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You’re Going to Want to Wear Headphones for This…

by admin on December 1, 2016

There’s nothing quite like live music. Sure, recordings often have higher sound quality, better production value and all the bells and whistles, but the experience isn’t the same. Even a video of a live performance lacks that element of “being there” and hearing the imperfections and nuances as they should be heard. Binaural recording is a method of capturing sound that creates the illusion that the listener is actually in the room. The audio seems to have dimension; some even say it’s 3-D. This effect is accomplished by recreating the way humans hear sounds. The recording process is explained succinctly in this video. Basically, there is a model of a human head with two microphones where the ears would normally be. Instead of just collecting audio, it “hears” music. It differs from other recording styles because it is not going for optimal sound; it’s trying to give the listener the total experience of being immersed in the music.

In this video, a live performance of the song “I Don’t Know” by Peter and Kerry is played with both mono and binaural recording techniques. As soon as the binaural microphone kicks in, it’s like the room is suddenly filled with sounds from every direction. Each instrument seems to be coming from where it is actually placed in the studio. You could probably tell where the instruments are without even seeing the video. It adds to the experience of watching a performance because it puts you in the place of a front row viewer. This effect can be accomplished by producing music so that particular instruments play in the left or right headphone for a listener, but it’s less organic that way: engineers and artists work together to make sure the music sounds exactly how they want it to, sometimes detracting from the idiosyncrasies of the artist. After watching this video, I was curious as to why I had never heard of this concept. It turns out the technology has been available for over a century, but we live in a society that favors music with higher production values and an easier recording process.

For some types of music, binaural recording would not be the way to go; for example, highly produced EDM doesn’t exactly have multiple instruments, so the effect would be lost. However, for small venues like an NPR Tiny Desk Concert , this recording platform would be immersive and increase the intimacy of the setting. If you have at least eight thousand dollars to spare and are really into that realistic vibe when it comes to live music, this is the recording equipment for you. Some big name bands have experimented with this technology like Radiohead and Pearl Jam, but it never really caught on in the iindustry With virtual reality becoming a major player in the tech industry, this recording method could be revitalized. It’s worth mentioning that the idea of binaural audio isn’t primarily used for recording music. There is a whole field of pseudo-science based on binaural beats and rhythms that are said to promote health, increase sex drive, and other pretty unrealistic claims. Many people are more than a little skeptical of the effectiveness of these controversial techniques. Either way, this underrated recording process is just one more way to help people appreciate and understand music, and that is something everyone can get behind.

By Anna Lee Skinner

Christian T Smith December 6, 2016 at 4:39 pm

I think I was most interested by the recording process mentioned in this article. I had never considered there being a model used to record these sounds as opposed to just a series of standard mics. I thought that the inclusion of the video was very good at helping me to understand 3d sound and relate it back to your writing. I think that you wrote very energetically and with captivating prose. This combined with your subject matter made for a very interesting and super engaging article.

Catherine Allen December 6, 2016 at 12:21 pm

This was such an interesting article on a topic that I knew very little about before reading! I found the music video very interesting and it lined up exactly to what you said in the article. I really felt like I was there and the experience was a lot more enjoyable than just a normal music video. I do think that you are right though that this type of recording would only work for certain music types, like the NPR Tiny Desk Concert, but I hope that I begin to see this kind of music more in the future, since we have had this technology for so long.

Kailey Hackett December 6, 2016 at 10:58 am

Before reading this I was completely unfamiliar with 3D sound entirely. I watched the linked video and ended up listening to tons of related videos to hear more 3D sound. It was so weird to me how we have the capabilities to make you feel like you were in the room at a live concert just by putting on your headphones. I wish there were even more songs created in 3D because it was awesome and I loved feeling like I truly was there. I also listened to this without my headphones and saw that it was a completely different feeling. It was almost weird to me that this could be accomplished with modern technology. The article was very intriguing and informative and I definitely learned a lot about this topic and things that were brand new to me.

Lea Gilbert December 4, 2016 at 6:19 pm

I really like this concept of 3D sound. At first I was wondering how the music was different from other forms of video, but then the biaural audio kicked in and suddenly I was totally immersed. Although it wasn’t exactly the same feeling of a live concert, it was definitely way more immersive than a regular music video. I could hear the sounds coming from different areas of the room. When I took off one side of my headphones I couldn’t hear the piano and barely heard the girl’s voice which shows how they created the sound with the headphone. If we continue with this idea of biaural sounds, we could have more concert streamed inside of played live effectively cutting back on our carbon footprint. People with disabilities who are not in the shape to travel can also enjoy a immersive experience without having to actual travel to be there.

Emma Berg December 4, 2016 at 11:46 am

This is a really interesting topic that I have never heard about. I enjoyed the video because what you described in the article was true, I could really picture the location of the instruments and the sound just felt more full. I like how you start with a description, go into detail with an example, and then rap it up at the end. The final paragraph did a great job of answering questions I had when reading the article because it is interesting that the industry doesn’t use this type of recording. This was really interesting to learn about and your article was very well written!

Sarah Chao December 4, 2016 at 12:20 am

Wow. I am so impressed and intrigued!! Very well written and a strong, energetic voice. I loved the video and listened to it with headphones in, and it was incredible! It truly made me feel like I was there with the artists because I could hear the instruments in their exact locations. I wish I knew more about it, and then you made a great point in the end of the second paragraph—that this technology has been accessible for a while, but since society doesn’t favor it, not many people know about it. I want to learn more about its effects and any experiments they’ve done binaural recordings.

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