i can confirm that virtual surround sound works.
I do notice a difference when I switch from stereo to surround. Just my 2cents lads.
You're being fooled by marketing, as many of the engineers and physicists in this threat have already tried to explain. There will be some drivers or electronics in the headset that take the 7.1 input and use it to fake HRTF just like a good soundcard and stereo speakers. Switching between modes will of course give you a difference, because you're enabling and disabling something that alters the way the sound is recreated, but you're still only getting stereo.
Sound is not instantaneous, it has a travel time. The sound from something happening to your left moves in waves that take longer to reach your right ear than your left ear, and that delay is what your brain compares to tell you the sound is on the left. Now, here is a test that any five-year old can do:
1) cover up one ear really well.
2) snap your fingers in various places around your head.
3) now do the same without your covered ear.
4) cover up one ear again.
See how difficult it is to tell which direction sound is coming from with only one ear? There you go. It's like depth-perception with only one eye uncovered. Now, tell me how sound from the left side of your 7.1 headphones can reach your right ear any better than sound from the left side of normal stereo headphones can reach your right ear. We are ALL telling you that it's just not physically possible. You have been had
That's not quite the whole story. The shape of your ears actually distorts sound waves slightly, this is how your brain helps to tell if a sound is coming from the front or the back of your head (an example where sound is directly in front or behind your head and the sound waves reach each ear at EXACTLY the same time). HRTF accommodates this, and 'muffles' sound that's supposed to come from behind you to fool the brain into thinking that the outer ear is interfering with the sound, and it must therefore be from behind.
THIS muffling is something that 7.1 headphones can do in practice, by transmitting sound from behind and letting your ear physically muffle the sound. HRTF does it too, but the brain knows exactly what muffling effect your
ears have on sound, and HRTF is modifying the sound based on modelling done with a generic
ear shape. Since people have different ear shapes, your mileage with HRTF may vary. There is every chance that you will find the sound coming from a 'back' speaker more convincing than the sound modified by HRTF to sound like it's coming from behind.
Let's get one thing straight though, 99% of your positional awareness is to do with your brain measuring the time difference between one ear and the other. You can tell, because the effect is almost identical with earbuds
, which pipe the sound waves directly to your eardrum, bypassing the effect your outer ear shape has on the sound wave.....IN SUMMARY
Good 7.1 headphones might be of a high quality, and thus produce beter sound than your old $5 bundled walkman headphones, but they absolutely cannot do their magic without some sort of faking, like HRTF. To say otherwise is to completely misunderstand the physics of sound waves, and the biology of the human hearing system.
If I had to spend $200 on a set of headphones, I'd want the highest quality drivers. You can bet that the 7 drivers needed for "7.1" won't be of the same standard as those used in a really good pair of stereo headphones.