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Old May 16, 2018, 11:32 PM   #1
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Och
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Default Sound positioning in games and headphones.

I think I made a similar post years ago, but I wanted to come back to the subject.

I'm not a hardcore gamer, and I don't play every FPS game that there is, but I do play some of them. I've always been playing games with headphones. I know that a 5.1 speaker setup is better for sound positioning, but I just don't want a clutter of wires, so I stick with headphones. I don't use any of these gaming headsets with faux "7.1" claims - I use high quality Sennheiser stereo headphones, and I've always had a high quality consumer sound card. Currently I have the Soundblaster ZxR, which is their current flagship for internal sound cards.

However, despite the fact that my headphones are stereo, there are some games that provided excellent sound positioning. The first such game that comes to mind is Doom 3. Even when I was playing it back in Pentium 4 days using Audigy card, the sound positioning with stereo headphones in that game was nothing short of astonishing. I could easily tell if my enemies were behind me, to the left or to the right, or up ahead. Much to my disappointment, when BFG version of Doom 3 came out years later, sound positioning was gone, along with creative EAX (I'm still not sure what EAX does by the way ). The new version just sounds flat.

Same is true for most other FPS shooters - they just sound flat. You could tell if the sound is coming from left or right, but no way to judge the distance or if its in the back. In fact, some games are even worse - particularly Metro Series and Bioshock series. In these games, the enemies could be far away, but their sounds were loud as if they were right next to you. Very confusing and takes away from the gameplay. I am not sure if it only affects headphones, and maybe if I had a true 5.1 speaker setup it would be better, but its still disappointing.

At this point I already pretty much forgot about sound positioning and was playing my games with flat sounds without paying much attention to them. However, yesterday I decided for the first time to try out the original Crysis. I've never played that game before, but I stumbled on a video about it on youtube, and decided to give it a shot. And much to my surprise, this game has amazing sound position design, very much like the original Doom. I can tell exactly where enemy sounds and bullets are coming from. No need for 5.1 speakers, and makes the gaming experience so much more immersive!

Why can't all games be like that?
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Old May 17, 2018, 01:04 AM   #2
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Because it requires work on the dev side, as much as grpahical design or building ai. most publishers cut down on as much excess as they can to keep costs down, which is one of the many reasons why sound and ai are lack luster in most games.

You will get better sound positioning in more gams with a 5.1 setup but only because the devs built the sound for that. A lot of games sound just as flat in 5.1 as they do in stereo. Many people just dont notice because everybody hears differently. It's like when your friend has the tv setup to 5.1 and to them it sounds perfect, but for you, you can hear the split in sound between front and back or the sides, or maybe it even vibrates a little.

Stick with stereo BUT i cool trick you can do if you dont want headphones, is take a pair of good quality speakers with their own power source, and plug them into the headphones jack. Stick one speaker on either side of you and NOT on the desk in front of you, and you qill get some of the best surround sound you can get. Again though, only from games that build a surround sound set for headphones. Which to be fair, is a decent amount these days.

A lot more indy devs will put more effort into sound as well. As they have more freedom to direct resources to all portions of the development. Rogue Galaxy if i remember right had great 3d sound.
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Old May 17, 2018, 02:45 AM   #3
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There are few PC titles that have Dolby Atmos and the Dolby Atmos for headphones app works pretty well in those titles. The app is $10 on the Microsoft store, if you have the money to spare check and play the titles that support it, it’s worth it.



https://www.dolby.com/us/en/categories/games.html
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Old May 17, 2018, 04:25 AM   #4
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Found the free built in "Windows Sonic for Headphones" work pretty well in my headphones.
mostly been playing Vermintide 2 and PUBG since I started using it tho.
Can just enable it by right clicking the sound icon in the task bar and choose it from Spatial Sound there.
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Old May 17, 2018, 04:33 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jolle View Post
Found the free built in "Windows Sonic for Headphones" work pretty well in my headphones.
mostly been playing Vermintide 2 and PUBG since I started using it tho.
Can just enable it by right clicking the sound icon in the task bar and choose it from Spatial Sound there.

