Sound BlasterX G6 Virtual Surround Musings and Measurements

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by purr1n, Jan 7, 2022.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    The G6 was brought to my attention as an inexpensive and neat little hardware device to get that out-of-your-head experience while playing games or watching movies on the computer using headphones. You know, the immersive experience shit. This article will comprise a guide on how to set up the G6 for virtual surround (thanks to @Hands or whoever the original information came from), my two cents pertaining to sound quality and gaming features, and some measurements.

    5F4A0073 (Large).JPG

    First of all, let's get the easy stuff out of the way. The headphones output of the G6 is mediocre. Actually, it's kind of shitty -dirty sounding. Hard to explain, but I'd rather not use it. I haven't measured it yet, but knowing its design, I'm betting the typical suite of SINAD type measurements will be good. The problem is that sometimes the perceived differences are there, but the measurements are not the right ones. We'll see. I'll leave the measurbator stuff for last. As a DAC from the line outs in the back, the G6 is pretty good sounding. Hook up a cheap amp from the likes of iFi or Schiit, are we are done. However, this is extra work, and for movies or games, who really cares about audiophile sound quality?

    One interesting gaming feature that the G6 comes with is Scout Mode™. This is what their marketing people have to say about it:

    The Sound BlasterX G6 builds on Sound Blaster’s 30 years of audio processing experience! The technology that Sound Blaster has developed over 3 decades includes Scout Mode, which enhances in-game audio cues such as footsteps and weapon sounds to give you a tactical advantage in battle!​

    PXL_20220107_174847371.jpg

    I tried using Scout Mode. It sounds like maybe some EQ or compression. In the end, I would honestly say that Scout Mode not only sounds like shit but also fucks up spatial cues and puts sounds into a blender. Evidently some SB engineer went full retard with this Scout Mode shit (more likely their marketing department). Perhaps a True Gamer™ can chime in if they find that Scout Mode does something for them or if I am doing something wrong. I'm open to being wrong.

    Anyway, let me continue with the virtual surround using headphones setup... (Note: Windoze only)
     
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    Last edited: Jan 7, 2022
  2. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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  3. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    STEP 2: Set up Windoze shit

    Go into Control Panel -> Sound
    (or if you are a pro, err- that is hate the retardeded Windoze UI - type in the command line: mmsys.cpl)
    upload_2022-1-7_13-1-57.png

    Then do the following, hitting the Next button after each step.
    upload_2022-1-7_13-6-0.png
    upload_2022-1-7_13-6-48.png
     
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  4. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    STEP 3: Set up more Windoze shit

    Hit Properties this time, instead of Configure
    upload_2022-1-7_13-8-4.png
    upload_2022-1-7_13-9-2.png

    The next one is kind of important:
    upload_2022-1-7_13-9-37.png
     
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  5. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    STEP 4: Back to the SB Command App

    upload_2022-1-7_13-12-44.png

    Now set up an new SBX Profile to make it easy to switch modes. Here I created a custom profile and named it after @Hands.
    upload_2022-1-7_13-14-50.png

    Next turn on Surround and set from 50-100.
    Turn on Crystalizer but set to ZERO. Off disables the surround, so we need to have it on but set to 0.
    Turn off the rest of the shit (bass, smart volume dialog) because those sound like ass.
    upload_2022-1-7_13-16-45.png

    Finally, we are almost done. Just need to tweak the playback options for headphones.
    upload_2022-1-7_13-28-50.png

    Finally, click on setup (yellow arrow) to confirm 7.1:
    upload_2022-1-7_13-29-15.png
     
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  6. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    STEP 4A: Final touches if you plan on using this for a cheapass microphone.

    Almost any kind of processing from SB sounds like ass. Turn it off.
    upload_2022-1-7_13-35-16.png

    upload_2022-1-7_13-36-7.png

    Other Notes:

    Decoder: Dynamic range compressor. I don't bother, although this could be helpful.
    Equalizer: Nice options. Could cause latency while gaming.
     
