Windows Sonic vs Dolby Atmos & 7.1 virtualization in Creators Update

Discussion in 'Computer Audio' started by rpgwizard, Apr 25, 2017.
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  1. RPGWiZaRD
    Even using 5.1 or 7.1 speaker setting (not windows sonic) changes positioning on soundcards with 5.1/7.1 support so I believe there's more to it than that presentation. And that also happens with music which is stereo if anything, my point is stereo material somehow gets affected by whatever processing Windows does.

    The problem is the average joe notices the differences SBX, Dolby Atmos etc does because it also affects sound quality/EQ balance quite a lot so if there's only a subtle change to how soundstaging is percieved they are not "registering" the change between exit/starting game up again but probably would spot a subtle change in a direct comparision with my mentioned 5 sec clip comparison from some game played after each other. More experienced headphone listeners should spot the difference more easily that are used to listen to subtle changes in sound.

    The 7.1/5.1 thing doesn't change frequency response at all which makes it more subtle in nature, only the "in-your-head" soundstage gets more "around-your-head".

    EDIT: Important thing to note, we're talking DirectSound output here, that's where processing seem to happen, most games rely on that still but not all and if you listen with WASAPI in foobar 5.1 or 7.1 won't make any change to how music sounds like but with DirectSound, music also sounds more out-of-the-head as long as the windows control panel doesn't have "disable enhancements" checked which is why this is something which easily goes unnoticed in a forum like this where typically that's settings that are used by most people due to striving to having as "unprocessed" sound as possible.
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2017
  2. galneon
    Done anymore testing, RPGWiZaRD? Everything illram said rings true to me, and I also have quite a bit of experience with this (enough to wish every game used OpenAL in order to support Rapture3D HRTF :p), but you were very specific and convinced regarding positioning versus SBX in the OP.

    Is it possible that since this is an MS feature, it's masquerading to all programs, even those without explicit Sonic support, as 5.1 or 7.1 despite the control panel showing the device set to stereo? I certainly hope so as I would love to uninstall all Creative software from my system, with the exception of ALchemy. If MS, one of the two companies most responsible for setting back positional audio (by giving us XAudio), actually added a feature to Windows 10 which liberated me from the other company that set back positional audio (Creative, the killers of A3D), I would almost be pleased enough to forgive them.
  3. Avean
    I've yet to play a game that supports Windows Sonic. It just sounds like stereo to me while Dolby Atmos for Headphones seems to be supported no matter what and works very great i feel.
  4. YJX94
    Hmm I've never been a fan of VSS but I might try out Windows Sonic and see what it's like. Just one question, obviously when using headphones you have to set them to Stereo configuration in the Windows Sound Manager and then enable Windows Sonic for headphones and tick the 7.1 box, but what about in games?

    It should stay at Stereo for headphones in Windows universally but games have lots of options such as Stereo, Speakers, 7.1 Speakers, Headphones and use Stereo in Windows universally but which do you use in the game itself?
  5. RPGWiZaRD
    With Windows Sonic, it automatically forces speaker settings to Stereo in windows and Windows Sonic is disabled if you pretty much touch any of the windows audio settings. Without Windows Sonic I prefer 5.1 speakers in Windows, I'm not entirely sure whichever I prefer, 5.1 speakers in windows or Windows Sonic with virtual 7.1 enabled, it varies slightly from game to game. I think 5.1 mixing generally works better for headphones, 7.1 mixing gets too stacked for such a limited space inside the headphone cup resulting in a more diffuse positioning I think.

    As for settings ingame, most of the games I play don't allow changing settings and just use DirectSound library and mixes audio based on your windows speaker config. I'm especially familiar with games that rely on that which is majority of games statistically. I did play some Battlefield once for quite a few years ago but I cannot remember which of the settings were my preferred one anymore.
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2017
  6. YJX94
    I see.

