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Creative Sound Blaster Tactic 3D Sigma Review

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sp4nky 22nd January 2011, 13:23 Quote
Is it better than the Creative HS-1100 Sound Blaster Arena?
Kiytan 22nd January 2011, 13:41 Quote
How good the 3D/surround sound element of it is? (as I suppose it's fairly important, given it's in the name :P)
sear 22nd January 2011, 17:37 Quote
Well made? Really? It looks like cheap crap to me, to be honest... cheap plastic, cheap earcups and cheap cables. While I understand that you're also getting a microphone and USB adapter for your money, you can easily get a good pair of $50 USD AKGs or Sennheisers that likely make this thing look - and likely sound - like the overpriced junk it really is. Hell, even the venerable $30 Koss PortaPro headphones look more solidly built than that the Sigma.

The Crystalizer stuff is a huge gimmick and, to be straightforward, sounds like ****ing ****. It adds tons of distortion and better results can easily be achieved using a simple graphic EQ, which nearly any sound card has. Seriously, go into your EQ settings and boost everything over about 5-10 Khz by about 10 dB, maybe cut out some mids as well. Bam, instant "Crystallization".

The only thing worth mentioning is the supposed built-in surround effect. However, this is useless if you already have a sound card capable of using HRTF to provide surround audio - it works brilliantly in most games using my X-Fi Titanium, and while it does modify the audio and reduce bass levels a little, it also makes sound feel much more natural, similar to what a good headphone amp might do to simulate natural room reverb. Not sure if the Asus Xonar cards do this, but either way, chances are that most gamers with discrete sound cards won't need this feature.
mrbens 22nd January 2011, 20:12 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by sear
Not sure if the Asus Xonar cards do this, but either way, chances are that most gamers with discrete sound cards won't need this feature.

Firstly, calm down dear! Secondly the Xonar software has Dolby Headphone virtual surround sound. I find it degrades the sound quality thought and makes it echoey, so I normally watch films in stereo if using my headphones.

lol @
Quote:
Concluision
The Sigma [is] a somewhat schizophrenic beast.

The review was going well until that point. :)
sear 22nd January 2011, 22:10 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by mrbens
Firstly, calm down dear! Secondly the Xonar software has Dolby Headphone virtual surround sound. I find it degrades the sound quality thought and makes it echoey, so I normally watch films in stereo if using my headphones.
You need to use a 5.1 source (set your system in 5.1 mode) before enabling the headphone effect. This happens with CMSS-3D as well; the software needs to know where sound is coming from in order to perform the proper HRTF processing. I have seen many, many reviews of simulated 5.1 hardware and software, and almost every single one never even bothers to set the source to a surround source... there's no point in trying to stretch two audio channels across six.
memeroot 22nd January 2011, 22:30 Quote
my akg's weren't $50 but I have no doubt put these to shame... having said that I listened to some bose headphones today that cost twice the price of these and the 20 quid pair of gaming cans my wife picked up sounded better.... they couldn't even play the demo without breaking up.
feathers 23rd January 2011, 12:56 Quote
Don't even bother setting the source to 5.1 with headphones. I have tested a number of surround headphones that use multiple drivers in each ear and the so-called surround sound is fake. Doesn't matter what your surround sound settings are or which soundcard you have (I had the XFI Fatal1ty Titanium until I ditched it for the superior Auzentech X-Meridian 2G).

Even the surround on the most expensive headphones (Psyko 5.1) is inferior to surround speakers. I have ditched my surround headphones and purchased Logitech X-540 speakers. I have been blown away by the sound quality. The X-540 sound very good even with music. Surround in games is actually very convincing now. I can hear when something is in front or to the sides or behind.

The biggest problem with surround headphones is that they can't actually project sound in front of you. The sound will only ever be in between your ears or off to the sides or behind.

The problem is that people convince themselves the surround effect is real with headphones. All it takes is a simple test using positional audio to determine just how ineffective surround headphones are.
wafflesomd 23rd January 2011, 18:58 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by feathers


The biggest problem with surround headphones is that they can't actually project sound in front of you. The sound will only ever be in between your ears or off to the sides or behind.

What would projecting sound from the front of you help? The whole point of attenuation for a psuedo surround effect is to give you aural feedback to make the user aware of things outside of their field of view.
sear 24th January 2011, 00:29 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by feathers
Don't even bother setting the source to 5.1 with headphones. I have tested a number of surround headphones that use multiple drivers in each ear and the so-called surround sound is fake. Doesn't matter what your surround sound settings are or which soundcard you have (I had the XFI Fatal1ty Titanium until I ditched it for the superior Auzentech X-Meridian 2G).

