1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Headphones vs Home surround

Discussion in 'Sound City' started by aoaaron, Mar 10, 2019.

  1. aoaaron

    Wise Guy

    Joined: May 19, 2012

    Posts: 1,024

    One of the big issues stopping me going from 4kTV PC gaming to ultrawide PC gaming is sound.

    i currently have a 2k sound setup (5.1, monolith sub, KEF Q speakers, denon AVR).

    Is there any headphones available which would rival that kind of quality? Or is this just a trade off to desk gaming?
  2. hornetstinger


    Joined: Sep 6, 2016

    Posts: 5,555

    Not for surround sound, no not a chance. Your get that immersive surround and explosions feeling from phones.

    Also for things like kick drum you feel that, with phones it's just on your head.

    Live band isn't like that it's a physical feeling g also.
  3. ToTheMax


    Joined: Nov 28, 2012

    Posts: 573

    I would disagree, using a good bi aural sound simulation of a 5.1 signal sounds pretty amazing. Unless you are sat centrally in the AV 5.1 sound sweet spot I'd say headphones are superior, or you have the AV sound cranked way up so you can feel the bass in your torso. Eg I've got a 5.1 AV setup feeding an optical DD feed into a Soundblaster G6 then an AKG712 and regularly switch between the two.
  4. EsaT


    Joined: Jun 6, 2008

    Posts: 4,998

    Location: Finland

    Headphones can never give that feel of rumbling bass shaking things.
    But assuming your head shape is near average, directionality and even feel of distance area easy to achieve.
    And at price which is peanuts compared to what Intel and Nvidia charge from things which rot technologically in couple years. (unlike audio stuff)

    If you don't want stronger than neutral bass then some of the best possible headphones are available for about £100.
    For balance with above neutral fun bass punch prices go from that to £200.
    And because sound cards aren't "audiophile" products you don't have to sell your organs to buy good one.

    Standard recordings just suck because of crappy recording technique which doesn't record true spatial cues understood by brain.
    But binaural recording and good accurate headphones...
  5. craigyhay


    Joined: Mar 20, 2008

    Posts: 88

    Location: grotty Grimsby

    headphones can bring really excellent quality stereo audio compared to speakers with a lower budget, but surround sound is pretty naff and distorts the source from what it should be on headphones, also if you consistently regularly use headphones for long periods you can end up with ear damage , I for one cant use headphones anymore(even at low volumes) because of it.
    every ears different tho and susceptibility varys.
  6. hornetstinger


    Joined: Sep 6, 2016

    Posts: 5,555


    Movies are mixed for multi channel so by using phones you are not listening to what director intended.

    I have grading rs-1 phones and even these are lacking to surround.

    Methinks phone using trying to make excuses why a home blasting 3000w cinema sounds.worse lol
  7. Marsman


    Joined: Oct 18, 2009

    Posts: 10,477

    When did movies come into this?

    Isn't this about for gaming use?


    You've got to try it for yourself really. As with most things audio; you can't go on other people's opinions alone, because tastes and experiences vary so much.

    You'll get people that much prefer a good 5.1 speaker set up and you'll get people that prefer using headphones. It's easy for anyone to say that someone who prefers using headphones over 5.1 speakers, must have cheap 5.1 PC speakers. Most of the time they'd be right, given how many gamers use cheap 5.1 PC speakers; but that assumption can't be made in all cases.

    There's a guy in another thread, who has stopped using what he calls his 'big surround speakers', because he finds using DT990 headphones + Creative AE-5 sound card, that good. No mention as to what the actual speaker set up is, but it's almost certainly not going to be cheap 5.1 PC speakers.

    When it comes to surround sound with headphones, it hangs on how well the algorithm that is used, works for you. That is something that no one else can tell you; even though there will be those who will, because they are of the opinion that it's just crap, full stop. That's fair enough for the people that find that, but they think everyone else must be of the same opinion.

    It doesn't work for everyone, so that's why you can't know for sure until you've tried it yourself. Some people do try surround sound with headphones and still find it is crap. The trouble is, virtual surround sound over headphones can be done poorly but it can also be done well. Not all algorithms are created equal; some are better than others; just as cheap 5.1 PC speakers cannot hold a candle to even a budget proper 5.1 speaker set up. There are some people who come to the decision that surround sound with headphones is crap, based on nothing more than a poor set up.