Every time windows updates significantly they put me back in that mode and I lose all audio on my soundblaster card. Have to roll back to old drivers to get audio at all. It's irritating. I'm assuming it's partly Creative's fault for not supporting Windows Sonic, but I also blame Microsoft for changing my settings constantly instead of leaving well enough alone.
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Old May 17, 2018, 09:19 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Och View Post
I think I made a similar post years ago, but I wanted to come back to the subject.

I'm not a hardcore gamer, and I don't play every FPS game that there is, but I do play some of them. I've always been playing games with headphones. I know that a 5.1 speaker setup is better for sound positioning, but I just don't want a clutter of wires, so I stick with headphones. I don't use any of these gaming headsets with faux "7.1" claims - I use high quality Sennheiser stereo headphones, and I've always had a high quality consumer sound card. Currently I have the Soundblaster ZxR, which is their current flagship for internal sound cards.

However, despite the fact that my headphones are stereo, there are some games that provided excellent sound positioning. The first such game that comes to mind is Doom 3. Even when I was playing it back in Pentium 4 days using Audigy card, the sound positioning with stereo headphones in that game was nothing short of astonishing. I could easily tell if my enemies were behind me, to the left or to the right, or up ahead. Much to my disappointment, when BFG version of Doom 3 came out years later, sound positioning was gone, along with creative EAX (I'm still not sure what EAX does by the way ). The new version just sounds flat.

Same is true for most other FPS shooters - they just sound flat. You could tell if the sound is coming from left or right, but no way to judge the distance or if its in the back. In fact, some games are even worse - particularly Metro Series and Bioshock series. In these games, the enemies could be far away, but their sounds were loud as if they were right next to you. Very confusing and takes away from the gameplay. I am not sure if it only affects headphones, and maybe if I had a true 5.1 speaker setup it would be better, but its still disappointing.

At this point I already pretty much forgot about sound positioning and was playing my games with flat sounds without paying much attention to them. However, yesterday I decided for the first time to try out the original Crysis. I've never played that game before, but I stumbled on a video about it on youtube, and decided to give it a shot. And much to my surprise, this game has amazing sound position design, very much like the original Doom. I can tell exactly where enemy sounds and bullets are coming from. No need for 5.1 speakers, and makes the gaming experience so much more immersive!

Why can't all games be like that?
Have you turned on SBX surround? It should make all of your games have positional sound.
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Old May 18, 2018, 01:42 AM   #7
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Also, even though you're using headphones, make sure the sound output is set to 5.1 surround in windows. Have it set to headphones in soundblaster software with SBX surround turned on and set to 5.1 surround in windows. Apologies if this is obvious and you've already done this.

I bring this up because it seems your older games are working in surround. I'm assuming it's because you're using alchemy. I seem to remember seeing someone have this issue in the past that only their alchemy games were playing in surround. It was because they had the speaker properties in windows settings set to headphones instead of 5.1.
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Old May 18, 2018, 01:59 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jjjayb View Post
Also, even though you're using headphones, make sure the sound output is set to 5.1 surround in windows. Have it set to headphones in soundblaster software with SBX surround turned on and set to 5.1 surround in windows. Apologies if this is obvious and you've already done this.

I bring this up because it seems your older games are working in surround. I'm assuming it's because you're using alchemy. I seem to remember seeing someone have this issue in the past that only their alchemy games were playing in surround. It was because they had the speaker properties in windows settings set to headphones instead of 5.1.
Unless you are using headphones and windows sonic, then you DO want them set to headphones
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Old May 18, 2018, 11:11 AM   #9
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Unless you are using headphones and windows sonic, then you DO want them set to headphones
The soundblaster settings should be set to headphones. The windows settings should be set to surround. I've had it that way for years and I have positional audio in all of my games.
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Old May 18, 2018, 11:53 AM   #10
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Allot of newer games, or re-mastered games, have crappy 3D Audio and allot of older game's 3D audio is broken because they relied on Microsoft's discontinued DirectSound API that isn't in newer versions of windows.

