The Nameless Guide To PC Gaming Audio (with binaural headphone surround sound)
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PurpleAngel

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  So to clarify, if I want to use an external DAC/Amp combo, can I just get a cheaper card with the processing I like and an optical out?  For example an SB1040 to do CMSS-3D Headphone into a Magni/Modi?  Or wait, Modi doesn't have optical in... so I'll need a soundcard with RCA outs or a DAC with optical in.  That sound about right?
 
EDIT - Duh, sorry, Modi is USB-in.  RCA-in is on the amp.  I'd have to use something like a E17 DAC with SPDIF input or a E07K DAC with 3.5mm input using "What U Hear" from the sound card.  Does that make your heads hurt less?
 
EDIT 2 - Okay now I'm confusing myself.  If I use the What U Hear thing, that's already analog and don't need a DAC, right?  So yeah, a DAC with SPDIF seems like the only way to use the sound card as a DSP with an external DAC/Amp.
Check out the Audio-GD NFB-15.32 or NFB-11.32 external DAC/Amp, they come with S/PDIF (optical & coaxial) input connections.
 
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watsaname

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You can also take a look Maverick Audio and their TubeMagic if you want to look at tube dacs/have more options.


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You can also take a look Maverick Audio and their TubeMagic if you want to look at tube dacs/have more options.


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I don't know what a tube DAC is, but the D1 looks like a pretty decent device for only $200.  Doesn't look like I'd need a separate headphone amp either.  I'll have to do more research on options, but thanks for this!
 
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NamelessPFG

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Hope I didn't go too off topic.

Quick qn. Auzentech Bravura user here. Xi-fi card i believe. Is it possible to not install any Drivers for it, to experience positional audio like CMSS 3D on Win7? Thanks. Playing Titanfall only now.
Absolutely not.

You need to install the drivers on ANY sound card to make use of the DSP features. Otherwise, it's just another DAC/ADC.

Also, the X-Fi Bravura's a fake. Should've bought a Forte or HomeTheater HD for a real CA-20K2.
 
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soccerdude84

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So I followed Creative's instructions on setting the windows speaker setup to 7.1 and to use the headphone setting with headphones. But I also have 2.1 speakers, am I supposed to enable CMSS-3D for gaming with my 2.1 or leave it off?
 
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Turn it off for speakers. If the software is like the Recon one, they ahould have a hifi mode that disables extra pocessors. I swith that on whenever I use speakers, and toggle on game mode when using headphones for gaming.
 
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For stereo speakers, you're supposed to use CMSS-3D Virtual.
 
The problem is that using CMSS-3D Virtual requires setting the X-Fi to 2/2.1 Speakers mode, and for Vista/Win7/Win8, this forces the Windows speaker setting to Stereo, which completely defeats the purpose of using CMSS-3D Virtual in the first place (outside of DirectSound3D/OpenAL titles).
 
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I dunno, I look at it as some expanded stereo. I think speakers should remain strictly as stereo speakers with no extra processing.
 
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sycomike01

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Here is my question. I have a laptop and I use a Sound Blaster X-Fi Pro. I also have an Astro Mix Amp. Which one is going to give me better sound for my AD700? Any help will be great thanx. 
 
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NamelessPFG

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Mixamps are not meant for PC use.

Use the X-Fi; it's a lot less hassle to get virtual surround working, plus you get software OpenAL (USB X-Fi devices don't do it in hardware) and ALchemy for DirectSound3D games.
 
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  For stereo speakers, you're supposed to use CMSS-3D Virtual.
 
The problem is that using CMSS-3D Virtual requires setting the X-Fi to 2/2.1 Speakers mode, and for Vista/Win7/Win8, this forces the Windows speaker setting to Stereo, which completely defeats the purpose of using CMSS-3D Virtual in the first place (outside of DirectSound3D/OpenAL titles).
So since I have it set to 7.1, it shows up as CMSS-3D Surround, would this even do anything if I turned it on?
 
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NamelessPFG

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So since I have it set to 7.1, it shows up as CMSS-3D Surround, would this even do anything if I turned it on?
 
CMSS-3D Surround is a stereo upmix for surround speaker systems, nothing more. That is NOT the feature you want. No thanks to Creative for naming different features so similarly...
 
Headphone-only gaming is straightforward because the enforced Windows speaker setting synchronization isn't a problem for Headphone mode. When you want to switch between headphones and stereo speakers, though, that just complicates everything to the point of impracticality, unless you're okay with having a headphone-optimized mix being output to your speakers.
 
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soccerdude84

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Would it better to just set Windows to 2.1 and not worry about it or do the headphones benefit greatly from 7.1?
 
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NamelessPFG

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I dunno, I look at it as some expanded stereo. I think speakers should remain strictly as stereo speakers with no extra processing.
 
Apparently, HRTF techniques are possible with stereo speakers, but it requires crosstalk cancellation and the speakers to be positioned around 30 degrees off of the listener's center on both sides.
 
QSound is the most notable example of such tech, but Aureal had a similar mix with A3D, and Creative also attempted it with CMSS-3D Virtual.
 
Still, headphones work far better for this sort of thing in my experience. Ironically, the very lack of crosstalk that makes people want to use crossfeeds and other such techniques to replicate the speaker listening experience is what makes headphones far better for HRTF-based mixing techniques at the source.
 
Would it better to just set Windows to 2.1 and not worry about it or do the headphones benefit greatly from 7.1?
 
You are gimping yourself if you don't set Windows to 7.1 while gaming with headphones! It's the way modern games read that speaker setting to determine how to mix the audio, and their stereo mixes are frequently terrible.
 
Trying to use CMSS-3D Headphone or other virtual surround tech on a stereo signal is fruitless, after all; you need to ensure that it's getting a 7.1 signal to work with, and that's where the Windows setting comes in.
 
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