    If you're going to try it, then you've at least got to give the technology a chance and not use some rubbish quality USB 7.1 headset or Xonar DGX + cheap headset. Most USB headsets use Dolby Headphone (found on Asus sound cards), but that is not the best algorithm for surround sound over headphones when gaming. It can sound rather echoey, which is likely the main reason why there are people who think it sucks; and because that is the most commonly used, for many, it is their first and last experience of what you could call virtual 7.1.

    Ideal choice would be a SoundblasterX AE-5 and AKG 702 headphones. You won't get deep bass with those headphones, but they do provide accuracy like not many other headphones can when it comes to locating sounds in games. Too much bass drowns out the audio cues which let the listener place higher frequency sounds. Beyerdynamic DT990 still does a good job and provides more bass for those after a headphones that might be considered more fun.
  8. hornetstinger


    Joined: Sep 6, 2016

    Posts: 5,555

    Multi channel speaker works in games although would be good if they stuck to dts format. Ie games process and encode to 5.1 dts on the fly. Some use analogue out only.
  9. aoaaron

    Wise Guy

    Joined: May 19, 2012

    Posts: 1,024

    Thank you all for the responses.

    Are wireless headphones an option?

    Can anyone list me some examples of good sounding headphones I could buy to try out? Is a sound card really neccessary?
  10. Marsman


    Joined: Oct 18, 2009

    Posts: 10,477

    You don't need to have a sound card, but you will need something that provide the audio cues which give the impression of surround sound.

    Windows 10 has Dolby Atmos for Headphones built in that can do this; but it is trial period software, then will need purchasing after that has run out.

    Creative have SBX prostudio software package which can be purchased and will work with any audio device.

    I'm not sure how good Dolby Atmos for Headphones is, but SBX prostudio is probably the best algorithm available at the present.

    Without buying a sound card, then I guess you will likely be using onboard audio?

    That will be fine for some headphones, but AKG K702/712 might need something with a bit more grunt, depending your volume preference. They need more power than some other headphones to get them really loud. Really hard to beat them for gaming, but Beyerdynamic DT990 and Sennheiser HD599 are other good options.

    Not a big fan of wireless. Cheaper ones are rubbish and the more expensive ones are what Esat would describe as being Chinese trinkets. They have their place for people who really want wireless, but they won't compare to decent wired headphones.
  11. roderz88


    Joined: Oct 7, 2010

    Posts: 230

    I've used Dolby Atmos for headphones and I actually quite like it. It's immersive and doesn't seem to distort the sound quite as much as other methods of headphone surround sound at least to my ears. I've tried DTS Headphone X and I thought it sounded terrible.
  12. varkanoid


    Joined: Dec 31, 2007

    Posts: 8,269

    Location: The TARDIS, Wakefield, UK

    Yes I was surprised how good Dolby Atmos was its better than a lot of wired and wireless usb 7.1 sound settings. Some headphones come with the Dolby Atmos app free (full not trial) ie Plantronics 800's.

    For anyone wanting to feel that rumbling of bass then try these https://www.razer.com/gb-en/gaming-audio/razer-nari-ultimate like a kick in the head! Pity you cant try them first.
  13. Psycho Sonny


    Joined: Jun 21, 2006

    Posts: 28,595

    £2K speaker setup will be beaten by a £200 pair of headphones for clarity.

    as in for music and gaming. movies then no as nothing will beat a separate speaker set up that is half decent.

    for gaming you don't want bass unless playing single player. which is why most gamers have 2 headphones for gaming. 1 for competitive play with no bass and then bass heavy ones for single player.
  14. aoaaron

    Wise Guy

    Joined: May 19, 2012

    Posts: 1,024

    I'm 100% non competitive single player gamer.

    Any headphone suggestions you can give me please or sound setups if I was to go down the desktop route?

