Are Headphones Better Than Surround Sound? -Stereo or Surround Sound?

The most commonly available headphones in the market currently are stereo headphones. Most of us have owned a stereo headphone at least once till date. But why is it called ‘stereo’?

On the other hand, the term ‘surround sound’ has been associated with cinema halls or home theatre systems. So, what does surround sound headset mean?

To answer these questions, let’s dive in deep to understand how each works.

Stereo Headset

Stereo headsets feature two speakers on the right side and the left side. Sound is recorded on two independent channels and distributed through the respective speakers.

The result is a highly natural-like and superior sound quality.

The distance between the headphone driver (which is responsible for producing the sound that we hear) and our eardrums is usually very close. Thus, stereo headsets create a limited surround sound effect.

Currently, audio from radio, cinema, video games and others produce sound on two separate channels. Since, stereo headsets are capable of distinguishing and playing the sounds from two separate speakers, they make for an excellent purchase choice.

Surround Sound Headset

Surround sound headsets attempt to mimic the surround sound effect we enjoy in cinema halls. It tries to encase us in sound from every direction to amp up the immersive experience.

There are two types of surround sound headsets:

  • True Surround Sound

True surround sound follows the basic surround sound audio set-up we see in the home theatre system – multiple speakers are discreetly placed in each headset cup.

The several speakers can handle sounds coming from various channels. As sound enters our ears in multiple angles, listeners feel they are ‘surrounded’ with audio from all sides.

  • Virtual Surround Sound

Unlike true surround sound headsets, virtual surround sound headsets rely on only two speakers just like any other headphone in the market. The difference is that these headsets use a complex sound process to simulate the effect of multi-directional channels.

Virtual surround sound headsets redirect sound from the speaker in a way that it hits the outer-edges of your ears and rolls in over a period of time. Thus, this alteration makes it appear that sound is emanating from multiple sources rather than the two speakers. This is how it mimics surround sound effects.

Key Takeaway

Stereo headsets are cheaper, have a limited surround sound effect and most are quite sturdy.

Surround sound headsets are expensive but give you an incredibly immersive experience. Build of true surround sound headsets can be poor since companies have to balance between multiple speakers and cost of production.

On the other hand, virtual surround sound headsets have larger speakers. The sound produced by them is more powerful and dynamic.

In Conclusion

In the end, it depends on your usage.

Those using headsets for listening to music, audio-books, attending meetings and lectures and watching videos on YouTube or any other social media app can go for stereo headsets.

However, if you are an avid or professional gamer, or love watching movies and shows without having the option of speakers due to privacy or other reasons, going for a surround sound headset will certainly be worth it.

Vitaly Fedorov

Vitaly Fedorov is a seasoned audio technician and writer. After spending ten years in a studio team, I have decided to spread my knowledge to people in this domain. On this site, I work for headphone fixing or repair issues, that you’re thinking about fixing. Click on any article on my site and read the complete answer about that issue. I am excited to read your feedback.

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