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Mad Lust Envy's Headphone Gaming Guide: (12/10/2019: Schiit Gaming Dac/Amps 'Hel' and 'Fulla 3' added)

Discussion in 'Video Games Discussion' started by mad lust envy, Jan 17, 2011.
  1. SierraMadre
    I have no direct experience of the r70x but it’s well known for having a balanced sound signature and as you are seeking immersion / ‘fun’ in gaming you might find it a bit bass-lite and most find bass to be key to immersion and fun to at least some degree. That doesn’t mean to say it has “bad” bass by any means just that you may not find it has enough of it to be sufficiently immersive for your gaming. YMMV so if you are intent on them then just order off Amazon and return if not to your liking.

    That being said, if you haven’t already, you need to take into account the impedance. At 470 ohms it’s extremely high for headphones in a gaming scenario and also means that they won’t be any good for handheld devices like the Switch or your cellphone. If you are cool with that and already have an amp or sound card that you know can drive these for gaming, no problem. If you want to plug it directly into a Xbox One or DualShock controller though, forget it.
    If you are intending on using a gaming dac/amp then you will be limited in choice by the relative lack of units that can drive such a high impedance set of cans. The Creative G6, X7 and Super XFi amp are the only ones I can think of off the top of my head that are rated up to 600ohms.
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2019
  2. dagerbil
    Hi there - I wonder if anyone can provide some expert help.

    I've been testing and looking for the best headphones for my PS4, primarily something to help with positional audio. I only really play COD including Blackout but any advantage would be good. Many Youtubers seem to know when someone is coming, and that's an advantage I've tried to buy but I've quickly found it's a bit of a Rabbit hole!

    Firstly, so many people claim VSS is a gimmick and makes things worse. However I keep coming back to this forum and thread, and I get the sense that VSS is liked on here, and also that you guys seem to know your stuff better!

    1) So my first question is really should I have this on or off?

    I am also looking for the best DAC/AMP/VSS tool to use - I have had a DSS2, a Mixamp Pro TR and currently a Soundblaster G6 which I brought off the back of a review on this thread yesterday.

    2) So my second question is which one is generally regarded as the best for positional audio?

    Finally, my last question would be the best settings for the Soundblaster G6. I don't have a PC (I own a Mac) so unfortunately I can't mess with settings like I can the Mixamp where some decent presets can be found.

    I have my PS4 set to output Dolby Digital and my G6 connected via Optical. I have tried it with SBX on/off but don't hear a massive difference -

    3) I assume with SBX off this is just the raw Dolby 5.1 sound and with SBX on it simply enhances it to be surround sound?

    4) I have tried testing the stereo only but as others have mentioned you can't enable "direct mode" when connected to a PS4 - this is frustrating as I really wanted to hear the sound without any processing coming through a DAC/AMP. Is there any way to get this working?

    5) Scout mode doesn't make as much difference when the PS4's out put is set to Dolby as it does when it's set to PCM- with PCM it seems to really make a difference (not necessarily for the better!).

    Any help much appreciated! I am stuck in that Rabbit Hole!

    PS: My headphones areHD 598 SR if that helps, again a purchase off the back of some reviews on here.
  3. SierraMadre
    1. Depends on personal preference. I do not own or have experience of Black Ops 4 but things to note for gaming in general:

    A lot of games do not have channel configuration in their audio settings, only volume sliders. Those games tend to rely on the source device (PS4 in your case) to tell them what channel configuration they can output (multichannel vs stereo). Other games offer channel options such as stereo, surround and sometimes output device options (speakers, headphones, TV, surround AV etc.). Those that offer a dedicated stereo headphone option often have some in-house VSS mixed in so will sound off if you try and apply a further VSS solution on top of it.

    So it’s important that you choose a multichannel / surround audio setting if the game has one.

    2. Again, depends on preference but Creative’s SBX VSS and Dolby headphone are the two most popular.

    3. Given that the G6 is only licensed for DD5.1 decoding and does not have Dolby Headphone or any other Dolby VSS licensing, you need to have the Creative’s SBX VSS turned on for surround otherwise you’ll just be getting the DD5.1 downmixed into stereo.

    4. I’m not sure that dDirect mode is really any different in effect to SBX-off, at least it wasn’t when I first got the device. In theory what it’s supposed to do is tell the source device that it’s stereo-only and thus extract an unprocessed stereo only feed when otherwise it would be getting multichannel Dolby because the source device recognises it as DD5.1 capable, but given that SBX-off turns off all processing anyway and downmixes Dolby 5.1 to stereo, all you’re really doing is changing when and where the downmix takes place, on the PS4 side or on the G6 side. There’s probably some argument that when doing this, quality and latency would be better if the PS4 does it but in all honesty I’m not sure it would be noticeable and even if so, certainly not enough to provide any tactical advantage.

