5.1 Surround Sound Gaming
Let me start this article out with anecdotal evidence that video games deserve surround sound.
We recently hooked up the PS3 to our media room and I was curious to see what HD gaming together with a 5.1 system sounded like. I decided that the equivalent of a demo disc for the PS3 would be an action-packed game like Killzone 2. I booted up into the game and started to play the introductory level (the same one available in the demo) – and let me tell you, I was blown away. It was more than the fact that the sound of my bullets hitting enemy flesh was crisp, it was even more than the fact that while my ship was landing on the beach, it felt like it was landing inside the room I was in. All those things made it even better, but what sealed the deal for me was the minute I launched a rocket at the enemy position and the entire bridge collapsed before me – keep in mind, this is a game with gorgeous visuals – at that moment, the system we had spent so much money on had been worth it to me – I had transcended the game and felt like it was actually me firing that rocket. Because when that bridge came down, I was washed over in nuanced sounds and even the smallest crack of the stone that I had destroyed.
Is this the sort of experience you’re looking for? If so, then let me be the first to tell you that you don’t need a $5000 system to achieve this sort of gaming nirvana.
What you do need for this to work are a few things:
- A room with enough space to put 5 speakers and a subwoofer in
- Two front speakers
- A powerful subwoofer
- A Receiver capable of multiple inputs for up to five speakers
- A sub
- Two rear speakers
- A lot of know-how!
Let’s talk about the 5.1 setup. I hear a lot of you naysayers out there - “Nothing matches 7.1 surround sound, that’s TRUE surround sound!" And you’re absolutely right – a 5.1 system is underpowered compared to 7.1. However, because of monetary constraints, a 5.1 system is something the Do-It-Yourselfer can afford, whereas a 7.1 system is way beyond the realm of possibility (but they are getting cheaper every day).
Also, most games today support a good 5.1 system, but 7.1? Good luck finding anything outside of LAIR that does that. For your two front speakers, I recommend something powerful, but not so expensive. The front speakers are a pivotal part of this setup, but not as much as the center speaker and the sub.The back two should also be powerful, but not as much as the front ones, the best rear speakers give the sound a certain life-like quality that’s hard to quantify.
For the beginner, I recommend a complete package, to avoid having different setups to contend with. Boston Acoustics sells a magnificent one with everything you’ll need over time, you can consider selling the subwoofer in that package and replacing it with one from Hsu Research, and even take out the center speaker for one that BOSE sells. This will push your surround sound gaming over the edge, much like I was talking about at the beginning of the article.