7.1 sound and Dolby Atmos and other virtual surround sound issues

DrDeath_MD

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I downloaded RR3 today and have been setting it up. However, I cannot get the audio to sound halfway decent. If I set it to stereo it just sounds to harsh. However, when I set it to 7.1 and use dolby atmos or the Sound Blaster SBX surround, the game sounds "hollow" like my engine is disconnect from the car and I'm driving in a tunnel. How have others setup the sound?
 

Case_

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Are you using headphones or speakers? I'm guessing headphones, but just to be sure.

Also, what soundcard are you using?
 

DrDeath_MD

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I'm using headphones (HD6XX and HyperX Cloud II's) and the a Sound Blasterx G6 external card.
 

Case_

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OK.

So, here's some thoughts/tips. Bear in mind all this is very subjective and what I like or prefer might not be the same what someone else likes or prefers. My only real "qualification" is that I've been tinkering with virtual surround solutions for a very long time now and I've heard most of them.

First, ignore the Windows stuff like Windows Sonic or Dolby Atmos. It just doesn't work correctly with headphones for virtual surround - it always forces two channel audio on input, and you always want full 7.1 if possible for much better audio positioning in games.

I'm not familiar with your exact soundcard, so I can't be sure how do its drivers and its control panel behave exactly, but generally, what you want if at all possible is to set the Windows speaker configuration (in Win10, it's right click on the Windows volume icon in system tray, Open sound settings, scroll down to Related settings, click Sound control panel, in Playback devices find your soundcard device, right click, select Configure speakers) set to 7.1, check all the optional speakers if asked to and also set all to full range. That's the ideal config for virtual surround on Windows side. Now just set your sound card (in its own control panel) to output to headphones (and hope it doesn't force the Windows settings back from 7.1 to headphones or stereo, which is what many soundcards do nowadays, ruining the virtual surround experience or rather making it a lot more complicated).

This should set everything so that games will output 7.1 sound which will then be processed by the soundcard into proper virtual surround. You obviously need to enable the SBX option and possibly tweak its settings to your liking - you're quite lucky that your soundcard is a true 7.1 device, a rare thing for a Creative soundcard these days, which gives much better results than their 5.1 cards regarding virtual surround.

In games, if presented with an option (like in Raceroom), just set audio to 7.1 (not to headphones). If not presented with an option, the game is almost certainly autodetecting your config according to the speaker configuration you have set in Windows and should hopefully output 5.1 or 7.1 automatically.

Now, the tricky thing is that virtual surround changes the sound and usually does make it more "hollow". That's something you can do little about, it's an inherent part of virtual surround (it needs to create a bit of "space" for the sound to not be too directional as that feels quite unnatural. The tricky part is that every virtual surround solution uses a slightly different approximation of how it all sounds, based on different models of virtual heads/ears it uses (called HRTF, head-related transfer function). And because we all have differently sized and shaped heads, a solution that works perfectly for one person might sound completely off for someone else. SBX allows you to tweak this a bit with its settings slider (which also does other things, though, like moving the virtual speakers around to an extent), but generally, you either have to get used to it (which is true of pretty much any virtual surround solution in my experience, your brain kinda gets accustomed to it after a while), or you have to look for a different virtual surround solution. There are thankfully some free solutions to that nowadays. Personally, I'm not that big on SBX, I find it a bit too sterile and directional, I prefer Dolby Headphone, but I could live with SBX, at least in its 7.1 version (the 5.1 is a lot worse for me).

So, yeah, maybe try to do what I described here and see how you like it, and give it at least a few hours to get used to it. Again, it won't sound exactly like pure stereo, because it's not supposed to, but I'd say SBX actually is pretty good with not adding too much reverb and preserving the original "tone" of the sound. There are certainly far worse virtual surround solutions in this regard.
 

DrDeath_MD

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I have setup as the 7.1 in Windows for my sound card. I'm assuming you are referencing HeSuVi as the free solution. I've used a few different surround configs through HeSuVi on other games (recently Metro 2033 Redux and Hitman 2) and found I like the SBX on the G6 the best. I've even tried a few other racing games that sound decent. There is just something odd about the RRE sound that even in stereo and headset that seems like your car is too loud or soft and that I cannot easily hear other AI cars to help me avoid them.
 

