For the past decade or so I've been playing video games with an X-Fi Creative Sound card which has the ability to convert a 3D surround sound signal into a very believable emulation for 2 ears. Basically I specify on my computer I'm running 5.1 or 7.1 surround (so Windows thinks I'm running surround), but specify in the sound card console that it should convert a surround signal into headphones. It's called CMSS-3D Headphone and it sounds like those binaural recording demonstrations on Youtube (not as good as those, but still good).

I have been looking into building a new gaming PC and read everywhere that sound cards are no longer needed; they are yesterday's technology. But then how do I get 3D sound to my headphones? Do people just not do this anymore?

Even more perplexing is I came across a 5-year-old reddit thread that asks, "Why isn't binaural audio used in gaming?" But that is exactly how I have been playing my video games for the last 10 years! Is this some sort of lost forgotten technology, like the myths of Atlantis or something? https://www.reddit.com/r/truegaming/comments/126fjp/why_isnt_binaural_audio_used_in_gaming/

2 Answers 2


While it's not something I've looked deeply into, it appears that virtual surround sound has moved to the headset itself. Headsets in combination with their software drivers are simulating the surround sound experience.

I recently purchased a new gaming headset from Logitech and it offered virtual surround sound. The software that came with it, provides the emulated surround sound. It works, somewhat. However it is not a high end headset. Perhaps more expensive model will provide a better experience.

  • 1
    I did some more research. I was reading some forums from years/decades ago and also recent ones, comparing CMSS-3D to Dolby Headphone and other technologies and it seems like CMSS-3D is still the gold standard, so I have to literally keep using my decades-old x-Fi card in order to get good 3D sound in games because this is becoming a lost ancient powerful technology that no one cares about, like Greek fire.
    – pete
    Oct 18, 2018 at 21:22

Answer/update to my own question: So I ended up buying the Sound Blaster AE-7 about a year ago; it does pretty much the same thing as CMSS-3D did, but under a different name/branding, called SBX. There are some subtle differences and some people claim CMSS-3D (older technology) is superior, but they are very similar and the new binaural technology is definitely suitable for my purposes, and still better than most of the competition such as Dolby Headphone.

By the way, they have an even newer binaural technology called "SXFI". This is not as good as SBX for most purposes, and sounds "roomy" like Dolby Headphone; I wrote about it in my review of a different product I ended up returning https://www.reddit.com/r/SoundBlasterOfficial/comments/du4ucb/sxfi_sounds_like_it_was_meant_to_simulate_an/

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