When people think of next-gen gaming, they often focus on the evolution of visuals. There’s no doubt that both Xbox Series X and Playstation 5 offer the next step in gaming graphics, but there’s more to the experience than just ray tracing and polygon counts. The new generation of hardware is all about upping the immersion in games, and some very big strides have been taken in the audio department. What you see on the screen gets you part of the way, but spatial audio can make you feel like you’re right there in the action.
Sony and Microsoft have included a litany of sound options on their new consoles, and they both push forward into the realm of spatial audio. The PS5 includes Tempest 3D AudioTech, which is a custom engine that pumps out 3D audio. On the Xbox Series X side of things, the platform includes Windows Sonic, Dolby ATMOS and DTS:X support for games. These options also allow players to enjoy the world of 3D audio. No matter what next-gen platform you’re playing on, you’ll be able to appreciate audio fidelity and positioning the likes of which you’ve never heard before.
While these platforms will aim to make the most of their 3D audio abilities, there are still some things players can do to enhance the experience. Putting in the time to set things up properly and learn what you’re working with can make a world of difference when you actually fire up a game. Below are some aspects of next-gen audio you’ll want to take advantage of before you jump into your new software.
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Setting up your setup
While PS5 and Xbox Series X both have incredible audio features, they have to work with the hardware you have at home. It’s true that the new tech in these machines will make any speaker setup sound better, but integrating these features with your output method is key. Running the wrong type of options for the speakers you have could lead to audio that is improperly mixed, crackly, or downright broken.
Adjust your PS5 and Xbox Series X audio options based on the setup you have. If you’re using standard TV speakers to get the job done, you might want to go with a traditional stereo option or a simulated 3D experience. For those with a home theater, make sure you adjust settings to match your gear. Do you have a 5.1 or 7.1 system? Is your audio hardware capable of processing Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD, AAC, and more? It might be time to dig up your receiver’s manual to get a clear answer on what it can do.
Once you have your next-gen system pumping out the appropriate signal, your next step is adjusting the placement of your speakers. Having all the speakers in the world won’t matter if you have them in the wrong place. 3D audio gives players the ability to hear exactly where enemies and gunfire are coming from. If your speakers aren’t placed correctly or have calibration issues, you might hear audio cues from the wrong direction, which could lead to an untimely in-game demise.
Most home theater setups offer a program that guides you through the positioning of your speakers. With a base 5.1 setup, you want the center speaker pointing pretty much directly at your sitting area. The rest of your speakers will circle around that, and they should all be pointed in the general vicinity of where you sit. As for the subwoofer, you always want that on the wall where your TV is placed. You can go with a corner placement for a bit more oomph, but anywhere along the front wall should do the trick.
Finally, it’s extremely important that all of your speakers are at the same level. You don’t want to have speakers that are positioned at all different heights around the room. This will lead to uneven audio, making some parts of your games louder or quieter than others. An uneven audio setup like this can really detract from your experience, especially when it comes to 3D audio.
Channeling your inner audio
With your 5.1 or 7.1 setups good to go, you’ll want to take things a step further by individually adjusting the levels of each speaker. You can tailor your audio experience to what your ears need, creating an environment that should immerse you in your games further.
We’ve all been in situations where we’re watching a movie and we can barely hear the dialog track. The same goes for action scenes that blow you away with their over-the-top levels of volume. While you can counter this by adjusting the regular volume on the fly, changing up the individual settings for your speakers is a much better approach. Your receiver will have numerous options for each speaker attached, letting you bump up or lower audio coming from each piece. This way you can have a center speaker that delivers clear and loud voice tracks above the action or explosions from the satellite speakers that won’t rock the neighborhood.
When playing a game with friends and family around, there’s no doubt you’ll want to go with your home theater or TV speaker setup. When showing off the latest next-gen game to your buds or getting in on local multiplayer with family, everyone around you will need to hear the audio. When it comes time for you to fly solo, you might want to consider grabbing a headset for even deeper audio enjoyment.
The 3D audio on Xbox Series X and Playstation 5 is going to sound amazing through a home theater, but it really can’t compare to a great headset. A home theater has to compete with ambient noise and the acoustics of your room. A headset will pump the audio directly into your ears, getting you as close to the action as possible. There’s truly no better way to immerse yourself in a game than with audio that’s practically inside your head.
While you can still get some of the 3D audio feel on the PS5 with a home theater, you actually can’t experience the full 3D audio suite without a headset. As of right now, the PS5 requires a headset to utilize Tempest 3D AudioTech. You’ll have to turn on this option on your PS5 in the settings once you have your headset ready to go. To get to the 3D Audio Profiles, go to Settings > Sound > Audio Output > Output Device. With your headset connected either via controller (if wired) or via wireless USB, make sure Enable 3D Audio is toggled on. There’s also a button below that says Adjust 3D Audio Profile, where you can choose the best 3D audio profile for your ears!
The situation on Xbox Series X isn’t as restrictive, but you’ll certainly get a much better 3D audio experience if you go the headset route. To change headset audio settings on Xbox Series X, press the Xbox button to open the guide and select Profile & system > Settings > General > Volume & audio output. Then under Headset audio, choose one of the options in the Headset format dropdown menu. You’ll be able to choose between Windows Sonic for Headphones (which is free), or Dolby Atmos for Headphones (sold separately). Whatever you decide, having surround sound provides a much more in-depth experience, and even offers a competitive advantage, so make sure you give it a try.
Turtle Beach offers countless headsets that are compatible with PS5 and Xbox Series X. Our options are the perfect companion for your 3D audio experience. Once you plug them in and give things a shot, there’s very little chance you’ll want to go back. The marriage of next-gen visuals with unbelievable audio creates a level of immersion that’s hard to come by in any other form of entertainment. Check out our various options and see which headset is the right one for you.
Many industry analysts and critics will cover processing power and visual bells and whistles in PS5 and Xbox Series X for years to come, but the 3D audio features in both platforms could end up being the real stars of the show. Fooling the eyes into thinking an on-screen image is real will always be tough. Some games will come close, while others will fall into the uncanny valley. Video game audio can get you much closer to a real-life experience, as the source itself is real. Actual cars, guns, and people are recorded to get 100% accurate audio for games. Enjoying that attention to detail with 3D audio will envelop you in ways that visuals may never be able to match.
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Kevin Cassidy has been covering all things Nintendo for over 15 years now and has been leading the weekly GoNintendo Podcast for just as long. Kevin is also quite passionate about pro wrestling, anime, comic books, and more! Follow Kevin on Twitter via @GoNintendoTweet.