reproduction accuracy, customizable settings, and sound card quality of your gaming rig/computer.
For many gamers, surround sound headsets are used to increase immersion in games. But most are unaware that true and virtual 7.1 ch surround won’t provide superior spatiality and 3D audio effects than a high-quality open-back pair of gaming headphones.
However, if you use virtual surround technology, you won’t have to soundproof your room to play games with open headphones to feel immersed in games.
Often, people have a hard time understanding where sounds are coming from since they aren’t using surround sound headphones themselves.
While poorly implemented surround sound technologies weaken mid-range frequencies or lower the intensity of other frequencies, which make the game not sound very accurate, good surround technologies will create a 3D audio experience in games by producing accurate spatiality. Because not all perform the same, Dolby Atmos for Headphones, DTS Headphone :X and HRTF are the best
Another advantage of using gaming surround sound headsets is that you can hear closer footsteps much clearer than if you were using stereo headphones or speakers due to the better audio cues. Suppose you played a multiplayer action game like Fortnite or Apex Legends before.
In that case, you must have been in situations when you hear the footsteps of multiple enemies but cannot distinguish their direction and proximity. Good surround sound headsets with balanced sound help you in such cases.
While not perfect, CORSAIR Virtuoso RGB Wireless XT and Audeze Mobius have been proven to offer top-notch surround sound and the ability to hear footsteps in games. You can hear footsteps clearer and distinguish direction better without being close to the sound source.
Their disadvantage is that: Mobius is quite expensive and has a poor build quality with low passive sound isolation, while Virtuoso RGB Wireless XT is not ergonomic for all head shapes and costs a lot.
Keep This Last Thing in Mind About Surround Sound Headsets
If you want to enjoy surround sound on the PC, most headsets with multiple virtual audio channels sound bad and are not the best solution for gaming. Often, it’s the sound that makes it a decent headset, while the virtual surround sound is just another mediocre feature.
What we recommend is that you first focus on quality raw audio. The best way is to get a high-end wired gaming headset with large 50 mm drivers and a balanced or V-shaped sound signature. Then you can make a list of all headsets with surround sound that meet your budget.
If you cannot decide, or it’s too challenging to do these things because there are at least 200 surround sound headsets on the market (we know because we analyzed them), then our top picks for the best surround sound headsets will help you in this situation.
The Best Surround Sound Gaming Headsets
Surround Sound technology has become extremely popular over the past few years because it allows people to enjoy their favorite games in a new way that was never experienced before! But not all surround sound headsets and equally as good, so to make things easier for you, we have come up with the top 10 best surround sound headsets. If you are looking for the best 7.1 gaming headset with virtual or real surround sound, this article will help you find the right one for your gaming needs!
Whether you’re Team Copper or Team Blue, the Mobius from California-based company Audeze is a fantastic gaming headset with surround sound and 100 mm planar magnetic drivers. A versatile wireless headset that offers nice, unobtrusive three-dimensional sound with head-tracking technology that will help you enjoy an immersive audio experience, as it’s well-suited for music and video games.
Its sound is excellent with deep bass without distortion at high volume levels. Waves Nx has an advanced 3D audio and head tracking system with an accelerometer and gyroscope to provide immersive entertainment with excellent detail. The design is visually appealing and comfortable to wear for extended periods as it’s lightweight and soft on the ears; on the other hand, the build quality suffers for the same reason.
The best feature of Audeze Mobius is the sound. The headset delivers everything you need when playing games. It has a wide range of frequencies, with decent vocals in the mid-range frequencies for RPG games which are key for gaming. Mobius has a soft but overall great bass response, so you can feel the action when playing games and enjoy music. Overall, the sound is balanced and bestows excellent positional accuracy for FPS games. You can easily hear footsteps in the game, and it is possible to warn players when they are in danger.
The 7.1 surround sound is also excellent. In games with positional audio, it distinguishes very well where sounds are coming from. CS: GO sounds from the sides of the soundstage, and your enemy footsteps. It truly gives you a sense of what it is like to be immersed in a game. Not surprisingly, imersiveness is also present in movies and music. The headset isn’t cheap, and we expected at least some flaws in the sound department, but it’s only the build quality that disappointed us. As the Mobius is a bit flimsy, you need to handle it with care.
