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Quick Guide: 7.1 Surround Sound

When shopping for speakers, headsets, and other audio sources, you'll notice a common term: 7.1 surround sound. This is part of our series of quick guides where we teach you about common tech terminology and concepts, in a compact form factor. I hope you enjoy!

What is it?

7.1 surround sound is a sound standard that requires seven speakers. It is used to make you feel like your are actually inside a game or other compatible place, such as a cinema. Only certain games are 7.1 enabled, so you should check before selecting your headset. Typically, audio devices cannot use 7.1 surround sound while plugged in with USB, only audio jack. Additionally, specialized software or a soundcard are usually necessary to enable 7.1 surround sound.

Does my headset have 7.1 surround sound?

Many headsets, some even in the $40 price range, claim to have 7.1 surround sound. You might have bought a headset with 7.1 surround sound enabled. So you might be wondering, "so does my headset really have 7.1 surround sound?" The answer is... kind of? Headsets can reach a level of simulated surround sound where they are considered "7.1", but the surround sound is not "true". Headsets simply don't have the space for seven speakers inside. However, a headset's simulated surround sound can still be very good. You should also keep in mind that there are many factors to how good a headset is besides surround sound, such as its drivers.

Is it worth my money?

Fortunately, in recent years it has become cheaper to produce headsets with 7.1 surround sound. Although you could get a bare-minimum $20 headset, it is probably better in the long run for you to spend $15 or $20 more to acquire 7.1 surround sound. It can really help while gaming, to tell where your enemies and teammates are without looking, and also increases the immersiveness of anything you use it with.

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