    I'm in the need of headphones to replace my airpods too for the gym.
  15. Psycho Sonny


    Joined: Jun 21, 2006

    Posts: 28,595


    the above thread is gaming focused but also mainly competitive but you will find non competitive advice.

    from my research though i would advice buying a Schiit stack from here


    you will need a DAC - digital to analogue converter

    and an amplifier these are sold seperately when buying schiit products rather than all in one.


    that is the cheapest option for a DAC - this doesn't mean it's crap it's very good and from here on in upgrades are hard to find without at least tripling your budget.

    for the amp i'd go for a little bit higher end as i like tube amps and get the Vali 2. I also personally own the Vali 1 so I can vouch for how good they are for the price.


    again you will need to spend a lot more to upgrade from this. at least doubling the budget.

    as for specific headphone recommendations for single player it would be fidelio x2's or k712's whether you want more soundstage or bass. the x2's have more bass the k712's more soundstage. personally i'd go for the k712's their review is pasted below

    Before I begin, I'd like to personally thank guide contributor and friend, @Evshrug for sending these out to me for review.

    The K712 Pro, the latest and greatest AKG headphone to supersede the (in)famous 7xx line (K701, K702, Q701, K702 65th Anniversary Edition being the previous models) as AKG's best mid-fi headphone. I have been wondering just how different the K712 Pro is to my dearly departed K702 65th Anniversary. Turns out, not much (I wouldn't doubt that some people would find them near identical), but there are differences, however subtle they may be. Also need to mention that my K702 Anniversary was one of the earlier ones sold that had flatter/shorter pads, which may be the main difference between the Annie and K712's sonic differences. The K712 Pro had a lot to live up to, seeing as the Annie is more or less my favorite open dynamic headphone to date.

    Build Quality:
    Rating: Great

    I'll basically paste what I've said about the K702 65th Anniversary, as the build is absolutely identical to the Annie. The only differences between the color differences (Annie is gunmetal with blue bars and accents, K712 Pro is black with orange bars and accents).

    Made of a durable plastic, and well thought out design, I find the build quality to be great. I wouldn't toss them around haphazardly, but they'd definitely survive some abuse. The detachable cable is like the non-Anniversary models, which isn't the thickest I've seen, but certainly very malleable, flexible, and light. It certainly does it's job, though I would have expected a more rugged, or fancier cable for these higher priced variants.

    Compared to the non-Anniversary models of the K701/K702/Q701, the headband is thinner in width when viewed from the top/bottom, with a widening of the area where the AKG branding is located. The biggest difference (and it's incredibly significant), is that the underside of the headband no longer has the notorious (7-8) bumps, and is instead completely smooth. This basically turns the K712 Pro from a torture device to a very comfortable headphone. There is no padding, but it is mostly unnecessary as the headband perfectly molds to your head, distributing pressure evenly across where it rests. The bumped headbands were notorious for digging into the scalp, especially on the center one or two bumps. Why it took AKG this long to rectify this issue the vast majority of people had is beyond me, but it's finally done.

    The headband also has the added benefit of allowing bigger heads to fit due to less stiffness, and more space. Prior to the K712 Pro and K702 Anniversary, I basically needed the other models to be fully extended for them to fit my head. This caused a lot of tight, downwards pressure, which in addition to the hard bumps, didn't lead to the most comfortable headband design. It took me a few days to adjust to the older models, and I didn't find them as problematic as most people still do.

    The pads are the second most significant change from the older models. They are made of memory foam inside velour. Very dense and molds to your head shape MUCH more than the older model pads. This causes a better seal, which is more than likely the main reason why the sound signature is warmer, and more bassy (from my experience with using a Q701 with the Annie pads, I found the Q701 to sound 99.9% the same as the Annie, with a slightly brighter tone which may have just been driver variation).

    • Velvet carrying pouch: One of the best carrying pouches I've seen bundled with headphones. It's thick and feels great, though it won't protect a headphone from much except dust and scuff/scratches.
    • Long coiled cable (black)
    • Straight cable (orange) w/6.3mm screw on adapter

    Rating: Amazing

    As previously mentioned, due to the new headband and new pads, the K712 Pro has made a noticeable boost in comfort over the older models. The headband change is significant for comfort. The removal of the dreaded bumps would basically satisfy ANYONE who had issues with them on the older models, and even those that don't have issues with the bumps.

