Poll: What audio setup do you game with?

Our look at Psyko’s 5.1-channel gaming headphones this morning has made us wonder… how many PC gamers actually use surround-sound setups? Even the most basic onboard audio codec supports multi-channel configurations these days, and 5.1 speakers are a dime a dozen. However, getting truly good sound quality can be much cheaper with solid stereo speakers or headphones.

In doubt, we’ve whipped up a fresh poll with that simple question: what audio setup do you usually game with? You may cast your vote either below or on our front page.

Our last poll centered on processor voltage levels, namely whether users played with them at all. The results show almost two thirds of TR readers just keep their CPU at stock voltage. Out of the remainder, we see a 2.5:1 split between overvolters and undervolters, putting the latter in a clear minority. Still, it’s interesting to see one in ten TR readers seem concerned enough about power consumption (and possibly noise levels) to take their CPU down from its default setting.

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    • ogsendmarged
    • 9 years ago

    Also just noticed, i am going with 6g of memory, and im using the 250gb hard drive so incase i lose anything, it wont be TOO drastic. I also have a terrabyte external drive.

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    • Saber Cherry
    • 9 years ago

    I lost 90% of my interest in PC game audio when Creative killed Aureal. Nothing I have heard since then came close to the immersiveness of Halflife using a Vortex 2.

    • ihira
    • 9 years ago

    For games that require listening to enemy positioning, Headphones all the way.

    • travbrad
    • 9 years ago

    Sennheiser HD280Pros. I’m not sure how people have trouble hearing where enemies are with stereo headphones. It’s never been a problem for me, and I’ve even been accused of wall hacks because I use my ears.

    I bought them mainly because they sound amazing for producing and listening to music. Very crisp and accurate. They don’t just use bass as a substitute for quality. They seem to work very well for gaming too though.

    Sure there are better headphones out there, but for $75 these are great.

    • Senns
    • 9 years ago

    Asus Xonar STX soundcard
    Sennheiser HD650 headphones
    Cardas upgrade cable (for the headphones).

    Apartment living doesn’t really leave too many options for a decent speaker setup unfortunately…

    • d0g_p00p
    • 9 years ago

    I went and bought the Logitech G35’s after my last 5.1 sub died. Was tired of trying to place all the speakers correclty.

    I do miss true 5.1 but I have to say the Logitech’s are pretty nice. If only they can address the volume issue they would be perfect. Detachable mic owuld be nice but just for looks.

    • ybf
    • 9 years ago

    Klipsch 4.1. Best sounding consumer-grade computer audio system ever.

    Two years after I bought it, a power surge killed it, so I tried everything else thinking two years should have resulted in some progress, but I bought the Klipsch again.

    NB: Center speakers are kind of unnecessary when the fronts are two feet apart.

    • bcronce
    • 9 years ago

    Why can’t we just get another version of A3D? Would be 100xs better than any 5.1 surround sound.

    I had a $20 Aureal back before Counter Strike had hackers. The 3D positioning was so good that I could shoot people through walls just based on the sound of their foot steps.

    I finally convinced my cousin to get an A3D card and he came over for a LAN game. First time using the card and he had some graphical glitch and he couldn’t see ANYONE. All the model were invisible. He killed 1/2 the team by listening for them.

    I’d like to see a sound card these days have anything near that quality of 3D positioning.

    No, I’m am no exaggerating at all. We both used headphones because even mild distortion reduced the effectiveness of the sound.

      • sigher
      • 9 years ago

      Because it was a competitor to creative, and they ended in bankruptcy. then bought out and then destroyed by them.
      But yeah A3D was good.
      What’s interesting is that now MS created 3D audio in DX called Xaudio, and they add new stuff with every 3-monthly DX update, but I don’t think anybody uses it, although I’m not really up to date on what gamepublishers do in regards to sound.
      Combine that with the well-known EAX acceleration issues in vista/w7 and you start to think they want to replace all audio apis with their own propriety stuff (I know what you are saying: MS pushing propriety stuff? Really?), which is cute but would only work on windows so I’d rather have a capable open source real A3D style positional thing, and since A3D was based on NASA research I guess it is actually possible to use the same documentation to make some open source version.
      Because the stuff after A3D really wasn’t so good, often having weird issues like lacking positional info in the vertical so you can’t locate sounds if up or down only horizontal location, and flaws like that.

