I recently changed my audio setup on my computer (and it's still gonna change in a few days), and now from trying different headphones in the past 2 yrs, I came to finally make my mind on which setup was better : Surround (real or virtual) headphones or Stereo Headphones
it depends on what you have inside your pc, if you have an amp or mixer of some sort and things like that. And also on the quality of the headphones you're using.
I wont be focussing on the quality of the headphones tho, has you could spend $1K for headphones, it would be stupid to compare it to a $100 5.1 gaming headset.
First, gaming products, on a few exceptions, are mostly all about marketing. Go on their site, it's so hard to find real numbers, numbers that any audiophile who knows what he's looking for would find important. Good sound is good sound, surround is surround, and it has nothing to do with gaming, even if it IS practical while playing games.
For an exemple, the Psyko Gaming 5.1 headset.
Even when I bought the Astro Mixamp, there was no way to know on their site how much ohm it could output, because they dont want people to use another better stereo headset on their mixamp, so they make it complicated.
From all the reviews I've read, the best headsets for PC gaming (if you dont consider the price) are the E.D.G.E. Acoustics GX400 and the Astro A40 system.
E.D.G.E. Acoustics GX400 are really good quality, sound isolating STEREO earbuds.
Astro A40 system is the combo of a Mixamp that does Dolby Headphone and a pair of good (like in everage good) STEREO headphones
even if I look at good headsets at lower prices :
SteelSeries 5H v2 = STEREO
another very good headset : Plantronics GameCom 777, they are stereo. They take Dolby Surround 5.1 from the USB, and play it through it's 2 speakers.
okay so that's virtual surround.
Like the Megalodon, hefty price, and they are stereo heaphones with virtual surround created by the Maestro engine located inside the Mixamp. Which sucks compared to X-Fi
- What is responsible of the surround effect? The headset, or the digital sound processing system (mixamp, X-Fi soundcard, the things that create virtual Surround sound)???
Answer : the digital sound processing systems
- Why did Razer went from a real 5.1 headset, the Barracudas, to a Stereo Headset with a mixamp, the Megalodons?
Answer : Your mother.
- Why dont big renowed companies like Sennheiser, Grado, AKG, Dennon, Stax, Beyerdynamic, Audio Technica, Ultrasone make 5.1 headphones?
Answer : There's a lot of money to make out of it. But the audio quality is sacrificed for more speakers, and quality is what they're all about.
I had the Barracudas hooked to my Auzentech X-Fi Forte 7.1 , I got them before the card in fact. Having a dedicated amp for the headphone jack, X-Fi and all, I can admit that I was afraid to compare my good old cheap Stereo headset to the Cudas on that card... So I never did it, I didnt want to know IF the 30$ stereo headphones would give me a better sound than the Cudas I paid 70$US(but are "worth" more).
Remember when I was getting banned for "wallhacking" ? well I was using my old Stereo headset, they had a good Soundstage, even if they didng have the best sound quality.
But now, with my brand new stereo Headphones hooked to the card, I can tell that :
Stereo with digitally processed Surround (X-Fi) >>> 5.1 headsets > Stereo headphones alone
> means "is better than..."
and that's for gaming, 5.1 headsets will come last on my list for music.
And remember, the Digital Processing Technology does the job, not the headset, so I think you're better off with a good Stereo headset, no need to pay $200, and it's always gonna be better than let's say, an A40 stereo Headset without the mixamp.
+ the 2 best Surround processiong technologies for gaming with headphones to date are X-Fi and Dolby Headphones.
with that and a good stereo headset/headphones, it's the best.
Long ass post huh? I hope you found my take on the subject informative.
I might post again after I try my old stereo headset on the Forte, and also when I'll try the setup : Forte -(optical)--> Astro Mixamp ---> DT770PRO 250ohm
The forte has as great amp to power the 250ohm headphones, so I hope the Astro can do it too, it's supposed to...
Edit : I just received the Astro Mixamp, I'll be testing it tonight! ... well I had to go to the counter to pick it up, but I fell asleep, so tomorrow it will be!