Here's a way to have surround sound audio, but still keep it all to yourself.
Beginning later this month, peripherals maker Plantronics will start shipping its Gamecom 777 headset, which simulates 5.1 channel audio through just two channels--your left and right headphone speakers.
The intention is to enable PC gamers to play games with the sound happening around them, and not directly in their ears. That enables longer listening time--less "listening fatigue," to use industry parlance--and therefore longer gaming sessions.
I got a personal demonstration at the Dolby Theater here in San Francisco (see photo), along with several other journalists.
The Plantronics people pointed out the "hide-away boom," which allows the mouthpiece of the headset to be tucked away into the headphones so they can be transformed from headphones to gaming headset. Fun side note: Plantronics said this was requested by focus groups because the mic often gets in the way of eating and drinking while gaming.
The headset is "open ear," so you can hear some ambient noise while listening through the headphones. The surround-sound feature can also be switched off for regular listening via the inline control, and works with any device that has a native USB port. The headset is also designed to work with Skype, Windows Live, and Yahoo Messenger for VoIP calling.
The Gamecom 777 set will be available at retail beginning in September for $99.