Case_

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OK. Sorry. I just assumed you're new to this based on how you worded the first post.

Can't say I have any issues with the engine volume, apart from the game being a lot louder in general than other games, so I need to run the master volume in settings a lot lower.
 

DrDeath_MD

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I was fairly new to it a few weeks ago but have finally got everything configured. However, some games are finicky with how they handle 7.1 sound (do they detect it automatically or is it setup in side the game--even some have confusion options like speaker, 7.1 headset, 7.1 speaker, etc). I think I finally fixed my issue but it took a few random reboots and reinstalling my audiodriver (both G6 and Realtek). The game sounds better especially in replays but I do not care for the ingame sound compared to NR2003, Dirt Rally, and PCars 2. It just feels like it is missing some punch and it is still very hard to hear if a car is along side of you or not.
 

Kurupt CDN

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Regarding Dolby Atmos.....it's a purchase app through the windows store and only works if Dolby Atmos is written into the titles audio software.....the list of titles is very small....mostly movies.
When an app uses Dolby Atmos it sounds great, but if it doesn't than you just get normal sound.

I've been spoiled gaming/music listening with Boise noise cancelling headphones as I find most non noise cancelling headphones now a bit echoey and hallow sounding.
 
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Case_

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It doesn't really work even with the appropriate software.
 

RaceNut

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I enabled 7.1 surround (Windows Sonic Mode) with the Oculus Rift Audio and it really improved the spatial effects (RR and PC2 tested so far).
 
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DrDeath_MD

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I found the solution (at least for me)--the game does not like if the audio devices bit rate is set to high (for me above 441000 or 48000 hz. 16, 24 or 32 bit rate does not matter. If I set my Hz above 48000 the game sounds "off" and much more hollow.
 

Emery

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If I set my Hz above 48000 the game sounds "off" and much more hollow.
That wasn't the case for me, but you got me to exploring. Turned out I hadn't seen that reverb setting in-game was at 100%. Turning it down to the 15-20% range was about right for the tintops. I probably never scrolled down that far before to notice it... no wonder Raceroom sounded so over-processed!

Anyway, I also tried the high bit rates and that wasn't a problem with my SoundBlaster Z card.
 
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DrDeath_MD

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That gave me an idea to turn down reverb as well. Game sounds much better with it down and I did retest higher bitratess and found the game does not like 32 bits at any rate on my system!
 
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Case_

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There's no point to set your audio to anything above 48kHz 16 bit anyway, really, not for gaming at least. I don't think any game uses higher quality than that, so all you do if you set the audio quality in Windows higher is resample all the audio. And while it might not hurt the audio quality with current soundcards as it once used to, you don't gain anything either.

Also, it's not bitrate, it's bit depth. Bitrate is an entirely different thing.
 

BrunoB

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My personal experience for listening with headphones is that the theoretical correct one with only 1x final downmix of Racerooms 7.1 source to a 2 channel headphone sounds awfull and messy.

I dont like the virtual headphone "surround" formats because they sounds overprocessed /artificial(IMO) - eventhough my Auzentech soundcard has a rather advanced one inbuild(CMSS-3D).

Soundsettings in Raceroom > Windows > Soundcard(Auzentech X-Fi Forte 7.1)
1. Raceroom(Headphone) > Windows(Stereo) > Soundcard(Headphone) = 2x downmix(Raceroom + Soundcard): Sounds OK. Prefered!

2. Raceroom(Headphone) > Windows(7.1) > Soundcard(Headphone) = 2x downmix(Raceroom + Soundcard): Sounds OK(like 1.)

3. Raceroom(Headphone) > Windows(Stereo) > Soundcard(Stereo) = 1x downmix(Raceroom): Sounds OK. But I have a feeling that some channels are missing.

4. Raceroom(7.1) > Windows(7.1) > Soundcard(Headphone) = 1x downmix(Soundcard): Theoretical correct but sounds too messy and whining/screaming.

By the way: "Downmix" is used as a notion to describe the process of folding as example 7 different sound channels down to 2 :)