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Questions regarding positional audio in headphones and so-called "marketing gimmicks"..

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

Hello, this is my first post here.

 

I am currently in the process of getting a good set of headphones and after much browsing and reading, I've decided on beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro.

 

I'll be using it for gaming and listening to music.

 

One thing I have been noticing is that when people ask about which positional set to get, I see many respond with "don't get that. it's just a marketing gimmick." or "just get a stereo headphones".

 

I was wondering - how to obtain positional audio with ordinary stereo set?

 

And which part is the "marketing gimmick"? Is it the 7.1 (or 5.1) numbering of the box, or those who call it a gimmick can't perceive the positional audio in those headsets?

 

Or, are the so called 7.1 headsets ALSO plain stereo only, that rely on external USB audio processor or software to emulate the surround sound?

 

I heard the DT 770 Pro also has good positioning cues. But how does it do that? Does it require any software like the Razer Surround to enable the surround? If not, how can these stereo sets "position" the audios accordingly? I'm really confused here.

 

I have listened to the Razer Kraken 7.1, and it does position the sounds accurately when I tested it with Skyrim. I also see many headphone enthusiasts simply detest these gaming headsets. I don't know why either.

 

I haven't bought the DT 770 Pro yet but I wonder how much of difference it'll be when gaming or with deep bass music compared to the Kraken 7.1....

 

My main requisites : positional audio - 7.1 type, very good deep bass for gaming and music and prefer isolation (hence the closed back 770) for gaming and music.

 

To give you an idea of where I stand, I've never bought a professional or enthusiast-level headphones before. And the current headphone (if you can call it that) is the humble Microsoft LX-1000 headphone. :o

 

Thanks.

post #2 of 12

I really prefer my Audio Technica ATH-A900X headphones over the DT770s

 

There are a lot of "gaming" headset that use stereo headphones and a USB sound card to processes the 6-channels of the audio source into headphone surround sound.

As you only have two ears, it only takes two diaphragms, one in headphone cup, to make your ears think they are listening to 360 degree audio.

The better quality the headphones, the more accurately you should be able to know what the sound is.

 

Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro 250-Ohm headphones, $150.

Creative Labs Sound Blaster Z sound card, $85.

post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 

Sorry for the late reply. I was away and occupied with some matters.

 

I'm planning for the 32-ohms or 80-ohms DT 770 Pro.

 

Is that A900X a personal preference? What made you prefer it over the 770? Which one is better in positioning the audio and which one possess better bass?

 

I'm still keeping a watch over the A900X at ebay, in addition to the DT 770 Pro. I would go for the DT 990, but I don't want open backed ones and I prefer isolation especially while gaming, and I don't want outside noise interfering with my games or music too much.

 

Thanks.

post #4 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by malibd View Post
 

Sorry for the late reply. I was away and occupied with some matters.

 

I'm planning for the 32-ohms or 80-ohms DT 770 Pro.

 

Is that A900X a personal preference? What made you prefer it over the 770? Which one is better in positioning the audio and which one possess better bass?

 

I'm still keeping a watch over the A900X at ebay, in addition to the DT 770 Pro. I would go for the DT 990, but I don't want open backed ones and I prefer isolation especially while gaming, and I don't want outside noise interfering with my games or music too much.

 

Thanks.

The DT770 are more V shaped sound, 80-Ohm version has the most bass.

The A900X has a more balanced sound.

Also the 40-Ohm A900Xs are very easy to drive, any mp3 player can drive the A900Xs.

Where as all version of the DT770s (32, 80, 250, 600) really need to be used with a headphone amplifier, to bring out their best.

post #5 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thank you for taking your time to explain the differences.

 

If I had the money, I would get both. Hmmm....I guess I'll go for the ....aaarrgghhhh.... still can't decide.....:o2smile:

post #6 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by malibd View Post

 

And which part is the "marketing gimmick"? Is it the 7.1 (or 5.1) numbering of the box, or those who call it a gimmick can't perceive the positional audio in those headsets?

 

Or, are the so called 7.1 headsets ALSO plain stereo only, that rely on external USB audio processor or software to emulate the surround sound?

