Ask LH: What Do Those Different Game Audio Options Actually Do?

Dear Lifehacker, I’ve seen some games offer the audio options “Stereo”, “TV”, “Headphones” and “Home Theater” (damn US spelling). I know what stereo is, but what are the others? Do they map to other well-known settings like 5.1 or is something else going on? Thanks, Audio Newbie

Gaming picture from Shutterstock

Dear AN,

Most in-game audio settings simply make subtle adjustments to whatever sound source you’re using, similar to how most TVs come with a range of preset sound modes. The “TV” mode typically improves the bass to compensate for tinny speakers while “Home Theater” is self-explanatory.

You do occasionally encounter hardware-specific options such as ‘EAX Enhancement’ which are digital signal processing presets designed specifically for PC sound cards. You’ll usually only see these setting in older games however. Many games also have individual sliders which let you adjust the music, sound effects and dialogue to suit your preference.

As with all audio-visual entertainment, you’re best bet is to ignore the inbuilt settings and invest in a home cinema kit if you want superior sound. You can find a bunch of handy DIY tips via our beginner’s home theatre guide.

If any hardcore gaming audiophiles are reading, feel free to share your own sound recommendations in the comments section below.


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