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Soundcard for positional audio in FPS games

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

I've recently built a new pc with a Phoebus soundcard and AD-700 headphones. Playing BF4 I noticed positional audio was lacking compared to my previous setup (recon 3d fatality + ad700 on battlefield 3). After some research I ended up trying the razer surround software which made a huge improvement over the Phoebus driver, it allowed me to run both bf4 and windows in surround mode.


The current setup is bf4 set to home cinema/surround, windows device set to razer 7.1, razer software set to virtual surround on 2ch headphones with all other enhancements turned off.


I'm wondering how the Phoesbus/razer combination compares to the SB ZXR soundcard? The current setup has excellent soud quality, but it just doesn't seem as good at precisely placing the sounds as the old setup was.



post #2 of 9

SBX is the current best solution you can get as long as you absolutely don't need 100% legacy support since cards sporting that VS can only rely on a software form of OpenAL. 


And I can freely refer to benbkr since he wrote everything down on what he and I agree. I personally find the Razer solution horrible and lacking in cohorence (worst) and accuracy.




Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Having tested and used all 4 main VSS technologies extensively, here's my summarized view on them:

Not all VSS technologies work well for all types of headphone, for example Dolby Headphones does not generally work too well with most closed headsets/headphones. This is due to the reverb DH has and having a closed headphones bounces the "echo" effect, leading to what many refer to as "like being in a tunnel".

They still have the best positional cues over amongst the 3 VSS technologies, they are still the ones to go for if your primary needs is absolute positional accuracy.
The downside of CMSS-3D is that it makes the audio sound overly thin, it's worst especially if you use it with bass-shy headphones and even more so if they're open ones. Though there are people who do feel that the "tin can" effect does help even more with positional accuracy as it accentuates the mid-high frequencies, leading to picking up audio cues around the player.

I for one personally think that if you want CMSS-3D to behave like an all rounder, you'll want to use a closed headphone/headset and do at least have tight bass.

Dolby Headphones
They're honestly the worst VSS tech in terms of positional accuracy IF you're using it on a closed headphone with relatively narrow soundstage. Many people do not understand that for DH to shine, open headphones with decent soundstage and some possess at least some tight bass is a must. I use DH with a HE-400 and K702, they're just SWEEET. Positional accuracy is indeed still not as good as CMSS-3D, but the immersion I get... I'm willing to look that off.

Because of this, Dolby Headphones generally work nice with movies too. Much better than CMSS-3D at least.

THX Surround
I don't know what went wrong with THX Surround honestly because what I feel is that it is very inconsistent. In most games, THX surround just doesn't project proper positional accuracy but instead over emphasize on immersion. I honestly only found THX Surround usable with Battlefield 3, I don't know why... but any other FPS or games, THX surround just sounds dull... lifeless.

Some users do however feel that THX Surround provides the best immersion and is good for movies, I personally don't feel that way as I think Dolby Headphones fits that bill better... for me, at least.

SBX Surround
It's been quite on the upward spiral lately, what THX Surround did wrong... Creative took it and modified whatever they needed to and the result is something I would call: the marriage between Dolby Headphones and CMSS-3D.
SBX does not have better positional accuracy than CMSS-3D, but it IS better than Dolby Headphones (even with a good open headphone combo). It doesn't present that "tin can" effect or have too much reverb.

Best of all, I feel that SBX Surround just works with any type of headphones. Be it open, semi-open or closed. SBX fits well within the range and although it doesn't get to be as accurate or as immersive with CMSS-3D and DH, I think SBX is the best all rounder for someone who just wants to game and watch movies.

I hope that helps. Remember, virtual surround sound DOES work. People who say it doesn't, well... too bad, it doesn't for them.
IMO, they work and they're fun to use.
post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 

Thanks for that info, pretty much confirms what I was thinking.


Just about to pull the trigger on the ZXR, but wondering if I'd be better off just grabbing the ZX instead. Aside from the daughterboard is there much difference between the two for gaming?


ZX would suit my colour scheme better but I dont want to sacrifice performance.

Edited by hakka - 3/7/14 at 6:08am
post #4 of 9

The Zx is a waste of money. Its pretty much identical to a much cheaper Soundblaster Z, with just SLIGHTLY better capacitors.

The Asus Phoebus should range at the same price range like the Zx, but offers better components, and a much stronger headphone amp (the same as the ZxR).

Means, the Zx would be a downgrade.


If you do NOT use the soundcart features, why should it change different? It will be practicaly the exact same when you use Razer Surround.

The Creatives are just more bassy, while the Phoebus is more clean/neutral, so you might see the creatives as "abit more fun at gaming". But here again: Why dont just raise the bass in the Phoebus EQ?


The Xonar Essence has a SLIGHTLY better DAC than the Phoebus, while the ZxR has a SLIGHTLY better DAC than the Essence.

But i would say... you need headphones for 500-700€+ to hear the difference (ignoring the "sounding").

post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 
I ended up getting the zxr, positional audio is better than the phoebus+razer. Razer is doing something bad to the sound quality, not sure exactly what but the zxr sound better in games. I put the phoebus in my other pc for movies and music.
post #6 of 9

Good choice.


I just upgraded from the Titanium HD to the ZXR and it is amazeballs.


Didn't expect that much of a difference.

post #7 of 9

Is the positional audio better on the ZxR than the Phoebus even if both run stereo?

post #8 of 9

Hello i have one tritton Pro+, and i have a question:


Can i have a better audio experience, with one  Audio Technica ATH-M50 or  Koss - PRODJ 100, with my motherboard's on-board audio? 


My motherboard's have a Realtek ALC898 codec.



post #9 of 9

Depends. What exactly are you looking for?


The ATH M50 are very overrated in my Opinion. They do sound "fun" (bassy), but the soundstage is VERY small. Making them a good headphone, but NOT a good choice for Gamers (who need a good soundstage for positional audio).


Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro for example or Custom One Pro / Custom studio should be better here. Or open ones, like DT 990, or the in that Pricerange godlike AKG K612 (slightly worse than the Excellent AKG K7xx series).


But having good headphones, you should think about a Soundcard. Realtek soundchips often have quite low Output power.

It might sound, as if you wanna drive a Mountain up in 3rd or 4th gear. ^^

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