Even the surround on the most expensive headphones (Psyko 5.1) is inferior to surround speakers. I have ditched my surround headphones and purchased Logitech X-540 speakers. I have been blown away by the sound quality. The X-540 sound very good even with music. Surround in games is actually very convincing now. I can hear when something is in front or to the sides or behind.

The biggest problem with surround headphones is that they can't actually project sound in front of you. The sound will only ever be in between your ears or off to the sides or behind.

The problem is that people convince themselves the surround effect is real with headphones. All it takes is a simple test using positional audio to determine just how ineffective surround headphones are.
Surround headphones suck, yes, but regular headphones, especially ones with a decent sound stage, work great with simulated 5.1. HRTF algorithms can be extremely convincing - try looking up a binaural recording on YouTube as an example, that's pretty much what CMSS-3D and Dolby Headphone try to do, and are mostly successful at. Sure, not as good as "the real thing" but not everybody has the space for surround speakers, and personally I prefer the character and isolation of headphones.
feathers 24th January 2011, 01:28 Quote
I have listed to a few of those demos on youtube and they aren't too bad but still not accurate positional audio for gaming. What does impress though is that the sound is so spacious that there are times when I have taken my headphones off convinced that the sound is coming through my speakers when it actually wasn't.

I had CMSS-3d on Creative Titanium Fatal1ty and my headphones are 135 pound Sennheisser HD595, still no convincing positional audio. I actually think the youtube 3d sound videos were more convincing than anything I've heard from CMSS-3D.

I don't have a lot of space for speakers and I didn't think I could accomodate a set of 5.1. In actual fact it was easy. I bought a set of surround speaker stands (4 stands), I have the front left and right speaker on stands just in front (either side) of me. The center speaker attaches to the top of my samsung monitor, the subwoofer is on the floor and the 2 x rear speakers are on the wall behind me. It blows any surround headphones away. Late at night though I'd be forced to use my senheisser HD595 to avoid waking people. Thus I'd have to suffer the fake 3d sound until the daylight hours.

Also I must say ditching the creative titanium for an auzentech x-meridian 2g was the right choice. The drivers with the meridian aren't heavy on resources like the creative drivers. They don't crash the pc when changing sound mode. In fact u don't have to change sound mode like you do with the XFI and of course the audio quality is far superior even without upgrading the 4 x socketed opamps.
sear 24th January 2011, 02:25 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by feathers
I have listed to a few of those demos on youtube and they aren't too bad but still not accurate positional audio for gaming. What does impress though is that the sound is so spacious that there are times when I have taken my headphones off convinced that the sound is coming through my speakers when it actually wasn't.

I had CMSS-3d on Creative Titanium Fatal1ty and my headphones are 135 pound Sennheisser HD595, still no convincing positional audio. I actually think the youtube 3d sound videos were more convincing than anything I've heard from CMSS-3D.

I don't have a lot of space for speakers and I didn't think I could accomodate a set of 5.1. In actual fact it was easy. I bought a set of surround speaker stands (4 stands), I have the front left and right speaker on stands just in front (either side) of me. The center speaker attaches to the top of my samsung monitor, the subwoofer is on the floor and the 2 x rear speakers are on the wall behind me. It blows any surround headphones away. Late at night though I'd be forced to use my senheisser HD595 to avoid waking people. Thus I'd have to suffer the fake 3d sound until the daylight hours.

Also I must say ditching the creative titanium for an auzentech x-meridian 2g was the right choice. The drivers with the meridian aren't heavy on resources like the creative drivers. They don't crash the pc when changing sound mode. In fact u don't have to change sound mode like you do with the XFI and of course the audio quality is far superior even without upgrading the 4 x socketed opamps.
Like I said, CMSS-3D only works if you've got it set up right... if a game uses EAX it should work just fine, otherwise you have to make sure the game is actually using 5.1 audio, and that the Creative control panel is set to use CMSS-3D Headphone mode (not speaker mode, which is meant for widening the soundstage with regular surround speakers). It works really, really well in games, especially OpenAL titles... playing Killing Floor, I'm easily able to hear monsters sneaking up behind me, for instance, and can even pinpoint them at odd angles. For reference, I'm using Sennheiser HD 280 Pros, which are closed headphones, so the difference might be more apparent than using open-back ones.

I will say that the Creative drivers are indeed bloated and horrible... they've got bugs, they don't uninstall properly, and I've even had an operating system become irreparably corrupted thanks to them. For the last couple years I've been using modified PAX drivers, however, which generally don't have any of the problems of the Creative drivers, and actually sound much, much better as well... way more detail and precision in the sound, it's almost like having a hardware upgrade.
feathers 24th January 2011, 08:50 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by sear
Quote:
Originally Posted by feathers
I have listed to a few of those demos on youtube and they aren't too bad but still not accurate positional audio for gaming. What does impress though is that the sound is so spacious that there are times when I have taken my headphones off convinced that the sound is coming through my speakers when it actually wasn't.