    5. The difference here (assuming you have SBX on when using Dolby) is simply that you are applying scout mode to stereo vs scout mode w/ SBX VSS. Scout mode just emphasises highs and recesses other frequencies so as to make footsteps, bullets and other cues easier to recognise.

    If you want to stick with Creative SBX and be able to adjust SBX and other settings without getting a PC, then return it and consider getting a Creative X7 (expensive) or if looking for something cheaper then the Creative recon 3D usb dac/amp both of these have software applications for the Mac while the X7 only has a mobile app for wireless configuration too meaning you could probably tweak while you play on PS4.
    If you have not tweaked you SBX profile via a PC as of yet, your surround setting will likely be at default, and I forget whether that’s 33.3% or 66.6% (it’s a 0-100 dial).
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2019
  4. Mad Lust Envy Contributor
    People who say VSS is a gimmick are people who listen to it for two seconds and hear how utterly different it is to what their ears are accustomed to. It's the same reason I will never believe in short demos of headphone impressions. Ears are like our eyes. They take time to adjust to your surroundings. You can't see in the dark when you first walk into a dark room, right? Then wait a bit and you can see a bit better. Same with ears. You wake up, and your hearing is super sensitive where you can hear a pindrop from a hundred feet away, but then later on, you'd have to be in the same room. Your ears have compensated.

    People wonder why I'm positive on all types of headphone sounds. That's because I spend time with them and let my ears adapt to their specific sound. If I went from listening to the Ananda for days then go to the LCD-GX. I would not like the sound of the GX. And vice versa. You have to spend DAYS to saturate your ears with that kind of presentation that is a heavy contrast from the other.

    How can something that only gives you left and right audio cues and merges between the two be better than something that gives you a 360 degree amount of audio information? With stereo there is some guesswork on where sounds are coming from. With VSS, you can literally close your eyes and know that something is behind you at 5 o' clock for example. Stereo doesn't have that,. It can't for example, differentiate something that is at 2 o' clock from something that is at 5 o' clock. So then you have to rely on visual cue to know. So no, I will never ever accept that stereo is better than VSS. AT raw audio fidelity, yes. But I'll take a hit to sound quality if it lets me know exactly which directions sounds are coming from as opposed to guesswork.

    I guarantee if someone were to set up a test between myself listening to VSS and someone listening to plainb stereo with both having blindfold on, and being asked which direction sounds are coming from, I would be the first to point the direction everytime.
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2019
  5. Fegefeuer
    hm, yeah, Mad Lust Envy, yeah ok. If you had a good DAC, good amp, good cable like full silver then you would get best stereo soundstage and sipiration. Then good headphones with good breathing velour, angled earpads for better soundstage. Then you would feel all details and especially good treble information which draws the space and soundstage just in stereo. VSS not needed. If you close eyes you can feel music around you, 3D holographic and you would get startle effect, like jumpscares. Then you take headphones off and believe someone is in the room.
  6. Mad Lust Envy Contributor
    :ksc75smile: Even the Koss SC75 with a TOTL $50,000 dac and balanced amp can show how much separation, depth, and holographic realism the sound has compared to VSS.

  7. SierraMadre
    I think a lot of the criticism stems from those who don’t realise that they are often already listening to / using in-built VSS mixes (as many games these days offer but don’t specify) and mistake it for being “normal” stereo, therefore erroneously concluding that normal stereo must always be better than multichannel VSS.

    Which brings me to a question, obviously hardware based VSS processing of discrete multichannel is better than plain old stereo for gaming, but when the game in question does offer an in-house VSS solution for headphones, what are your thoughts on this versus hardware-based VSS processing? Assuming dev competence, one would think that the dev-based non-hardware VSS is more likely to be better as the devs know their own game / sound design the best and can tailor the solution accordingly whereas the hardware solution seems more generic in application.
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2019
  8. Mad Lust Envy Contributor
    I've not heard an in game solution that to me sounds better than hardware. None whatsoever, except maybe Hellblade, but only because that game was made with binaural audio in mind.

    I'd venture that Overwatch's Dolby Atmos would also be good, but I haven't heard it myself.
    SierraMadre likes this.
  9. headphonesonly
    Hardware VSS is more consistent than a games built in vss.
  10. SierraMadre
    Do you normally bother to try them? Or only when the in-house VSS is specifically remarked upon in media coverage etc. (as was the case with Hellblade and Overwatch).
    This is not a challenge btw, I am really just curious. I rarely try the in-built solutions myself except in circumstances similar to the aforementioned (where the in-built headphone audio has been specifically emphasised in marketing, media coverage and/or community impressions) and instead usually just go with hardware VSS.
  11. Mad Lust Envy Contributor
    I always try them, because being able to use an audiophile dac/amp with a game's internal solution would logically sound better than gaming dac/amps. So I'm waiting for the day where we won't need something like a Creative or Astro Mixamp to get VSS, and instead it comes in the systems by default. Would make my life much easier. The XB1 has Atmos, but the XB1 is the one current gen system I DON'T use.
    SierraMadre likes this.
  12. SierraMadre
    Good to know! PS5 will have it, obviously whatever next Xbox too. Dunno about whatever next Nintendo console though given how thrifty they are about such features.

