Do I absolutely need 5.1 sound to fully enjoy Forza and racing games in general?

I apologize if this topic has been covered already but the other day I was toying around with the audio settings on my console and set the output to 5.1 even though I game on a stereo amp/speakers.

Immediately, I noticed car exhaust sounds coming out a bit differently and more distinctly, I could better hear wind noise etc. but then, certain effects were muted altogether for obvious reasons. The Aventador’s exhaust sound in chase cam i.e. really stood out as it sounded very close to the real thing.

What I’m getting at is that do you really need a 5.1 surround sound system at the bare minimum to enjoy Forza as the developer intended? I mean, do certain sounds come out properly ONLY through surround sound setups, such as exhaust sounds, wind noise, detail in engine revs, turbo/supercharger sounds, cars around you etc? I have more than 2 speakers and a woofer, so the highs and mids are crisp and loud, while the lows are as deep as they need to be.

My only goal is to hear all the sound effects properly; I am not at all concerned with directional sound as stereo is good enough for me as far as directional ques are concerned.

Your insights are greatly appreciated! :slight_smile:

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This applies to anything - movies, TV, music and games. If the audio is created in multichannel then listening to it on fewer channels will obviously reduce the overall quality. How much depends on the separation of individual sounds. I use a Yamaha receiver and I’ve not experienced the poor or quiet engine sounds that some others have. I guess it’s no different to graphics. The higher the res you use the better. Is it essential to have 5.1 or 7.1, no, but it’ll help.

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Shouldn’t you be the best judge of your own enjoyment?

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I notice very often that many games (for what reason I have no idea) that when set to stereo, the sounds that are normally in the rear speakers are suddenly much louder. It’s not just Xbox either. I think it depends on your receiver or speaker setup. It’s not just my setup that does this (I’ve tested with my TV speakers as well as a stereo input and a digital 5.1 input on my receiver), I’ve noticed it on other people’s setups too (across multiple systems: Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3 and PS4).

It’s especially prevalent in games with characters talking, as they always seem louder when I turn my back to them and quieter when I’m facing them, which is very odd considering the speech should be coming from their mouth.

It might be because in a surround setup the rear speakers are usually smaller as it was when I had a setup going with tall tower speakers in the front. Could be way off on this though.

For me, headphones work the best, especially when they are turned up loud. Feels like you’re in the car. This also works well for FPS games like Battlefield. You can hear the location of sounds in the soundfield much better.


I don’t find it matters that much. Two high quality speakers with good emulated surround sounds great to me. If you have the wiring, the space needed and room for a 5.1 setup that would probably be the way to go but my gameplay doesn’t suffer without it. I have a great sound surround system for movies but my PC isn’t near it yet.

This is a tricky one… I’d say yes 100% though. I have a 7.1 Surround sound system that we bought years ago. To replace it with an upgrade (including all the speakers) would cost around €15,000 or around $18,000. Note that I only run it as a 5.1 as it’s quite special to me as an audio nut and I want to try and preserve it for as long as possible. The amount of hidden sounds is ridiculous and you need a decent surroundsound system to hear it. For example, I have a subwoofer as well which is about 1ft×1ft. The faster you drive (especially in an open wheel car) the louder the wind noise becomes and the more the bass will kick in as the car starts to shake and cut through the air. You can actually hear this but it’s exempt through a normal TV. The sound of the windscreen wipers and rain is 10 times better and it really feels like you’re sitting in the car. When revving the car the idle actually has different bass frequencies per car, some isles are really bassy some aren’t and some cars have a lot of treble. High pitched cars absolutely scream which is beautiful. Little things like opening doors in Forza Vista just sound so perfect.

I often criticise people when they don’t like the sounds in the game as most run it through a TV where you just can’t here the quality…

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Well, thanks for the input, but I never said I was running the game through TV speakers. I already have 8 speakers - 2 midrange, 4 satellites and 2 subwoofers, but it’s in stereo 2.1.

I can hear everything you just pointed out: the bass increasing due to wind noise as the car cuts through the air (the effect was much better in FM4 and 5 however, in 4 even the engine sound would get partially drowned out), different bass and treble levels for idling engines in chase cam and revving sounds, overhead plane on the Rio circuit, zooming past underpasses, bridges, going into/coming out of tunnels, doors opening closing in FV - I can already hear all that mate, and it’s crystal clear. If I enable simulated surround mode, I can even faintly hear the sound of wind rushing past the car at higher speeds, in addition to the bass build up, not to mention more audible reverb effects when the exhaust sound bounces off surrounding objects.

