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Why "5.1" headphones are a scam (with pictures!)

post #1 of 85
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There seems to be a lot of confusion over this topic. Most of the 5.1 users will tell you their headphones sound amazing, and its because they are 5.1.

Unfortunately sound quality is highly subjective. If you pulled an average person off the street and let them try HD 201s or Koss PortaPros they would probably say they are the best things they've ever heard, while most audiophiles wouldn't touch either one.

"5.1" headphones sound good because most of them aren't the cheap crap you get with mp3 players, and not because they are "5.1".

Now, there are two types of "5.1" headphones, USB and non-USB.

USB headphones are a complete scam because most of the time they aren't even 5.1 headphones.

Take the Creative Fatal1ty headset for instance. Its not even a 5.1 headset! Its only using 2 drivers, and because its USB its not even using your sound card. Its using software to emulate the same effects you get from features like CMSS-3D on X-Fi cards. A quality stereo headset with a dedicated X-Fi sound card will do a much better job at simulating 3d sound.



Then there are the headphones that actually stuff multiple drivers into their headset. Turtle Beach does this.

However if you stop and actually think about how you perceive sound you'll realise how stupid that it.

The human ear has the ability to tell the direction and distance of sound, that is why when you get a nice 5.1 home theater system you spread the speakers out:



The red squares represent the speakers. The angle θ represents the separation between the speakers. Becauseθ is large it is easy to tell the direction a sound is coming from, and you get a true surround effect.

Now lets look at a "5.1" headset:




This time the angle, φ is small. In fact its so small its pretty much insignificant, so it doesn't matter how many drivers they cram into the housing, because to your ear its only going to sound like a single source.


And whats worse is that because they are using more drivers, the quality is going to suffer.

For example, the Turtle Beach Ear Force FX uses 6 drivers, 3 in each ear, but because they are so close together they aren't going to sound any different than if they just used 2 drivers, so you're paying 3 times as much as you should be.
    
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post #2 of 85
Is there some hard science behind this? I would think it would all be relative to the way sound reacts at different angles/directions, you can simulate the angles by setting the drivers to the very front and back of the headset and adjusting volume/angle of the driver, as for the distance I am not sure. Maybe some type of scientific principle to demonstrate other than just telling us this. I understand what you are saying but I think you would need to back it up more based on physics.
 
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post #3 of 85
I never knew how they could get away with selling "5.1" headphones. I mean, that would require 2 fronts, 2 rears, a center and a sub. It's obviously a scam... where's my center?! Where's my sub?!
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post #4 of 85
I think 5.1 headphones are not worth the money too; 5.1 sound can be done with good headphones and a sound card features that can emulate 5.1 so that for instance when you turn around in a game, the sound goes smoothly from one can to another without giving the user the feeling that one side turned off right away and the other one picked up the sound.
    
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post #5 of 85
The older I get, the more I like stereo (with sub where applicable) only. I have owned some epic surround setups, but I just prefer a nice, clean, solid front stage.
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post #6 of 85

Listening to Binaural recordings on stereo headphones is like headphones' version of 5.1 speakers. And like 3D Movies, once you listen to Binaural recordings, your stereo recordings will seem less entertaining.

Here, get a virtual haircut!

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post #7 of 85
Is it just me? Or are the sound channels swapped on that video? Or is it my MS lifechat messing up things? When he does the clicking, on the left and right, it comes from the other side. Yet when I do the speaker test, they come from the correct sides...
    
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post #8 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by allikat View Post
Is it just me? Or are the sound channels swapped on that video? Or is it my MS lifechat messing up things? When he does the clicking, on the left and right, it comes from the other side. Yet when I do the speaker test, they come from the correct sides...

have you tried.....wait for it.................putting your headphones on the right way?
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post #9 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by kyle-reece View Post
have you tried.....wait for it.................putting your headphones on the right way?
Speaker test works right so that can't be the issue.
    
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post #10 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by _02 View Post
Speaker test works right so that can't be the issue.
Read that again... how would the outcome of the speaker test be relevent?

He's saying he put the headphones on his head left cup on right ear.
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