Sound in the Cockpit

Sound is one of the most important elements of total immersion into a flight sim. There are many ways to implement sound into your cockpit. You should consider on forehand the kind of power you would like to have and the amount of money you want to spend on it.

Vibrating Chair

One of the most best things to do, is to make sure that you have some bass to tremble your chair.

This might not seem so obvious, but after experiencing it myself I can tell you: this adds 100% extra to the experience of really being inside a fighter. You have to try it to believe it. You can buy one of the commercial chairs available for this. But of course you'd better build one yourself for half the price. It's really quite easy: just build a nice big bass-speaker against or inside your chair. You can place it in the bottom or in the back of the chair for easy acces.

Even better than an ordinary bass-speaker or woofer you can use a so called "Bass-Pump". A bass pump is a sort of woofer that produces more vibration than sound. It is used mainly for multimedia experiences (cinema's and theatres) and in car-hifi sets to add some more bass to the feeling.


Headphones are also an excellent aid to improve immersion and in the same time exclude intrusive noises from outside the cockpit.

In combination with a vibrating bass-chair this is a perfect sound set-up. It is best to keep the headphone input behind you so the cable doesnt get in the way when you try to use any of the controls.

Make sure that any headphone that you take has a perfect fit. You shouldn't take shorts on ergonomics because you may spend hours at a time wearing them through 'missions'. If you intend on using something like 'Game Commander' or the 'Verbal Commander' you best buy a headphone with a microphone attached.

The choices in headphones are very big and depending on your own needs/preferences it's best to try some yourself for the best quality and fit.

Surround Sound

Many sims and soundcards nowadays support surround sound.

To achieve this effect you will need at least 4 speakers (but don't forget the bass in the chair). This of course too adds to the realism. As I myself have no further experience with this, I cannot give additional advise. It is however a thing that I have planned for my personal project.

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The following information is taken from this site:

Surround Sound Formats

The principal format for digital discrete surround is the "5.1 channel" system. The 5.1 name stands for five channels (see Figure 1 below) (in front: left, right and center, and behind: left surround and right surround) of full-bandwidth audio (20 Hz to 20 kHz), plus a sixth channel, which will at times contain additional bass information to maximize the impact of scenes such as explosions, etc. This channel has only a narrow frequency response (3 Hz to 120 Hz), thus it is sometimes referred to as the ".1" channel. When added together, the system is sometimes referred to as having "5.1" channels.

Figure 1: Speaker configuration for a 5.1 system

Presently, digital 5.1 sound format is most prevalent in movie theaters and in home entertainment systems. In the movies, there are three main formats - Dolby Stereo Digital (DSD) by Dolby, DTS System by Digital Theater Systems, and Sony Dynamic Digital Sound (SDDS) by Sony. These three formats are current used in about 4,000 movie theaters. The DTS system is in the largest number of theaters, and Sony's SDDS system is in the fewest. However, the number of SDDS equipped theaters are increasing quite rapidly and could overtake the number of DSD installations in one or two years.

In the home entertainment front, there is only one big name at the moment, and that is Dolby. Here, Dolby's format is known as Dolby Surround Digital. DTS has recently proposed a system for placing 5.1 channels of data-compressed audio on a laserdisc (LD), but at the moment, no DTS demos of their new format using also 384 kb/s is available.

All three aforementioned formats have one thing in common, that is they all use data compression. This is the only way to get 5.1 channels of discrete audio (with video) onto laserdisc, HDTV, or the upcoming digital video disc (DVD). However, this compression is unlike computer data storage compression which uses "lossless" compression, all three audio formats uses "lossy" compression (DTS allows either "lossless" compression, "lossy" compression", or a combination of the two, depending on usage). On carriers such as HDTV and DVD, there is room to store only about 10 percent of the original data; the remaining 90 percent must be thrown away, and cannot be recovered in playback. This is the essence of "lossy" compression.

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Aureal A3D

Aureal 3D (A3D), a technology that creates the illusion of surround sound using a single pair of ordinary speakers or headphones. A3D is based on the pioneering spatial simulation software developed over the past nine years by Aureal's subsidiary Crystal River Engineering.

Crystal River's 3D audio technology has been used in virtual reality research labs, theme park rides, and million-dollar flight and driving simulators. It has also seen use in recording studios to create 3D effects for movies, most recently "Twister" and "The Cable Guy." Aureal acquired Crystal River in May 1996. To distinguish A3D from competing technologies such as QSound™ and Spatializer™, Aureal is positioning its product as an effective way to deliver surround sound from encoded movies and video. In this environment, encoded audio will be projected over two speakers by A3D as five simulated virtual speakers to create a surround experience the company is coining as "A3D Surround."

"Aureal 3D sets the standard by which others will be judged," said Dolby Labs Technology Director Roger Dressler. "The technology will enable consumers to realize the benefits of Dolby Pro Logic and Dolby Digital (AC-3) surround soundtracks in multimedia PC's without the use of five speakers."

Aureal also expects to see A3D incorporated into interactive applications such as computer games and web sites. The technology has already been licensed to several companies, including PC card manufacturers Diamond Multimedia and Oak Technology. Aureal plans to support upcoming 3D audio APIs from Microsoft and Apple, as well as the VRML 2.0 Internet standard.