Headphone Virtualization

What Does Headphone Virtualization Mean?

Headphone virtualization is a sound processing technique in which a surround sound experience is delivered on standard stereo headphones through embedded digital signal processing (DSP)-based chips or sound cards. It is enabled through the operating system (OS) or sound card firmware/driver.


Headphone virtualization was first made available in Windows Vista.

Techopedia Explains Headphone Virtualization

Headphone virtualization allows a two-channel headphone to provide Dolby 5.1 or higher sound performance. It is built on the principles of head-related transfer functions (HRTF) technology, which uses the structural design of a human head to transmit different sound cues.

Unlike typical headphones, which transmit sound directly inside the ears, headphone virtualization delivers sound outside or around the head’s listening experience. A user may easily differentiate between sound that emerges from left to right, right to left or center to bottom, etc.


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Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…