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Should I set my PC Audio to 5.1 or Stereo when using headphones?

Discussion in 'Computer Audio' started by BounceHouse420, May 22, 2018.
  1. BounceHouse420
    In case it matters I have a pair of Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 headphones with a Sound Blaster Audigy 5/Rx Soundcard.
  2. PurpleAngel Contributor
    For headphones.
    If your listening to music or watching a video with 2.0 stereo audio, or gaming in stereo audio, then set the sound card audio channel input to stereo (2-channel) audio.
    Set audio channel input to 5.1 for surround sound gaming (FPS?) or DVD/Blu-ray movies.
  3. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    Whatever material you're listening to, ex games and movies, set them to 5.1, then enable Virtual Surround on the soundcard. This gives the DSP a 5.1 signal which it then processes down to play through two physical channels with more positional cues than regular downmixing.
    BounceHouse420 and BrightCandle like this.
  4. BounceHouse420
    I have a Sound Blaster Rx/5 but I can't find the virtual surround option in the Windows 10 Playback Devices thing anywhere... am I supposed to be able to? I thought all sound blaster sound cards had virtual surround...
  5. PurpleAngel Contributor
    Surround sound setting would not be in the Sound section of the Windows control panel.
    It would be in the Creative Labs control panel.

    Here is a good forum for asking questions about your sound card settings.
  6. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    It's not going to be there because it isn't a Windows feature. You have to install the SoundBlaster software suite and you can access it there, as it controls the DSP chip (in some motherboards teh chip isn't hardware DSP, just allows something for the software to recognize as a product licensed to run SB software, and then uses fully software DSP running off the CPU).
  7. KungFuNat
    Match the source.. 2.0 for stereo listening, 5.1 for surround.
    Redcarmoose likes this.
  8. shrimants
    depends on what you're trying to do and how the software for the sound card handles things. In my experience (which may differ greatly from yours), for music i manually set the sound card to 2.0 only mode, and disabled all enhancements/extras in the software. Then i'd play music, preferably using wasapi or asio to ensure the sound card driver isnt screwing with anything in the signal path.

    for movies, it can go either way. the best result ive had is going out to a multichannel receiver and using the downmixer within the receiver to get things back to stereo. This gave me the best result and i have yet to witness anything as nice from a sound card. Granted, it has been a LONG time since I bothered doing that anyways. For gaming i did a similar thing. I set my sound card to 7.1. i set the sound card to use dolby digital live because i had an optical connection and needed the signal compressed to dolby digital (or dts, if you have dts ultra-pc) in order for it to get to the receiver fully. If you use hdmi to a receiver, then just set the sound card to multichannel and skip the processing step.

    now, if you arent using a receiver and are going right from the sound card, i think you only have a couple options. 1) do nothing, set it to 5.1 or 7.1, let the sound card do whatever it wants. 2) set the sound card to "virtual surround sound" and calibrate it. You should only be able to do this if the sound card is in 5.1 or 7.1 mode. The real question is, when you play 2.0 music, does it sound different if the sound card is set to 2.0 vs 5.1+virtual surround?

    in my experience, music sounds best in 2.0 with no other processing applied, so i kept manually changing between the two options.
  9. RPGWiZaRD
    With Realtek onboard and various soundcards I've owned I prefer using 5.1 at all times but can't speak for the RX card if it's exactly the same but I assume it simply sets speaker settings to 5.1 speakers if enabling 5.1 in the creative control panel in order for multichannel mixing to take place. Music this way is slightly enhanced soundstage wise too, don't ask why, it's a very subtle difference but you hear the soundstage expanding to be more around you, otherwise the quality isn't affected one bit. Various surround processings like SBX surround etc definitely will impact quality a lot but the speaker config setting shouldn't (again I don't have a RX card but I do have a Soundblaster G5 which was released before RX card and it also has a "virtual 5.1/7.1 surround" setting which does exactly the same thing and the speaker setting is universal windows thing telling the soundcard to operate according to Windows multichannel mixing specs and applies to all soundcards so).

    With Realtek onboard audio for example you MUST NOT tick the box "disable all enhancements" in control panel under the audio device, otherwise it also disables whatever alternative multichannel downmixing to stereo processing takes place -- and handles it as a stereo-only signal from start, in Creative control panel that might be akin to "Stereo Direct" or whatever mode that keeps the signal "pure" from any kind of processing (of course you can keep all processing disabled and only keep that 5.1 speaker setting and you won't hear any sound quality difference to using the Stereo Direct mode).

    I don't feel like starting a new thread at this moment but I'd be very curious if it's like only me that notices this positive effect 5.1 speaker setting brings to even music. I've just stumbled on it on accident due to being the kind of person who always lets the ear decide what options does what to the sound than letting logical thinking do the way that how the settings should be set. When you enable/disable settings when playing music at the same time, the small differences becomes noticeable, but it's not something that would be noticed immediatly if not hearing the instant change.
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2018

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