What Are Surround Sound Headphones?
A good quality sound can make a whole lot of difference in your movie or gaming, of course in the best possible way. Apart from giving you a satisfying listening experience, a powerful and great sound performance from a headphone also has the power to get you involved completely making it even more enjoyable.
Now, you might have heard the term ‘surround sound’ while setting up your home theater or while looking for a headset for gaming. For those who are new to this term, here’s a quick insight on what surround sound is?
How Do They Work?
When the sound comes out of two channels, the right and the left channel, like in the case of many speakers, TV, and most headphones then it is the ‘stereo sound’. On the other hand, a sound system that has more than just two (left and right) channels is considered ‘surround sound’. As the name implies, it is the sound that makes you feel that you are surrounded by the sound, meaning, the sound coming from everywhere- front, back, sides, up or down.
Typically, a surround sound effect is created by making way for the sound to travel through multiple channels rather than just two. So keeping one speaker on the front, one or two at the back, and a couple of them on the sides gives that natural, three-dimensional listening experience.
Why Should You Buy Surround Sound Headphones?
In case you are wondering if the surround sound needs so many speaker set-ups to create the effect, it must be pretty expensive… Well, it does involve a decent amount of money and space if you are planning to set up a home theater with multiple speakers around the room. But, you can enjoy this without spending that huge money as well. Headphones! Yes, it turns out that good surround sound headphones can give you an equally amazing life-like experience like that of a real sound system.
Many individuals think that surround sound headphones is just an attractive sounding term that helps with the marketing of the product. However, the truth is, it is not just a marketing thing. You will know the difference in the sound system when you use and compare both the regular stereo headset and the 7.1 surround headphones one after the other. There is quite a distinctive sound difference between the two.
What Are 5.1 or 7.1 Surround Headphones Used for?
Surround sound headsets are not suitable for every application. These types of headphones specifically designed for sound effects. In the gaming world, it gives a realistic feel of the virtual world and makes you feel like you are present at the moment. Gamers know how important it is to have an accurate sound placement especially if it is an action-packed scene as in the case of Call of Duty or similar. The timely and detailed audio can give you a competitive advantage over your opponents by letting you hear footsteps approaching, whispers, movement sounds, etc. so you know exactly where to attack even before you can see your enemy.
Other than video games, they also find use among the movie fanatics who love to get indulged in a fighting scene in an action-packed movie, or a dark thriller while experiencing every tiny sound coming from the movie. You can feel a bullet flying from your shoulder level, leaves rustling right under your feet, or a car crashing above your head.
People who love watching sports are also great fans of surround sound headsets because the three-dimensional sound created makes listening and watching more enjoyable. For example, in the case of motor racing, the headset will make you feel like you are present on the tracks. It makes you feel like the real world with the precise audio and sound delivery.
What Are the Different Types of Surround Sound Headphones?
Where regular headphones are made with two speakers, good surround sound headphones can be of two types- virtual surround sound headphones and true surround sound headphones.
A true surround sound headphone uses multiple real drivers on each side of the headphone. These speakers drivers placed in different locations around the ear in such a way that they produce the surround sound from each channel for the perfect effect.
A virtual one, on the other hand, is where the surround sound effect is achieved through software simulation with the help of algorithms. The headphones are programmed in a way that they place the audio channels virtually around the ears just like the speakers set up in real life for the surround sound effect. The sound of the virtual surround sound is not as authentic as the true surround sound, but you cannot make out the difference so much in a headphone.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Surround Sound Headphones?
Like everything else, surround sound headsets have their pros and cons.
- As mentioned earlier, the headsets give amazing sound effects making you feel like everything is happening in the real world.
- They are a handy replacement for the big surround sound systems that are expensive, take up a lot of effort and space to set up.
- The true surround sound headsets are made of real speaker drivers and since there are multiple speakers used to create the effect, the headsets are usually extremely expensive and bulky than the usual headphones. They are also of inferior build quality than the virtual ones.
- Even though these headsets do the job, they are not as effective as a physical speaker set-up.
- No matter how good surround sound headphones are, they still have limited application- only best for gaming, movies or watching sports. Doesn’t work well for music, work, etc.
If you are looking for good surround sound headphones, then go to the next section. We have listed some of the best surround sound headsets that are available in the market today, along with their features and price.
Best Surround Sound Headphones: List of Some of the Most Popular 5.1 and 7.1 Surround Headphones, Their Features, and Price:
A pair of good surround sound headphones can elevate your gaming or movie experience to the next level and if the headphone is not good or underperforming, it can create disasters. Therefore, after carefully considering all the products we have come up with a list of some of the best surround sound headsets that offer great performance.
Before getting to the list, let’s see what is the difference between 5.1 and 7.1 surround headphones?
