Wait… 3DS surround sound?   13 comments

In the sound options on the 3DS, you have a choice between Mono, Stereo, and Surround.  Surround is the default.

Surround sound on a portable device?  What, does it just magically throw sound behind you?  Does it telepathically communicate with objects behind you and cause them to vibrate like makeshift speakers?

This bit of info hasn’t really made any waves.  In fact, I’ve never seen anybody even mention it.  It isn’t even mentioned on the box.  I guess it’s no big deal, really.  A lot of things have surround sound these days.

Probably all you have to do is just hook it up to a surround sound set.  You know, just plug it right into the…


…stereo…headphone port?

Guess I could at least try…

Alright, I’m really not sure about this.

Oh wait!  Maybe the Surround sound mode is just that headphone surround sound virtualization technique that’s so common these days! You know, where it inverts the phase of some channels which makes it sound like it’s in surround sound when you listen with headphones on!  They usually mention these things in the manual.

Here. I’ll get the manual, and we can look at it together.

Under Sound, it says to tap the setting you want and tap “OK.”

…isn’t there anything…important you should mention?  Care to address the presence of a Surround Sound setting on a device with 2 speakers and a stereo headphone port? Besides, if it’s surround sound virtualization, shouldn’t you at least mention that headphones are required for the surround effect to work?

Readers! Don’t you agree that something is wrong here?

Am I crazy?  Hello? Are you there?


Alright.  Clearly an anomaly in human intellect has occurred here, and I am the only human being on Earth too stupid to figure out something as painfully obvious as how the 3DS can have surround sound.  I should probably just take a nice, long nap and it will all make sense in the morning.

(call me crazy, but come to think of it, I think I remember some regular DS games having a surround sound option, too..)

Update: As pointed out in the comments, the surround sound is actually virtualized by the built-in speakers if you hold the 3DS at the proper distance and angle. I checked it out, and it basically makes it sound like there’s another two speakers right next to your ears. Certainly a unique invention if I’ve ever seen one!

Posted 2011-05-03 by diagonaldevice in Video Games

13 responses to “Wait… 3DS surround sound?

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  1. OK – figured it out

    Maybe (repeat after me)

    It’s a round sound

  2. dad… oh my god.

  3. i read your blog now!
    yeah I remember some DS games having a surround sound option too, the purpose of which escapes me entirely. because everyone brings five speakers with them on the bus to work in order to fully experience pilotwings

  4. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, it’s something that actually only works fully when you DON’T have headphones plugged in. Play Ocarina of Time 3D. It’ll become incredibly obvious at some parts and may even startle you. Somehow, they got the speakers to output sound in such a way that when you have it in the standard viewing angle for the 3D, it sounds like sound can come from anywhere around you. The only place it doesn’t seem to be able to virtualize is directly behind the player, but walking into caverns, especially a place like Dodongo’s Cavern, the virtual surround sound becomes incredible obvious.

    I am clueless as to how it works though. It’s simulated by the speakers built into the 3DS.

    • Holy mother of all things beyond comprehension, it’s true!

      I just got the game earlier today. And now here I am in first person mode, eyes closed, standing, holding the 3DS out in front of me and spinning around like an idiot… and it sounds like there’s a Deku Baba in the room, gnawing right at my head. I will concede, the effect is very hit-or-miss for things behind the player (and it feels a slight bit off for things that are in front of you to the side), but it’s frighteningly convincing for sounds coming directly from the side.

      By the way, I really must thank you for telling me this, because I apparently at some point a while ago changed the sound setting to Mono (and completely forgot), and so I probably would’ve ended up playing through the whole game without noticing a thing…

  5. It’s called “psychoacoustics,” which relies on the fact that, regardless of how many speakers you have, you still have only two ears to listen with. The left and right channels each have audio cues embedded in them that provide the ears with information that help determine the position of a sound (i.e. the time it takes for one sound to travel from the source to each ear, compensation for the earlobe and ear canal rebounding sounds to the eardrum, intensity differences between each ear, etc.).

  6. Interesting. but what i don’t get is… does it work with headphones or not? take Resident Evil: Revelations.
    An “horror” game, so the developers say “hey, if you play with headphones on all the best, blah blah, surround, 3DS”.

    But… if this “not actually surround” Surround doesn’t work with headphones…

    I don’t get why they didn’t put a Headphones option, other than Surround/Stereo/Mono.
    And who would play on the Mono setting?! and why?

    • Alright. Imagine, if you will, that you have headphones plugged into your computer, and that the plug is sticking straight out, parallel to the floor.

      Now accidentally step on the plug. Or accidentally hit it with a hammer. And congratulations! You have my headphone jack! The right sound channel is dead. Never again will you hear anything that was intended for the right speaker.

      Now imagine that you were somehow able to accidentally do the same thing to a 3DS… but without also accidentally separating the case or short circuiting the Home key.

      And then you will be glad you had a Mono setting.

      You know, I can’t really tell whether or not it does it with headphones. To be honest, I’ve never really been that convinced by the faux surround sound tricks used on stereo headphones. And these days, I’m a bit too spoiled to hear it anways; at home, I wear a rather hefty headset with realistic Dolby 7.1 support.

      However, I would like to point out the fact that Sound is a *system* option on the 3DS, not simply an in-game option like it has been in the past. The psychoacoustics are applied at the system level.

      So it’s possible that the Surround option automatically adjusts for headphones if they are inserted.


  7. Earphone jacks are NOT Stereo.

    How a earphone jack works…..is by how much electricity it outputs for any multiple amount of speaker sound……its real Surround Sound.

    There are earphone jacks that do 6 speaker sound & 7 speaker sound.

    It depends on how much electricity the earphone jack can output in for the particular headphone.

    There are lots of 5.1 Surround Sound that plug into a regular earphone jack only.

    I got a 7.1 Surround Sound Headphone that can do that.

    It’s called “PLANTRONICS GAMECOM 777” and it cost $30 to $80, depending where you get it.

    There’s a separate microphone jack plug for the headphone own microphone, that I just leave unplug.

    Other 7.1 Surround Sound headphones that can be plug into a earphone jack cost $200 & up.

    There is no such thing as a stereo earphone jack……all earphone jacks can output a certain amount of electricity to do Mono and a lot output more electricity to do stereo and others output more electricity to do Surround Sound.

    The Original DS did 5.1 Surround Sound, like Mario Kart DS.

    There is NO such thing as a 2 wire earphone jack…..because that is just total idiotic bullshit.

    The 3DS earphone jack does 7 speaker channel Audio output…….which is 7.1 Surround Sound.

    • Sir, I’m afraid that the PLANTRONICS Gamecom 777 headset is, in fact, Stereo. The Dolby Dongle it comes with does the same “Surround Sound Virtualization” technique I’ve mentioned in the blog post. We only have two ears, so any stereo headset can *sound* like 5.1 surround sound if it makes just the right noise.

      And you’re right, there is no such thing as a 2 wire earphone jack. They have 3 wires. One’s the ground; without it, you can’t tell a digital 1 apart from a digital 0.

  8. I believe that you may be interested in reading about HRTF’s on wikipedia. This is likely what other posters are referring to.

  9. Yeah… Its not new at all. Sega cd had the sane thing. It’s actually, like what was stated before, psychoacoustics. Which is just a virtual implementation of some called quad-sound implemented on older high end receivers. Hence the Q-Sound icon labeled on some Sega cd games. It was a blast to enjoy 3d simulated surround back when I was 12 with the Sega cd, and it is a blast to listen to it on the multitude of devices that secretly support it now. Some ponds can even simulate stereo from a single speaker too. While it is not new, it still is awesome to hear.


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