    • Krogoth
    • 9 years ago

    5.1 Headphones = marketing gimmick.

    Headphones are the best audio solution for fidelity and positioning. The key is source material and implementation.

    • webs0r
    • 9 years ago

    Stereo only:

    Xonar D2X
    Cyrus 7SE integrated amp
    B&W DM601 S2 stand-mounted

    • slash3
    • 9 years ago

    Audigy 2 ZS 5.1 out into a Yamaha receiver, out through some Paradigm Atoms and a powered Sony sub.

    Is good.

    • TardOnPC
    • 9 years ago

    7.1 here. Can hear a noob coming from a mile away 🙂

    • pullmyfoot
    • 9 years ago

    double post

    • pullmyfoot
    • 9 years ago

    I use both a 2.1 set of speakers and a set of headphones for times I have to keep quiet (like at night). there is no option for that.

    • mmp121
    • 9 years ago

    I got my Logitech Z680 (love em even after all these years) hooked up to my aging Creative Labs Soundblaster Audigy 2 ZS using 3 analog out lines for the 5.1.

    I’m looking to invest in some decent headphones now that I’m married…

    Looking at some Sennheiser 131’s or 151’s

    • Buzzard44
    • 9 years ago

    My computer’s audio output feeds into a stereo record/8-track player, which has two outputs going to each a speaker, and two feeding into my record/cassette player, which has 4 outputs going to each a speaker. So all total I have stereo sound through 6 speakers. However, I’d call this surround sound because the hexaspeaker setup surrounds my computer.

    Also, this gives me the ability to play records, 8-tracks, cassettes, CDs, DVDs, and digital media on my computer.

    • albundy
    • 9 years ago

    5.1 through hdmi on a $24 9600GSO to a yamaha 5.1 receiver that i picked up from eggy for a c-note not long ago and a quad pair of polk audio r50’s that frys had for a steal @ $70 each a year or two ago. its not that i’m a cheap@ss, its just that i wanted to save up for a 60″ tv.

    • spigzone
    • 9 years ago

    HT Omega Claro+/Yamaha receiver/Mirage Nanosat system with 2 extra sats for 7.1.

    Pretty sweet sound for under a thou.

    • cegras
    • 9 years ago

    2.1 setup, and most of the time it’s so noisy I can’t even hear anything. I hardly play based upon audio, and I don’t believe in getting magically better through proper positional audio. I guess I naturally gravitated to games that don’t give advantages to people with better speaker setups, so I play valve games, dystopia, global agenda, call of duty, etc. Anything with radars.

      • aspect
      • 9 years ago

      Actually it is very noticeable in Valve games like L4D1 and 2. People with good positional audio (the Audio Technica ATH-AD700 headphones for example) often get called out for hacks because they take out special infected as soon as they spawn just by sound.

      #41, Do sound cards not make much of a difference?

    • FireGryphon
    • 9 years ago

    My trusty Cambridge SoundWorks PC Works 2.1 setup with two satellites and a sub are still going strong. My Klipsch ProMedia v2-400 is now in the livingroom, as I have no room near my computer for anything more than a 2.1 setup.

      • kravo
      • 9 years ago

      I have the 5.1 SoundWorks set (I got it 10 years ago). it´s simply superb, worth its price.
      But I can´t really say that the surround setup brought that much of difference to me. I rather listen to noises that are characteristic for certain parts of a map to get an idea where´s my opponent running around (for example the sound of steps in the water on “Aztec” in Counter Strike).

    • etilena
    • 9 years ago

    sometimes I game without the sound on!

      • Palek
      • 9 years ago

      Minesweeper? Solitaire?

      • sigher
      • 9 years ago

      Me too actually, and it actually helped me win when I was having a losing streak, sometimes sound is distracting.
      Plus in most games I turn the music option to 0, because in most games it’s just annoying, and often an annoying musicselection in my view.

    • Freon
    • 9 years ago

    I have the Logitech Z-5500, which counter to my normal Logitech speaker experience are still kicking after several years. Pretty happy with them overall.

    I’ve never really gotten into gaming with headphones.

    • Skrying
    • 9 years ago

    If you’re using a “5.1” headphone or any headphone that claims to have more than 2 channels… you’re doing it VERY wrong.

    I use a pair of Denon AH-D1000 headphones for gaming. I also have a pair of Grado SR-80 and AKG K81DJ headphones that I sometimes use for music.

    • Firestarter
    • 9 years ago

    HD 595’s. I need a proper soundcard though.