In the end, you can use Audeze Mobius to play Division 2, Battlefield 4, Cyberpunk 2077, or The Witcher and enjoy the utmost clarity in sound quality. The positional audio is excellent for FPS games but is also good for MOBA, horror, or racing games. Whether you connect to your gaming console via analog, LDAC, AAC or SBC Bluetooth, or Wireless USB, Mobius will make your games much more enjoyable and immersive.
Surround Sound Features
- Surround Sound 7.1 – Mobius audio will be output as an 8 channel signal when used via USB. In this setting, the maximum sampling rate is 24 bits / 48 kHz, and emulation of listening to multi-channel speakers takes place;
- 2-channel sound – in this mode, the maximum sampling rate is 16 bits / 48 kHz, and the emulation of listening on the left and right speakers takes place on two channels when 3D is activated;
- Hi-Res – allows Mobius to handle 24-bit/96kHz sample rates. This mode disables all surround, 3D audio, and head tracking and turns Mobius into a high-resolution headset for Hi-Res stereo playback.
These three listening modes are accessed via the volume wheel on the microphone.
- Great reproduction of audio details across the entire frequency range with high-res playback
- Fine, rich bass that allows you to feel heavy weapons fire or road bumps in racing games
- Outstanding spatial audio rendering that lets you hear footsteps clearly and identify their direction
- Highly versatile with multiple connection options and surround sound for gaming, music, and movies
- High sound pressure level and easy-to-drive 100 mm planar drivers
- Sound leakage is noticeable in loud environments, so for private audio sessions, you better choose closed-back headphones
- A bit too expensive for the build quality it provides
- Long charging time and short autonomy (3 hours charging – 10 hours battery life)
Corsair Virtuoso RGB Wireless XT
The Virtuoso RGB Wireless XT is one of the best wireless surround sound gaming headsets currently on the market. It’s a complete package: top-quality Dolby Atmos surround sound, excellent 9.5 mm Omni-directional microphone, four connection types, and high-quality audio. It’s up to you if you want 18 hours of straight gameplay with enticing 3-dimensional sound or just great-looking gaming headsets with RGB.
Dolby Atmos for Headphones is one of the best technologies for audio with accurate surround sound and height audio channel to spot shooters from above or below you. Corsair iCue software offers a few useful settings for gaming, but the headset does not need much customization. For gaming, the headset is superb. The aptX HD offers almost lossless playback, high-res audio, and a vibrant sound in movies and music.
When playing on PC, certain EQ adjustments must also be made for the best revealing sounds and clear highs and lows to hear footsteps and other important sounds for FPS games. The 50 mm drivers offer a quite clear reproduction of sound, and even music enthusiasts or audiophiles who are used to studio-grade headphones will be satisfied with the Virtuoso. The Omnidirectional microphone is also excellent, clearly one of the best we tested with good background noise isolation and voice clarity.
The battery life is a bit longer than Corsair claims, but it’s still a one-time charge for most people. The charging process is easy, and the headphones last over 15 hours on a single charge while charging only takes four hours.
Dolby Atmos surround sound is not supported on the PlayStation 4 and 5 but can be used on the Xbox One X|S via a 3.5mm audio cable. Still, a subscription is required to use Dolby Atmos. For PS5, Virtuoso RGB Wireless XT is compatible with Tempest 3D Audio.
In the end, Virtuoso RGB Wireless XT is a definite upgrade of the Virtuoso SE model launched in 2019. Much of the parts are similar to the SE, but comfort has been improved, can use multiple audio devices simultaneously, and can be used both on PC and consoles. The sound is excellent at gaming, music, or movies. In addition, the RGB lighting is a nice add-on for gamers who love the little details.