  7. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    STEP 5: Game and Media Settings

    Game Settings
    • If your game lets you set the number of output channels, set it to 7.1 if able! Otherwise, 5.1.
    • If limited to stereo output in the game, it is still worth trying to see how it responds to the G6’s virtual surround. Some game are limited to stereo output but the G6 did some sort of voodoo magic for sound positioning in that game.
    • If no such options exist in a game, there is a decent chance it auto-detects the number of channels your device supports.
    • You will probably need to ensure games are set to something like speaker, surround, or home theater setup, and NOT headphone. We want the game to play back in multiple channels, so the G6 can mix that into virtual surround for headphones.
    • Turn off any virtual surround options in games that include them, such as Dolby Atmos (for headphones), Windows Sonic, and so on. It is not always clear if such settings are virtual surround specific to headphones or not.
    • Long story short, configure your games as best as possible, with whatever options they provide, to play in a multi-channel, non-headphone, surround format without their own digital processing of sorts.

    Media (Movies, Music, etc.) App Settings
    • Surround content: Same idea as games. Have your playback app play back in a multi-channel surround manner. Let the G6 take that and mix it into virtual surround for headphones.
    • Stereo content: Turn off Surround mode in SBX Profile.
     
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  8. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    Finally, watch the best live-action Transformers movie ever in virtual headphone surround that actually works* and doesn't sound like ass:

    OG Decepticons.jpg
    OG Autobots.jpg

    *To be clear, at least as well as it could with headphones, I mean real surround with speakers left, right, center, up, back, still works x10 better. The effect is not bad and I actually prefer movies like this. There's greater depth and of course surround and reverb effects, which are tastefully rendered.
     
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    Last edited: Jan 7, 2022
  9. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    Some SINAD measurements. Keep in mind that the output levels I use are lower than at ASR which uses 2Vrms. 2Vrms will kill many headphones that I use.

    Steady state 1kHz sine wave
    Approximately 0dBu (0.775Vrms) into 300-ohms (will drive HD650 to ~100db SPL)
    Low-gain setting on G6, optical input, external USB power brick
    upload_2022-1-7_14-9-56.png

    Steady state 1kHz sine wave
    Approximately -10dBu (0.245Vrms) into 32-ohms (will drive modern orthos to ~100db SPL)
    Low-gain setting on G6, optical input, external USB power brick
    upload_2022-1-7_14-17-25.png
     
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  10. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    I had to use optical because the the G6 ASIO results clipped with any signal above -11dbFS. I figured using the external USB power brick may not be representative of actual use cases where folks would just plug the G6 straight into a USB port. Here are the results where the power is obtained from the PC USB ports instead of an external USB power brick (which I happen to know performs well).

    Steady state 1kHz sine wave
    Approximately -10dBu (0.245Vrms) into 32-ohms (will drive modern orthos to ~100db SPL)
    Low-gain setting on G6, optical input, power taken from tower PC USB port (top of case)
    upload_2022-1-7_14-21-7.png

    Hmm, lets try from a "GOOD" USB port from a dedicated USB PCI card with the bus not shared with any other device:
    https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...usb-break-out-pci-usb-card-with-unison.11822/

    Steady state 1kHz sine wave
    Approximately -10dBu (0.245Vrms) into 32-ohms (will drive modern orthos to ~100db SPL)
    Low-gain setting on G6, optical input, power taken USB port from dedicated PCI card with unshared bus
    upload_2022-1-7_14-24-22.png
     
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  11. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    Now the question is, does the G6 sound better when I use external power? It's hard say. I won't bother testing because of one crucial reason: using an external USB brick and optical input defeats the strongest use case of the G6: virtual surround with headphones, which is only support via USB and Sound Blaster's excellent Command app. As I mentioned, I feel the headphone output circuit is the weak link. If it really matters that much, just use an external amp from the lineouts at the back of the G6.

    BTW, those are scared of soundcard crapware of ancient times need not be afraid. It's very polished, the app sits in the Windoze taskbar, and it's disabled when the G6 external soundcard is not attached. The app activates without any hiccups whenever I plug in the G6. I don't feel a need to remove the app when I'm not using it. It doesn't get into the way at all.
     
  12. señorhifi

    señorhifi Friend

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    Cool post. I like me a good post about cheap gear, that is easy to recommend to newcomers.

    I was looking at this back when I needed a cheap DAC. How does this sound compared to the Modi 3? I think the G6 uses a Cirrus Logic chip.
     
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  13. Taverius

    Taverius Smells like sausages

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    At least on my X4 any surround value above 30 introduces a really noticeable (and unpleasant) reverb.

    Other than that much the same, though I use it to send TOSLINK to my Yggdrasil since its literally on the same desk.

    I'll put together the images after lunch so people with newer devices (that have a different software/interface) can follow along since there's even more options.
     