    • PenGun
    • 9 years ago

    M-Audio Audiophile 24/96 through Kimber Cable to Sonic Frontiers SFL1 Signature Pre Amp. From there through Kimber Cable to Sonic Frontiers monoblocks feeding B&W Matrix 1s, the originals. Genesis powered sub fed from the preamp.

    Very nice, rocks Stalker for me.

    • Bauxite
    • 9 years ago

    Z5500 for movies/surfing/whatever during the day and weekends. They are wired to both computers (analog + coax spdif) and stb via optical.

    Headphones at night for shooters etc.

    • ClickClick5
    • 9 years ago

    Medusa USA 5.1 Gamer Pro V2 Headset.

    Yup.

    • BoBzeBuilder
    • 9 years ago

    Logitech 5.1 running as 2.1. 5.1 sucks, way too much hassle and tweaking. I’ll go with 2.1 once these die.

    • ShadowTiger
    • 9 years ago

    I have a great Logitech 2.1 system that I got a long time ago for 100 bucks. I decided I wanted fewer stronger speakers instead of a weaker 5.1 setup.

    Unfortunatley, I usuallly game with headphones because of neighbors… family members and the like…

    • crsh1976
    • 9 years ago

    Been like for years now, I just use good-quality stereo headphones (Sennheiser or otherwise).

    • Sanctusx2
    • 9 years ago

    I have a full 5.1 setup(Logitech’s), but abandoned the rear speakers awhile ago. I realized they didn’t actually add much to the experience and were a huge pain to position anywhere that wouldn’t be awkward in some way.

    • DrDillyBar
    • 9 years ago

    D2X via analog into a set of Logitech 5.1 speakes.

    • StashTheVampede
    • 9 years ago

    I have both stereo headphones and stereo speakers. No room for a true 4.1/5.1/X.1 setup at the moment, unfortunately.

    My favorite gaming experiences are when I did have true four speakers at ear level. Playing HLDM would use all four speakers correctly and you easily could tell who did/didn’t have the same setup.

    iMac’s digital out -> Sony receiver (early 2000s) -> Sennheiser headphones or Polk fronts (just use the switch when wanted).

    • wira020
    • 9 years ago

    Right now using 2.1 speakers from sonic gear… very good bass…

    I’m looking for a good full ear headset, can some1 suggest me a good headphone.. i’m very picky about bass, sound crispiness, details and some noise isolation would be good… right now am leaning towards Roccat Kave…

    • TurtlePerson2
    • 9 years ago

    I have an old X-Fi Platinum and a set of Logitech X-530s. I can’t complain about the speakers, but I can complain about the sound card. When it’s working it’s great, but the drivers have gone downhill since Windows XP.

      • no51
      • 9 years ago

      I have almost the same setup. X-Fi XtremeGamer Fatal1ty with X-540’s.

      • burntham77
      • 9 years ago

      I use an Xtreme Gamer X-fi and lately I have had no issues with it under Windows 7 64-bit. Early in its released, 7 was giving driver issues, but they smoothed them out it seems.

    • aspect
    • 9 years ago

    Audio Technica ATH-AD700 headphones is all I need. Although I’m thinking about getting a sound card like an Asus Xonar.

    • Kaleid
    • 9 years ago

    X-fi Xtremegamer —> Denon 2105 7.1 amplifier to Ino Audio piPcrt speakers. Room has some acoustic treatments for far less echo.

    • Suspenders
    • 9 years ago

    Auzentech X-Fi Prelude sound card, cheap 5.1 x-540 logitech speaker setup, along with Audio Technica ATH-AD700 headphones. The X-540’s are used only rarely when I’m showing someone else music or the like. Otherwise, I’ll almost always use the ATH-AD700’s straight out of the soundcard.

    I should also give props to the ATH-AD700’s, amazingly comfortable and superbly sounding open-air headphones. Great price, too. I’d recommend them for anyone looking for some good quality, affordable headphones.

    • geekl33tgamer
    • 9 years ago

    Yep, still rocking it Creative style (XF-I Fatal1ty Pro Gamer) hooked up to my Logitech Z-5500D (PC’s connected via 6 Channel Direct analogue).

    Sounds fantastic in games and movies. Added bonus of having my PS3 hooked up to the audio pod that comes with the speakers via optical, and the Sky HD box on the Digital Coaxial.

