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Phoebus: positionnal audio + stereo headsets = how to.

Level 8
Hey there guys,

Searching for the perfect sound i've recently acquired a Sennheiser HD598 headset. Until now i've been using a true 5.1 roccat kave headset, great for gaming but reeeeeally bad for music, so when i plugged in the HD598 it felt like a huge upgrade. I quickly discovered that the positionnal audio in games wasn't that great however and since then i've been trying to get it right.

As many of you know, there is no dolby headphone in the phoebus' drivers, it was replaced by dolby home theater which is supposed to be the same stuff, except you can't place virtual speakers by yourself. There is also the asus' home brewn xear surround headphone, but it's all cave-y sounding and it degrades the audio too much (but it's kind of doing its job). In the last place, we have dts ultra pc II, i couldn't get anything conclusive from this thing. The surround seems to work, but there's no notion of distance.

Now, the stuff i've discovered.
Dolby home theater works quite nicely once you know the trick to it (and yes it downmixes surround to stereo). Basically, you have to set your speakers to 5.1 or 7.1, enable dolby home theater, set the virtual surround to 1/3 or 1/2 (forget the audio leveler and dialog engancement as those kill the desired effect) and next is the tricky part.
There are three kind of games when it comes to audio, the ones that check the speaker's control panel and set the output accordingly, the ones that check your active audio out on launch (which means stere headphones in our case) and the ones that let you chose your output.
The first group tends to output surround audio to headphones because it detects the speaker configuration, the second outputs in stereo, because headphones, the trick is to launch the game and THEN plug the headphones in (but some games hate that) and there's nothing to do for the third group but to set the correct audio setup ingame.

I had the time to test some games (my steam library is quite large and i don't have the bandwidth nor the time to test all), here are my results.

What works fine:
Borderlands 2
Deus Ex Human revolution

What doesn't like the "plug it later" trick (no sound):
Borderlands 2

What needs the trick:
Battlefield 3 (set the game to Home Cinema, seriously, it worked better than i expected)
Max Payne 3 (rear surround settings, but even with real surround the audiomix is weird)
Mass Effect 2,3
Dragon Age (both of them)
(it seems a lot of EA games have the same behaviour)

What let's you chose the right setup:
Splinter Cell Conviction/Blacklist
Diablo 3
Starcraft 2

Try some more games by yourselves and share your results, i think we can make something with this card after all.

PS: I'd like to mention that i use Win7 with the latest (old...) drivers for the phoebus.

Level 7
I can't detect where footsteps are coming from in BF3. All I got were bigger echoes from the Phoebus previously in Dolby. I'll make sure that I have it setup in the manner you suggest tonight and see. The best positional on the Phoebus was the XEAR surround when I was caring about trying to get it to work. And as you said it sounds like the Grand Canyon. The DTS should be removed from the card it is so bad.

Maybe Asus should suggest settings for various games like Corsair does with their products. I can download a profile for my Corsair mouse and have fun. I'd like to know how to get positional audio working via a guide from one of the guy who designed it. Right now it's like a sandbox with broken spades and buckets with holes in it.

Oh and thank you for testing and coming up with suggestions. I hope I didn't diminish your work as it's greatly appreciated. 🙂

Level 7
I tried BF3 again today and I can't discern where a single footstep is coming from. The sound stage is just left or right. The center stage is just a mixture blob of left and right channels. I'd even say that Dolby doesn't even pretend to attempt to create a center stage. It certainly doesn't try to pinpoint where anyone is on the map.

The footsteps are so muffled that you can't hear anyone coming up on you at all. There isn't a way to tell if the person is 1 foot, 1 inch, 3 feet, 5 feet or 10 feet. I can only tell left and right. This sound card seems like it isn't designed for gaming or it needs an extensive guide how to get something out of it.

Level 8
Thanks for testing. I'm starting to think that the way BF3 handles audio is kind of crappy, compared to bad company 2 it sounds flatter and less defined, but they've changed their audio engine in bf3 for something "better". I miss the eax days...

Level 7

I recorded this 4 u. pls use headphones (Stereo) and watch this video @ HD or higher. Thank u
Mainboard:ASUS +6H
GPU: GTX 1080 Auros Gigabyte
CPU: R5 1600X stock
PSU: Be quiet straight power 10 500W
RAM: Trident Z DDR4 3600 @3,2 Ghz CL16

Level 7
The Control Box on my Phoebus died the other day and Asus says that because it is a non-serialized accessory I can't get warranty work. So I yanked the Phoebus out of my system and went back to the Realtek onboard audio. It's a lot more clearer than the Phoebus, does surround a lot better and doesn't cause errors with Win 8 64. The only downside is that it's lacking punch as the output section is weak. Right now I'm deciding on which headphone amplifier to use with it. Was going to go cheap with a CMOY, but I'm thinking about spending a little over $100 on one.

One other thing that I'm experimenting with since Asus decided that the Control Box isn't covered under warranty is to try Razer Surround. It sounds really good and BF4 with it sounds delicious. I can hear every footstep and thus counter people trying to sneak up on me. It works really great! You'll ought to give it a try. I leave my PC in 7.1 mode and choose stereo headphone output in Razer Surround. This gives me an awesome surround experience in all games unlike the Phoebus that never got it completely right.

Level 8
I confirm that razer surround gives better results than dolby HT or xear surround, way better.