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Any cheap soundcards that do Dolby Headphone/CMSS-3D and Dolby Digital Live?

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 

I need to get a soundcard for Virtual Surround in headphones, as my motherboard's ALC892 with THX ProStudio Pro Virtual Surround just doesn't work and I can't hear anything other than a slight reverb/flanging effect when playing games with it. When I test it with the Realtek Sound Manager speaker test I can hear that the side and rear speakers are coming from a different position to the front speakers but in-game (was playing Assassin's Creed III last night), not at all.

 

I was planning on getting the Earforce DSS processor, which needs to be given a Dolby Digital 5.1 signal and unfortunately the ALC892 doesn't support Dolby Digital Live which is needed to encode the multi-channel audio from games and send it over the optical out.

 

However, it may be that Dolby Headphone or CMSS-3D is good enough so I want to get a card that supports that (I believe CMSS is regarded as better) but can also support DDL, so that if I'm not satisfied with those I can still get the DSS.

 

I was looking at  the Xonar DX, which supports Dolby Headphone and DDL but uses the line/mic in to provide the optical out, which is just daft and means I wouldn't be able to use my mic whilst gaming.

http://uk.asus.com/Multimedia/Audio_Cards/Xonar_DX/#specifications

 

The Xonar DG/DGX has a dedicated optical out but only supports Dolby Headphone, not DDL as well.

http://uk.asus.com/Multimedia/Audio_Cards/Xonar_DG/#overview

http://uk.asus.com/Multimedia/Audio_Cards/Xonar_DGX/#specifications

 

The only option I've found so far is the X-Fi Titanium but that's almost twice the cost of the Xonar DG or DGX, at £40 vs £23 and if I do decide to get the DSS as well, it starts to add up.

 

I'm going to buy a pair of Samson SR850 cans as well as I understand that open-backed cans work better for Virtual Surround and give a larger soundstage than closed-back (like my current Creative Fatality set). I'll need to get a clip/stick on mic for those but that's not really a problem, apart from the extra cable to manage.

 

So are there any other cards that would fit the bill or am I just going to have to get the X-Fi Titanium?

post #2 of 20
Thread Starter 

So it seems the DSS uses Dolby Headphone, so there's obviously no point paying extra for a DDL card that already has Dolby Headphone just to use the DSS with it. However, as CMSS seems to be regarded as superior to Dolby Headphone, I guess I'll still have to get the X-Fi Titanium rather than the cheaper Xonar DG unless anyone knows of any other budget but good quality cards that do CMSS.

 

I've actually got the DSS now and tested it on with Xbox360 and Creative Fatality cans but they don't seem to have a very good soundstage as testing with RightMark3D http://audio.rightmark.org/products/rm3ds.shtml revealed. It's strange as I hear the positioning quite well with this clip https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMkunPQMhN4 and with the Realtek Control Panel, testing each speaker I can clearly hear a difference (albeit not massive, no doubt in part due to the Fatality being a closed-set) in the positions of the front, side and rear speakers, although I struggled with this clip but that could be because there's so many sounds playing at once https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NirHR5l9AU

 

Anyway, I've ordered a pair of Samson SR850 so hopefully they'll be much better.

post #3 of 20
Thread Starter 

Well I got my SR850 today and I can't say the virtual surround sounds any better with them than on the Fatality. The actual sound might be nicer, although I haven't bothered to do a comparison yet so I'm not sure but there's still no real sense of the sounds coming from in front or behind me when I do the 5.1 test in Splinter Cell Conviction, only that it's coming from the front edge/just in front of my ear and just behind. I'd say the front channels are more distinctly at the front edge of my ear, whilst the rear sounds are harder to pinpoint between the middle of my ear and slightly behind.

No question there's a fuller ambience to the environment using the DSS' Dolby Headphone virtual surround but in the games I've tested with I couldn't pinpoint much as being in front or behind me (there was a fire I walked past at one point in GoW3 which I noticed as being behind me).

Tested them with RightMark3D on the PC as well and that was quite underwhelming too. It has a vertical positioning test and it just sounds quieter when it's at the above or below position compared to when it's in the middle (i.e. parallel to the head) but it certainly doesn't sound like it's above or below me. The horizontal positioning is much the same as with the DSS on the Xbox360 I'd say.

Oh well, I've got another nice pair of headphones anyway and the DSS does make the games sound nicer. Maybe I'll find CMSS-3D on the X-Fi Titanium works for me or maybe my brain's just to clever to be fooled by all this trickery ;)

 

EDIT: Actually, having tested them on my PC both with THX TruStudio Pro playing Assassin's Creed III and listening to those youtube videos again, I have to say the positioning is miles ahead of the Fatality. It seems it's Dolby Headphone, which the DSS uses that isn't much good as the positioning sounds very weak in comparison to THX and CMSS-3D in that BF3 video. So I probably won't bother buying the X-Fi Titanium now just to get CMSS-3D as THX seems good enough.


