Surround sound has become an essential aspect of modern media, be it movies, music, or games. It allows you to experience 3D audio and increases your immersion as if you were present in the movie or game environment. You require a surround sound system or headphones for enjoying the media, which can be quite expensive. Virtual or spatial surround sound provides a cheaper alternative.
Virtual Surround Sound
Virtual surround sound or spatial surround sound presents an affordable alternative for casual users. Many audio tools can convert normal stereo tracks and multi-channel sound (like 5.1, 6.1, and 7.1) into binaural audio for listening with regular headphones. (Binaural sound is one that allows the listener to identify the origin and direction of a sound source.) You will hear the audio as if it was coming from a multi-channel headphone. While not as good as a true surround sound system, it is significantly better than stereo sound. Software that synthesize binaural sound for listening use a method known as HRTF or Head Related Transfer Function. It calculates how sound from a specific point of origin reaches the ears and the way it is perceived. The same information is used to reproduce virtual surround sound using stereo headphones or earbuds. It is primarily suitable for a single user wearing headphones. Your regular headphones can enable a richer audiophilic experience using these techniques. All you need is a tool or plugin that can convert normal stereo tracks into binaural audio for listening with regular headphones.
Best Tools to Convert Normal Stereo Tracks into Binaural for Listening with Regular Headphones
Here are some of the best tools to convert normal stereo tracks into binaural audio for listening with regular headphones. You can have a virtual surround sound experience without purchasing expensive headphones.
#1. Ashampoo Soundstage – Windows
Ashampoo Soundstage is an excellent tool for enjoying surround sound through your regular headphones. It can convert existing stereo, 5.1, 6.1, and 7.1 channels into binaural for an audiophilic experience. You can use Ashampoo Soundstage for watching movies, listening to music, or playing games using the dedicated gaming-friendly mode. There are presets provided for several headphone models, but you can also fine-tune them manually. It is available for Windows 10, 8, and 7 operating systems. Ashampoo Soundstage 2020 is currently available for free without any trial limitations. A single license for Ashampoo Soundstage Pro currently costs $29.00. The Pro version comes with more features and customization options as compared to the free version.
#2. Global Delight Boom 3D – iOS, Android, Mac, and Windows
Global Delight Boom 3D is a superb stereo to binaural tool for desktop, laptop, and mobile platforms. It allows users to experience audio in 3D on their regular headphones. The software has a 31-band equalizer (16-band for iOS and Android), providing you great customization options. There are various preset modes included for different listening experiences. Users also gain access to over 20,000 radio stations. Boom 3D is available for iOS, Android, Mac (macOS 10.10.3 or later), and Windows 10 platforms. The desktop versions normally retail for $39.99 but are on a Black Friday sale right now, selling for USD 12.01. Each license allows installation on two desktop machines. Users can avail of a 30-day free trial.
#3. Windows Sonic – Windows 10
Windows 10 operating system comes with a built-in feature known as Windows Sonic. It emulates audio as spatial sound for providing a 3D experience with regular headphones. The technology works with supported content. To enable Windows Sonic, right-click on the Speakers icon in the system tray. Select Spatial sound from the popup menu and then click on Windows Sonic for headphones. Alternatively, it can be done from the Control Panel by selecting Speaker Properties from Sound options. While Windows Sonic does not come with advanced customization options, it still provides a decent listening experience. And it is completely free as long as you have a valid license of Windows 10.
#4. Razer 7.1 Surround Sound – Windows
If you own a Razer headset, then Razer 7.1 Surround Sound is a great tool to convert normal stereo tracks into binaural for listening with regular headphones. The software is primarily designed to enhance your gaming. It comes with a virtual 7.1 surround sound engine that simulates a 360° audio experience. There are multiple customization options provided for tweaking the sound. The Razer 7.1 Surround Sound tool is only available on Windows 10 (64-bit). It is free to download, but you will have to activate it using the code provided with your Razer headset. The software is bundled with Razer Kraken X, Razer Kraken X USB, Razer Kraken, and Razer BlackShark V2 X headphones. Alternatively, you can register your product on Razer ID to receive the activation code.
The combination of Equalizer APO and HeSuVi is a popular and free option to convert normal stereo, 5.1, or 7.1 sound into binaural audio for listening on regular headphones. Equalizer APO is a graphics equalizer available for Windows 7 and later operating systems. HeSuVi is a tool designed to add spatial sound functionality to Equalizer APO. The actual processing is done by Equalizer APO through its convolution filter, while HeSuVi is responsible for headphone surround virtualization and comes with the required algorithm files and controls. There are presets available for thousands of popular headphone models.
#6. Spatial Sound Card – Mac and Windows
Spatial Sound Card is a great tool to convert normal stereo or multi-channel (up to 7.1) tracks into binaural sound for listening with regular headphones. The software is suitable for games, media players, Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs), and streaming platforms like Netflix and YouTube. It provides an audiophilic 3D surround sound experience on regular headphones. Spatial Sound Card comes in a regular L version for casual users priced at 9,99€ as well as Stereo and Standard PRO versions costing 69€ and 169€, respectively. They differ in the extent of features available. Spatial Sound Card L and Pro versions are available for Mac OS 64-bit (10.9 or later) and Windows 7 to 10 64-bit.
#7. Dolby Atmos – Windows 10
If you watch a lot of Dolby Atmos content or play games featuring the technology, then you may consider the Dolby Atmos app available on Microsoft Store for Windows 10. The app allows you to get Dolby Atmos on regular stereo headphones. It supports a wide range of games as well as content on various streaming platforms like Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, VUDU, iQiyi, and Maxdome. You can experience virtual surround sound for non-supported content, but there are no customization options. While the Dolby Atmos app itself is free, you will have to make an in-app purchase to get Dolby Atmos for headphones. There is a 7-day free trial, allowing you to experience the app before you purchase it.
#8. DTS Sound Unbound Headphone:X – Windows 10
DTS Sound Unbound Headphone:X is an alternative to Dolby Atmos. It converts normal stereo sound into virtual surround sound for an enhanced listening experience. You can install the app on your Windows 10 operating system from Microsoft Store. There are over five hundred profiles for headphones and earbuds from different manufacturers, and you may select one as per your headphone model. DTS Sound Unbound offers slightly better sound quality than Dolby Atmos, especially if your headphone is among the supported models. DTS Sound Unbound Headphone:X provides a 14-day free trial, and you have to pay $20 for a license after that.
#9. Audio Royale – Windows 10
Audio Royale is a virtual surround sound tool designed for gamers who play esports titles like Fortnite and Apex Legends. It allows them to experience surround sound using their regular headphones. They won’t be at a disadvantage just because they have a stereo headphone. The software supports 5.1 and 7.1 channel audio. There is a 10-channel equalizer built into the tool for customization along with a bass boost functionality. Audio Royale is based on the Sonami sound engine primarily used for professional workspaces. You can either opt for a monthly ($1.99) or a yearly subscription ($19.99). Gamers can avail themselves of a 14-day free trial without any feature limitations.