Binaural Audio

Being able to create perfectly immersive sound is the dream of just about everyone that works in the audio industry wether that be music or any other kinds of audio. This immersive audio is basically being able to recreate sounds exactly as the human ears would hear. In the modern music industry the standard form of imaging is done using a "pan" control, this pan control changes the positioning of a sound by moving it either left or right. This range of left to right is called the3 stereo field and the "pan" can move the sound anywhere within this stereo field. This stereo field was a huge step up from the mono playback that came before it, but in these modern times we find our selves needing more than just the stereo field. The problem with this stereo field is that it can only position the sounds within a 2D space (left to right) which allows us some level of control but it completely ignores the 3rd dimension. So as stereo succeeded mono it seems obvious that this 3rd dimension of sound and control should succeed stereo. So after many long years of stereo along comes binaural.

 

Binaural audio is a form of audio that replicates the 3 dimensional image of sound that we hear everyday through our own ears. To explain how this works i want you to quickly close your eyes and get someone to make sounds in different positions around you. What you will notice is that even with your eyes closed you can notice exactly where the sound originates from in relation to where your stood. This is because Soundwaves hit each ear at different times, and at different volumes, and with that information your brain can calculate the origin of the noise (A,smith). Modern binaural mixes use this theory to recreate the way these soundwaves hit each ear in order to add this third dimension of sound. Binaural opens up the ability to control not only left and right positioning but also provides height, and positioning that goes left to right, front to back, and everything in between. In this way binaural opens up the ability to position anywhere within a 3D space while also adding the control of distance. (M, Lalwani)

In todays music industry we have seen some of the industry leaders starting to look at this binaural audio as the next wave and thus creating the tools we need to properly implement it into our work with ease. These tools come in the form of binaural plug ins that easily allow the user to work within this binaural space. These plug ins allow the user to arrange there sounds using the three dimensional space we discussed earlier. Our favourite has to be the DearVR plugin, this plug in is layed out fantastically to allow the user to jump straight into this new realm with ease. 

Although these plugins are starting to emerge making binaural a reality to any user they dont come without there problems. The main problem being the way that these plugins convert to different types of playback. While they sound amazing when listening on headphones, the real problem lies within other types of playback. When converting to a speaker set up the effect that these plug ins have is greatly reduced which means that it can be hard to use in a practical situation as all mixing engineers know that a mix has to be able to comvert well to all playback types. Without this ability to convert the audio binaural just seems to be a cool future technology but There is no doubt that if developers can find a way to more accurately convert to other forms of playback, then this will immediately take off. (M, Makinverno) 

Another limitation we also found was that when we put our sounds to the extremes such as behind our head or above the head it was clear that the sound didnt appear to be physically behind us it was just sort of somewhere near the back. The binaural also seemed to take a lot of the impact or presence off an instrument, sort of like when you put too much reverb on something which kind of makes sense but was still a limitation.

 

We gave binaural a go within one of our mix downs and found it had amazing results through headphones. We went for a more subtle approach than most other examples that we had seen. We did this by using the binaural as more of an advanced panning / expanding tool. We did this by leaving one version of a sound in the centre (without DearVR) and then replicating the sounnd and pushing it our into the binaural space to make a sort of hybrid binaural sound. This gave fantastic results as the original sound provided the impact and presence and the binaural versions provided a sense of space to the mix. As a mix down tool it was amazing and left me kind of dissapointed with the original non binaural version of the mix but as it didnt really convert to speaker set ups we knew we would have to select our use of binaural carefully.

Enough of me talking its time for you to have a listen and see what you think so here is our example:

 

 

 

 

 References:

A Smith, (2017), Binaural Audio: what is it? how can you get it?, article, blog Available at: https://www.whathifi.com/advice/binaural-audio-what-it-how-can-you-get-it, [Accessed: 20th November 2020]

M, Lalwani, (2015) Surrounded by sound: how 3D audio Hacks your brain, article, blog, available at: https://www.theverge.com/2015/2/12/8021733/3d-audio-3dio-binaural-immersive-vr-sound-times-square-new-york, [Accessed: 20th novemebr 2020]

M, Makinverno, (2015) What is Binaural Audio?, article, blog available at: https://splice.com/blog/what-is-binaural-audio/, [Accessed: 20th November 2020] 

 


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