The Binaural sound

Dummyhead recording

Dummyhead recording

I was recently introduced to the world of binaural recordings, and was blown away with the dramatic experience.

What is special about binaural sound is that you are totally immersed into the sound. No, the sound isn’t around you like in 5.1 channel surround sound. Rather, the sound is almost within your head, as if your ears were there, and the sound is moving all around you … so realistic that every one I introduced to this magic, spent the first few minutes in disbelief. In “the sounds of the barber shop” (link given below), the telephone rings so naturally that I almost jumped up the first time to see whose phone is ringing near me.

There is no easy way to describe the experience other than urging you to try it out yourself. You don’t need any equipment, just an ordinary headphone set! (Ok, good quality headsets can give you more detail, but not in these samples, I think)

The magic behind the sound is the way it is recorded. Conventional stereo recording, uses two different microphones facing the sound source and aims to create a “soundstage”. However, a lot of how we humans actually hear sounds is missed in such recordings. A part of what we hear is actually felt through our head, as well as other ways in which sounds wraps around our head.

Here is how wikipedia explains the binaural recording technique.

With a simple recording method, two microphones are placed seven inches (18cm) apart facing away from each other. This method will not create a real binaural recording. The distance and placement roughly approximates the position of an average human’s ear canals, but that is not all that is needed. More elaborate techniques exist in pre-packaged forms. A typical binaural recording unit has two high-fidelity microphones mounted in a dummy head, inset in ear-shaped molds to fully capture all of the audio frequency adjustments (known as head-related transfer functions (HRTFs) in the psychoacoustic research community) that happen naturally as sound wraps around the human head and is “shaped” by the form of the outer and inner ear.

Try this sample of sounds in a barber shop(Other sound files at the same source).

Or view this beautiful instrumental by Ottmar Liebert.

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Here is a page with some DIY photos of how these recordings can be done.

And finally, the definitive site which lists new binaural recordings and news -

NOTE: ALL SAMPLES LINKED ABOVE SHOULD ONLY BE LISTENED TO USING HEADPHONES OR EAR BUDS. Listening to them using speakers will not have the effect at all!

Translated Chinese menu Of Lessig, my years of self-delusion and beginning of realization