 

Save for a select few headphones, most of these are physically 2.0 units that rely on sound processing like Dolby headphone or whatever works with the soundcard you have or through the included external USB soundcard. Those who can't perceive the positioning cues aren't necessarily calling BS on the manufacturers' claims based on performance (or lack thereof), but just a couple of considerations:

1. Are they even using the correct material with it? It might be easy to pick out positional cues on an HD800 compared to an HD600, but that's for people who actually know about positional cues rather than just tonality (and then again, some people are just tone-deaf too), but even then it's not like the difference in jump from an HD600 to speakers, and that's assuming you're using a recording that has good imaging (mic placement during recording determines this).

 

2. With games, let's not forget how much the brain factors into hearing, and not just in audiophiles "hearing things" that don't exist, but also if you're too intently staring at your IPS screen amazed at the detail and frame rates while trying to hit another player, then chances are you won't notice the positional cues in your headphones the same way people in an actual firefight don't need stealthy ninjas to get attacked in the flank. Just think of how many Greek or Italian infantry, wearing all that armour (and worse, some with the Corinthian helmet) standing shoulder to shoulder with their shields up stabbing using spears or swords, get attacked by cavalry in the rear, when someone who never really thinks about how that goes will ask, "they didn't hear 5,000 galloping horses with 5,000 shouting riders?" That's not so easy with most helmets protecting the whole head (and covering the ears) and a tight formation focused on steamrolling the infantry straight ahead.

 

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by malibd View Post

 

I heard the DT 770 Pro also has good positioning cues. But how does it do that? Does it require any software like the Razer Surround to enable the surround? If not, how can these stereo sets "position" the audios accordingly? I'm really confused here.

 

A good stereo headset will have good stereo imaging, so if you have a good recording, you can hear the vocalist up front slightly ahead of the drums occupying the center of the stage (and each drum is coming from a distinct position relative to each other), with guitars on each side and bass in the center.* With surround, software whether it's manually set-up through your soundcard or embedded in the drivers of the USB soundcard the headset comes with, simulates positioning. Now, if you have a headphone that sounds "too forward," or the drivers or the way they are mounted to the chassis can't reproduce a wide and deep soundstage (at least relative to other headphones) in stereo, chances are it might not do as well with say Dolby Headphone. However, some gaming headsets do come with software designed specifically for them, so there's a chance for a gaming headset with cheaper drivers (the hardware) to beat a better headphone on Dolby Headphone.

 

As to how the stereo headset positions the sound, think of how the placement of a microphone relative to an instrument will affect playback. In a properly recorded track, the mic would be some distance from the vocalist, so the mic has to be that far away from it too. What a simulator program does, in very simplistic terms, is simulate what a 5.1 track would sound like off of 2.0 hardware by reconstructing what the mic would have been doing, and also taking into account that the headphone drivers are right on top of your ear canals (vs speakers that are some distance away).

 

 

 

*Electric guitars aren't as precisely positioned as acoustic guitars, mostly due to recording as well as the dispersion of the amplifier, but sometimes are biased left or right, or the one strumming with distortion effects is heard at a wide area while the one plucking (like doing a solo with a wah pedal) might be off to the left or right

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by malibd View Post

 

I have listened to the Razer Kraken 7.1, and it does position the sounds accurately when I tested it with Skyrim. I also see many headphone enthusiasts simply detest these gaming headsets. I don't know why either.

 

I haven't bought the DT 770 Pro yet but I wonder how much of difference it'll be when gaming or with deep bass music compared to the Kraken 7.1....

 

My main requisites : positional audio - 7.1 type, very good deep bass for gaming and music and prefer isolation (hence the closed back 770) for gaming and music.