  14. Taverius

    Taverius Smells like sausages

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    I believe the G6 works the same as my AE-5 and X4, in that sound sent to its SPDIF output is played mixed in your main sound, but unprocessed, even when using an Analog out - speakers/line or headphone.

    So you just send music to that instead of the main output (called Speakers, usually)

    [​IMG]
     
  15. Riotvan

    Riotvan Got lost for three weeks at Delft City Hall

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    So where do i plug in the memory for the wavetable?
     
  16. billbishere

    billbishere Acquaintance

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    @purr1n this is cool, thanks for the writeup. Have you ever tried using the "dolby atmos for headphones" thing that you can get on the MS store?

    https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/p/dolby-access/9n0866fs04w8?activetab=pivot:overviewtab

    I would be curious to know how they compare. I have tried many of these virtual surrounds, all the way back to the razer one that they came out with some years back. None have been great and most of them complete shit but, I always felt like the Dolby Atmos for Headphones was the best of all of them.
     
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  17. Taverius

    Taverius Smells like sausages

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    IMO Atmos is the least offensive of the 3 software offerings - Windows Sonic, Dolby Atmos, DTS Headphone:X - with the least artifacts but also the least effect as far as sound localization.

    DTS has noticeably more distinct sound placement, but also more artifacts, while Sonic is better than nothing as far as placement, and it is free.

    IMO, Creative's Acoustic Engine can get better spatialization than DTS with as few artifacts as Dolby.
     
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  18. Taverius

    Taverius Smells like sausages

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    Creative Super X-Fi products guide

    STEP 1: Software

    Go to your products support page – or use the QR on your manual. For example:

    creative.com/support/SBX4

    Scroll to the bottom, download the application and install it, open it.

    Presumably this guide is valid for any device using the new Creative App on Mac or Windows, but in any case I can only confirm for an X4 on Windows 10.

    [​IMG]
    Go to settings, device.
    1. Update Firmware
    2. Update Driver
    3. If you’re only going to use it with a PC or Mac, set that here so it sets itself as a UAC2 USB device. This generally causes less issues with Operating Systems that support this.

    [​IMG]
    Go to settings, application.
    1. Update Application, although it should ask on startup if it is out of date.

    [​IMG]
    Register the device.
    1. This may help with RMA claims? Up to you. In any case, hit the little person icon in the top right, login or register, go to Products and click Register Products
     
  19. Taverius

    Taverius Smells like sausages

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    STEP 2: Playback

    Most Creative Labs devices will present 2 Audio devices to your system – at least on Windows – and mix the sound of both to whatever output you’re using.

    This lets you pipe games/movies to one device that has spatial tricks enabled, and music/voice comms to the other that just outputs without processing

    The proper settings for this should in theory be set on first install but its good to double check.

    [​IMG]
    “Speakers” is your Surround-processed device. Click the 3-dot icon next to it.
    1. Set it as Default Device if it is not already.

    [​IMG]
    “SPDIF Out” is your unprocessed device. Click the 3-dot icon next to it.
    1. Set it as Default Communication Device if it is not already.

    Next you want to set base steps for virtual surround.

    If you’re using the headphone output:
    [​IMG]
    • Click the 3-dot icon next to Headphones
    [​IMG]
    1. Set the configuration to Virtual 7.1 Surround
    2. Set your amplifier gain. I suggest trying Normal first as High is extremely loud even with high impedance dynamics
    3. Tell it you’re not a moron and to save your gain setting. Unless you or someone in your house is – or is very young, in which case maybe leave it off.
    There’s no reason to go into the sound control panel, speaker range is set to full automatically.


    If you’re using the Speaker or Optical output to connect to an Amp or DAC:
    [​IMG]
    • Click the 3-dot icon next to Speakers (Line Out)
    [​IMG]
    1. Set the configuration to 7.1 Surround
    2. Enable Headphone Virtualization for Line Out
    3. Tell it your speakers are Full-range
    4. And that they are Towers
     
  20. Taverius

    Taverius Smells like sausages

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    STEP 3: Recording

    Double check your sound inputs are correct so preteens can hear your racial slurs when you PWN them like its 1969.


    What U Hear is a recording of the output. You usually want this to be the default device so your Certified Gamer Moment Tiktoks will have game audio.

    Click the 3-dot icon next to it.
    [​IMG]
    1. Set it as Default Device


    If you have your microphone connected to any of the other inputs, you’ll want that to be your default communication device.

    Click the 3-dot icon next to it.
    [​IMG]
    1. Set it as Default Communication Device
     

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