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Listening With Both Ears

Got headphones? Put them on and listen to this:

It is a demonstration of binaural recording and you can read much more about it in the article it was published with on The Verge website, Surrounded by Sound. The concept is that, just as we can create an illusion of a three dimensional space by sending slightly different images to each eye, you can create a similar effect by sending different images to each ear. It does sound fascinating, especially the barbershop section with clicking scissors moving round the back of your head — I’ve not heard that sound for years!

One of the subtleties is to not only record with two microphones mounted as if they sat on either side of a head but also to introduce moulded rubber baffles that look like ears, catching a little more sound from the front but muting it slightly from behind. One area they didn’t explore was whether changing the ears makes a perceptible difference to the sound. Does it make a difference if you have attached or unattached lobes? Did things sound different as a child because your ears were smaller and closer together? How does the sound change if you use a model based on a different kind of animal, like a dog or cat?

The other test which would have been interesting to hear would be binaural recording against an equivalent stereo recording. Does the extra set up repay the listener with a more convicing sense of music in space (and how do the two compare when listening through the air rather than through headphones)? I’m sure some of those answers are out there; I’ll just have to listen!

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