Open Headphones For First Person Shooter Video Game?
Sep 9, 2019 at 11:24 PM Post #17 of 18


100+ Head-Fier
Feb 26, 2010
2c; (maybe more like 30c as I tend to rant/rave and ramble on stuff I have useful info to share..)

I gather this thread might not be currently active or the useful practical to previous posters’ but the ‘net seems to be ‘forever’ so I will add to the discussion.

Background- I have owned MANY PC sound cards since the eighties, back when wavetable and FM synthesis was the target. Many Soundblaster branded cards (my fifth or sixth card was an AWE64 with onboard RAM that Battlefield would make use of), the venerable Auzentech Prelude, and presently an ASUS Xonar which still does ‘dolby headphone’ etc.
Equipment used has included Outlaw Audios 990 preamp/processor (an overkill dolby headphone box), and Vioelectric V100.
Presently use some Beyer T90 and play around with headphone out via the Xonar, or sometimes using a Nuforce (optoma) Icon.

My last gaming cans were some beautiful Audio Technica ADg1X (eek model numbers from the top of my head).

So: for accurate game positional audio I run with windows being configured for six-eight channels output, and have the Xonars card headphone output have a Dolby Headphone (downmix) option.
This is done at the operating system level. Other options for users without the soundcard/drivers I use would be selectable via the control panel in windows (WinKey+Run=>”control”, Sound; look at various tabs to find a drop down box that enables Windows Sonic/‘any other methods’ to create an immersive soundfield for headphones can be selected here)
In games like battlefield I set to full range dynamic, multichannel output.

This allows the driver software to create a perfect soundfield for hearing accurately placed 3D audio.

HISTORY: Whilst nothing has come close to sounding like what computer audio hardware gave in the late 90’s with sound wave tracing solutions and game implementations for said sound card tech (was based of US military helicoptor simulation sound hardware), ie half life was spectacular and no form of EAX (environmental audio extensions) (owned by creative) could touch the hardware sound back then.. -although the PS Vita and ‘Killzone Mercenary’ was pretty impressive, apparently next gen consoles will use graphics card tech to simulate sound waves through the environment, like present ray tracing methods.. If anything like the games back in the nineties, it required developers to assign all sorts of surface variables to each item as to whether the chair/wall/rug dampens the sound or sharply reflects it, is going to be title dependant.

Present: A properly configured hardware setup, with appropriate drivers (you may have to pay $15 for a plugin) and some wide soundstage headphones with great front/back soundfield ‘depth’, should give a very accurate headphone sound that rivals and in some way bests $10k surround sound home theatre setups.

Now headfi has a metric tonne of threads stating which headphones give a huge soundfield and do this task well.
The consensus certainly is that the open back Beyers are the top of the tree for mainstream consumer products to achieve this.
I cannot imagine a LOT of budget closed design headphones offering anything that holds a candle to the setup I just described.

Sadly, since windows vista, microshaft ripped out the audio implementation it had given direct X soundcards for a decade plus and we lost ‘hardware sound’ sound cards. Nothing touches hardware sound cards with ‘actual sound channels’. Software sound channels, at least the way windows appears to have implemented them, equates to many dropped sound effects, that we seldom had back in the nineties when we were playing with 32-64channels of sound, and had hardware add echo effects natively etc.
Sure 128(+) sound channels as implemented today sounds impressive (on paper) but not very much so as implemented in games, even in Battlefield, which has always had very impressive sound implementations. Effects drop from the soundstage for no reason, even on twelve threaded CPU beasts with $500 + gaming sound cards. Thanks microsoft for gimping pcs to be inferior (or at best, parity) to potatoe box consoles.
Developer implementation is where it is at nowadays. Some do better than others, eg Horizen Zero Dawn

Assuming the game has a great sound engine, well mixed sound bytes, and a nice hardware chain to deliver said recreated sound, the headphones have a chance to deliver a VERY IMMERSIVE experience.

The Audio Technica gaming headphones are without doubt the best gaming headphones I have ever heard. I would take them in a heartbeat over EVERY OTHER gaming headset. Ideally the open backed designs. (If your environment can handle them)
As a nice benefit, the Audio Technicas have the best microphones that headsets can come with, well rivalling seperate expensive mics.