I had CMSS-3d on Creative Titanium Fatal1ty and my headphones are 135 pound Sennheisser HD595, still no convincing positional audio. I actually think the youtube 3d sound videos were more convincing than anything I've heard from CMSS-3D.

I don't have a lot of space for speakers and I didn't think I could accomodate a set of 5.1. In actual fact it was easy. I bought a set of surround speaker stands (4 stands), I have the front left and right speaker on stands just in front (either side) of me. The center speaker attaches to the top of my samsung monitor, the subwoofer is on the floor and the 2 x rear speakers are on the wall behind me. It blows any surround headphones away. Late at night though I'd be forced to use my senheisser HD595 to avoid waking people. Thus I'd have to suffer the fake 3d sound until the daylight hours.

Also I must say ditching the creative titanium for an auzentech x-meridian 2g was the right choice. The drivers with the meridian aren't heavy on resources like the creative drivers. They don't crash the pc when changing sound mode. In fact u don't have to change sound mode like you do with the XFI and of course the audio quality is far superior even without upgrading the 4 x socketed opamps.
Like I said, CMSS-3D only works if you've got it set up right... if a game uses EAX it should work just fine, otherwise you have to make sure the game is actually using 5.1 audio, and that the Creative control panel is set to use CMSS-3D Headphone mode (not speaker mode, which is meant for widening the soundstage with regular surround speakers). It works really, really well in games, especially OpenAL titles... playing Killing Floor, I'm easily able to hear monsters sneaking up behind me, for instance, and can even pinpoint them at odd angles. For reference, I'm using Sennheiser HD 280 Pros, which are closed headphones, so the difference might be more apparent than using open-back ones.

I will say that the Creative drivers are indeed bloated and horrible... they've got bugs, they don't uninstall properly, and I've even had an operating system become irreparably corrupted thanks to them. For the last couple years I've been using modified PAX drivers, however, which generally don't have any of the problems of the Creative drivers, and actually sound much, much better as well... way more detail and precision in the sound, it's almost like having a hardware upgrade.

I'm sure u can hear monsters behind you. What I found is that surround on headphone can project the sound behind you, what it can't do is project the sound in front (thus there was no discernible difference between sound in front or behind). I did have the CMSS-3d setup correctly and played a variety of games from CSS to bad company 2. I didn't try the modified pax drivers.

I guess the most you can hope for with headphone surround is to learn to distinguish between sound behind you and sound to the side or between your ears. More than 10 years ago I remember a 3d sound demo played on the radio in the UK. With just 2 normal speakers in a room the sound was projected far behind my seating position and above my head too as I recall. It was distorted but the 3d sound was far more convincing than anything I've heard via CMSS-3d. CMSS should be called 2.5d really.
feathers 24th January 2011, 13:23 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by wafflesomd
Quote:
Originally Posted by feathers


The biggest problem with surround headphones is that they can't actually project sound in front of you. The sound will only ever be in between your ears or off to the sides or behind.

What would projecting sound from the front of you help? The whole point of attenuation for a psuedo surround effect is to give you aural feedback to make the user aware of things outside of their field of view.

"3d Positional audio" - that's 3d audio that helps you "locate your enemy" (common phrases used in sales blurb for 5.1 headphones and XFI CMSS-3d). As far as I recall the XFI CMSS control panel has a test helicopter sound that u can move around your virtual head. 3d positional audio just doesn't work on existing headphones or CMSS-3d. The purpose of projecting sound in front of you is that you know when something is in front even if you can't see it. 5.1 speakers are able to position sounds in front, to the sides or behind in a very convincing way.

I would suggest that someone needs to design much better surround headphones where the rear speakers are positioned some distance behind your ears and firing towards a deflection wall that deflects into your ears. Likewise for the front speakers. This would require the use of mini speakers (the same type used in surround satellite speakers rather than the thin mylar drivers used in headphones). For bass the headphones could use a rumble transducer (I modified a pair of AKG K240 many years ago and fitted rumble drivers to them, the result was astonishing vibration bass).

I might see if I can get some mini speakers and make a prototype headset.
=WBG=cpt_custard 27th January 2011, 01:11 Quote
Ive got a set of these thanks to a pcworld refund and price promise.....They are smaller than my old plantronics gamecom but the mic is 10 times better adn the sound quality of these i feel is slightly better.
Im pretty happy with them so far
SriRuleZ 27th January 2011, 04:41 Quote
Last year's review of creative arena headset is missing - http://www.bit-tech.net/hardware/peripherals/2010/01/03/the-best-gaming-headset/3
But certain articles still link to it...

Also if possible please review Creative MK-II hs-980. Currently its cheaper than tactic 3d and also of better quality if paired with a decent soundcard.
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