Headphone virtualization is a sound-processing technique where a user gets a surround sound experience despite utilizing standard stereo headphones by embedding a digital signal processing (DSP)-based chip or sound card on his/her computer. The user then enables the surround sound capability through the computer’s operating system (OS) or sound card firmware or driver.
In headphone virtualization, therefore, standard stereo headphones are made surround sound-capable without physically changing it. The feature addition is done on the system it’s connected to instead.
Read More about Headphone Virtualization
Did you know that Microsoft Windows Vista was the first OS to make headphone virtualization possible?
How Does Standard Stereo Sound Differ from Surround Sound?
The easiest way to differentiate the two is based on their origins.
Standard stereo sound typically comes from a single source—in front of the listener. When you watch TV at home, provided you don’t connect the TV set to speakers spread around your house, the sound comes from the set in front of you.
Surround sound, meanwhile, comes from all around the listener, hence its name. When you have a movie night at home and connect your TV to speakers spread throughout the room, you are enjoying surround sound.
Here are simple diagrams to show the difference between the two.
Left: Surround sound; Right: Standard stereo sound
How Does Headphone Virtualization Work?
Standard stereo headphones, as mentioned earlier, can give a listener the surround-sound experience through headphone virtualization. How?
You should know that two-channel or standard stereo headphones can’t deliver Dolby 5.1 or better sound performance but surround sound-capable headphones can. But headphone virtualization can deliver sound like it’s coming from all around the listener instead of streaming sound straight into the user’s ears.
What Are the Kinds of Headphone Virtualization?
There are three kinds of headphone virtualization, namely:
- Surround sound virtualization: Using surround sound virtualization algorithms gives users a realistic surround sound experience while wearing headphones.
- 3D audio virtualization: Utilizing 3D audio virtualization algorithms allows users to enjoy a realistic 3D audio experience while wearing headphones. It is beneficial for those who want to be immersed in games or virtual environments.
- Spatial audio virtualization: Using spatial audio virtualization algorithms let users enjoy a real sense of space and distance while wearing their headphones. It also makes games or virtual environments more immersive.
What Benefits Does Headphone Virtualization Provide?
Headphone virtualization provides several advantages, including:
- Immersive audio experience: Headphone virtualization lets users enjoy surround sound or 3D audio via their headphones, giving them a more immersive audio experience than traditional stereo headphones.
- Convenience: Headphone virtualization lets users feel surrounded by sound even if they’re not enclosed by multiple speakers or don’t use a surround sound system. Headphone virtualization is handy for those on the go or with limited space for a surround sound system.
- Compatibility: Headphone virtualization is compatible with many devices, including computers, smartphones, and gaming consoles.
Are All Headphones Headphone Virtualization-Capable?
Unfortunately, not all headphones can support headphone virtualization. Your headphones must be able to reproduce processed audio signals accurately. As such, headphones like those with open-back or semi-open designs may not be headphone virtualization-capable because of their design.
What’s the Difference between Headphone Virtualization and Noise Canceling?
Headphone virtualization and noise canceling differ. While headphone virtualization lets users experience surround sound or 3D audio through headphones, noise canceling reduces unwanted background noise using algorithms to cancel out noise. Note, though, that some headphones may have both headphone virtualization and noise-canceling capabilities.
Headphone virtualization makes gaming, watching movies, taking virtual tours, and other sound-accompanied activities become more immersive. It lets users feel surrounded by sound instead of being blasted by sound from what seems to be a single source.
- Headphone virtualization is a sound-processing technique where a user gets a surround sound experience despite utilizing standard stereo headphones by embedding a DSP-based chip or sound card on his/her computer. The user then enables the surround sound capability through the computer’s OS or sound card firmware or driver.
- Standard stereo sound typically comes from a single source—in front of the listener—as when you watch TV at home, provided it’s not connected to speakers around your house. Surround sound, meanwhile, comes from all around the listener, as when you have a movie night at home and connect your TV to speakers spread throughout the room.
- There are three kinds of headphone virtualization—surround sound, 3D audio, and spatial audio virtualization.
- Headphone virtualization offers users an immersive audio experience, convenience, and compatibility.