You might have noticed the salespeople talking about 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound headsets or speakers or the manufacturers specifying this on their headset box. If you are going to shop for your pair you should understand the difference, so you know exactly what you are buying.
The 5.1 and 7.1 are nothing but audio channel configurations in a headset or a sound system set-up. A 5.1 speaker set-up indicates there are 5 different speakers and ‘.1’ refers to 1 speaker which is the dedicated subwoofer used for the low-frequency sounds. So in a 5.1 speaker set up, there are a total of 6 speakers.
Similarly, in a 7.1 set-up, there are 7 speakers and 1 subwoofer, in a 9.2 set up, there are 9 speakers and 2 subwoofers, and so on.
You may not understand a lot of differences between 5.1 and 7.1 surround headphones unless they are of exceptionally high quality. Nevertheless, here’s a list that has a mix of both:
HyperX Cloud Alpha S: (Overall best surround sound headphones)
One of the best 7.1 surround headphones, this one here gives an amazing listening experience along with a user-friendly interface to the surround sound. This means that you can easily switch between the stereo mode and the 7.1 sound mode with the help of the dedicated sound card provided by the company just by pressing a single button.
When it comes to the sound quality, you will get a fuller sound with powerful punchy bass. The best part is you can also adjust the bass level with the help of the bass sliders provided in the headphone. The headphone is extremely comfortable to wear all day. The thick padding on the ear cups and the headband provides decent cushioning preventing discomfort. These headphones have a price tag of $132.00 which is pretty decent considering the various features that headphone brings in.
- Comfortable and durable.
- Comes with bass adjustment sliders.
- Detachable noise-cancelling mic and cables.
- Well performing mics.
- Engineered with dual chamber drivers and chat mixer.
- Great 7.1 virtual surround sound experience.
The only downside is that some of the users feel that the clamping pressure of the headphones makes you uncomfortable if worn for long hours. This, however, may depend on the size of the head as well.
Corsair HS60 – 7.1 Virtual Surround Sound headset: (Best budget 7.1 surround headphones)
Here’s yet another in the best surround sound headphones list that is extremely popular among gamers. The headphone delivers audio through the dedicated 7.1 channel sound system. The 50 mm large drivers deliver precise sound across a wide frequency range.
This pair of 7.1 surround headphones comes with a USB adapter that switches on the surround sound mode when plugged in. It also has a unidirectional detachable microphone that picks up your voice loud and clear by reducing the surrounding noise. You can remove the mic when you do not need it or during storage. The headphone has an open back design that gives a nice airiness to the sound.
- 7.1 surround headphones with an USB adapter.
- Dual mode-stereo and surround sound.
- Discord certified.
- Comfortable foam-based earpadding.
- Compatible with different gaming consoles, and PC.
- Durable build.
- High performing microphone for clear communication.
You will get a headset at $69.99. So if you are looking for the best affordable headphones with surround sound, this is what you need.
SteelSeries Arctis 7: (great surround sound headphones- wireless)
Steel series is a well-known brand in the gaming headphones industry and Arctic 7 from the company’s wireless offerings is a versatile pair whether you want to go for movie marathons or play games.
The headphones offer clean and refined immersive audio that you can customize as per your preference. You can change from the stereo to the 7.1 modes, customize the output levels, and more. The headset is supported by Bluetooth that has good connectivity with super-low latency for uninterrupted audio and video streaming.
One of the significant features of these surround sound headsets is their microphone which is discord certified and is considered to be the best in the industry for ultimate voice clarity and superior noise reduction. The bidirectional and retractable mic is easy to handle.
- Wireless headset but can be connected via cable as well.
- Excellent audio output with adjustable audio settings.
- Easy-to-use controls.
- Airwave ear paddings prevent the ears from heating up on long hours of use.
- Premium build for extra durability.
- Ideal for gaming, movies, virtual meetings, online classes etc.
- Great battery life of 24 hours on a single charge.
It boasts an excellent build quality making these kids friendly headphones. The price tag of $143.00 and the various features together make it one of the best surround sound headphones available in the market today.
Sennheiser RS 175 RF: (Best Surround Sound Headphones Under Premium Category)
This one from Sennheiser is an ergonomically designed headset perfect for long hours of wear. The headphone features a closed-back design with amazingly rich sound and in-depth bass response that gives you a theatre-like feeling when you put it on. You will be able to hear every small detail of the audio in a movie or a gaming scene which makes the listening experience extremely satisfying and enjoyable.
Another thing about the headset is that it allows you to manage the sound smoothly with its user-friendly sound controls. You have dedicated buttons for bass boosting and surround sound. You also have volume controls and mode selection which allows you to set the stage as per your preference.