Bioshock is a good example. The original has 3D audio, and some nice EAX effects, but it's broken unless you use something like Creative Labs Alchemy. The re-master apparently doesn't have the same 3D audio capability.

SBX, Dolby Headphone modes, Windows Sonic, Razer Surround etc all take multi-channel audio and give you a quasi 3D audio experience. Some of these techs are better than others. It's not real 3D positional audio of course, but it can help if a games built-in sound engine does a crappy job.
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Old May 19, 2018, 05:17 PM   #11
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Also this raise's an interesting question. What game this year had great sound?
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Old May 19, 2018, 05:49 PM   #12
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Everyone must have heard of Binaural recording by now (if not, you need to Google it now).

That thing needs to become the standard way how all recording is carried out.
It's literally the aural equivalent of motion captured animations, except much much much more impressive because of how the human brain perceives it.

Binaural recording by itself is nothing hi-tech, it's simple science. It's your brain that makes all the magic happen.
And it sounds nothing short of magical even on the shittiest pair of headphones.

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Old May 19, 2018, 06:05 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by saumilsingh View Post
Everyone must have heard of Binaural recording by now (if not, you need to Google it now).

That thing needs to become the standard way how all recording is carried out.
It's literally the aural equivalent of motion captured animations, except much much much more impressive because of how the human brain perceives it.

Binaural recording by itself is nothing hi-tech, it's simple science. It's your brain that makes all the magic happen.
And it sounds nothing short of magical even on the shittiest pair of headphones.
This is certainly true. It was part of the 3d sound in the old xfi sound cards, and it was the best sound card i ever owned because it made every game have amazing sound coverage, and most games have surround sound. Even though the surround sound in games that didnt have in built surround sound, the ss was a bit weird, it was still awesome that it was there when anyway. Truly loved that card
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Old May 19, 2018, 10:36 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by saumilsingh View Post
Everyone must have heard of Binaural recording by now (if not, you need to Google it now).

That thing needs to become the standard way how all recording is carried out.
It's literally the aural equivalent of motion captured animations, except much much much more impressive because of how the human brain perceives it.

Binaural recording by itself is nothing hi-tech, it's simple science. It's your brain that makes all the magic happen.
And it sounds nothing short of magical even on the shittiest pair of headphones.
That is what SBX, Dolby Headphone, Windows Sonic and Razer Surround are kinda emulating, but in real-time using the multi-channel audio fed into them.

It's also what good built in audio engines are probably doing with HRTF(Head Related Transfer Function) if they have a headphone mode. Only better if it's audio engine does some type of 3D audio.
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Old May 20, 2018, 12:49 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by jjjayb View Post
Have you turned on SBX surround? It should make all of your games have positional sound.
Yes, its turned on, but it doesn't really do much. In fact, there is now Spatial sound in windows that has a choice of windows sonic (free) or dolby atmos ($15). Out of the three choices I like SBX surround the most.

I am currently playing two FPS games - the aforementioned Crysis and COJ Gunslinger. With Crysis the 3d sound is working with or without SBX surround turned on. It is absolutely amazing how I can tell exactly where my enemies are just by sound. But in COJ Gunslinger it doesn't do jack, the sound is flat and I'm not sure if its even stereo, never mind surround.

And in the older games, particularly Metro and Bioshock series the sound positioning was just whack, at least with my headphones. I don't think any amount of virtual surround could fix it.

Last edited by Och : May 20, 2018 at 02:23 AM.
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Old May 26, 2018, 03:13 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Trunks0 View Post
Also this raise's an interesting question. What game this year had great sound?
Many are very impressed by the sound in latest God of War for the PS4.
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Old May 29, 2018, 09:34 AM   #17
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Yes, its turned on, but it doesn't really do much. In fact, there is now Spatial sound in windows that has a choice of windows sonic (free) or dolby atmos ($15). Out of the three choices I like SBX surround the most.