- Lightweight, beautiful design with RGB lighting and more comfortable than its predecessor
- Easy to use with four types of connections (analog, wired USB, Slipstream, Bluetooth)
- Excellent sound for gaming, music, and movies with Dolby Atmos for Headphones and aptX HD
- Surround sound with over-head audio effects
- Top-notch detachable microphone and retractable feature to reduce sound leaks
- Short battery life – 15 hours on a single charge with up to two hours of charging
- Lacks deep basses compared to Audeze Mobius and more affordable wireless headsets like
HyperX Cloud II Wireless
- Although it offers excellent surround sound, it’s quite expensive for occasional gamers
Asus Theta 7.1
With the ROG Theta 7.1, Asus has managed to break the trend of poor quality true surround sound headphones by offering solid acoustic performance. The Theta 7.1 is something special. It has high-end audio features that make it feel superior to other gaming headsets. The eight Essence drivers give it a weight that’s reminiscent of high-end audiophile gaming headsets, and the realistic spatial sound is nothing like the Razer Tiamat 7.1 or the Asus Strix 7.1. This is not a cheap headset and certainly not your everyday headset.
The sound is precise, and without distortion; the multiple drivers inside the ear cups give a feeling of increased spatiality and enlarge the sound stage. As for clarity, the Theta 7.1 is excellent. It lets you hear the difference between distant sounds and doesn’t give you a weird listening experience like true surround sound gaming headsets usually do. You can accurately locate enemies because the four ESS 9601 drivers in each earcup offer realistic and accurate sound signals.
Some reviewers have expressed disappointment with true surround headsets because of the odd audio perspective. This stems from the philosophy that our ears listen in stereo and that true surround headsets with multichannel audio won’t perform like 7.1 home theater, but that’s not what you get from the Theta 7.1. The drivers: one 40mm and three 30mm reproduce the sound with a good perspective that is not weird but rather helps you appreciate the gameplay better.
Asus ROG Theta 7.1 is one of the few gaming headsets with true surround sound coming from eight discreet drivers that is realistic. It features ASUS Armoury II software, true 7.1 sound, and a gaming-focused sound signature. The sound is pretty balanced with a linear sound response and clear mids and highs. The microphone is another highlight of the ASUS ROG Theta 7.1 headset, of which voice recording quality is excellent. The only downside is the weight of the headphones — they are not as light as you’d like them to be with all those drivers inside (590 grams).
- 8 discrete drivers with accurate spatial sound reproduction for FPS games with pinpoint sound positioning
- Comfortable, large ear cups with ASUS Hybrid ear cushions with pleather and cooling-gel on the inside
- Good microphone quality for voice recording with noise suppression
- Solid construction with the ROG details that give it a unique look
- You don’t need a surround sound processor as it has its own Home-Theater-Grade 7.1 DAC
- Weight is high at around 600 grams. You can’t wear these headphones for more than a few hours
- ASUS could have used leather instead of protein leather for higher quality: better grip and breathability
- The headphones are massive and have two fixed cables (one on each ear cup)
SteelSeries Arctis 7 Wireless
The SteelSeries Arctis 7 Wireless headset with DTS Headphone:X v2.0 surround sound has a lot going. It’s the more affordable of the best surround sound gaming headsets that also offer wireless connection, big battery life of 24 hours, and some exciting features for gamers: ChatMix, the ability to chat with other gamers via the ClearCast Discord-certified mic, and SteelSeries Engine 3 software for EQ presets. These are all useful features that bring out the best of the SteelSeries Arctis headset.
If you want something more affordable than Audeze Mobius and CORSAIR Virtuoso RGB Wireless XT that still offers a quality spatial reproduction of the sounds around you, Arctis 7 is a much better choice than most surround sound headsets. The design looks plainer than other gaming-oriented headsets, but it has a large battery life and DTS Headphone:X V2.0, one of the best audio solutions for PC surround sound.
The 40 mm drivers emphasize multiple frequency ranges resulting in an uneven sound response. The upper lows and lower trebles are pronounced, affecting the clarity and sharpness of the mid-range frequencies. When playing games or listening to music, the overall impression is warm, even at low volumes. Bass and vocals sound average, and the headsets have low sensitivity and force you to push the volume to the maximum, distorting the sound.
SteelSeries Arctis 7 Wireless isn’t a great-sounding headset, especially as it comes with the audio flaws commonly seen in wireless headsets. Still, the headset is affordable and offers compatibility with multiple consoles and a game/chat balance volume control. Besides, it has a clear and crisp mic and a decent soundstage. There’s also Arctis 9 Wireless which offers additional Bluetooth connection for smartphones, but for the price, Arctis 7 Wireless is a more affordable surround sound gaming headset.