The headset works via RF frequency rather than Bluetooth technology and the signal is very strong and secure. You also get a long connectivity range that allows you to move around freely without an interruption or an audio drop.
- Exceptional surround sound.
- Well balanced audio with rich bass and incredible frequency response.
- Bass adjustment presets.
- Excellent comfort and sturdy build.
- Uses a transmitter for analog and digital signal processing.
On the downside, the headphone’s battery life is sub-par and may last only for one movie or so. It also isn’t compatible with Bluetooth technology. Other than that, these are well surround sound headphones if you want something with stellar sound. You will get this at $279.95 which is surely an expensive one unless you have a flexible budget.
Turtle Beach Stealth 700: (Best surround sound headphones for gaming enthusiasts)
Right from chatting with the team, talking down your opponents in the game, to getting the most immersive audio possible, this headphone is an ideal tool for every gamer. A well-rounded pair of 7.1 surround headphones, comes with some convenient features that make your gaming or movie experience more interesting.
The retractable mic of the headphone can be conveniently pushed up when not in use and doing so automatically mutes the mic. This is a great advantage as it saves you from getting distracted when you are in the middle of a game. The omnidirectional technology picks up the voice loud and clear making you well amplified so the listeners do not have to struggle.
These surround sound headsets equipped with active noise-canceling technology that filters out the surrounding noise thus maintaining the overall quality of the audio. The headset has a runtime of 10 hours when fully charged. The headphone comes with a price tag of $170.99.
- High quality omnidirectional mic.
- Ergonomic design perfectly suitable for the glass-wearers as well.
- Large drivers for accurate sound delivery and wide frequency response.
- Audio Hub App allows in-game audio settings that gives a competitive edge over others.
Astro Gaming A50: (Best surround sound headphones with adjustable sound settings)
A50 from Astro gives you an incredible gaming and movie experience with its top-notch Dolby-compatible surround sound. Right from features to functionality, these surround sound headsets have a lot to bring to the table.
The headset has a stylish design with thickly padded ear cups that lets you use them for hours without getting hurt. With high-resolution sound and wide frequency response, you will be able to experience detailed audio of every moving object which is perfect for gaming. The mic can be muted when not in use ensuring complete privacy.
The battery life of the headset is pretty impressive with 15 + hours depending on the use. The base of the headphone is also the charger, so every time you place them on it, it will get charged. Interestingly, you get a lot more features when you connect the headset with the PC like the EQ sound settings for personalized audio including voice communication and the game audio.
- Great battery performance.
- Dolby 7.1/ DTS cinematic sound for an immersive listening experience.
- Great control over the sounds when connected with the PC.
- Available in both wired and wireless versions.
- You can also customize the headband and the ear cup for better comfort and experience.
The only issue with the headphone is that the sound adjustments can be accessed only when connected to a PC. You will get this headset for $279.00 which is a premium price tag. However, you get a lot of different conveniences from these 7.1 surround headphones which are all worth the price you pay.
Logitech G533 Wireless Gaming Headset: (Great 7.1 surround headphones at a bargain price)
If you are looking for good surround sound headphones that don’t require you to spend a lot of money, then Logitech G533 is a great bang for your buck. At just $64.99, you get a complete package of feature-loaded headphones that makes it a strong contender to the best surround sound headphones list.
Exceptionally high-performing audio with adjustable sound settings driven by software, Pro G speaker drivers with DTS 7.1 surround sound, and incredible battery life- all under $70.00! The sound quality is forceful and detailed making sure that dialogue delivery, music, game audio is refined, and crystal clear. The headphone’s lossless audio transmission provides uninterrupted audio streaming and the sound is well-balanced with heavy bass as well as flawless upper frequencies.
- Boom mic with on ear controls for easy operation.
- Removable and washable ear cups for better hygiene.
- 15 hours of battery life.
Razer Tiamat 7.1 v2 True surround sound headsets: (Best true 7.1 surround headphones)
So far, we have covered the virtual surround sound headsets which use only 2 drivers for the audio and the rest of the sound effect is created by software processing. It is so skillfully done that you feel that there are real speakers installed around you giving you the 3D sound effect. However, in the case of Razer Tiamat 7.1 v2, we are talking about real speakers engineered inside. Yes! You heard it right.
The headphone has 10 drivers (5 in each ear cup) which are responsible for the 3-dimensional audio placement by these headphones. Now, obviously because of the high number of drivers present in the headsets, they are not of the best weight. They are slightly heavier than most of its other virtual competitors.
The headphones come with an audio control unit that lets you take complete control over the audio. You can adjust the volume of each channel speaker and even switch between stereo and surround sound when needed.
- Separate audio controller for volume, sound control and other adjustments.
- Real drivers for true surround sound.
- Comes with a decent performing mic.
- Good noise isolation.
