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Does a Gaming Headset Need Surround Sound?

I remember getting my first proper gaming headset. I was playing a game called “Battlefield Bad Company.” My friend had told me that it would make my battlefield experience better. He also said that it would improve my gameplay. He was right. Nowadays, we have headsets that can produce 7.1 surround sound. Do we actually need this for gaming?

Gaming headsets do not need surround sound, but it does add a higher level of immersion. However, this is mostly in single-player games. Stereo headsets, in my opinion, are better for FPS multiplayer games. The best thing to do is get a surround sound headset and switch between stereo and 7.1 depending on what game you are playing. Most Pros use stereo sound for competitive play.

Buying a new headset can be tricky. It always takes me a while to decide which pair I should get whenever I buy a new headset. There is a lot to choose from, with so many manufacturers offering so many different features. In this article, I want to discuss some of these features and hopefully help you decide what is important to you.

Does surround sound make a difference in gaming?

Surround sound does make a difference in gaming, the question is, does it make the desired difference? Surround sound on a headset is different from a surround sound system. A headset uses virtual surround sound while an in-home theatre sound system is true surround sound.

There is a stark difference between the two. I tried playing games on both, for both tests, I played a single-player game and then multiplayer.

Gaming on a virtual surround sound headset

The headset that I used for this was the Logitech G635 Lightsync 7.1 headset. This headset retails typically on Amazon for $139 but often goes on special for around $99. For a link to the Amazon listing, click here.

  • For single-player, I did this test on The Witcher 3 and found that it enhanced my experience and immersion. The atmospheric sounds were the most notable difference. I often got a sense that I was really there, hearing atmospheric sounds were so realistic, it took me a few minutes to get used to it.
  • For Multiplayer, I did the test on Call Of Duty Warzone. Although I was able to hear which direction sounds were coming from, Surround sound actually made it harder for me to pinpoint exactly where someone was. Footsteps sounded like they were further away than what an enemy player was.

I then decided to try and use surround sound on a game called DayZ; again, it was good, except, I struggled to pinpoint precisely where the enemy was.

When gaming on a virtual surround sound headset, it is terrific, except in multiplayer. Remember, this is all my opinion and comes from doing my own tests. When using normal stereo headsets, I can pinpoint where the enemy is more accurately.

Sony platinum wireless headset

If you are using a virtual surround sound headset on a console, I have a quick recommendation—the Sony PlayStation Platinum headset. I feel like Sony put a lot of effort into their first-party headset. So, you get great value out of it. You can find the product on Amazon, and it usually retails for $159. For a listing to the Platinum headset, click here

Using a home theatre surround sound system for gaming

To test this, I used my PS4 console. The game that I tested for single-player was God Of War. The game that I used for multiplayer was Call Of Duty Warzone. The sound system that I used is my Samsung HT-J4500 5.1 home theatre system. To set this up:

  • I connected My PS4 to the home theatre receiver via an optical cable.
  • After that, I went to the settings of the PS4 and selected the video output as HDMI, and the audio output as optical out.

In Single-player, the experience was not as immersive as when I used the headset, but the sound was incredible. Everything that happened in the game was amplified, and it felt more like I was playing a very interactive movie.

In Multiplayer, the atmospheric sounds were incredible. When it came to pinpointing where an enemy was, it was not better than using a virtual surround headset. In fact, it was pretty much the same.

Results

Surround sound is good, whether you are using your home theatre system or a headset. Each has its pros and cons. When I am playing multiplayer, especially when I am playing FPS multiplayer games, I will always choose my good old stereo headset.

PS5 3D audio

A big feature that sony has been pushing with its new PS5 console is its new 3D audio technology. I thought it was important to add this to this article as people are asking the question, will they need new headsets? And, will they need surround sound headsets to enjoy the 3D audio?

The difference between 3D audio and surround sound

While the concept of both might seem similar, the two technologies are actually different from each other. 3D audio uses the fundamentals of surround sound but adds a more realistic layer to it. The goal of 3D audio is to replicate the sound in a way that is more accurate to how we perceive natural sounds.

Surround sound uses angles to trick us into thinking that sounds are coming from a specific direction.

Will your current headset work with the PS5 3D audio?

Yes, Sony has stated that they have designed 3D audio to work with your standard headset, whether it is stereo or surround sound. This is great news for anyone who wants to stick with their old headset or even for anyone who only uses a particular brand.

Sony has suggested that the technology will be best experienced through its optimized first-party headset. The headset is called the “Sony Pulse 3D wireless.” It is unclear if the headset comes with the PS5, but due to all the leaks we have seen, it will be sold separately.

The 3D audio is built into the hardware and utilized by the game developers. This means that you will notice a difference when using normal TV speakers. Sony has suggested that as time goes on, they will optimize the technology to work better on those speakers.

So, if you are considering getting a new headset for your PS4, it might actually be a good idea to hold off on the purchase. With the PS5 3D audio and the Sony Pulse 3D headset being released, waiting is a good idea.

Getting surround sound to work

If you are going to buy a new pair of headsets, I recommend getting one that has both virtual surround sound and stereo settings if you are on console. Almost all wireless console headsets have this setting, but first, check before you buy.

For Playstation, the sony platinum wireless headset is different from others. The headset offers 3D audio, while it is not the latest technology like in the PS5, it still sounds great. You can also switch between 3D audio and stereo.

On PC, switching from surround sound to stereo differs depending on the headset. First and most obvious, the headset must support surround sound. You will have to download the headset software, where you will be able to toggle surround sound on or off.

Conclusion

Gaming is a hobby that people spend a lot of time on. Wanting to get the most out of the experience is normal, and if you can do it, then why not? A good pair of headsets can completely change the way a game feels.

I think that I made it pretty clear in this article that I personally prefer stereo headsets. This is because I play predominantly multiplayer games. The last time that I tried using surround sound on Rocket League, it sounded like the cars were all around me instead of a specific location.

David Sacks

I have worked in the IT industry since 2011 and have been an avid gamer my whole life. My first consoles were the sega genesis and the Nintendo SNES. I play both console and PC games, I love both. I decided to become combine my passion for gaming with my passion for writing.

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