Originally Posted by davidsh
Not sure whether Dolby actually sounds better/different as 7.1 vs 5.1, though I'd suppose. Does it even matter?
I. It may also depend on the headphone. I was using my IEM since it drowns out the two AF120 Performance fans on my case (plus the Antec 620 on the exhaust), but there is hardly any difference at any setting. When I picked up an old set of Creative headphones (my cousin lost the USB soundcard that came with it), it was easier to appreciate DH. However, when it comes to 5.1 vs 7.1, as long as your game has it, I tend to use the latter.
II. It also partly depends on the game, aside from having the correct sound programme. On TW (Shogun II and Rome II) if I'm completely zoomed out on the campaign map and I click on any army/agent, the vocal response sounds correspondingly faint, but clear enough. On the battle sequences, on a practical level it doesn't help as much as with speakers since it doesn't really take it outside of my head, however in terms of the best compromise for immersion. On single player mode, I usually give out orders, then switch to 1st person view especially on the cavalry. If I'm on 1st person view for the infantry general/supreme commander (not the same with Greek armies as it works as one Strategos on one flank and one Lieutenant on the opposite flank) I can still hear for example cavalry coming in from either side, but note that depending on what's happening it can be easily drowned out by other noises and get lost, especially when firearms and cannons are involved (Fall of the Samurai - Boshin War).
III. On FPS games 7.1 is still better but not by much. For the most part, headphone audio is still hampered by the position of the drivers, so it makes the sound softer rather than, say, making gunfire from 25ft ahead actually sound like it's 25ft ahead. It does however help when the sound is that soft - I find 5.1 not much softer on all directions (ie stil too forward) compared to 2.0, and everything still sounds like it's all over the place. Basically as long as the mind can be reoriented to recognize soft and somewhat positional audio for positional cues over actual imaging done with a true surround sound speaker system, it can help.