Like I said, I don’t need the 360 degree directional audio, that’s just not important to me because I do not need to know if an AI car is behind me or by my side, nor do I need to know where footsteps are approaching from in an FPS game. I suppose I’m hearing most of the high, mid and low frequencies in the game so why exactly would I want to upgrade to 5.1? Should I choose to, I just need it to be 100% justified, that’s all. I already have a HMiB, but it doesn’t have any optical, coaxial or HDMI ports at the back. Do you suppose I can use an HDMI converter box to get digital 5.1 surround from my speakers, since it already has the 5.1 speaker setup?

To be honest, games and movies already sound great on my system, so I’m thinking the money I dish out on a surround amp and speakers can be better spent elsewhere. I’m also on a stereo amp + speaker setup by the way, and I’ve tried the emulated/virtual/simulated surround sound through stereo channels. It works well - it certainly makes certain ambient effects in the game more prominent such as car approaching behind you or tires screeching in the left/right channel specifically, or the reverb effects being more pronounced for example. However, I feel some of the midrange and deep bass is lost so I keep the enhancements off.

Are you referring to normal/stereo headphones? I’ve tried that many times by hooking up my $5 earbuds to the controller while using Windows Sonic and Dolby Atmos and it is ridiculously good I must admit, though some of the cars can sound a bit synthesized/robotic - I suppose that’s the game not the audio setup you’re running it through. Or is it?

I’m rather curious - have you played Forza on a stereo setup for comparison’s sakes? Let’s take the Aventador sound i.e; as I mentioned in the original post, setting the output to 5.1 even though it mutes certain effects or makes them faint, made the exhaust sound different on the Aventador… it sounded more like the real thing. Less whining and more flat out visceral exhaust note - the same shrill and angry note you hear on the real Aventador.

Therefore, by getting a meaty 5.1 amp + speakers, will I necessarily hear the car sounds as more “real” vs. gamey and synthesized? I’ll use the Aventador’s exhaust sound again as an example - it sounds superb on HDMI stereo uncompressed, but when I set it to 5.1 uncompressed, it just sounded less “videogamey” and more like the real thing. Was it due to the fact that the engine sound was muted or faint in chase cam due to setting the wrong sound output, or was it due to the fact that the car sound itself becomes higher quality and more detailed when you run the game through a native 5.1 system?

I think that could be due to the fact that the game is forced to use 2 channel sound to output everything, so it decides what volume level to use for all the respective effects. On surround however, since you’re hearing the game/movie as the developer or movie director intended, all the volume levels are adjusted automatically and there’s more variation and distinction between all the sounds.

Who knows, the background sounds I’m hearing on my current setup might actually be quieter on rear surr. speakers since the volume levels are automatically adjusted due to separate channels being utilized for ambient/rear surround effects. That’s the only logical conclusion I can come to, personally speaking.

No, you don’t. It’s nice, but you surely do not “need” it.

If 5.1 is the way to go, does anyone have any experience with 5.1 headphones for xbox one? The only ones i can find work as 5.1 on PC, but only use stereo for the Xbox One.

You’re in luck - you can use the stereo headphones as surround ones by enabling Windows Sonic in the audio options. Conversely, you could also buy Dolby Atmos for headphones for a one-time $15 fee.

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“Well, thanks for the input, but I never said I was running the game through TV speakers. I already have 8 speakers - 2 midrange, 4 satellites and 2 subwoofers, but it’s in stereo 2.1.”

If this is the case then yes I would 100% advise you get a 5.1 Surround sound system. I don’t know what system you have precisely but if you have this much of a setup then it just seems like wasted potential to me.

5.1 is definitely more immersive, more raw, almost touchable sound if you get what I mean. The only way I can explain it as is that it feels like the track and cars are there in your living room. It’d make the quality better as well. It’s not necessary just to enjoy the game but it is to get the most out out of it.

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Well, I had better start saving then. I can’t believe how real the Aventador’s exhaust sounds when I enable 5.1 but unfortunately, some effects get muted altogether since the system itself is stereo. Additionally, I’ve also hooked up two Creative speakers and a sub to the TV’s headphone jack. I know its an odd solution, but the combined sound really packs a punch.

I think about $300 should be enough for a good 5.1 setup?

My system is one of those Sony HiFi systems, a HTiB kinda thing, the same stupid thing that outputs Pro Logic II, 5.1 DTS and DD through the integrated DVD/CD player and nothing else! It only has stereo RCA jacks at the back to accept signals from an outside source like a TV or game console.

I was reading up yesterday about HDMI converter boxes. Do you think I can use that to get 5.1 sound out of my speakers since I already have 5.1 speakers but not the right hook up to get true surround sound out of them…

Even if it does work, won’t it make the signal weak or cause an audio lag?