    Probably the best speakers this side of £200 🙂

    • BailoutBenny
    • 9 years ago

    Custom B&W/McIntosh setup 🙂

      • Zorb
      • 9 years ago

      Good for audio but…have to call that overkill for gaming……

    • Meadows
    • 9 years ago

    Placed two votes – (relatively) high-end stereo headphones when I’m alone or it’s late at night, and a cheap 5.1 setup when I feel like it or when my little sister’s watching me play stuff. That tiny 5 year old girl loves watching Serious Sam (mostly 2) and Half-Life 2.

    • Kurotetsu
    • 9 years ago

    This poll needs to use check boxes. I use stereo headphones and stereo speakers for gaming. For games like Mass Effect I’ll use the headphones for more immersion, for most first person shooters I use the speakers.

    And since everyone is showing off their stuff…

    X-Fi Titanium Fatality Pro feeding a modded Zero DAC via optical, Audio Technica ATH-AD700s and M-Audio BX5A Deluxes are hooked up to the DAC. One day, when I have the cash, I’d like to try a nice stereo receiver, like an Onkyo TX-8555 or a Harmon Kardon HK3490. That way I could try a passive 2.1 setup.

    • kvndoom
    • 9 years ago

    HT- Omega Claro XT… feeding a Yamaha receiver for my speakers. JBL CF-150’s up front and KEF IQ9’s in the rear. They actually match very well sonically, but the JBL’s are so much more efficient that I have to lower their output levels in the sound card applet. KEF Reference (90’s vintage) center channel. Sennheiser HD600’s fed directly from the sound card’s built in amp. Dolby Headphone is out of this world, let me tell ya…

    I usually game and listen to music in 4-channel, and switch to 5.1 mode for movies.

    • Arag0n
    • 9 years ago

    I use 5.1 800W digital speakers with stereo headset for multiplayer. With a good card with “eco-cancelation”. No one ever complained about “I hear your game, please turn it off”.

    • MadManOriginal
    • 9 years ago

    Stereo speakers mostly, or headphones. I don’t game a ton where effects matter any more so I sold my sound card and just use onboard but not the poopy analog out. Optical S/PDIF out to an external DAC/headphone amp.

    • bimmerlovere39
    • 9 years ago

    Asus Xonar DX into Klipsch ProMedia 2.1s (or Klipsch Image S4’s later at night).

      • Veerappan
      • 9 years ago

      I’ve been lusting after a set of Promedia 2.1’s for a few years now.

      I’ve got a 5.1 setup made up of Klipsch speakers for the HT setup in the living room, but I’ve been using some Sennheiser HD485 headphones (for immersion and when using Ventrillo) and a 2.1 Creative I-Trigue 3500 setup (everyday non-gaming, and daytime gaming when the house is empty).

        • bimmerlovere39
        • 9 years ago

        I think I picked mine up or ~$150 at “Best” Buy. I’d been shopping around, looking at various alternatives (largely Logitech), but I stumbled on these, sitting on the bottom shelf in a beat to hell box, and I couldn’t not pick ’em up for that price. I’ve never regretted that decision.

        Side note: Xonar + ProMedias can muster a jaw-droppingly large amount of volume. Don’t know if the same would be true for onboard. But DEAR GOD. (For reference, I’m not one for going to concerts, but I don’t consider Grand-Am race cars to be overly loud).

      • Dashak
      • 9 years ago

      +1 for the klipsch 2.1. 2.1 should be included in the poll…

        • TREE
        • 9 years ago

        I have a pair of Klipsch Custom-3 heaphones and I can easily say they are the best headphones I have ever bought. Easily beats my Shure E4C and SE420’s.

    • odizzido
    • 9 years ago

    I use stereo speakers and headphones. Speakers for normal stuff like civ or MMOs and headphones for things like L4D.

    • SomeOtherGeek
    • 9 years ago

    Oh yea! I have a 5.1 surround set. Will never look down. If these Logitech speakers do ever die, I will go 7.1. Speakers are very important to me, being deaf and all. I love Supreme Commander 2 with these speakers, the sound of missiles coming from behind your back is awesome! I really wanna try the headsets tho, just to get a little more louder sounds and pick up what I have missed out on. So, all in all, I do appreciate speaker/headset reviews!

    • Prestige Worldwide
    • 9 years ago

    X-Fi Titanium Fatal1ty Pro + Sennheiser HD 555 headphones.

