Battlefield Audio Options

Not everybody who plays Battlefield looks at the vagaries that are the audio options. However, as badly documented as they are, it’s still worth doing so.

More specifically, in Battlefield 3 I’m referring to the audio options that are labelled as “Your Speaker System” and “Enhanced Stereo Mode” and the two options in Battlefield 4 named “Speaker Type” and “Speaker Configuration”.

Your Speaker System (BF3) / Speaker Type (BF4) has 5 possible options…

  • War Tapes
  • TV
  • Hi-Fi
  • Home Cinema
  • Headphones

These options alter the dynamic range immensely. From what I can tell, from lowest to highest dynamic range, the settings are as follows: War Tapes, TV, Hi-Fi, Home Cinema, Headphones (same order as listed in game and above). There is a huge difference between War Tapes (extremely compressed/low dynamic range), TV (less compressed, a bit more dynamic range), the rest (not compressed, good/high dynamic range).

A high dynamic range means the loud sounds (e.g. nearby explosions) will be loud, while the quiet sounds (e.g. wind blowing in the trees) will be fairly quiet. A low dynamic range means the loud sounds (nearby explosions) will be loud, and the quiet sounds (wind) will be slightly less loud. Perceived volume is incredibly important for sound localization, so choosing a low-dynamic range option (e.g. War Tapes) will sound loud and impressive, but you will lose a lot of information because all the sounds will be loud at the same time. This makes it seem like a chopper is directly overhead when it is really about 150 meters out. You’ll definitely be able to hear it coming, but you won’t have a clue where it actually is.

So what is the point of all these different options? War Tapes sounds loud and impressive, TV is a bit more realistic but will account for the terrible speakers integrated in your TV. Also, choosing either of these options will keep your volume at a more steady level, reducing the likelihood you will annoy those around you; there won’t be any sudden loud explosions because everything is already loud. The rest (TV, Home Cinema, Headphones) give a much more realistic/useful dynamic range; far explosions will actually sound far and close explosions will scare you like they should. These three do seem almost identical (with regards to dynamic range) so there may be some minor EQing differences here rather than straight dynamics.

Additionally, I suspect the Headphones option may include a stereo crossover function (some of the left side gets sent to the right side and vice versa, to emulate the crosstalk you would get from speakers), although I could be wrong on this. You may notice the Headphones mode give a slightly higher minimum volume than Hi-Fi/Home Cinema. This may be evidence that the aforementioned stereo crossover effect is real.

In addition to these options, Battlefield 3 has an Enhanced Stereo mode which corrects the audio for non-surround systems (e.g. 2 speakers, 2 speakers and sub, or basic headphones).

For PC owners there is additional aspect that you need to bear in mind. For Battlefield 4, for example, an entire core/thread will be dedicated to the rendering of sound effects. Depending on what you choose will determine the impact on your system – Home Cinema and War Tapes will have a greater impact on system performance.

Conclusion?

So many people, when they try War Tapes, leave it on this option as it sounds as if you’re in the middle of a war movie. Unfortunately, for sound localisation and realism it’s not very good; everything sounds like it is literally right on top of you. So is the TV sound mode. Use either Hi-Fi, Home Cinema or, if you’re actually using headphones, Headphones. Enable “Enhanced Stereo Mode” (BF3) or select Stereo in “Speaker Configuration” (BF4) if you don’t have a surround system/headset.

However, it has to be recognised that many people prefer War Tapes – it is certainly possible that some people will gain greater advantage by hearing every tiny squeak as clear as day from 50 meters away. However, if this article does nothing else, it is hoped that it will make you try out other possibilities.

The video below demonstrates the difference between sound options in Battlefield 3. Each sound mode includes a demonstration of (in order) inside, front grenade, rear grenade, outside and left grenade. The settings (again, in order) are Hi-Fi, Home Cinema, Headphones, War Tapes, TV and Hi-Fi with Enhanced Stereo Mode off.

Timings are…

Hi-Fi | HC | HP | WT | TV | HF no ESM
0:04 | 0:46 | 1:27 | 2:09 | 2:49 | 3:30
0:12 | 0:55 | 1:37 | 2:17 | 2:58 | 3:39
0:19 | 1:01 | 1:42 | 2:23 | 3:04 | 3:45
0:25 | 1:08 | 1:49 | 2:30 | 3:11 | 3:53
0:33 | 1:15 | 1:55 | 2:36 | 3:18 | 3:59

Finally, the following interview with Battlefield 3’s Audio Director is of interest in learning what they’re trying to achieve with the game’s audio…

(Articles from  Reddit, GameFAQs and EVGA forums were used as a source for the above information as well as further research by the author.)

Darkstorm40
About Darkstorm40

Relatively recent convert to Battlefield but now hooked. Not the best aim or sharpest reflexes but good team player.

Hates people complaining unnecessarily and believes you should always offer solutions – yes, I’m looking at all the Battlefield 4 haters.

General IT bod during the day and all-round geek at all other times.

Owner of bfmedic.com.

5 responses to Battlefield Audio Options

  1. Really Great Article Dark , I have always used war tapes, but I think I will changed it up a bit to hear the far sounds and closer sounds, instead of hearing everything at once.

    • Cheers. I was just the same – stuck on War Tapes after a recommendation and haven’t changed it since. Now I have. It’s amazing that something as simple as this can make a huge improvement to the quality of your game.

  2. Great article Dark – I play with Headphones on 90% of the time and use the surround sound. When you were talking about war tapes last night I had no idea what you were talking about which goes to show I don’t look at the options available as much as I should. I’ve also recently learned to increase sensitivity and am on a path to increase it by 5-10 each time I play.

    • That’s a great idea Mavvie – I think I’ll try the sensitivity increase myself!

      However, unless your headphones are surround I’d recommend switching off the surround option.

  3. Oliver said this on June 4, 2014

    If you have a better sound card, that supports virtual sorround like “CMSS-3D” on creative X-Fi cards (names may differ) then it´s the best way to set following:

    Sound-Card: Set to headphones and activate CMSS-3D (or comparable)
    Game: Set to 5.1, 7.1 etc. (In BF: speaker configuration -> sorround)

    Your soundcard is acting like a virtual 5.1 or 7.1 sorround system. The game will output in sorround (5.1 or 7.1 channels) and your soundcard will pick up this sorround signal and convert it with it´s algorythm to a stereo-signal.
    In the end, you have only 2 ears.. and if the algorythm is working well, there is no big difference between real 5.1 speaker and virtual sorround (with good soundcard and good stereo headphones).
    It´s just important to set the game into 5.1 or 7.1 output, cause else the soundcard just don´t have the information, where sound comes from..

    btw, i hate it if you can´t see what you are setting up, like here in BF!
    There should always be an enhanced option menü, where you can see more than hifi/headphones etc. Sometimes i think, EA believes his target audience is retarded.

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