    One more thing I’d like your opinion on, if you’d be so kind:

    With the usual caveat of everybody’s HRTF and preferences being different etc., all other things being relatively equal, is it possible that closed backs and/or planars might lend themselves better to center and rear channel depth?


    The most speaker-like out-of-my-head depth for the rear and, in particular, the center channel, that I ever got out of a VSS solution was with the Mobius. Unfortunately I had to return it as the combination of the relative thinness of the pads with the extreme squishiness of the foam in my particular unit meant that I had to return it as my ears touched the driver casing.

    Since then, I have tried a few solutions using other headphones that one would think would result in as good or better results given the headphones used (AKG K7XX, Sennheiser HD800S etc.)

    - Waves NX (same VSS as Mobius) via the Waves NX headtracker with relevant headphone compensation profiles applied via Hesuvi, and the same personalised head circumference and inter-aural arc measurements dialled in to the Waves control app as were used with Mobius control app. The only difference in implementation with the Mobius is that there is no ambience / room effect slider and only 3 content presets (movie, normal and voice).

    - Creative Super X-Fi Amp with face mapped profile and relevant SXFI certified headphone compensation profile (also tried / compared Hesuvi headphone compensation profiles)

    - Atmos for headphone and various other solutions (I also own a Creative G6, SteelSeries Gamedac, Astro mixamp).

    The only major solution I have not tried is Sennheiser GSX.
    So if I can’t get as good or better center and rear depth out of a HD800S when using more or less the same implementation of VSS as the Mobius or when using the much lauded Super X-FI, I am led to wonder whether closed back and/or planar drivers might be the differentiating factor?
    Unfortunately, as I no longer have the Mobius, I don’t have any planars on hand to test nor do I have any closed backs of a comparable quality to the AKG K7xx or Sennheiser HD800s.
    The only other possible explanation that I can think of as to why Waves NX on the Mobius provided better center and rear depth than the HD800s with the Waves Headtracker would be due to the Waves NX control app’s lack of a room effect control slider but it’s not like I was maxing that out with the Mobius, in fact I pretty much always left it at default (around 30% I think?) or sometimes even less.

    Thanks in advance
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2019
  13. Find the Door
    Was there ever a fix for the popping noises on the X7 that occur when playing a game with a 5.1 track? It's especially frustrating and immersion breaking.

    Why has Creative still not fixed this after all this time? Is there some kind of work around?

    Happens whether or not I use my amp (Jotunheim) or not.

    Also if they haven't is there another unit as compatible with consoles like x7 that's available as an alternative?
  14. illram
    I've used both the G6 and X7 with Blackout, and other COD games, for thousands of hours on Xbox. VSS with this game is a "must-have" and I would never, ever play without it. On the console, DD 5.1 is your only option as the game lacks its own VSS or object based audio solution, so things like the G6, Mixamp, or X7 are your only choices on PS4 or Xbox. Audio on Blackout is absolutely critical and I can pinpoint footstep and gunshot direction with the X7 with a very high level of accuracy. Also Blackout in stereo mode is pretty terrible as they have pretty bad channel separation issues (e.g. noises tend to just flood one channel vs the other.) If you tried it and did not hear a difference, my first guess would be your G6 simply is not set correctly. It's annoying you need a PC to fiddle with its settings. If you can get your G6 to a PC to check it somehow I would recommend that first. If you verify it is set up and it still does not work for you, the generic HRTF algorithm that SBX uses may just not fit your ear type. Generic HRTF solutions are dependent on your ears and headphones not being too far off the generic measurements they use for their algorithms.

    What Blackout is still missing, and what none of these solutions will provide, is vertical audio cues. E.g. up/down. So if you get annoyed at the Construction site with not being able to tell if those loud footsteps are above, below, or right next to you, none of these are going to help with that. They will only tell you audio cues on a 2D plane. This is an issue with the ancient audio engine they recycle every year with COD. Drives me crazy.
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2019
    SierraMadre likes this.
  15. Mad Lust Envy Contributor
    The Grado White is supposed to be arriving today. I only get a week with it, so I'm gonna have to rush a few things, but I'll try and get it going.

    Hopefully hurricane Dorian doesn't decide to veer left towards Orlando and cause power outages, because then there's no way I'm gonna have a proper review out.

    Guys, I have a problem with the first page not letting me add any more reviews because of a 40 image limit. Any suggestions as to what to do?

    Perhaps get rid of all the ancient non-reviews and put them all in a separate post to free up space, get rid of in review images just for the first page, and I dunno what else...

    EDIT: I was able to add the GX review to the first pagem, but had to remove all the in review images. If you guys want the full version with the images, click on the 'review first posted here' link in the review.
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2019

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