Over the past few years, many companies have stepped up to the challenge of bringing the fun of a movie theater experience to your living room. With the increasing popularity of virtual reality, it’s no surprise that so many gaming companies have jumped on the opportunity to create VR enabled games. And boy, have they delivered!
With the launch of the Oculus Quest and its promise to bring high-quality gaming to everyone, we were finally given the opportunity to experience the full potential of surround sound in gaming. Even if you have a high-end gaming laptop or a dedicated desktop PC, you can still enjoy the cinematic experience of VR through high-quality sound.
So is 7.1 Surround Sound Good For Gaming? Let’s take a look.
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The Importance Of Quality Audio
To put it bluntly, yes, having high-quality audio is important in order to get the best possible experience from your games. But that doesn’t mean you need to spend thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars on expensive headsets and speakers. There are plenty of options available that offer high-quality sound for much less money.
For computer and console gamers, there are plenty of affordable gaming headsets available that don’t skimp out on the audio quality. One of the best-known brands is Plantronics, and one of their best-selling headsets is the Voyager 710. With comfortable noise canceling technology, flexible microphone connections, and high-quality speakers, this headset can deliver an incredible audio experience for under $50.
On the console side of things, the PS4 Pro and the Xbox One S excellentes offer High Dynamic Range Audio (HDR Audio) enabled microphones and enhanced audio drivers that make a significant difference in the quality of your games when compared to standard consoles. The PS4 Pro is compatible with the Hi-Fi Friend and Kinect Saves for the best VR audio on the market, and the Xbox One S excellentes are compatible with Sonic Remix and XCloud for high-quality audio streaming.
So you’ve decided that high-end audio is worth investing in, but you’re not exactly sure why you need so many speakers. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. It’s a common question, and for the most part, there’s an easy answer. More speakers mean better audio, plain and simple. But that’s not always the case, and putting too many speakers can actually do more harm than good.
The reason for the 7.1 setup is actually quite clever, and has to do with the sonic booms that frequently occur in first-person shooter games. These booms come from the fact that you’re firing bullets rapidly, and the resulting “ping” is what gives the audio a sense of “depth”, making it feel more realistic. While it’s great to have more speakers, they need to be placed properly in order to completely eliminate the sonic booms entirely. So if you’re trying to avoid them, 7.1 might just be the right solution.
How Does 7.1 Work?
As you may have guessed, the 7.1 setup works by using 7 speakers to replicate actual 7.1 surround sound. The resulting effect is something that can only be described as “full-bodied”. The speakers are designed to be placed near to the rear of the head, and while it’s not required, it’s advised that you place a center speaker in the middle of the stack. This center speaker is usually the biggest and most powerful of the 7, and the one that you can adjust the most for personal taste. It’s important to point out that not all center-channel speakers are created equal, and it’s always advisable to research and compare the audio quality of different centers before making a decision.
What Is The Difference Between 7.1 And 5.1?
Even if you have only two speakers, you’re probably already familiar with the difference between 7.1 and 5.1 sound systems. The former enables you to experience a sense of space in your sound, while the latter limits you to a two-dimensional sound surrounding you. The 7.1 specification requires you to use at least 7 speakers, and if you wish, you can attach additional speakers to the end of the line as well. However, even with just 7 speakers, you can still experience some of the advantages of a 7.1 setup. For example, the sonic booms mentioned previously are more noticeable in a 5.1 system than in a 7.1 one (in some cases).
There are plenty of situations where 7.1 surround sound is not a good idea, especially if you’re into first-person shooters or other realistic games. For instance, if you drive a lot, or if you want to experience a game at home with the TV turned up high, having 7 or even 8 speakers could result in a higher-pitched tone when enjoying music or listening to podcasts. But for the most part, quality audio is vitally important in order to have a good time with your guac, playing computer or console games, or watching theatrical films.