The various methods of Virtual Surround (and how shit they are)

Discussion in 'Computer Audiophile: Software, Configs, Tools' started by PacoTaco, Nov 10, 2018.

  1. PacoTaco

    PacoTaco Friend

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    I'm not entirely sure why I'm even doing a thread like this, but I felt I'd share what I learned over the course of years with this dumb shit. Now, this post isn't about how useful VSS is and whether or not you should bother using it over stereo. For competitive gaming, this is damn helpful. Hell, it even helped with the HD800 and the T1 (which is unusually good for accuracy with VSS. Well, gen 1 is. Gen 2 is a dumpster fire.)

    Now I'm going to preface this with a "I'm only talking about the VSS solutions I've tried, as well as the quality of the devices used for it." I should also preface this with the fact that most VSS doesn't quite work for me (as in, it sounds like a huge mess) and I will outright say that it doesn't. I'm not going to include game-specific solutions, as those tend to always be better than what a device can do (with two exceptions that I will mention when I get there.)


    Windows Sonic + Dolby Atmos for Headphones

    I'm going to be honest, I was kind of excited when this came out. I didn't have to purchase dumb little devices to get VSS! Unfortunately, I could not tell the difference as far as sound is concerned other than it sounded worse. Dolby Atmos was the same thing, though it effected the sound negatively for me. Overwatch was the only game that used this well.

    Turtle Beach DSS

    You could say this is Turtle Beach's best product. You wouldn't be wrong, but that's not really an accomplish for them. This dac was fairly low powered, noisy, and a pain in the ass to get going. Granted, it had settings on "speaker placement" before everyone else did, which made it pretty useful and I could find a setting that actually worked. That said, I dumped it as soon as I could.

    Astro Mixamp

    This is probably one of the more popular VSS solutions out there. To its credit, it did get a good VSS solution going. Unfortunately, it came at the cost of sound quality. The amp on it is bad, the dac on it is bad, and the amount of revurb they ad is insulting. Sure, you got immersion and better spatial awareness, but everything sounded like you were in a cave.

    Asus Soundcards

    Everything that I said for the Astro Mixamp applies to here, though Asus did put better quality shit into their soundcards. And, you could do a digital out to a dac while keeping the Dolby Headphone processing.

    Steelseries GameDac

    I didn't own this one for long. This solution is tethered to one headset and that's about it. That said, the DAC is actually pretty decent. For a closed gaming headset, the Artic Pro was able to have a pretty nice level of resolve and it had great imaging. However, it was pretty dark, and the bass got a bit much. And it didn't fit my head.

    Madcats Triton

    This was my first foray into VSS. The headset was shit, but the VSS implementation was the first one that actually worked for me. The sound quality wasn't negatively impacted (though whether that was;l because of the device or the headphone being that shit, I'm not sure,) and it was incredibly accurate. It sounded like separate speakers clumsily emulated though.

    Audeze Mobius

    Until yesterday, this was the best VSS solution I've ever heard. The headset wasn't half decent either. Unfortunately, it only worked for PC and I was getting tired of having to press the "center" button for 3D. That said, the headtracking made it very, very accurate and kept things at ALMOST a smooth surround sound like experience. Not many VSS implementations can do that.

    The problem was, the headset was only "half-decent." It was bad, but it wasn't good either. It didn't help that the pads never fit my ears right. After awhile, I did start to hear a bit of distortion in the oddest places while using the VSS on the mobius. It also seemed to suck depth out of everything and made it sound like a flat plain of speakers.

    SoundBlaster X7

    As far as sound quality goes on the device itself, this is probably the best one on the list. The amp was powerful, the DAC was DS Bifrost-level, and the VSS was very easy to tweak. That said, there were odd times where I could really tell what direction the sound came from like it was being diffused too heavily around me.

    SoundBlasterX G6

    I haven't spent enough time with this one to tell if the device itself is as good as the SoundBlaster X7, but the amp on this thing is bizarrely powerful. It also has a bunch of nifty features (like being able to use the digital out to a dac, the ability to work with ALL consoles, and other nifty things. It also has a mode where it turns off all processing and works like a normal ass dac/amp...which the dac does fairly well. Not as good as the X7, but at least on par with the modi. The VSS was also improved to the point where directional audio was actually done fairly life-like without fucking with the sound quality much. It lacked depth though.

    Sennheiser GSX1000

    As far as VSS goes, this is the best one. Depth is added, the speakers are merged together to sound more life-like and binnaural, and it is super-accurate. Unfortunately, things seem to get some artificial distance to them, and the sound quality takes a minor hit. To top it off, the device's internals are very shit. I mean, I'd choose my motherboard over them. Which is shame. Ignore my ad selling this. ;)
     
  2. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    For GSX 1000 you either need to run its HP out into a good amp (especially for anything over 150ohm) OR use the music or cinema EQ settings paired with a custom modified pair of headphones to counterbalance how the EQ fucks up the frequency response.

    The music EQ in particular boosts the bass, mostly upper bass, and the upper mids through lower treble.