Edited by doveman - 4/12/13 at 7:25pm
post #4 of 20
Thread Starter 

Oh wow, was just about to buy one then I read that the X-Fi Titanium series don't have a "mic boost" option, which is a major fail for me as I need to use that on my realteak onboard to make my voice loud enough.

 

I can only assume this applies to the Azuntech X-Fi Prelude as well, as it basically uses the same drivers.

 

So I'm still looking for a good quality card that can do CMSS-3D and has decent mic support.

post #5 of 20

CMSS just makes your games sound worse IMO.

post #6 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Byrnie View Post

CMSS just makes your games sound worse IMO.

Really, because the comments I've read have suggested that THX has extremely poor positional audio, Dolby Headphone is very reverby and CMSS-3D is the best of the three virtual surround systems for positioning sounds.

 

I'm not aware of any other virtual surround technologies, at least available on current soundcards but perhaps someone knows of something.

 

Even for the Earforce DSS, which uses Dolby Headphone, I've seen comments from people saying they're using it with headphones in preference to their actual 5.1 speakers but I'm not sure about that as I find there's a very compact soundstage with even semi-open headphones like my SR850 with Dolby Headphone and THX and I never have the sense of sounds behind me, only really at the corners of my head, nothing like as nice as having actual speakers behind my head.

post #7 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by doveman View Post

Really, because the comments I've read have suggested that THX has extremely poor positional audio, Dolby Headphone is very reverby and CMSS-3D is the best of the three virtual surround systems for positioning sounds.

 

I'm not aware of any other virtual surround technologies, at least available on current soundcards but perhaps someone knows of something.

 

Even for the Earforce DSS, which uses Dolby Headphone, I've seen comments from people saying they're using it with headphones in preference to their actual 5.1 speakers but I'm not sure about that as I find there's a very compact soundstage with even semi-open headphones like my SR850 with Dolby Headphone and THX and I never have the sense of sounds behind me, only really at the corners of my head, nothing like as nice as having actual speakers behind my head.

I used to compete on professional level in a few computer games (mainly Counter-Strike 1.6) and I never had a need for CMSS or Dolby Headphone.  In fact computer gaming is what got me into high-end heaphones, the ambient sounds gained from these high-end headphones sure gave me an edge.  I used to be able to tell almost exactly where people were just from my headphones which goes to show you that don't need any of this CMSS of even dolby headphone stuff to play games.  I really think that Dolby headphone is only useful in movie playback but you can just use PowerDVD (software dvd player) to provide you the dolby headphone experience.  I'm not sure what your motivation is in getting this is.  Are you trying to compete on professional level?  If so I would recommend just getting a solid sound card with a nice pair of headphones (turn off the CMSS crap and anything similar and just tell your soundcard you are using headphones) or you can do a headphone amp + DAC combo in place of a soundcard (usually the more expensive alternative).  All of these synthetic programs/features do is make things sound worse, in my opinion.  Just my .02.

post #8 of 20
Thread Starter 

I'm not competing professionally or anything like that (in fact I'm pretty useless at MP, mostly ArmA II but I still enjoy it), it's just that I love the immersive sound I get using my surround sound speakers (only 4) and wanted to get that same immersion using headphones, as I live in a flat with very poor soundproofing, so can't use the speakers much.

 

Theoretically it makes sense that using clever algorithms to trick the ear into thinking a sound is coming from a certain direction could work, as we only have two ears which are able to identify direction and distance with speakers (or other sources) but from my experience using headphones with Dolby or THX, it just doesn't work as well as I was led to believe and certainly the sense of sounds coming from in front or behind me, which is quite obvious with speakers, is missing. It's like the soundstage is constrained within the headphones, despite being semi-open, so I'll hear something front left but it's more like it's in the top left corner of the headphone or maybe an inch or two away, rather than coming from the corner of my room, if that makes sense.

 

I can't really understand how you could identify where people were without using any virtual surround as then sounds are all either just left or right surely?

 

I definitely agree that a decent set of headphones is the starting point and I notice the difference with the Samson SR850 I bought and everything's more crisp and ambient, compared to my Creative Fatality headset, which sounds dull and "muddy" in comparison.

 

It's hard to toggle the THX on/off to compare on the PC as the games are running fullscreen and it takes several steps to disable it completely but using the DSS processor with the Xbox360, it has a passthrough button to toggle the Dolby Headphone and it definitely makes the sound more immersive and ambient and it's much more flat with it disabled but you still have to try quite hard to identify any positional sound, whereas with speakers it would be very obvious.