While the headphones are a wallet-friendly option, with a true surround sound system, some people do not like it because of the weight and its sound delivery isn’t the best as well because of the use of many small drivers. It has an excellent sound profile and sounds almost similar to a pair of professional DJ headphones we own. But if you have a thing for having true 7.1 surround headphones, then this one is a cool option at a bargain price of $37.99.
Here are a few more that are worth mentioning:
Buying Guide for Surround Sound Headsets:
Now, shopping for a surround sound headset can be challenging especially if you are out looking for the best one! The reason is every headphone has its advantages and potential downsides. It is all about how you weigh these pros and cons and choose the appropriate one for yourself.
However, just like every other type of headphone, there are a few specific factors that you need to keep in mind when buying good surround sound headphones:
Virtual or true surround sound:
As mentioned earlier, while most of the headsets available out there use virtual methods to achieve the surround sound effects, some headsets use true surround sound systems as well. True surround sound headsets can be heavier owing to the numerous drivers accommodated into the headphone and compromise on the sound quality as the drivers are smaller than the other counterpart. Virtual ones have lesser (2 drivers) and bigger drivers. They have a more dynamic soundstage with better quality audio.
What type of virtual surround does the headset have?
Some companies use their proprietary surround sound software for the headphones while some use the common one like Dolby virtual sound. There is a difference in the performance of each software, so pick what sounds good to you.
Surround sound headsets are all about how they are going to sound and what kind of listening experience they will give. Some headphones are more balanced while some have heavier bass and sound booms. Go for one as per your listening preference.
Audio channel preference:
As mentioned earlier surround sound headsets can be either 5.1 or 7.1. While both are good, 7.1 is better sounding with more directions. But higher channels need better quality audio to sound good.
Open back or closed back:
Both these types have their pros and cons. Open-back headphones reproduce a natural and airy sound with a broader sound stage while closed-back keep the outside noise away giving high-quality audio.
Other than these, make sure that your headphone is comfortable, with good battery life and has good sound isolation as well.
How Can You Test the Surround Sound Experience on Headphones?
If you want to test the 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound performance of your headphones then here are a couple of things you can do:
Testing the surround sound in Windows 10:
It is pretty easy to do a surround sound test on your laptop and PC. Just go to the “Start” and open the control panel from there.
Choose “hardware and sound” where you need to select “Sound”. On the “Playback” tab select the device you want to test and click on the “Configure” button mentioned at the bottom.
You will be directed to the ‘choose your configuration’ page where you can select between the different audio channels. Select ‘5.1’ or ‘7.1 surround sound’, whichever you want to test, and then click on the “Test” option.
You will be able to hear the sound played one after the other from all the speakers given in the diagram and so you know which speaker is playing, the speaker will get highlighted.
In case you want to test any particular speaker, you can choose from the diagram from the right side of the window.
You can also test your headphones practically by choosing a video game that uses a lot of audio cues. Choose a character that gives out a lot of sound like a gun, vehicle, etc. Move the character slowly and hear the sound to see if you are getting a smooth transition of sound with movement. Good surround sound headphones have a wide sound stage, and you can hear the smooth panning of the sound without a lag. You will also be able to figure out from this if the sound was in front of you or behind you.
Surround sound headsets can make your gaming or movie experience an enjoyable one with their incredible way of sound reproduction. Even though the sound they produce is just an auditory sensation, it makes you feel like you are present in the virtual world. If you haven’t already tried out or tested how a surround sound feels like, do check it out for yourself and you will know the difference between an immersive sound and a regular stereo sound. The surround sound headsets are available in different designs and under different prices, frequency responses, and dynamic sound variations. If you want to get the best out of the headphone go for one step higher with 7.1 surround sound. We have listed in this article some of the best surround sound headphones for you to pick from.
Here in this article, find the top 10 best surround sound headphones available on the market right now. Find out why the surround sound headsets are gaining popularity, and learn about the various features offered by the surround sound headsets. Learn how to test surround sound experiences practically and on your Windows PC. In addition, understand the pros and cons of the headsets given in the above section
Surround sound headphones give gamers an immersive listening experience. The headsets with 5.1 or 7.1 sound are capable of reproducing detailed and refined audio, so you can hear every little sound in a gaming scene. This gives you an edge over your opponents helping you be one step ahead of your enemies.
Good surround sound headphones do produce the three-dimensional sound as advertised. Even though it may not be as good a quality as that of a real sound system set-up, if you compare a regular stereo headset with a surround sound one, there is quite a distinctive difference in sound signature between the two.
Both wired and wireless headsets have their advantages and disadvantages. When it comes to the sound effects, you will hardly see any difference. Because of the cutting-edge technology used today, wireless headphones offer the same performance as wired ones.