    So, what I did was stuff a shit ton of damping in my HD58X cups. I also removed the foam on the front side. This caused a massive bass roll off. It also brought up and smoothed out the upper registers, but still not enough.

    The music EQ counterbalances the shitty mods almost perfectly. This unusual combo is fairly neutral but with a bit of a upper bass centered hump. Treble and mids are fairly linear with a bit of emphasis to aid in locating sounds.

    What’s funny is that running no EQ on the GSX 1000 sounds totally lifeless, even if you were to find a headphone that by default matched the FR of the combo I listed above. Something about the music and cinema EQ options add much more drive to the sound regardless of how they change the FR. So, you gotta pair them up with a headphone that counterbalances their changes.

    It’s goofy as hell, but it works!
     
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  3. songmic

    songmic Gear cycler East Asia edition

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    Most virtual sound processors are utterly shit, the only ones I consider worthy SQ-wise are Smyth Realiser and OOYH. Taking the price/form/convenience factors in, the OOYH is no-brainer and I use it all the time. I'm not sure why these two weren't even mentioned.
     
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  4. PacoTaco

    PacoTaco Friend

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    As I bolded in my original post, I only mentioned ones I've actually used. Right now, I find both the GSX1000 and SBX G6 worth using. The GSX1000 sounds the most lifelike and accurate, but it uses a shittier dac+amp and adds a bit of reverb. SBX, while slightly less lifelike, doesn't seem to degrade audio quality much at all.

    The rest are shit and I can't use them. Literally, they just sound like one giant mess of a soundstage.
     
  5. songmic

    songmic Gear cycler East Asia edition

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    The OOYH is a software which does its magic in the digital domain inside the computer. You can use the OOYH and still use a great DAC like Yggdrasil. It offers a free trial, you can test it out and see how much better it performs then all the other hardware solutions you've tried.
     
  6. PacoTaco

    PacoTaco Friend

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    I'll try it out then. I should note that the SoundblasterX G6 and X7 both transfer the VSS digitally through optical out to any dac.
     
  7. Armaegis

    Armaegis Friend

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    Toneboosters Isone used to be a very good VST plugin, although I haven't used it in years now. Has anyone here played with it recently?
     
  8. Poleepkwa

    Poleepkwa Friend

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    I think it was about time VSS gets it's own thread.
    Thanks Paco!Taco!

    I have never heard of OOYH software. Will have to give that a go too as the price seems reasonable
    Smyth Research has been simply too expensive for gaming iif chat is mixing is needed.
    I prefer hardware solutions that gamechat/sidetone mixing as I game late at night.

    - Dolby Atmos for headphones has gotten a few updates, which has improved the sound. Not as bassy as before.
    Less reverb compared to the DH on the Xonar cards. Works pretty well on Xbox One for directionality, if rather heavy handed, depending on the game.
    Sounded better with movies than games.

    - The best AIO have tried so far has been the Creative G5 and Steelseries DAC.

    Apparently the the G5 is "lower"version of the X7' VSS. Possibly the G6 has gotten an improved version of this.

    -SteelseriesDac: I received an adapter for the SteelseriesDac that allowed any headphones to be used.
    My impressions mirror that of PacoTaco. Competent DAC, Good headset, good microphone and competent sound for a closed gaming headset. The size is a bit snug, but fits me fine and has very good comfort with their material pads.Their fabric earpads are damn comfy.
    I am not sure why other manufaturer do not offer something similar.
    I do enjoy the options that the Gamedac provides in customizing the surround effect and the built in EQ.

    I chose this over the GSX1000 as the price was the same and the Senns hardware seem pretty mediocre for the their price.
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2018
  9. maverickronin

    maverickronin Friend

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    That's what I use. Still love it. Unfortunately it's been rolled into a package with a bunch of other VSTs now so you can't buy it on it's own anymore.

    It's only stereo though and PacoTaco's talking about surround sound, I assume for gaming.

    I tried it a few years ago and it had too much latency to use with anything but straight music. Is it any faster now?
     
  10. PacoTaco

    PacoTaco Friend

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    From what I read on head-fo, the company solved the latency problem with a gaming preset that just processes 7.1 as opposed to a shit load of speakers
     
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  11. Cspirou

    Cspirou They call me Sparky

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    I remember reading about Waves NX software remixing surround for headphones. At the time they only had the pro-version for $99. However now I see they have a consumer version for $10

    https://www.waves.com/nx/mac-windows-app

    It's worth trying at this price. Also would allow digital domain crossfeed.
     
  12. maverickronin

    maverickronin Friend

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    Cool. I'll give the gamer version a try.
     
  13. songmic

    songmic Gear cycler East Asia edition

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    I don’t like the gamer preset, but I can safely say that the latency problem has been solved with other presets as well a long time ago. My personal pick is Acoustic Zen.
     
  14. Walderstorn

    Walderstorn Wow, I made it this far without being a friend?

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    So tried the OOYH today and i thought it was good-ish, until i, by chance, decided to set the Crimson on high gain and it became something else, really, really good stuff they did here. For virtual surrounded it became the software i enjoyed the most but unfortunately the 149 is just too much for me.

    Good tip @songmic.
     

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