Do Gamers Need 9.1 Sound?

Just how many gamers play the latest in full 7.1 surround sound?  If you’re one of the few with such a rig, maybe it’s time to rethink your investment.

Sure, while a/v enthusiasts, myself included, love watching movies at home and in a theatre, sometime in the future that immersive surround sound experience will become mainstream. All the movie theatres I’ve been to have less than perfect sound setups (IMAX being the exception) and it’s only in Nature where can hear a bird flapping from behind me and then fly overhead to somewhere else.

Sounds coming from beside me is one thing, but when it comes overhead or down below, then there is more. For gamers, creeping along to cawing birds from above in Resident Evil or stealthing along a sewer will make you feel like you really are there.

While many will say 3.1 or 5.1 surround sound is good enough and speaker placement is important, there are times where there is that one game demands that extra “height” and depth to the experience.

Dolby Pro Logic IIz sound setupIn an issue of Sound & Vision, a magazine devoted to home entertainment, now available (to empty that bank account of yours) are new receivers capable ot processing Dolby’s new Pro Logic IIz technology. The “z” does not mean the third dimension but adds height to the equation. With two extra speakers in front and placed strategically above your hearing line, what you hear is added ambience.

When playing a game like Unreal Tournament, Call of Duty or Ghost Recon, you can trace with your ears where that gunfight is happening. In the jungle, that helicopter will whir around the vast landscape, and your ears can tell you where it is going. When you don’t have a fancy receiver, the effect can also be simulated with headphones. It just takes a extra work by the game to process spatial information. Sound engineers have been testing the concept for years, but there is not enough interest in commercially developing it for a wider audience.

Back in the games front, there is a PlIIz version Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfare and not many gamers have a capable home theatre to play back the game like it is meant to. A better question to ask is when will the home electronics market start selling these new receivers en masse?

This new specification seems interesting, but as for how deep it will penetrate the gamer’s market, it remains to be seen. Have your say here if you think game producers should jump up to yet another level. The graphics coming out of current gen platforms are awesome, but what about the sound …. ?

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6 Comments - Write a Comment

  1. Few enough games support 7.1 as it is. 5.1 is good enough, I’ve found that spending more on 6 really good speakers makes for a better audio experience than spending the same amount of money on 8 lesser ones.

  2. I prefer headphones myself. I really only use them on my DS (Mono TV, headphones don’t work) for the surround sound. It gives me a nice advantage in Metroid Prime, which is freaking awesome with a good set of headphones.

  3. I guess I’m not addicted enough to care about the intricate sound additions. I’m not a soundophile. I just like to play the game and have some fun. I can’t get that technical about any portion of the system.

  4. Playing with louder sounds makes you experience the game like real but the consequence of it is that your neighbor will always knock at your door complaining. =) Like my neighbor always do when my speakers are too loud while playing.

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