    The pads are arguable, as the standard 7xx pads, while more firm, breathed a little easier than the new memory foam velours. In either case, neither are sweat inducing or uncomfortable, personally. The new memory foam pads molds to the shape of one's head, leading to no uneven pressure. I find the older models to be not as uncomfortable as most people would lead to believe, but the K712 Pro would more than likely satisfy those who have problems with the older pads.

    The K712 pro is easily one of the most comfortable full-sized headphones I've ever worn.

    Design Issues:

    There really isn't anything to complain about with the K712 Pro. If anything, some may not particularly like how big the cups are, but that's the nature of a full-sized over ear headphone. AKG has more or less perfected their 7xx design, fixing all of the previous issues people had with them (headband bumps being the main problem). The only thing I can see improving upon this design is to add some padding underneath the currently bare headband strap, which would further drive the comfort towards perfection.

    Rating: Poor

    The K712 Pro is a fully open headphone, and as such, it is expected not to perform well for noise isolation/leakage. As I mention time and time again, reports of open headphone's leak tend to be severely exaggerated. Yes, you may bother someone in the same room, but never someone in another room, even with the door open. Unless you need absolute silence in the same room, open headphones don't leak so loud as to bother most people, possibly even if they were in the same room.

    Rating: Amazing

    People will undoubtedly complain about the incremental improvements constantly being made to their 7xx drivers, but to those who haven't experienced every little upgrade (or even those who have) will find the K712 Pro to be the their strongest headphones yet based on their 7xx drivers. What you get in the K712 Pro is the most musical, and fleshed out variant, with a noticeable addition of bass, warmth, and pleasing tonality. AKG had previously made most of these improvements with the K702 65th Anniversary (aka Annie), but the Annie had some trade offs, particularly in the sense of spaciousness (not necessarily soundstage itself), and upper range clarity and detail (which were slightly lessened due to a smoother, less fatiguing upper range). The Annie was a slightly different flavor of the K712 Pro sound, with a thicker body of sound, more intimacy, and smoother, slightly more organic sound. I'm exaggerating the differences, as they are subtle, but a good ear can tell them apart.

    The K712 is the perfect middle ground between the standard 7xx airy sound, and the Annie's warmer, more fluid presentation.

    NOTE: I'm basing my assessment of the Annie with it's ORIGINAL memory foam pads, which AKG has since replaced with a taller memory foam. The new pads on the Annie may have closed the gap even more between the two headphones to the point where it may be harder to discern the differences in sound quality. I haven't heard the Annie with new pads, so I can't personally confirm. Just something to keep in mind, in case those with a newer Annie don't agree with what I say here.

    Rating: Excellent

    The K712 pro's bass is quite well balanced and always present, favoring midbass over sub bass (which rolls off a little compared to the K612 Pro which maintains it's bass to very low levels, though isn't energetic and forward as the K712 Pro). The bass is full, fluid, and rich, creating some warmth and body to the meat of the K712's sound. Because the bass is very, very similar to the K702 Annie's bass, I will quote most of what I said about those, with a few edits:

    Sound-wise, this is the most significant change coming off the older models. The K712 Pro presents bass quite well. You can consider it mildly above neutral. Natural if the source doesn't have a need for bass, and quite full and involving when the need for bass is there. Overall, the bass can be quite full, layered, textured, and infectious.

    What it improves over the standard models is that the bass is no longer situational. It doesn't just hit with really bass heavy songs. It hits at all times, in a very natural way. Put on a bassy track, movie, game, etc, and the K712 Pro will impress. Make no mistake. I've always found the Q701, and particularly, the old K701 to be slightly below neutral. The bass would decay too quickly, and wouldn't hit with enough energy to give a sense of naturality. No longer an issue with the K712 Pro. Unless you're a basshead, I don't think there will be much to complain about here. If you like accurate, yet full bass, the K712 pro will impress.

    Rating: Great

    The K712 Pro's mids sit between the 7xx's mids and the Annie's more upfront and intimate presentation. The K712's mids sound pushed back in comparison to the Annie, though not pushed back in the way of recession, but more because the soundstage is large and nothing is exactly upfront and in your face. The lower mids are aided by the lean towards bass that the K712 has, which results in a warm, and tonally realistic voicing compared to the standard 7xx and even the incredibly balanced K612 Pro, which comes of a little dry in direct comparison.