- Great features: Bi-directional mic, ChatMix, and DTS Headphone:X V2 via SS Engine 3
- DTS Surround sound system is excellent and provides superior spatial sound
- High comfort with adjustable headband and breathable ear pads
- Up to 24 hours of battery life on a single charge
- Sound quality does not create a good baseline for DTS:X V2.0 surround sound
- Average sound quality with an uneven sound response
- The SteelSeries Engine 3 is dull, and the equalizer is limited to 5 bands.
- It’s not the most comfortable for people with large heads, and the breathable fabric mesh has a synthetic feel that may not appeal to everyone.
Corsair HS60 PRO
Gaming enthusiasts never hesitate to use the best peripherals for their work, even if it means making sacrifices. Corsair understands this and has created a surround sound gaming headset under $100 that will satisfy budget gamers’ needs. Suitable for FPS games with a sound response that helps you hear footsteps and gunshots, Corsair HS60 Pro 7.1 Surround will make online multiplayer games such as Overwatch, CS: GO, and Fortnite more enjoyable.
From a design standpoint, the Corsair HS60 Pro 7.1 Surround is very attractive and will look great on your desk or on its headphone stand. It features faux leather on the ear pads and 319g (11.2 oz) in total. The metal slider that supports the headband is sturdy and leaves no doubt about the long-lasting performance of this headset. It offers nine levels of height adjustment, so you can find the best fit for your head. The ear cups offer minimal flexibility as they can be rotated 30 degrees.
The microphone is above average. Intelligible, it has little background noise and can be detached if you don’t want to use it for voice chat. The cable is 2m long, with a gold-plated 3.5mm plug for your gaming PC, as well as a USB sound card so that the 7.1 surround sound is picked up by your motherboard. If your PC has a poor quality sound card, you don’t have to worry about it because the Corsair HS60 Pro 7.1 Surround has its own DAC. You can also customize the sound to your liking with Corsair iCue software with a 10-band equalizer.
Sound-wise, the Corsair HS60 Pro 7.1 Surround offers good stereo sound thanks to its 50mm neodymium drivers, but the 7.1 surround sound is average and only works on PCs via a USB connection. Still, you can listen to your favorite music, play games, and enjoy sound effects and dialogue with decent clarity.
The underlying sound is good, and considering the cost, the Carbon HS60 Pro Surround headphones aren’t bad. In fact, it’s one of the best gaming headsets with 7.1 surround sound for under 50 dollars when on sale.
- Lightweight and comfortable design even for a wireless 7.1 headset
- Discord-certified microphone with decent voice clarity
- Above-average sound reproduction with natural spatiality
- A mediocre virtual surround sound with an unnatural rendering
- Stereophony is not great but good enough for the money
- The bass does not play with much depth
How to Pick the Best Surround Sound Gaming Headsets?
Some gamers prefer the immersive effect that surround sound headsets provide, while others prefer open-back headphones without a microphone. To get an immersive experience, you need to get a headset that provides excellent full-range sound along with the hardware supporting them, like DTS Headphone:X V2.0 or Dolby Atmos for Headphones.
Both surround sound formats simulate 3D positional audio with success and much joy. However, the two formats use different algorithms and techniques to achieve their goals. So which is better?
Which is Better, DTS Headphone: X V2.0 or Dolby Atmos?
For the best sound quality, you should only get headsets that support Dolby Atmos or DTS Headphone: X V2.0. Both of these formats are quite different from one another. Still, they’re both fantastic surround sound technologies for gaming.
Dolby Atmos is much more popular, is supported by movies and games. It also has some advantages which make it sound more immersive and realistic compared to DTS Headphone:X V2.0, which we discussed in this article.
Gaming platforms like Xbox One S and Xbox One X also support headsets with Dolby Atmos, whereas PlayStation consoles (PS4 and PS5) provide Dolby Atmos compatibility only with certain devices: soundbars, AV receivers, Blu-ray movies, or Ultra HD Blu-ray discs.
