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Proper CMSS-3D setup for headphones

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 



My goal is to configure my gaming machine to properly use CMSS-3D for headphones (I only use AT ATH-A900 stereo headphones, no other speaker configurations are required). Up until now I've been setting Creative control panel to "Headphones" and let it set Windows speaker configuration automatically (to "Headphones"). After reading more about this I think that my setup is probably suboptimal. Btw, I run Windows XP.


As far as I understand, some games support hardware audio while others do not (especially the newer ones). There are no problems with those that have hardware support and CMSS-3D works natively with them. However, those that don't support hardware audio should be set to output surround sound (5.1/7.1) which the sound card can process into a proper "stereo surround". The final effect may not be comparable to hardware audio support, but it's still better than nothing.


Having this in mind, it seems that an optimal "one size fits all" configuration would be:


1. In Creative audio control panel set speaker configuration to "Headphones" and disable synchronization with Windows control panel.

2. Set Windows speaker configuration to 5.1/7.1.

3. When playing ANY game, if it allows selecting a speaker configuration, set it to 5.1/7.1 as well.


So here are my questions:


1. Is the configuration above the recommended setup? If it is obviously wrong, please explain why.

2. Considering the setup above, if I select 5.1/7.1 configuration in a game that DOES SUPPORT hardware audio (OpenAL, DirectSound3D), will this cause any problems? Should "Headphones" or "Stereo" be selected instead?

3. Is there any reason to select 5.1 instead of 7.1 (in game options and Windows control panel)? It seems that most people prefer 5.1 - does the rule "less is more" apply in this case? Is 5.1 simply a better supported option in games than 7.1?



post #2 of 6

That's pretty much the gist of it.


In a proper DirectSound3D or OpenAL implementation, it won't even look at the Windows speaker setting. It'll just tell the sound card driver where the sounds are positioned in virtual 3D space, and the sound driver plays them back through whichever speakers they see best fit-or, in the case of CMSS-3D Headphone, applies the HRTF binaural filter accordingly before outputting to stereo headphones. In the best of cases, you should be able to point out the exact angle from your position and a given sound source, even if it's above or below.


For newer games that have downgraded to software-based APIs like XAudio2 that pre-mix everything to surround speaker positions based on the Windows setting, CMSS-3D Headphone emulates a 5.1 or 7.1 speaker field because that's all the positional information it gets. This is why you want asynchronous speaker/headphone configurations. You don't have to worry about missing sounds not played through the front channels because even with CMSS-3D Headphone off, the rear and side left/right are audible and positioned the same as front left/right (that is, directly off to the side, as usual for headphones). In other words, the X-Fi drivers downmix everything automatically.


I believe that 5.1 was selected in the guide that introduced me to that configuration simply because the person who wrote it also had a 5.1 speaker configuration, not 7.1, and to switch between headphones and speakers, he only wanted to adjust the X-Fi control panel. If you only have headphones, just leave it at 7.1.


Note that there are a few people who advise radically different configurations, usually taking CMSS-3D Headphone out of the equation entirely. This could be because their personal HRTFs fall too far outside of the generic HRTF used, or they just don't like any perceived sound quality deficits.

post #3 of 6
Thread Starter 

Thanks, but the dropdown to select speaker configuration in Windows control panel is greyed out for some reason. I have synchronization disabled in Creative control panel. What could be the problem?

post #4 of 6

That's odd. I don't have that problem with my classic gaming desktop running XP and an X-Fi Prelude. Windows is set to 7.1 under the Advanced button in the sound options, and the X-Fi's set to Headphones with the "synchronize with Windows control panel" box ticked off. (A box that doesn't appear at all on Vista/Win7 for whatever reason...and isn't needed because setting the X-Fi to Headphones always permits asynchronous Windows speaker settings.)

post #5 of 6


Edited by Sam21 - 4/9/14 at 11:41am
post #6 of 6

Correction, CMSS-3D does not need to be fed with multi channel source, it works fine with stereo input. The complex algorithm decides to place each sound in the right position. it can "detect" where each sound should be positioned from the stereo signal.

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