    For a game like Battlefield 1 it has options for Speakers and Headphones and then a sub-option for those for Stereo and Surround, with Windows Sonic and 7.1 enabled I'm not really sure which one to use.
  7. Glasofruix
    Yeah, but it doesn't work in BF1 it still outputs stereo.
  8. illram
    If the game has its own surround headphone setting you would want to turn Sonic (or any other VSS) off.
  9. galneon
    You ignored my post, RPGWiZaRD, but unless Windows Sonic is enabling some kind of behind-the-scenes masquerading, I'm just not seeing how it's possibly giving you accurate positioning if it isn't taking data from more than two discrete channels so long as speaker settings are set to Stereo/Headphones and the game itself, as most games do, simply follows the speaker settings.

    There's a reason that SBX Studio relies on two separate devices: a virtual device for headphones (which ultimately is responsible for the output you hear), and a real device set to 5.1 for fooling games into providing discrete channels to downsample into convincing HRTF-tinted stereo audio. Microsoft could ostensibly do some kind of masquerading without employing the two device approach since it's their operating system, but you're the only one saying Windows Sonic actually works for games which do not explicitly support Windows Sonic.

    I don't want to bother confirming the inefficacy myself because it requires annoying group policy edits (which I later have to undo) for me to run Metro apps on the built-in administrator account, but if one other person says 'yes, Windows Sonic actually works really well and provides convincing positional audio, even on games that don't explicitly support it,' I'll give it a shot.
  10. illram
    Don't bother, it doesn't. :)
  11. killeraxemannic
    If you want to be sure you are truly tricking a game into outputting all channels for virtual surround you could use Razer's surround software. It's got a free and a pay version but the free one works fine. It installs itself in windows as a 7.1 audio device so it for sure makes the games switch to surround. It's not bad at all. SBX is better but not by much.
  12. Jiv_au
    I've had a go at Windows Sonic, Dolby Atmos, and even Razer.
    Each of them appear to preform HRTF to varying degrees, but they all miss the other aspects of virtual surround sound - reflection/reverberation and diffusion.

    Personally I have settled for Spatial Sound Card (SSC), which offers that reflection as if you're in a studio or music hall.
    I think this is close to the hardware solution such as the Sennheiser GSX 1000, albeit not as good as that.

    The SSC appears as a 5.1 or 7.1 device, to which games interfaces without any config change.
    The down side is it causes a slight distortion in the sound.
  13. galneon
    What you describe as missing from solutions other than Spatial Sound Card are not attractive things for most gamers. Those are artifacts of an imperfect acoustic environment (the ideal home theater room has minimal reverb/reflection and near-perfect diffusion--the same goes for the micro-chamber that is the space between your ears and headphones). The game engine itself (if it supports it) should handle things like reverb/reflection as only the game knows if e.g. the room your character is in is an anechoic chamber, or a large arena without acoustic dampening. If the engine doesn't support it, I'd prefer to go without reverb than have a blanket effect applied which has nothing to do with the in-game environment.

    Using SSC when listening to studio-recorded music while using SSC to emulate the properties of a concert hall is one thing, but having this effect coloring the audio in a blanket manner for an entire game full of varying acoustic environments is not what most people would consider a positive thing. Those additional options are missing from many other gaming-oriented solutions for good reason.

    That said, I'm sure SSC has a neutral setting which doesn't add its own reverb.
  14. Jiv_au
    All these are imperfect solutions, each attempting to replicating real sound, and falling short.
    In the worst case for some people the average HRTF doesn't work for them. Because those HRTF is literally taking the average of what people hear, and everyone hears differently.

    It then comes down to personal preference on which one suites one's own needs best.
    I put priority on reflection because I find it more comfortable to have the sound seemingly outside of my head, as opposed to being in my head when using stereo mode in most games, or even the Sonic or Atmos. As you've pointed out, this does cause inconsistency between what is heard versus the in-game environment but for me I'd rather have it blanket everything, as oppose to do without.

    All I can say is SSC works for me personally more than Sonic or Atmos - for the time being. It's actually the enjoyment of the sound, even if it sounds unrealistic at times.
    But I'm interested to see how Dolby Atmos will improve as games adopt this technology and utilise audio 'objects' to maximum effect.
  15. Avean
    I think the Dolby Atmos for Headphones are working perfectly. And the games dont need to support it. It just emulates it. I can clearly hear objects above and under me.
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