Binaural Audio

Natural or Processed?

These days the recording and mixing process usually takes place in a studio with each instrument being played in seperate rooms, with a microphone on each one, usually placed only inches from the sound source. During mixing equalisation, compression, artificial delays and reverbs are used to create a finished product that sounds great. However it is far from a realistic, natural recording of what took place that day. If you appreciate the 'realness' of being there in the room with a great musician who understands his instrument and has the experience to control his volume and tone then maybe Binaural Audio may find it's way into your heart.

Hear through somebody else's ears.

If you were to place a microphone in each of your ears and record each to it's own channel whilst you listened to that talented musician, you would capture exactly what your ear is hearing and sending to your brain. If you were to play the recording from the left microphone back into your left ear, and right microphone into your right ear (using headphones) you would be sending the sound back to your ears in exactly the same way that you heard it the first time. Can it get any more natural?


Location, location, location!!!

Our auditory system, as you know, allows us to pinpoint the origin of the sounds we hear everyday. Just like our eyes, the way our brain is able to achieve this relies on the fact that we have two ears. A sound travelling from our left, arrives at our right ear a fraction of a second later than the left ear. Because it has to travel further it is also not quite as loud when it gets there. Couple this with the effect that our head has on the sound (our head changes the balance of frequencies as the sound travels around it) and the brain is able to triangulate the source of the sound very quickly and reasonably accurately.

When recording using the binaural technique these time and volume differences, as well as frequency changes are preserved. Thus on playback our brain is able to locate each sound as nature intended. No pan pots, no speaker setup to get right and a 360 degree soundfield that can be more effect than the best 7.2 surround sound systems.


Dummy ideas.

Using a dummy head with microphones in it's ears is a great way to achieve the binaural effect without having to stand in front of a loud drum kit or guitar amp. Both DIY and commercial products are effective.

It's still possible to manipulate the end result when choosing to produce a binaural recording. It takes a little bit more planning and commitment but when done right can be some of the best audio around. 

Instead of adding a big cathedral reverb to that choir recording you did in your soundproofed studio why not record them using a binaural head in a cathedral? Balance the levels of that string quartet by moving the viola back a few steps and bringing the double bass forward. Create panning effects by having the singer walk around the room. The ideas are endless and the limitations force creativity in different ways, which is just as cool as the possibility of having the listener surrounded by sound from every angle.

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