Virtual vs. “True” Surround Sound: what's the difference? (FAQ Provided)

Virtual vs. “True” Surround Sound: what's the difference? (FAQ Provided)

The Theater lovers' benefits from the pleasures of high-quality sound surround setup, but when it comes to PC gaming, the gamers do have good reasons to spend on high-audio sound systems. Having a good-quality surround sound will surely make you feel a difference while playing competitive games; it helps you to find out the location of players.

You will see lots of advertisements about the surround sound when buying a headset for gaming, but they are not always as true as they claim to be. If you are looking for surrounding headphones in the market, you will find two types of surrounding headphones. However, there are many differences between the two surround sound headphones: Virtual and True.

What' s the difference between Virtual and True surround sound? This article will explain to you!

  • Stereo sound

Let' s start with the common stereo sound headphones. You probably have them in your home. You will also find these basic headphones everywhere even at the local electronic stores and the little earplugs that your phone came with. They will do the job with sound and also comes with a microphone that is used for the communicational purpose. With two speakers only, the performance of surround sound is very limited. The audio can be of detached quality since the sound produced by these headphones arises near ears and not from TV set.  The stereo sound is called 2.0 as it includes two speakers without any subwoofer.

The latest stereo headphones can display an excellent sound frequency range but you will want something extra for surrounding effects that boost your gaming experience.

Before we explain the difference between real and virtual surround sound, you should understand what surround sound is. Many listeners feel a small separation between screen actions and the sounds coming to their ear canals. The surround sound solves this problem. This system works by using multiple speakers each contributing a different audio channel or an original recording component. It allows you to hear the full range of sounds even the speeding of a car.  For this reason, people say that full surround sound to have a Movie-like experience requires many speakers; 5 at least. The audio engineers worked hard to create surround sound configuration on a limited hardware. Several types of audio configurations exist:

 2.0 And 2.1: The most common stereo settings are two speakers. It can create a decent spatial awareness for the listener by taking advantage of the fact that the speakers are on each side of the listener including a subwoofer

  5.1: This is the first surround sound setup which is made up of five speakers with a subwoofer.

  7.1: This is the complex surround sound setup. It uses an overall of seven speakers with a subwoofer and all this creates an immersive surround sound experience.

Virtual Surround VS True Surround Headphones

Not many folks know the difference between virtual and real surround sound headphones and that's exactly what this section is all about.


  • Virtual surround sound headphones

The virtual surround headphones have only two separate speakers, one for each ear just like all other standard headphones. The usual stereo headphones use the volume that helps you determine the source of a sound, but virtual sound headphones take it a little further. The virtual models rely on the external or internal pre or mix-amps to convert the surround sound or stereo signals or into surround sound. With the help of algorithms, the amps separate the signals into small segments.

Although the sound enters your ear from just one speaker, the sound is altered in such a way that it appears to originate from many sources. Many software companies offer their methods and algorithms for virtual sound.

What virtual surround sound effect does is it delays sound within a minute fraction into the "off" ear which fools your brain and you think that the sound is heard from more than one direction at a time. This delay can even be overstated to help determine the direction.

Basically, what these virtual headphones do is they redirect sound from the speaker, therefore, it hits the outer ear edges and rolls in for some time instead of directly moving into your ear canal.

The sound waves seem to come from various angles which avoid the feeling that the sound is directly generated in the head of the viewer. The virtual surround headphones are much more common and affordable. Headphones such as the Sennheiser HD598 and Audio-Technica ATH- M50x are outstanding headphones and they also can make up great virtual headphones.

  • True surround sound headphones

These headphones embrace several drivers that offer you an exciting experience, which you expect from a sound setup. These have multiple speakers at different angles. They use a number of discrete speakers in every headphone cup so as to handle various sound channels.

The previous models offered four-channel sound, but almost all the recent models offer the 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound. They easily tackle the detached unnatural sound problem. When the audio enters your ear canal from several angles, the audio doesn' t appear to be originated directly in your head, as with the standard headphones.

True Surround Sound headphones with 5.1 configuration

These 5.1 headphones use separate five drivers divided on both the ears, in addition to a sixth bass driver of low-frequency. They are positioned physically around the ear to simulate the sounds that come from a range of directions: a core, front-left, front-right, rear-left and a back-right channel with a bass subwoofer.

The drivers vibrate at a range of volumes in this, equivalent to the game or movie sound sources, creating a remarkable sound effect. Apart from its total entertainment value, these headphones are incredibly useful in multiplayer online games that allow the players to react instantly to multi-directional threats without seeing them on your screen. Latest games by large developers and publishers work in 5.1 channels at least with surround sound. This is not limited to gamers only, if you love watching movies on PC, from online video site or a DVD, you will get full support of 5.1. The 5.1 surround sound headphones include:

True Surround Headphones with 7.1 configuration

7.1 sound headphones work with more drivers but on a similar principle of 5.1 surround sound headphones. The 7.1 sound systems include additional left and right surround channels for incoming sounds directly from the right and left in a film or game. The difference among the 7.1 and 5.1 is very small than the increase to true 5.1 between stereo or virtual surroundings also, remember that a number of games support only the 5.1 headphones with surround sound, in which the 7.1 sound headphones won' t work. The 7.1 sound headphones include:

These headphones are not so common seeing that they are very expensive to built and buy as compared to the standard headphones.

Many headphones use USB port for PC connection, while the rest uses a headphone jack that is a multi-plug system. A surround sound headphone with the USB port handles all audio processing via an inline amplifier that is easy to run or desktop software.


1. What is a virtual sound card?

Virtual card sound like E2eSoft VSC is a sound card emulator that emulates and works similar to an actual sound card in your TVs or PC. It helps you to record, transmit or modify the whole sound system.

2. Does a 3D surround sound exist?

Yes, the 3D audio effects are sound effects group that use the sound from stereo, surround- sound speakers or headphones to manipulate.

3. What are the top surround headphones to buy under $100?

  • HyperX Cloud II
  • SteelSeries Arctis 5
  • Logitech G430 7.1 DTS
  • SteelSeries Siberia P800

4. What is Dolby 7.1 surround sound?

Dolby 7.1 is a sound system made by the Dolby Laboratories that offers the dramatic 7.1 surround sound for all movie lovers.


The gamers mostly prefer high-quality virtual surround sound headphones to true surround sound as the single driver in every one ear is often of higher quality than the multiple drivers in the complex setups. In addition, the virtual surround sound headphone speakers are larger in and they are often able to produce more dynamic and powerful sounds.

In the end, both these forms of surround sound headphone technologies find it difficult to live up to the principle audible conformity provided by a physical surround setup. As technology grows and expands, the audible difference between the multi-channeled surround sound systems and headphones will definitely decrease.


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published