    The one downside I see in the mids is that the patented AKG upper mids peak is still somewhat present, causing certain sounds to have an artificial etch to them, and seem out of place next to the K712 Pro's general warmth and smoothness. It isn't as pronounced as the standard 7xx models however, and the warm tonality and fleshed out signature of the K712 mitigate the fatigue a bit compared to the standard 7xx.

    All in all, the K712's mids are more or less balanced with the rest of the sound, and are never lost or masked.

    Rating: Great

    The K712's treble maintains a level of sparkle some found lacking on the Annie. The treble is generally smooth with some upper end peak as usual of the 7xx line, cutting off some extension as well as the fatigue that can be associated with too much treble in those ranges. The K712's treble adds some much beneficial air to the soundstage, as well as clarity and detail which isn't typical of warm/smooth headphones (which tend to roll off in the treble range).

    I personally have to say that I really love the K712's treble as it isn't an everyday occurrence to find warm headphones that sparkle in the same way as the K712. I also love the original Annie's smoother, less fatiguing presentation, but it did come across more subdued. I'd say the K712's treble is generally more favorable, and more likely to please most people.

    Rating: Excellent

    While the original Annie had a large soundstage, the thicker body of sound and smoother treble made the soundstage sound more restricted and congested compared to the standard 7xx and K712. The K712's soundstage is spacious, and excels particularly in width. The soundstage is dimensional, holographic, and layered. The K612 Pro didn't have the same dimensionality and layering in direct comparison, despite it's large size.

    Rating: Excellent

    A large soundstage, generally linear balance, and great detail is a recipe for success. The K712 excels in positional cues, much like the standard 7xx line, but with more body, and fullness. One can argue that it won't be as masterful for competitive gaming focus due to the standard 7xx model's tilt towards analyzing and detail-retrieval, but the K712 doesn't give up much in the way of those things, and adds in extra immersion.

    Rating: Excellent

    Objectively speaking, the standard 7xx models as well as the K612 Pro have a clearer tonality over the warmer, more musical K712 Pro. That being said, the refinement, musicality, and tonality of the K712 Pro is more natural sounding and realistic in comparison. The standard 7xx sounds artificially boosted for clarity, which may be good for raw detail, but bad for enjoyment. The K712 has excellent clarity, and I don't feel like I'm losing much of anything when choosing the K712 over the standard 7xx models.


    The K712 Pro doesn't require much to sound fantastic, but as with all 7xx models, they scale up with better gear and amping. I would recommend a decent desktop amp for these. That being said, I enjoyed the K712 Pro with the Fiio E12, and didn't feel I needed much more. I can easily live quite happily with the K712 Pro and FiiO E12.

    Personal Recommendation?
    • Movies, Music, In General? Yes
    • Gaming? Yes

    The K712 Pro, is among my very favorite headphones I have ever heard, and currently my favorite open dynamic for all around use, even over the Philips Fidelio X1. If you're looking for the best all-rounder under $400, the K712 is one my absolute top recommendations. While I prefer the original Annie (flatter pads) for certain things (the mids and intimacy for music), the K712 has a better sound signature due to a clearer upper range and better sense of space which will benefit a larger amount of media, including gaming.

    As a cheaper alternative, you can get a standard 7xx, and if you order some K712 pads for it, it essentially becomes a cheaper Annie/K712 Pro alternative for around $100 less than the Annie and K712 normally go for. It may not be completely identical, but it will be close. You also get the benefit of having both the standard pads as well as the K712 pads for easy swapping and tonality change. Your mileage may vary as driver variation needs to be taken into account. I recommend the K702 most for this, since it has a bumpless headband, while the K701 and Q701 still have the uncomfortable bumps, though will also benefit from this pad swap in the same exact way.

    Final Impressions:

    The K712 Pro has proven to be the best mid level AKG headphone in terms of musicality, refinement, and organic tonality. Yes, it doesn't stray far from that well known 7xx sound, but it eliminates most of what people disliked about them, while adding nearly all the things that were lacking (bass, warmth, organic sound). If you happen to like the standard 7xx and wished for more warmth, bass, and musicality, with less upper mid/lower treble fatigue, the K712 Pro demands your attention. I admit I was skeptical at first, seeing how much I love the original Annie and heard that the K712 reduced the intimacy. My fears were quelled, as the K712 gained it's own benefits over the smoother, original Annie, mainly in the addition of air/less congestion and upper range clarity.

