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The Power of Sound

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POWER OF SOUND

Sound has immense power. It is the uplifting melody in your favorite song, the muffled footsteps of an enemy lurking around the corner, the spine-chilling soundtrack to your favorite film and the unforgettable voice of an old friend. It has the ability to charge your emotions, stimulate your thoughts, immerse you in fantasy and constantly provides you with vital information. Let’s take a look at how headphones produce this powerful phenomenon and the features you should be familiar with before purchasing your next pair.

TRUE VS DIGITAL SURROUND

True Surround Sound: True Surround headphones function similar to surround sound speakers in that positional audio generates an experience that envelopes the listener with directional qualities. Individual drivers placed strategically in each ear cup allow for this to happen. True Surround is often preferred by gamers due to the more accurate representation of the sounds being produced around them, but can be found on the ears of casual, enthusiast and audiophile users alike.

Virtual Surround: Also known as digital surround, this is a method of simulating true surround sound without using individual drivers. It is achieved by software that digitally encodes the audio in order to give the impression of sources in all directions. Because Virtual Surround is simulated, only 1 driver per ear is required. Many headphones are incapable of producing true 7.1 sound due to the physical limitations of driver placement, so this software solution is used instead.

drivers

Drivers: Drivers are the primary source of sound in headphones and come in many different sizes, but it is important to understand that bigger isn’t necessarily better. Typically, 2.0/2.1 headphones will have larger drivers because there is only 1 in each ear. For example, you can find massive 53mm drivers on the CM Storm Sonuz. Conversely, a surround sound headset will have smaller driver measurements because there are multiple in each ear. This is how the surround sound is produced in our CM Storm Sirus which has both 30mm and 40mm drivers.

Channels: The number of channels in your headphones determines whether you will hear stereo or surround sound. Written as two numbers separated by a decimal, the first represents standard sound channels and the latter indicates the presence of a bass channel. From basic stereo to digitally simulated 8 channel surround sound, each variation has its own benefits and features. The most common channel configurations are 2.0, 2.1, 5.1 and 7.1.

CHANNEL CONFIGURATIONS

2.0/2.1

Two separate channels combine to produce full stereo sound. With both a left and right channel, this is the most common configuration available and produces excellent sound quality. Add in a bass channel, and you go from 2.0 to 2.1 which is a favorite amongst any user looking for more low-end kick.

2_1

5.1

This six channel setup is very common and considered the entry point into the world of surround sound. 5 full bandwidth channels (front, left, right, rear left, rear right) and 1 low-frequency channel (subwoofer) combine to create an immersive audio experience. Sound takes on directional qualities and no longer feels like it is being produced inside your head. This is often a preferred set-up amongst gamers and cinema fans alike.

5_1_1

7.1

Similar to 5.1 channel surround, a 7.1 surround setup adds two additional orientations of rear-center sounds for a more encompassing audio experience. Headphones will primarily virtualize these additional channels (normally through software) to avoid negatively affecting driver size and sound quality.

7_1_1

 

Glossary

Fidelity:
Fidelity describes how accurately sound represents its original source.

Driver:
A driver converts electrical energy into sound waves. This is the same technology that produces sound from traditional speakers.

Audiophile:
An audio enthusiast that prizes high-quality sound.

Ambient Noise:
Otherwise known as background noise, this includes any sound other than what you are intending to hear. Things like traffic, mechanical noise from appliances and people’s voices all contribute to ambient noise.

Channel:
A channel is a unique stream of audio information. A single channel produces Mono sound, two produces Stereo sound and so forth.

Stereo Sound:
Two-channel sound comprised of a left and right channel.

Surround Sound:
Typically 6 or 8 channel sound that produces positional audio. The sound takes on directional qualities and has a dedicated bass or subwoofer channel.