 

I know my onboard Realtek ALC892 isn't quite as good as some soundcards but I'm not sure it's that inferior that I'd notice enough difference to justify spending £50 on a X-Fi Titanium, which doesn't even have mic boost meaning I'd have to keep using the onboard for that and having both enabled would probably cause problems (I think I've read posts from people who had problems that were due to this and had to disable the onboard).

post #9 of 20

Oh ok.  I would still suggest what I suggested above by turning off all the gimmicks and just turning the volume up some to drown outside noises.

post #10 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Byrnie View Post

I used to compete on professional level in a few computer games (mainly Counter-Strike 1.6) and I never had a need for CMSS or Dolby Headphone.  In fact computer gaming is what got me into high-end heaphones, the ambient sounds gained from these high-end headphones sure gave me an edge.  I used to be able to tell almost exactly where people were just from my headphones which goes to show you that don't need any of this CMSS of even dolby headphone stuff to play games.  I really think that Dolby headphone is only useful in movie playback but you can just use PowerDVD (software dvd player) to provide you the dolby headphone experience.  I'm not sure what your motivation is in getting this is.  Are you trying to compete on professional level?  If so I would recommend just getting a solid sound card with a nice pair of headphones (turn off the CMSS crap and anything similar and just tell your soundcard you are using headphones) or you can do a headphone amp + DAC combo in place of a soundcard (usually the more expensive alternative).  All of these synthetic programs/features do is make things sound worse, in my opinion.  Just my .02.

Ive read that external DAC are not recommended for PC gaming and instead use a high end soundcard.

But you are saying that using external AMP + DAC is better for games like CS 1.6?

 

I think that sound is more advanced in CS source and CS:GO.

post #11 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by doveman View Post

Oh wow, was just about to buy one then I read that the X-Fi Titanium series don't have a "mic boost" option, which is a major fail for me as I need to use that on my realteak onboard to make my voice loud enough.

 

I can only assume this applies to the Azuntech X-Fi Prelude as well, as it basically uses the same drivers.

 

So I'm still looking for a good quality card that can do CMSS-3D and has decent mic support.

 

 

The X-Fi Prelude DOES have a mic boost option. So does the X-Fi Forte. I know, because I've actually owned both of those.

 

Can't comment on the X-Fi Titanium (non-HD), which is a DIFFERENT card from the X-Fi Titanium HD, that being a card that lacks the mic boost for some dumb reason.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Byrnie View Post

CMSS just makes your games sound worse IMO.

 

Something about it does make things sound a bit...off...but the sheer positional advantage is why I use it anyway.

 

It's like having an aural wallhack, as I always say, and the sound samples in most games aren't the best to begin with. Thus far, the only things I've found to even compete with CMSS-3D Headphone's positioning are Rapture3D's headphone mixing modes and Aureal A3D on a Vortex-chipset card set to headphone mode. (Remember when all those competitive Counter-Strike players insisted on AU8830 Vortex2-based cards for A3D support back in the WON days?)

 

But I'll be the first to admit, even with all my outspokenness on the subject, that it may not work as well for everyone. That applies to every headphone surround tech that uses a generic HRTF based on the human average, when every listener has a unique HRTF.

post #12 of 20
Quote:

It's like having an aural wallhack, as I always say, and the sound samples in most games aren't the best to begin with. Thus far, the only things I've found to even compete with CMSS-3D Headphone's positioning are Rapture3D's headphone mixing modes and Aureal A3D on a Vortex-chipset card set to headphone mode. (Remember when all those competitive Counter-Strike players insisted on AU8830 Vortex2-based cards for A3D support back in the WON days?)

 

But I'll be the first to admit, even with all my outspokenness on the subject, that it may not work as well for everyone. That applies to every headphone surround tech that uses a generic HRTF based on the human average, when every listener has a unique HRTF.

 

So should I use Xonar DX while gaming or my ODAC?

 

Ive read for music the ODAC has better DAC then Xonar STX (STX is twice the price of DX).

post #13 of 20

Have you tried the "Razer" software for simulating 7.1 card and creating headphones surround from it? there are many comparison videos on youtube with cmss-3D and they are actualy not bad (considering is for free :)  I just do not like the software that much, coz you have to register and they store your settings in cloud, but it actualy really works. The sound from rear was excelent for me even with cheap headphones, sound from front was a bit confusing (was more or less like from above). I would give it a shot for sure before you invest money into something.

post #14 of 20
Thread Starter 

I was actually using Razer Surround until recently but I found it was causing a lot of crashes and I also kept finding that I'd boot up a lot of the time and have no sound, whether from the Razer control panel tests or even after disabling Razer and trying to use the normal soundcard instead, so I had to uninstall it.

 

It was good when it worked though and I'll try it again if it gets updated anytime.

post #15 of 20

That is interresting you are saying. I am actualy looking for exactly same solution like you right now. I was not pleased that much as well with Razer. One thing what is really annoying is that it keeps reseting my sound settings to Razer as default by every restart. Similar problems you describe I had too. Anyway I find it kinda too intrusive with this cloud etc.. I almost bought X-Fi SB Card, but then I read lot of complaints about not working drivers under Win7 & Win8. So now I am stuck without any solution and still looking for something.. DSS seems to be a handy solution but users feedback is mostly negative about the simulation quality. From the comparison videos CMSS3D seems to be the best technology. Dolby headphones the second best (as it sounds like you are all the time in a small room).

 

 If you have spare money, you can buy an amp, like somebody said here.. I think Yamaha calls it "silent cinema" and onkyo Supersonic something.. This would be the cleanest solution IMHO. Unfortunately I bought an amp not supporting this couple monts ago.. 

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