Inside Denon

Say Goodbye to Headsets: How Gamers Can Solve the Sound Speed Gap

In an age of professional Esports and hyper-competitive gaming overall, the margin for error is razor-thin. This applies as much to gaming software and hardware performance as it does to gameplay. A sound or music cue that lags behind in-game visuals can be just enough to disorient players, even momentarily, and lead to a mistake that costs them a prestigious and lucrative tournament.

Denon Staff

Overcoming the sound speed gap in video games isn't impossible. But it's important to fully understand the issue before correcting it. And with high-end, low-latency AV receivers from Denon, you can finally immerse yourself in seamless sound and gameplay.

The psychological impact of sound in gaming

On its face, the sound speed gap might seem a fairly minor annoyance to non-gamers and casual players. However, there's legitimate evidence that validates the importance of music and sound cues in gaming. As audio designer Sander Huiberts noted in his Ph.D. thesis, audio is crucial to character and gameplay development in the classic action-espionage gameMetal Gear Solid 2:

"...The music expresses what has happened and helps the player to reflect upon this. Yet it also gives the player a new direction and new motivation to continue," Huiberts wrote.

He went on to explain in-game audio immersion through the spectrum of William Labov's four-tier notion of narrative — abstract, orientation, evaluation and coda — and posited that when sound flows well, it keep the player immersed and focused amid distractions or loading screens. Mark Grimshaw's study for the University of Bolton in the U.K. came to similar conclusions regarding the value of sound in bridging the reality gap. Interference with the music or sound of a game could break the player's focus.

Value of low latency

Reducing latency levels to a modicum of milliseconds (ms) completely enhances the gaming experience. The issue of sound lag becomes a moot point if you can reduce the likely delay below 15 ms or even as low as 6 ms. But you can’t achieve that with the stock CPU sound card of even the more high-end computers that gamers often (and understandably) favor. As such, simply gritting one's teeth and relying on headphones, even with a great internet connection, isn't enough.

It will be critical to redirect sound through an external system and use a low-latency AVR, such as the Denon AVR-X4400H or AVR-4311CI. With systems like these as the primary engine of all sound related to gaming, the sound speed gap will be imperceptibly minimal and allow players to retain the experiential essence of the games they're playing.