 

To give you an idea of where I stand, I've never bought a professional or enthusiast-level headphones before. And the current headphone (if you can call it that) is the humble Microsoft LX-1000 headphone. :o

 

Look at it this way: if you had $400, you're paying for the USB soundcard and software for simulating surround as well as the aesthetics which some don't like as some can be too flashy (isn't there a Razer that looks like the Q701?), or you can download Dolby headphone (or maybe your motherboard's soundcard has it or a similar program) get one of these:

1) a $400 stereo headphone with the best driver quality for that price range, with good width and depth to the soundstage and balanced/transparent sound, or

 

2) a headphone worth less than $400 with the driver quality on par for the price you're paying

 

Now, as much as I'm one to understand why one would rather blow that full $400 on stereo headphones with really good drivers, if I'm using it for gaming I'm personally much more inclined to get a separate gaming headset because I have other factors to consider, like earpad price and availability. I have the HD600 and I got a $50 Creative gaming headset just because earpads for the HD600 are $60 a pair, and I already wore out the pair it came with the first year I had it, and within eight months the sound was too dark and bass was bloated yet the treble can be a lot sharper. I also liked its sound with minimal wear on the earpads, as it is more balanced, so I'd really much rather just use it for music than games. With most gaming headsets, the cheap earpads I can get around here fit well enough, and given I'm not listening to music, I don't notice the difference as much. Even if for example the bass and treble deteriorate as they do with the HD600's earpads, I'm less likely to notice that since there won't be a bass line that would need its notes to decay properly, and shattering windows even if they sound sharp don't come as sustained as "t" and "s" in the lyrics or cymbals that go with the beat. Plus the gaming headsets already have the microphone built into it.

 

In your case, if you can afford the Kraken and you know well enough that it works the way you need it to, then just go with the Kraken. It already has a software programme made for it, and while cheaper headsets also do, the drivers can still play a part (or the cheaper ones use generic profiles), taking the guesswork out of using a stereo audio headphone with Dolby headphone or other surround simulators and the need for a separate microphone.

 

 

 

post #7 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thank you for the in-depth explanation.

 

I was wondering - most of the time, I game on my XMG laptop (model A102 : Core i7 3632QM, GT650M) which comes with a VIA HD Audio chipset and uses the Dolby TruStudio Pro software -  so I just can plug in the DT 770 or A900X and can perceive the positional audio, say, in Skyrim, immediately, without any other additional software? Will I be able to experience the positional audio with the TruStudio Pro disabled too?

post #8 of 12

I'm not familiar with all the capabilities of THX TrueStudio, although I have it in my gaming desktop (and I use the USB soundcard that came with my headphones for that). Assuming it has the surround simulation for headphones, then using the headphones plugged into the jacks on your laptop should enable the same kind of surround simulation, though YMMV. If you disable that program, or if it doesn't have such a feature to begin with, then you won't get a surround simulation with any headphone you plug directly into the laptop's jacks instead of using the USB soundcard that came with it. Again, the trick is mostly in the software, not the hardware.

post #9 of 12
Thread Starter 

So, I guess, those who comment on positional audio in games using the high-end enthusiast/audiophile stereo headphones as discussed in this forum, are all using one form of surround simulation software or another or a USB based solution/DAC, to come to their conclusion?

post #10 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by malibd View Post
 

So, I guess, those who comment on positional audio in games using the high-end enthusiast/audiophile stereo headphones as discussed in this forum, are all using one form of surround simulation software or another or a USB based solution/DAC, to come to their conclusion?

 

Yes, Even if it were physically a 5.1 channel system, whether a true surround speaker system or some of those headphones with multiple drivers, that would still need at minimum a multi-channel DAC to decode all the programmed channels. The difference of course is that using a 2ch headphone means the software is simulating how to achieve a similar effect using two drivers right at the listener's ears, simulating how that could be done with a single or stereo microphone set-up, and playing it back as if it were done that way. Basically, in real life anyway, a soldier in the middle of a battlefield might have a 10.1 surround system all around him, but when it gets to his ears, they're only stereo, and yet that soldier can perceive that sound within a 3D location still; in Battlefield and Call of Duty or whatever game it might be, it just simulates how that soldier would have heard it. Think of that soldier as the microphone set-up in that situation.

post #11 of 12
Thread Starter 

It's amazing what software can do nowadays - virtual surround technology.

 

Thanks.

post #12 of 12

I'm a PC gamer, and I use all the stereo headphones (that I bought for music) for playing games.  Good old fashioned stereo imaging is a wonderful thing.  :)  At the moment my Shure SRH840s are my favorite.  They are sealed / closed, and cover up the sound of the fans on my PC.

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