Customizable 7.1 Virtual Surround Sound
Type of Virtual Surround Sound (Dolby 7.1 vs. Dolby Atmos for Headphones)
Some gaming headsets have Dolby 7.1 surround sound, while others offer Dolby Atmos. The difference between Dolby 7.1 and Dolby Atmos is that while Dolby Atmos uses different algorithms to simulate 3D positional audio and has a height audio channel to simulate overhead sound effects. In contrast, Dolby 7.1 surrounds offer a similar surround sound effect without the Y-axis channel.
Corsair Void Pro RGB Wireless offers Dolby 7.1, whereas Corsair Virtuoso RGB Wireless XT offers Dolby Atmos. The difference in spatial sound quality between these two is substantial, so is the price difference.
While the Corsair Void Pro RGB Wireless offers Dolby 7.1 surround sound, the Elite version, which is slightly better suited for gaming, offers proprietary 7.1 surround sound that is not provided by Dolby. Among the Void Pro headset lineup, the following headphones feature Dolby 7.1 sound:
- Void Pro RGB Wireless SE
- Void Pro RGB USB
- Void Pro Series Surround
Whether the surround sound effect comes from multiple drivers or is software-based, your headset’s sound quality should be outstanding. A good virtual surround sound technology won’t replicate the same quality of audio that you would experience in a live theater. So don’t rely on the audio processing alone. Think your $50 headsets with 7.1 sound are as great as Corsair Void RGB Elite or Steelseries Arctis Pro (btw, Arctis Pro requires the GameDAC; otherwise, it sounds mediocre).
It’s not easy to judge the raw sound quality of a surround sound headset without buying it. However, with online specs sheets at your disposal, take into account headsets that have:
- Wide frequency range (at least 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz)
- Big drivers (minimum 40 mm)
- High sensitivity (allows you to increase volume without distortion)
- Low THD (Total Harmonic Distortion < 3%)
- Dynamic drivers or Planar drivers (Audeze Mobius is quite expensive but well worth it)
Since most gamers like to use their headsets for more than gaming (such as watching movies and listening to music), look for surround sound headsets that excel in these applications.
- Dolby Atmos for Headphones if you want to enjoy surround sound when watching movies
- DTS:X has a higher bit rate than Dolby Atmos and is built on top of DTS-HD Master Audio, meaning you can use it to watch Blu-Ray movies.
Some prefer the DTS Headphone :X for games designed with DTS in mind, while others prefer the versatility and functionality of Dolby Atmos in FPS games and movies.
Plenty of debates on the topic exist, so I’ll list some of the pros and cons of the two surround sound technologies below:
Dolby Atmos for Headphones
- Users report that Dolby Atmos makes games more realistic and immersive with a height channel and multiple channels surrounding the action. There are several Dolby Atmos headsets, such as the Corsair Virtuoso RGB Wireless XT
- Dolby Atmos also allows more audio objects (up to 128 objects) to be included in the mix with a fuller sound
- Dolby Atmos offers greater compatibility with movies on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and most Blu-Ray discs
- Sounds are more distinct and realistic without muffling midrange frequencies or negatively affecting the sound response, making it easier to identify the direction of sounds
- It is slightly less expensive than DTS Headphone: X, making Dolby Atmos licensed headsets cheaper
- Some consoles only support Dolby Atmos via HDMI or optical audio for surround sound
DTS Headphone :X
- The spatial positioning of gaming headsets with DTS Headphone :X is realistic and full.
- DTS Headphone :X offers more customization than Dolby Atmos, allowing you to adjust the sound-based objects
- The mids sound slightly off, making dialogues difficult to hear clearly.
- DTS: X feels more adequate for games with no height channel and dialogues, whereas Dolby Atmos is better for movies with complex sound effects.
Simply, you should look for a headset mic with a frequency response of 50 – 10000 Hz, a sensitivity of -45 dB ±3 dB at 1 kHz, a noise-canceling filter for background noises, a big capsule diameter, and an omnidirectional polar pattern. It’s even better if the microphone is detachable since you can take it off if you don’t use it or replace it with another one when it breaks.
A good gaming headset should have an excellent mic that records clear audio for both voice chat and game audio recording/streaming purposes. One of the best gaming headsets with surround sound and quality microphones is the Corsair Virtuoso RGB Wireless XT. It features Dolby Atmos, an Omni-directional mic with a 9.5 mm capsule, and high-res sound quality. Unfortunately, the Dolby Atmos is not compatible with PlayStation and Mac.