    I'm actually quite in love with the K712 Pro overall, and I find it to be a great endgame headphone for those without deep pockets. It's a safe bet to say that the K712 Pro is a headphone that I can recommend to practically anyone.

    The most immersive AKG headphone I've heard to date. Excellent bass response, natural sound, and spacious soundstage makes for a very fun headphone.

    While the standard 7xx models may be more detail oriented for easier soundwhoring, the K712 Pro is no slouch with great clarity without the expense of immersion and fun factor in general.

    Sharing the same exact comfort I loved in the K702 65th Anniversary, the K712 Pro is among the most comfortable headphones I've ever worn. Auto adjusting headband, soft memory foam pads, and light frame. Not much more you can ask for.

    The K712 Pro is amazing, plain and simple. If you want a great all rounder that does practically everything well, the K712 Pro is an incredibly easy recommendation.
  16. aoaaron

    Wise Guy

    Joined: May 19, 2012

    Posts: 1,024

    Thank you boss. That was an incredible reply. In regards to the DAC and AMP, what do they do?

    Its looking to me like for superb audio quality on PC, its going to end up costing me around £400 right?

    I was really hoping to have a wireless solution so that it'd have more uses away from the PC but I guess its asking for too much right.
  17. Radox-0

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Mar 9, 2015

    Posts: 2,351

    Location: Earth

    A DAC is basically a Digital to analogue converter turns any input digital signal into a analogue signal for your headphones. An dedicated Amp, will be able to better drive headphones compared to solutions on motherboards. In turn the extra power will allow you to play at higher volumes and / or to higher levels without distortion, in some cases add a flavour (tubes in particular) to the sound and so on. A separate DAC and AMP is good to have with harder to drive stuff compared to trying to drive it directly from say the motherboard.

    Sunny's post is pretty spot on, but with that said, I have the AKG712's mentioned and Schitt stack (well sold it on this forum recently and replaced it) and you can get very similar performance (or to an extent comparable experience) really for less money.

    For headphones for example, you can look at AKG's 702 which are £100 or so an amazing headphones. They are slightly different in that they do not have the slight bass boost the 712's have, but they have a slightly wider sound stage and sound amazing regardless, its all about which sound flavour you may prefer more. On the aspect of Amp and Dac, you could get up a combined unit like theFiiO - E10K for £60 which would drive the AKG's and most headphones reasonably well. Point being for £160 you can get a very nice set of headphones and AMP/DAC which will also sound amazing, and this is as someone who is typing this while listening to my 712's but knowing what the 702's sound like. Don't get me wrong, I prefer the 712's sound signature, but that does not take away from the 702's or even various other amazing headphone options out there.

    No experience on wireless though.
  18. aoaaron

    Wise Guy

    Joined: May 19, 2012

    Posts: 1,024

    Thank you. That provides great food for thought. It would certainly make the headphone purchase more palatable at £160 rather than £400 as I can dedicate that money elsewhere. Then again, from a sound perspective, I do sometimes think its one of the few technological investments actually worth the money.
  19. Marsman


    Joined: Oct 18, 2009

    Posts: 10,477

    You can go for a wireless option if convenience is important, but it's a trade off; best quality will always be wired.

    It's not just in terms of sound quality, but also that there are no wireless headsets which use the best algorithms for surround sound gaming with headphones/headsets.

    Sennheiser do make some very good wireless headphones, but you'd have to rely on Dolby Atmos for Headphones in order to make use of surround sound. I'm sure sure how well that will translate to wireless headphones compared to wired.
  20. SLIPdiggers


    Joined: Jan 11, 2008

    Posts: 100

    Location: North Yorkshire

    Until now, you seen this? ;) https://www.razer.com/eu-en/gaming-audio/razer-nari-ultimate

    I remember a Sega compatible body vest in the 90's that shook your vital organs. Wonder if this will slowly shake your teeth fillings out. :D