Razer Surround software adds 7.1 virtual sound to any stereo headset

Last week, Razer promised to offer up a "Revolution" and today their teaser campaign ended with the reveal of a new product: Razer Surround. It's a Windows-based software program that promises to offer some extra features for any stereo headset.

Razer's press release states:

With the patent-pending Razer Surround audio engine, users have the option to calibrate their personal surround sound settings through a series of listening tests to match their preferences, giving them far superior positional sound over traditional virtual solutions. Razer Surround gives gamers a truly individualized 7.1 surround sound and attuned 3D audio experience, allowing them to acoustically pinpoint exact locations of opponents in game, providing “the unfair advantage” in gameplay.

Razer says the new program will also be integrated with its Razer Synapse 2.0 application that will allow its users to store any Razer Surround settings on a cloud server. The program also has pre-calibrated settings for all of Razer's own headset products.

The program is normally priced at $19.99, but from now until January 1st, 2014, the company is offering Razer Surround for free for Windows Vista, 7 and 8. However, anyone who downloads the software will by given an option to donate any amount to the Child's Play charity.

Source: Razer | Image via Razer

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The software works. But all my games do not work anymore. Even after uninstalling Razer Surround and updating graphics drivers, D3D is gone. Guess I will have to reinstall my OS.

Not exactly. The software digitally processes the sound as 8 channels; it applies effects to each channel separately meant to simulate surround sound. For rear channels it does add some reverb (echo) and delay because it is simulating the sound bouncing off walls in the rooms before it reaches your ears. It also cuts the high frequency to simulate the sound waves passing through the back skin of your ears. All of this is meant to fool your brain into thinking the sound came from behind you. Your brain is way smarter than this software, the illusion will only be so/so at best.

Left and Right channels go directly into the head phones with no effects (might do some EQ), and the Center just go to Left and Right together. You should not notice that same "large room echo" you described interfering with your ability to understand speech.

Everything I just said assumes that you start with a 7.1 audio source. If you are playing basic stereo and it is both encoding the surround sound and simulating it...the results will probably be bad. I am a big fan of listening to things as they are. If it is a stereo source, listen in stereo. If it is surround sound, then use surround sound. I have a 5.1 system that costs about $2,000 (just for sound, not TV or other equipment). Even with all of that, I set my receiver to stereo when its a stereo source, yes, it means some of my nice speakers are not doing anything, but I prefer hearing exactly what I was meant to hear.

My cheap 30$ and 5 year old Phillips Headphones have been upgraded!

I don't care what other says negatively about this software. It is working good as an audio quality enhancer.

Can't truly notice the sound direction, though.

My USB headphones come with software that does the same thing but only works with the headphones (naturally). So grabbed this so can use any headphones and still get it! neat

I think before this everyone needs to try SRS Audio Essentials (previously SRS Audio Sandbox) which does exactly this, and further improves audio over your speakers too.

Based on the shots on the web page, the SRS software only does 5.1. Not as whizz-bang awesome as 7.1.

Plus, Razer is free. This is limited if you don't purchase.

HisDivineOrder said,
Based on the shots on the web page, the SRS software only does 5.1. Not as whizz-bang awesome as 7.1.

Plus, Razer is free. This is limited if you don't purchase.

7.1 might sound better, but even in real surround sound setup, the difference is almost unnoticeable. Considering this is simulated surround sound, I doubt it makes any difference at all.

Apart from totally bah-bah-booming bass the demo was not very convincing, for me. I've tried actual 7.1 (Vengeance) back when they appeared and even then it quickly grew tiring instead of immersive. I have wrong kind of ears, I guess. Same with 3D, though.

Phouchg said,
Apart from totally bah-bah-booming bass the demo was not very convincing, for me. I've tried actual 7.1 (Vengeance) back when they appeared and even then it quickly grew tiring instead of immersive. I have wrong kind of ears, I guess. Same with 3D, though.

Vengeance by Corsair? Not actual 7.1 channels. Still virtual.

Phouchg said,
Apart from totally bah-bah-booming bass the demo was not very convincing, for me. I've tried actual 7.1 (Vengeance) back when they appeared and even then it quickly grew tiring instead of immersive. I have wrong kind of ears, I guess. Same with 3D, though.

The demo is completely dramatized on the site. It doesn't sound anything like that through the headphones.