      • shaq_mobile
      • 9 years ago

      onboard sound with my 6 year old sennheiser hd580’s and the hd650 headphone cord (the 580 cord kept breaking). works like a charm. im very happy with my 580’s, aside from having to replace the cord 4 times (about once a year). ive replaced the ear pads and done a full clean on them and they sound and feel good as new.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 9 years ago

    Generally speaking I game on my stereo speaker set and my Sennheisers get used when I’m workign on audio, but later at night I’ll put on my headphones to game as well.

    I must say I’m a bit surprised how high the number of 5.1 users is. I guess I’m just behind the times.

    • SnowboardingTobi
    • 9 years ago

    Depends on time of day. 2.1 speakers if it’s not late, otherwise I switch to headphones.

    • TaBoVilla
    • 9 years ago

    Had a 5.1 setup with my gaming desktop, it was great, only had trouble comfortably positioning the center speaker bellow the screen etc.

    Now I’m mostly relegated to stereo headphones but that’s not a bad thing at all. I always recall as one of the best, most immersive gaming experiences I’ve ever had playing Myst and Riven with full sized headphones in full dark. Those games have great ambient sounds.

    • homerdog
    • 9 years ago

    Logitech 2.1 speaker system (which sucks) unless my roommate’s asleep. Then it’s the $15 Cyber Acoustics headset which sounds surprisingly good.

    • tdsevern
    • 9 years ago

    7.2 Surround: Creative S750 + Klipsch Sub10
    Creative X-Fi Elite Pro

      • NeelyCam
      • 9 years ago

      Sick! 😛

      Someone should build a system with Eyefinity driving four 1080p projectors and a 200″ acoustically transparent screen.

        • Meadows
        • 9 years ago

        Why not get the computers from Avatar while we’re at it?

    • Shinare
    • 9 years ago

    Wheres the 2.1 option?

      • 5150
      • 9 years ago

      I think that would fit under stereo speakers.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 9 years ago

      “2.1” isn’t really 2.1 because there’s no discrete sub channel. So they’re just stereo.

        • eitje
        • 9 years ago

        2.1 is 2.1 if i use a 5.1 setup with only 2 speakers and a sub.

          • Meadows
          • 9 years ago

          If you’re an idiot to do so, yes.

            • eitje
            • 9 years ago

            And if I’m not an idiot, either yes or no. 🙂

    • MrBojangles
    • 9 years ago

    I use a nice pair 5.1 surround headphones.Mainly because i live in a apartment and try to be respectful of my neighbors.Although some of them apparently don’t feel inclined to return the favor.

    • StuG
    • 9 years ago

    I said stereo speakers because lately I have been using those more than my headphones. Most of the games I have been playing lately haven’t been super hardcore multiplayer games and thus I just enjoy using my nice sounding speakers. When I play l4d2 or some other game like that I still throw my 5.1 headphones on.

    • Kulith
    • 9 years ago

    Does 5.1/7.1 really even exist in headphones? I seem to hear mixed opinions on this. It seems they are just “simulated surround sound”…? Is there any real advantage over stereo while gaming?

    • bthylafh
    • 9 years ago

    Sennheiser stereo headset plugged into the Xonar that I won last December.

    • Rectal Prolapse
    • 9 years ago

    When I play single-player games I use my 5.1 setup (2 Paradigm Monitor 9s, 1 Paradigm CC350 center speaker, 2 Definite Technology dipolar speakers (DP2x or whatever).

    Unfortunately, this doesn’t work well in multiplayer – the headset will pick up the other audio so I end up using the headset.

    I voted 5.1 as a bit more than half my gaming is single player.

    • Jigar
    • 9 years ago

    G500 doing a good job here.

    • clhensle
    • 9 years ago

    Everglide S500, thanks woot!

    • SNM
    • 9 years ago

    I’ve got 5.1 speakers I use for single-player, but multiplayer games with voice chat are done on my Logitech G35 headset, which is “7.1”.

    • continuum
    • 9 years ago

    Old school PSB Alpha A/V’s hooked up to a just-as-old minisystem (obviously, tossed the minisystem’s original speakers in the closet).

    I’d love to try a pair of Swan M200MkIII’s or M-Audio BX8a’s, but considering the cost, I doubt they’d be that much of an improvement. (now if I can somehow persuade work to upgrade the speakers in my office away from the decidedly so-so Klipsch Promedia 2.1’s that would be lovely… hmmmmm)

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