Answer & Questions Regarding Surround Sound Headphones
How to add surround sound to headphones? Adding virtual surround sound through software to your gaming headphones
Most surround sound headphones are regular headphones with a licensed Dolby Atmos or DTS Headphone:X surround sound decoder built into software or a USB sound card. If your gaming headset does not come with virtual surround sound technology, you can purchase and install software that can provide it. The price of this software may be a little higher than the price of 7.1 surround sound built into the headset because gaming companies can get a better deal by licensing the technology for thousands of headsets.
The following surround sound apps can add virtual surround sound to any headset:
Dolby Access is a subscription-based program that offers you Dolby Atmos, Dolby Surround, and Dolby Vision technologies for games, movies, TV shows, and music (depending on the content). It gives you a surround sound experience like no other, giving you the ability to experience your audio in a whole new way with your soundbar or audio home theater.
If you decide to use Dolby Access, make sure that the gaming console you want to use it for is compatible. Xbox One, Xbox Series X | S, and Windows 10 PCs can be enjoyed with Dolby Access.
Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, Disney+ support Dolby Atmos. Most of these and a few more others also support Dolby Vision, which offers high dynamic range (HDR) video for more vibrant colors and an enjoyable viewing experience.
More info about Dolby Access/Dolby Atmos VSS technology can be found on the official website: https://kb.dolby.com/access
DTS Sound Unbound
Whether you want to surround sound for your soundbar, multi-channel speaker system, gaming headsets, or hi-fi reference headphones, the DTS Sound Unbound app gives you access to DTS :X Ultra, DTS :X and DTS Headphone :X as well as the newest versions. The last two technologies are similar, only differing in that DTS Headphone :X is for headphones and the other one for audio equipment (Home theater, soundbar, speakers)
You can install DTS Sound Unbound on PC, Xbox One, and Windows 10. Some of the most popular gaming platforms that support DTS Headphones :X are: Xbox One S, Xbox One X, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X. While not many streaming platforms provide DTS :X compatibility, some movies offer DTS :X surround sound, but you have to check which ones do. Also, not many Xbox One titles support DTS:X or Dolby Atmos, but the following titles do:
- Gears of War 4 (Xbox One X)
- Gears 5
- Crackdown 3 (Xbox One/Xbox One X)
- Star Wars: Battlefront II
- Assassin’s Creed Origins (Xbox One X)
- Final Fantasy XV (Xbox One X)
- Rise Of The Tomb Raider (Xbox One X)
- Super Lucky’s Tale (Xbox One X)
Meanwhile, both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One S/X support the DTS :X surround sound, but only for Home theater equipment via HDMI or optical output. If you want to buy and install the DTS Sound Unbound app on your platform, consider that it’s $5 more expensive than Dolby Access.
You can also get free surround sound with Windows Sonic for Headphones. Its quality is not as high as Dolby Atmos or DTS Headphone:X, and there’s no 3D audio representation, but with this app, you get free surround sound, and it is installed by default on all Windows 10 PCs and laptops. It’s also available on Xbox consoles. Other than that, it’s just a simple piece of software that turns your headphones into a surround sound headset.
If you want to enable HeSuVi, make sure you:
- Install VBCable & Equalizer APO (both free)
- Download HeSuVi from here: https://sourceforge.net/projects/hesuvi/
- Then follow this guide to set up HeSuVi: https://sourceforge.net/p/hesuvi/wiki/Help/
or this video:
How much does a good surround sound gaming headset cost?
While prices range from $50 for PC or Xbox headsets to over $300 for headsets with 3D audio, such as the Astro A50 Gen with Gen 4 base station, the more expensive packages offer better sound quality and features than the cheaper packages. A good gaming headset with surround sound costs between $100 and $200, and that’s where the best value is offered.
What headphones benefit the most from surround sound virtualization?
Open-back gaming headsets or hi-fi headphones with a broad frequency range and a wide soundstage that helps you distinguish the direction of sounds benefit the most from surround-sound virtualization. While most headsets designed for gaming don’t always produce a rich sound quality when listening to music, open hi-fi headphones usually do, especially when they have a sound signature that is geared for the needs of gamers, such as the EPOS Sennheiser Game One or the Beyerdynamic TYGR 300R.