Now, I haven’t spoken about external sound cards.
An ideal implementation is to have the game render a dolby surround output and have an external unit that can process dolby headphone from the dolby digital source.
This info, I hope, is outdated, as Dolby digital, delivered via toslink/fibre optic is a compressed sound format, and not as transparent as having dolby headphone performed prior to compression (ie internal soundcard solution such as a xonar STX can give).
Potentially , some home theatre amps offer Dolby headphone processing, and if they accept a lossless version of surround sound (eg using HDMI) they might do a better job than a ~$XXX sound card.

The best thing about computer audio being killed off with vista is the bargains to be found.
I paid, many many years ago 2/5ths the cost of my sound card brand new at a PC store.
Three months ago I picked up another Auzentech Prelude for $10.


Do not believe your motherboard sound will touch a well regarded soundcard.
Admittedly I have used many many mid to top tier motherboards with independant dedicated sound card sections.
My present x99 SOC champion mainboard is a minimalist mainboard with everything ‘non essential’ removed ie only 4 memory banks(Quad channel ram platform)), and it has a ‘nice sound card’ onboard (that I have never used or ‘switched on’).
Why? Because a PC sound card jumps ship over three/four/five system builds, generally cost ~$50 second hand, and flat out perform better.
DAC chips are not a spec sheet numbers game, but a whole circuit that needs several things done right. Computers are a noisy electrical environment, and taking steps to ensure the best audio front end is a long term investment that pays dividends.
(At least to those of us on head-fi)

Now; more personal post- is sound signatures observed. This become less ‘subjective truth’ andventures into personal opinion territory.
The Beyer T90 bass kills the delivery of the Open back ATH DG1X (eek, again ‘model # from memory’).
I prefer the lowered bass from the Audio Technicas for my longterm hearing, especially with regards to games like Battlefield. I find the headphones sound ‘slow’ and do not render music as nicely as say some Bowers and Wilkins P7s, but that huge open soundstage is a gamers delight, and the microphone quality is (just about) unbeatable for the price of the headphones.
Footsteps via the Beyers (T90) are much more pronounced, which fits with majority observation s of the Tesla drivers being ‘hot’/treble rich.

I have a different experience, I’d like to sell, as to how the Beyer t90 sound (which for their second hand pricepoint, are a BARGAIN gamers headphone delight with exceptional musical delivery as well)..
The T90 are ‘siblilant’ or overly rich, when driven loud.
Driven at soft levels the bass is NOT exaggerated or ‘too full’, and the treble seems perfect. Why? My guess is this was the design intent.
Listening to some HDCDs (ie Tool Lateralus/Supertramp Somethings Never Change) these ‘cans are the best headphones I have heard.
IF listening at nice soft levels.
If I turn up the volume the V curve starts to appear, leading to what feels like recessed mid delivery/non perfect seamless positioning, or instrument coherence. I haven’t described this very well, but my take on headphones isn’t what this post is about.
I would certainly use the Audio Technica headphones at super loud volumes over the Beyers... (for Battlefield/non music), but for actual day to day stuff, the Beyers are amazing (for their price second hand) and would be the same top tier delivery as DT770-990 etc for soundfield.

Of course the same lines repeated ad nauseum everywhere around headfi is that proper audio brand headphones that are exceptional and have great bang for buck will beat gaming headphones.

So: keep a watchful eye for sound cards that offer dolby headphone processing (I have purchased a few Turtle beach etc outboard processors to give to mates with consoles), and find headphones with the widest sound field.

Fruit like Creatives’ heatmap/radar that try to place hotspots on a radar map to ‘cheat’ in first person shooter games - ‘seeing’ where people are around you, might be novel, but why take oneself out of a game when you can actually hear in 3D, where the sounds are coming from?
Sep 10, 2019 at 11:35 PM Post #18 of 18


Headphoneus Supremus
Sep 1, 2011
Yeah that. I actually ended up ordering a pair of dt 880's yesterday. Hope it's a bit better for gaming and music.
32-Ohm or 250-Ohm or 600-Ohm DT880 headphones?
DT880 is a balanced sound, slightly on the bright side.

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