Having installed the software and tried running through the calibration and stuff, it does do a fairly convincing job.

The front 'speakers' are always clear and sharp. These seem to come from the upper-most point in your ear. So far, so good.

In order to represent the rear, it seems to basically muffle and deaden the sound. This gives it (for some reason) the illusion of coming from a (physically) lower point in your ear. So far, so good, I guess. If you don't have a proper set up.

Also a warning, it does mess up your current sound config a little. So to revert back you have to disable the virtual speakers it has created in your "playback" devices. (Edit: Got that wrong, you just have to disable the virtual setting in the software, not the virtual speakers completely.)

I played a few minutes in 'Payday: The Heist' (great game) and I can see that it would be effective once you've gotten used to it. The over "muffly-bass" effect does dampen a lot of the weapon sounds though. The ricochets and rear bullet hits sound very different to when they come from the proper rear surrounds on my Z5400.

Overall, it's good for some light gaming at night so that you don't disturb people, but let's be honest, it won't replace a real system. (Not that it is meant to.)

I'd certainly recommend it if you don't mind "learning" how to distinguish the sounds also.

I think that rather than creating a horizontal (front-rear) surround, it seems to (in my head anyway) create a vertical (front-upper and front-lower) speaker set up in the ears. This is what might take getting used to.

Edited by lunamonkey, Jun 25 2013, 9:48pm :

Probably not as good as real surround sound. Simulated surround sound works by applying audio filters to the different channels. Each filter is meant to approximate the way sound waves bounce around in your ear from different angles.

Anytime you try to fool your brain the results are so/so at best...similar to the how 3D video doesn't exactly look real.

Didn't creative have this in their software like 8 years ago? I remember it being one of the software packages bundled with a sound card I bought. Think an X-FI.

I guess this is apple style "revolutionary"

NastySasquatch said,
Didn't creative have this in their software like 8 years ago? I remember it being one of the software packages bundled with a sound card I bought. Think an X-FI.

I guess this is apple style "revolutionary"

The difference is that it can be used with any headset, not only Razer's.

sviola said,

The difference is that it can be used with any headset, not only Razer's.

Umm it worked with every headset I ever plugged into my computer, even the ones from the dollar store.

And I can't recall if it was virtual 5.1 or 7.1, but I'm pretty sure 6 months later the X-FI I got for my laptop had virtual 7.1 surround sound. It even worked well with the unpowered speakers I ran off of it. They had this little helicopter sound to test it and it worked flawlessly.

Yep that's right, Creative had a USB unit that provided virtual 7.1 surround sound to any set of headphones or speakers you plugged into it. Like 8 years ago.

PsYcHoKiLLa said,
Those only go to 5.1, this goes to 7.1....It's 2 louder

I realize your trolling... but the 5.1 and the 7.1 refer to the number of speakers. And when you are talking about virtual surround you are talking about 360 degrees of simultation so the 5.1 vs 7.1 is just a gimmick to trick customers at that point. It's still 2 not even 2.1.

Now someone needs to make a program to make wired headphones wireless and I'll regret buying G930 a few ago for like 90$.

You can get a kit for like 20 bucks, don't need an application. IMO every wireless headphone I have ever tried was junk. You get better sound with dixie cups and string.

NastySasquatch said,
You can get a kit for like 20 bucks, don't need an application. IMO every wireless headphone I have ever tried was junk. You get better sound with dixie cups and string.

You surely never tried Sennheiser RS 170 and 180.

NastySasquatch said,
You can get a kit for like 20 bucks, don't need an application. IMO every wireless headphone I have ever tried was junk. You get better sound with dixie cups and string.
I'm interested to hear what wireless headphones have you tried. You're exaggerating a lot with that "better sound with dixie cups and string". The sound quality is actually amazing on G930, both with the virtual surround on (for games and movies) and stereo (for music). You can pinpoint footsteps with ease in CS for example and hear the bullets fly around you in action heavy scenes in movies. When I'm watching a movie alone late at night and don't want to wake up the neighbors, I actually enjoy watching it with the headphones on and don't feel like I'm missing out by not using my Z906 setup.

And I was joking about the program making wired headphones wireless. And the reason I specifically said "program", is because all those "turn your wired headphones to wireless" kits are a joke, as it isn't really makes the wires disappear and disturb you. It just extends the range that you can use the headphone from the pc/audio system.