Their immersive attributes are much better for gamers, especially once you augment them with a quality surround sound virtualization app such as HeSuVi, Dolby Access, or DTS Sound Unbound.
This makes gaming headsets with virtual surround sound irrelevant, but that doesn’t mean they’re useless or carry no added benefit. For example, you can use a gaming headset to stream games with the built-in mic, especially if it’s a good one like that of Virtuoso RGB Wireless XT. Plus, you don’t need to prepare your game room with acoustic panels, bass traps, and diffusers to get rid of outside noise that might distract you from your game.
What are the pros and cons of surround sound virtualization?
- Surround sound offers greater directional accuracy and provides a unique gaming experience
- VSS is free or cheap, unlike real surround sound headphones or surround sound systems. This makes it a cheap option if you want to try surround sound for PC gaming
- When added to open headphones, the spatial representation of sound is more realistic
- Unlike video game sound cards such as the Sennheiser GSX 1000, which uses digital signal processing for 7.1 surround sound, virtualizing surround sound via software like Dolby Atmos is much cheaper and offers better quality
- Some games make better use of surround sound virtualization because the sound sources are not easily identifiable. In contrast, others give you the correct audio signals without the need for surround sound, and you know if someone is shooting from behind or from the side.
- Unlike Dolby Atmos for Headphones, most algorithm-rendered surround sound effects do not offer a 3D audio effect, but a 2D audio effect with better directional awareness
- With poor quality headphones, the surround sound is not used properly and doesn’t make sense from a financial perspective to buy $20 software for a $50 gaming headset
- Cheap surround sound headsets are often worse than stereo headsets for the same price
- Compatibility issues: Not all games and multimedia content support surround sound
- Virtual surround sound doesn’t work well with music recorded in stereo or mono mode; thus, it’s less likely to get a more enticing listening experience using 7.1 surround headphones
- Not all surround sound technologies are good for competitive gaming, mainly due to the absence of 3D sound effects and altering of the sound response.
Surround sound virtualization offers a great overall surround sound experience when done right. It immerses you in the game better than stereo headsets. It also gives you situational awareness and a target to focus on. This comes in handy whether it’s a shooter, open-world game, or racing title, as it allows skilled players to react quicker and exploit their opponent’s weaknesses.
Can I use surround sound headsets for music?
Yes, you can, but it’s not the same as gaming. Surround sound headphones handle movies and video games better than music. For music, it’s best to opt for closed-back hi-fi headsets that offer a better bass response or open-back headsets for that large and natural soundstage. Even with 8D music on YouTube, listening in stereo mode is still more enjoyable.
This is because movies and games are better recorded and provide the foundation for surround sound to work correctly. Most music recording and mixing is done in mono and stereo; thus, using surround sound for stereo audio does not provide the same results as gaming or watching movies with surround technology.
A good surround sound headset is, first of all, a headset with top-notch sound quality that, on top of that, can provide more realism in the form of 7.1 ch surround sound. Our best surround sound headsets feature good sound quality and an impressive ability to translate spatial positioning when playing games.
If you play FPS or open-world games, a good surround sound headset like our Audeze Mobius allows you to enjoy the virtual world more realistically. Not all our headsets feature Dolby Atmos or DTS: X, but you’re still guaranteed a quality three-dimensional sound, a comfortable design, and a great microphone.
We hope that our guide on buying a surround sound headset cleared out all the confusion around them and offered you a good starting point for choosing a good surround sound gaming headset. In the end, headsets with multiple audio channels, whether via virtual means or multiple drivers, are good. Still, they don’t compare to our best open-back gaming headsets in terms of spatiality, soundstage, and positional accuracy.
In addition, if you’re looking for a headset that’s designed for PC or laptop use, or perhaps you prefer a gaming headset for streaming. We have separate articles with all our best gaming headsets for PC, gaming laptops, and other best gaming headsets for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Wireless gaming headsets, or headsets with high-quality microphones.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or ask us anything in the comments section below. And if there’s a specific surround sound gaming headset that you don’t see here and wonder why, please let us know, and we’ll be glad to answer you. Thank you for reading our Best 7.1 Surround Sound Gaming Headset Guide!