For serious, competitive gamers, one thing is probably true about their computer gear: if it doesn’t work exactly as needed then it’s time to be replaced, or time to find something better. Anything to further gain an advantage over their opponent is their modus operandi. This leads us to the subject of this article, full surround-sound in a neat little headset package.
Surround sound is critical for almost any game as it allows the player to keep aware of their environment, not just what is visible on their monitor. The initial few seconds in any engagement are always the most crucial, and with surround sound the player often gets them to prepare or react as needed.
Getting that surround sound is another matter altogether. Options range from buying and setting up a full 5.1 or 7.1 speaker setup around the PC, to using a 2.1 stereo setup with fancy software that tries to imitate spatial sound effects through stereo speakers. A better and probably cheaper alternative would be to simply make use of the home entertainment system’s surround sound setup, but that is not always an option. Matrix decoding attempts to alleviate the issues of a stereo speaker setup, but it can’t prevent the loss of information (audio) from occurring, only a full range setup with sufficient speakers will prevent the loss of audio.
There is however a small market for headphones that provide more than stereo (or rather two) speakers, and the majority of these understandably target gaming where there is a need for such spatial acoustics. Psyko Audio has introduced its 5.1 PC gaming headset, and while admittedly the price is steep, we expect there is a small but eager core of serious gamers that would jump on the option of full range surround sound from a headset.
Pysko’s headset is a bit more complex than average (as if having 5.1 speakers in a headset wasn’t complex enough). Instead of placing multiple speakers inside of each earcup, the Psyko 5.1 headset places five speakers in the headband, with wave guides (channels) directing the sound from each to both earcups. These wave guides are oriented to direct the sound from either in front of or behind the ear to mimic correct sound direction. The only actual speaker in the ear piece itself is the “subwoofer” which rounds out the setup.
Not content to stop there, Psyko decided to strive for accuracy as well. Pause to think for a second. True surround sound isn’t just about the direction of the sound as it reaches our ear, in fact timing plays a significant role. The human brain uses millisecond differences in timing from signals received from each eardrum to further perceive which side of the head the source of the sound originated from. Psyko factored this into the design of the wave guides, designing the entire montage of speakers to generate the proper millisecond delays that the listener would experience as if they were sitting precisely in the middle of a real surround sound speaker setup.
If all of that wasn’t nearly technical enough for you, Psyko recently published a whitepaper on its design that can be found here (PDF). In it Psyko addresses those such things as the Pinna Effect, sound intensity, and other factors taken into consideration with its headset’s design, and generally why false surround-sound configurations don’t cut the cake.
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