NastySasquatch said,
You get better sound with dixie cups and string.

Phones are mobile now. The kids don't use the string any more.

NastySasquatch said,
You can get a kit for like 20 bucks, don't need an application. IMO every wireless headphone I have ever tried was junk. You get better sound with dixie cups and string.

It depends on the quality of the wireless transmission system. A cheesy $20 transmitter/receiver will sound thin and cheap, you get what you pay for. Some people say the same thing about wireless microphones, that they sound like crap, and maybe at the $100 level they do, but if you pay about $400 then you get one that sounds just as good as a wired microphone.

sphbecker said,

It depends on the quality of the wireless transmission system. A cheesy $20 transmitter/receiver will sound thin and cheap, you get what you pay for. Some people say the same thing about wireless microphones, that they sound like crap, and maybe at the $100 level they do, but if you pay about $400 then you get one that sounds just as good as a wired microphone.

This is very true, but to my ears even the very spendy wireless headphones don't sound as good as even a cheap set of sennheisers.

Again it's because you never tried a good set of digital wireless headphones.

The Sennheiser RS 170 and 180 transmit digitally. There's absolutely no loss in the transmission of the signal. If you think otherwise you're mistaken.

Now of course they don't sound as good as equally priced wired headphones cause the transmitter is not free and you got to pay for it. I think the RS 170 is something like 300$ CAD and sounds probably like a 80$-100$ CAD or something pair of heaphones. But the RS 170 and 180 definately sound better than some 20$ wired crap you can buy here and there.

While i would not use my RS 170 to listen to music it's definately good enough to watch movies or play 360 single player games at night without any wire getting in the way.

NastySasquatch said,

This is very true, but to my ears even the very spendy wireless headphones don't sound as good as even a cheap set of sennheisers.

If you bought a pro audio sennheiser wireless transmitter (the kind designed for on stage guitars) it would sound great...problem is that those cost about $400 and no one is going to pay that kind of money for headphones. I stick to wired myself.

LaP said,
The Sennheiser RS 170 and 180 transmit digitally. There's absolutely no loss in the transmission of the signal. If you think otherwise you're mistaken.

This is far from true. I am sure they sound very good. But the physics dictates that it is impossible to convert a signal from analog to digital without sampling it. By definition sampling is just that, it takes some but not all of the signal. The question is if it takes enough of the signal to sound good enough. The more you pay, the higher the sampling rate will be, at some point it becomes high enough to not matter. This is way pro audio wireless does NOT use digital transmission.

sphbecker said,

This is far from true. I am sure they sound very good. But the physics dictates that it is impossible to convert a signal from analog to digital without sampling it. By definition sampling is just that, it takes some but not all of the signal. The question is if it takes enough of the signal to sound good enough. The more you pay, the higher the sampling rate will be, at some point it becomes high enough to not matter. This is way pro audio wireless does NOT use digital transmission.

If you read my reply you'll see i said there's no loss in the transmission. Unlike radio frenq wireless headphones. Which is true. I did not talk about the sampling or anything like that.

Of course the headphones wont do as good as a 700$ receiver. But it is good enough and definately lot better than all radio frenq headphones i used. And i don't like to have a long cable running from my heaphones to my chest going thru my legs etc etc etc.

I like the freedom of being able to move anywehere in my house and still get the sound of my hockey game. In fact i still get the sound outside my house.

With radio frenq wireless headphones you don't have to move a lot to get interference. Just moving the head while still sitting on a chair is usually enough.

Edited by LaP, Jun 27 2013, 2:27pm :

I do know the difference between analaog and digital transmission and ALL of the ramifications of it. To be honest I don't like digital sound quality in 90% of cases. I loathe MP3s and even FLAC is barely tolerable. Thus as I said before, to my ears ALL wireless headphones sound terrible. And most of the wireless transmitters involve multiple conversions between analog to digital to analog and every time you lose quality.

NastySasquatch said,
I do know the difference between analaog and digital transmission and ALL of the ramifications of it. To be honest I don't like digital sound quality in 90% of cases. I loathe MP3s and even FLAC is barely tolerable. Thus as I said before, to my ears ALL wireless headphones sound terrible. And most of the wireless transmitters involve multiple conversions between analog to digital to analog and every time you lose quality.

Sounds like you never used ANY wireless headphones of any kind and just speaking out of your ass just to make noise.