I am currently playing two FPS games - the aforementioned Crysis and COJ Gunslinger. With Crysis the 3d sound is working with or without SBX surround turned on. It is absolutely amazing how I can tell exactly where my enemies are just by sound. But in COJ Gunslinger it doesn't do jack, the sound is flat and I'm not sure if its even stereo, never mind surround.

And in the older games, particularly Metro and Bioshock series the sound positioning was just whack, at least with my headphones. I don't think any amount of virtual surround could fix it.
In my testing, Windows Sonic and Dolby Headphone are crap. They might work for movies but they are garbage for games. Dolby Headphone also makes music sound weird if you leave it enabled by mistake.

I definitely recommend simply sticking to SBX. It actually does work fairly well in my experience. Audio is much more positional than the default headphone mode for most games. It's unfortunate that the positional audio is many games is so poor, as there's no need for it to be that way.
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Old Jun 1, 2018, 01:30 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by Nagorak View Post
In my testing, Windows Sonic and Dolby Headphone are crap. They might work for movies but they are garbage for games. Dolby Headphone also makes music sound weird if you leave it enabled by mistake.

I definitely recommend simply sticking to SBX. It actually does work fairly well in my experience. Audio is much more positional than the default headphone mode for most games. It's unfortunate that the positional audio is many games is so poor, as there's no need for it to be that way.
I basically just with that the two Metro games and Bioshock 1 and 2 would have proper positional audio.
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Old Jun 1, 2018, 01:45 AM   #19
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I basically just with that the two Metro games and Bioshock 1 and 2 would have proper positional audio.
Wanna try that sentence again?
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Old Jun 1, 2018, 08:09 AM   #20
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Wanna try that sentence again?
LOL.

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Old Jun 1, 2018, 08:36 AM   #21
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Counter Strike Global Offensive only a couple of years ago introduced HRTF, and it improved sound positioning hugely. However, going with the OP's point, CS 1.6 had excellent 3d sound to begin with, and is almost 20 years old now (so Half-Life and goldsrc engine basically).
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Old Jun 1, 2018, 09:25 AM   #22
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LOL.

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Ahh of course, that makes sense.
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Old Jun 1, 2018, 09:46 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by azalea View Post
Counter Strike Global Offensive only a couple of years ago introduced HRTF, and it improved sound positioning hugely. However, going with the OP's point, CS 1.6 had excellent 3d sound to begin with, and is almost 20 years old now (so Half-Life and goldsrc engine basically).
when HRTF was released for GO it was actually awful and most people disabled it because it made positioning much harder to pinpoint/made sounds disappear. dunno if that's still the case but about a year ago it was common practice to keep it off.

edit: seems like it's still best to keep it off. makes distance very hard to distinguish. HRTF makes the positioning slightly better but makes almost all sounds super tinny and indistinguishable
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Old Jun 1, 2018, 12:40 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Och View Post
I basically just with that the two Metro games and Bioshock 1 and 2 would have proper positional audio.
To get the positional audio back in some of those games your going to need to use Creative labs Alchemy software(or some of the other alternatives). So that the MS Direct Sound acceleration can be wrapped to OpenAL.

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Counter Strike Global Offensive only a couple of years ago introduced HRTF, and it improved sound positioning hugely. However, going with the OP's point, CS 1.6 had excellent 3d sound to begin with, and is almost 20 years old now (so Half-Life and goldsrc engine basically).
That's because the HL1 engine it used has/had Microsoft's "Direct sound", Aureal's "A3D" and later OpenAL. All of which helped accelerate a real 3D audio engine.
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Old Jun 3, 2018, 03:23 PM   #25
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I've been doing some testing with both Bioshock and and Metro, and surround sound is definitely working in both of them, but the position of the enemy voices is horribly programmed. For instance in Bioshock, if there is a fixed sound source, such as a music player, or a water fountain, if I walk around it or away from it, the sound properly shifts, but enemies can be making sounds several rooms away, but they sound like they are right next to you.

It is the same exact thing in Metro redux series, fixed sounds are properly positioned, by enemy screams are flat and confusing.

I gotta try Bioshock infinite again to see if it has improved any over the older titles.
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