Originally Posted by MalVeauX
You'd be surprised what some AV receivers are capable of by Yamaha and Pioneer in regards to 3D surround sound with headphones. No USB needed. You can use optical output to avoid any processing on the PC itself and just use SPDIFF pass through. They're just fancy sound cards with bigger parts, more outputs, it's own LCD panel, and a neat box that sits external of the PC. Just set the sound config to 5.1 or greater, whatever you like, and use SPDIFF output. I've done it and didn't notice much of a difference between that and using a soundcard with dolby headphone or a soundcard with an X-Fi chipset for surround. But then again, most headphone users these days
don't think of AV receivers as headphone stations or gaming devices for sound either. So yea, something to think about.
Then again, a lot of people over look receivers in regards to headphones these days anyways.
There's more to it than that.
With me being so interested in older PC games that had hardware sound acceleration via the DSPs on sound cards of the day, the only way I can get proper sound on those games to begin with, reverb, chorus, occlusion, and all those effects intact, is to have that sound card hardware in place. In other words, there's a synthesis aspect to it that no external DAC/DSP can provide, especially when you go back to the DOS/Win9x era of gaming. People over at VOGONS have plenty of discussion on what sound cards, MIDI daughterboards, etc. are the ones to get because of this.
That said, I've considered A/V receivers as headphone surround processors for consoles before, specifically the Harmon Kardon AVR 254/354 (which have Dolby Headphone instead of some in-house tech like Yamaha's Silent Cinema). I just find them a bit bulky and overkill for that specific purpose, and the headphone surround processing wouldn't go through the front left/right speaker outputs anyway, which would make use with my Stax system much easier.
(And as an aside, I actually have this Onkyo TX-SV515PRO sitting on my computer desk right now as a family hand-me-down. It's a 1980s receiver that has no built-in DAC, let alone all the other frills of modern A/V receivers. Predictably, it serves as an oversized headphone amp just because it provides that speaker-level output I need for my Stax system, while also bearing a 6.3mm jack on the front for more conventional dynamic/ortho headphones.)