I’m also using a cheap virtual sound type of thing by hooking up headphones to my controller to enable Windows Sonic but using the external speakers to enjoy the additional effects. I can’t really say if it gives the illusion of surround sound (Dolby Atmos certainly did), but it somehow makes the sound even more powerful and some of the effects stand out.

Appreciate all your input so far! salute

Honestly anything that converts the audio or tries to turn it into something that it’s not usually detracts away from the sound.

If I may make a suggestion, for around $300 I’d recommend a Denon AVR-S510BT. I used to have a Denon AVR-S930H for my bedroom and it was stunning for the price I paid. The only reason I got rid of it is because of my setup in my living room and unfortunately the Denon was resigned to collecting dust. I had no problem with the unit apart from the fact that it was complicated to set up but after reading the manual it was fine. I’ve bough numerous headphones, earphones and even portable amps from Denon and for the price they are absolutely stunning. My portable setup now consists of a Hifi-Man 802s with a $700+ rare amp card and a pair of Denon AH-C821 Earphones. Altogether both the Hifi-Man and the Denon earphones worth around $2000 and they sound incredible and honestly I don’t really have anything bad to say about Denon.

However, If by some miracle you could get an ARCAM 5.1 or 7.1 Surround sound system whether used or new for $300 I would 100% suggest you go for that. No bells, no whistles just pure sound, trust me there isn’t much out there that can compete with ARCAM. I cannot explain how good the sound is.

This really helps, thanks! :slight_smile:

Everybody I’ve talked to so far, has nothing but great reviews for Denon amps. For the price you mentioned, does it also come with the full 5.1/7.1 speakers or do I have to get those separately?

The brand you mentioned - ARCAM - I came to know of it just now, I’ll certainly Google up some reviews. I hear Onkyo and Yamaha also make killer surround systems. But I suppose, for now the previous two is all I need to be looking at. It’s funny though, the name… ARCAM… Batman Arkham Knight is among my all-time favorite games and I’ve always been uber curious so as to how it might sound on a proper surround sound setup.

By the way, could you tell me a bit about DD/DTS that’s enabled in the audio options via Bitstream Out? I always leave that off since I have Stereo Uncompressed selected, but I could swear movies and TV shows I watch have better balanced volume levels and sound more dynamic when I set BO to Dolby Digital. For games, I keep it off as I’ve noticed it just muddies up the signal. However, I don’t even need to be toying around with this setting, do I? My console’s going directly to the TV, and from there, RCA jacks are going directly into the mini hi-fi component system, since both the TV and amp only have RCA jacks at the back.

I really appreciate your input mate!

Thanks for the heads up, i didn’t know this :slight_smile:

Don’t want to requote the entire thing so I’ll just answer your question. Yes, occasionally if it’s late at night I’ll just use the stereo on the TV. It’s not great as with most panel TVs but while it sounds OK you tend to find most things are at too similar a volume. On the 5.1 I generally have center a little louder and this does wonders for the sounds emanating from the car. I wouldn’t say it transforms the game but it’s certainly better.

Hmm… would you say a surround amp vs. a good stereo amp/speakers changes or drastically improves engine and exhaust sounds? As in, higher quality and more detail-rich? Do cars actually sound less synthesized and robotic on a good surround setup? I’m just really curious about car sound quality more than anything else.

For instance, the cars that already sound really good in the game (Aventador, Huracan, LFA etc.) sound even better in 5.1 channels? Or cars that sound weird or inadequate (F40, SLS, F type) sound slightly better or worse?

The difference between DD/DTS is this. Sound is always compressed for both of them. DTS compressed sound less than DD and DTS also allows for a higher bit rate so yes, technically DTS should theoretically more accurate however DD and DTS use different coding systems to compress the audio making it subjective to which one sounds better.

DTS and DD are lossy forms of audio while PCM is lossless so I’d recommend using that. I use stereo PCM and if you buy the Denon you’ll have to get the speakers separately. If the setup you have/get had some sort of virtual surround sound then use bitstream but if it doesn’t have virtual surround sound or if you don’t like it I’d use stereo uncompressed

No problem mate, any time you need any more info I’m happy to help!

Well, I’m keeping Bitstream on for now and set it to DD, since almost no games support DTS, right?

Anyway, I’ve also toggled the virtual surround option on my amp ON and it does make almost every sound in the game stand out. Reverb is sick and the feeling of driving in a pack is just pure thrill! I do ,however, have to keep the Stereo Uncompressed option ON as well, otherwise I’d get no sound at all from the speakers.

The Aventador’s exhaust man… !! If I ever pick up a true surround system, FIRST thing I’m doing is firing up Forza 6 just to hear the Aventador! It’s been improved so much since Horizon 1/FM4.