NOT QUITE AS LATE-BREAKING NEWS
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Me, I love headphones, and use mine all the time.
- Corey Greenberg, Home Theater Magazine
5.1 [channels] isn't reality - BINAURAL is reality!
- Leonard Layton, Lake DSP
Headphones rotate along with your head, so you're ALWAYS in the sweet spot!
- Leonard Layton's answer to two-speaker-based approaches to surround sound which all suffer from a narrow "sweet spot" where the effect is heard.
Why are we virtualizing 5.1 when we could do better? ...5.1 pales in comparison to a well-processed crosstalk canceled binaural recording [on speakers - such as the Lexicon Binaural Panorama processor]. Such a recording is a stunning experience which I think very few people have actually heard.
- Jerry Bauck of Cooper-Bauck Corporation during AES paper on virtualizing surround sound with two speakers.
FROM THE PLAYBOY ADVISOR, July 1998 issue: Binaural CDs are designed to be played through
headphones...The rich 3D effect can be stunning. John Sunier of The Binaural Source suggests starting
your collection with an audio drama (Stephen King's "The Mist"), nature recording (Gordon Hempton's
"Earth Sounds"), jazz ("Jurgen Sturm's "Tango Subversivo"), or classical music...
[Harry Somerfield's nationally-syndicated weekly column, Home Entertainment, appears in 80 newspapers and at the E-town web site:]
For an Amazing Experience in Listening, Give Binaural Sound a Try
by Harry Somerfield
July 6, 1998 -- You're undoubtedly familiar with stereo. That's when recordings are made with two or more microphones and played back through two speakers. The idea is to have sound reach your left and right ears in such a way as to give you a feeling of depth and spaciousness -- to give an illusion of being there.
Over the years, stereo recording techniques have become so manipulative that often the sound you hear during playback exists nowhere except in the minds of the producer and engineer who mixed the final master recording. This is even true with most so-called live performances. However, the finished product is more than acceptable because those doing the mixing understand that the sounds on the recording will have to be played back in a variety of rooms, all of which will alter the sound.
But what if the room added no sonic enhancements or coloration? That's what occurs when playback is heard through headphones.
Those who take their tunes everywhere -- either with portable audio cassette or CD players -- know how deeply involved they can become with the music as it's reconstructed inside their heads. Imagine how cool the sound would be if it were recorded with two microphones that exactly mimicked human ears.
That's what's done with "binaural" recordings -- and if you've never heard one, you've got a special treat coming. Listening to a binaural recording through a good pair of headphones is as close as you'll ever get to being present during a recording session.
I guess binaural sound is one of those weird, well-kept secrets. Neumann and other world-class microphone manufacturers have been building binaural microphone systems for years, all of which employ a facsimile of a human head -- complete with the soft external flaps we've come to refer to as "ears." In place of a human's eardrums are two (left and right) high-quality microphones.
When binaural music recordings are made, the head/microphone system is placed where a real human might actually sit -- in the audience -- rather than inches away from the various instruments. Then the resulting two-channel recording is not mixed, tweaked or otherwise altered on its way to the master tape (be it analog or digital). The 360-degree sound from one of these recordings is a marvel when first heard -- not unlike the more lifelike visual image seen through an old fashioned stereopticon. However, don't try to get the same sonic results when the binaural tape or disc is played over a speaker system -- even a superior one. The true binaural experience is relegated to headphone users only.
The binaural system is used with excellent results in the latest 3D versions of IMAX films, where you're required to wear special glasses with speakers built in over each ear. You might even find some binaural tapes or discs in regular record stores -- they are typically referred to as "virtual audio" or "3D audio" recordings.
THE BINAURAL SOURCE
As luck would have it, there is an outlet that deals exclusively in binaural recordings -- both analog compact cassettes and digital compact discs. Called "The Binaural Source," it boasts not only music recordings, but also "environmental" subjects (nature recordings). The latest 12-page catalog lists classics, jazz, "easy listening," audio dramas, nature sounds, and a good selection of pipe organ music.
For more information, write The Binaural Source at Box 1727, Ross, CA 94957 or call 800-934-0442. Of course you can find them on the Internet too -- or order a catalog via email.
[Reprinted with permission of E-town publishers.]
Back in the LP era there were a number of binaural recordings available. One popular one was The Binaural Demonstration Record put out by STEREO REVIEW about 1970. It used a home-made sculpted head known the Blue Max. When THE BINAURAL SOURCE started nine years ago we offered a number of LPs. The problem was that unless one had the best quality LP playback gear and cleaned and treated one's vinyl carefully, surface noise was exaggerated via headphone listening. Also, many of the LPs shipped from European suppliers arrived here in fine shape for use as fruit bowls but not for actually playing. If you have an interesting early experience with binaural, share it with us and the best submissions will win a rare 45 rpm Sennheiser binaural demo disc or a brand new Sonic Arts Lab Series binaural LP of pianist David Montgomery in works of Chopin, Liszt & Schumann.
We don't offer every single binaural CD made today, because a few of them just aren't up to our standards musically or sonically. The same was true back in LP days, and this is the cover of one we decided not to carry even though the composer is one of the greatest living and the sonics were above reproach. As the title suggests, this is really a symphonic poem for 100 wind-up metronomes! They are placed, fully wound and each set to a slightly different tempo, around the performance space in a specially-mapped-out arrangement. The piece begins when the 50 or so "stagehands" let go of the metronomes and get out of the hall; the piece is over when the very last metronome finally runs down and stops ticking. On one side of the LP the metronomes are placed in a circle around the dummy head and on the other side they are spread out around the church in which the recordings were made. Only in binaural would the spatial qualities of this work be appreciated, reasoned Ligeti, who is not without a sense of humor. The premiere in Holland in l963 caused a great scandal.
In the July l998 issue of AUDIO magazine, p. 64, appears an extensive review of both the home and car versions of the Rocktron Circle Surround 5.2.5 Decoder, with a special emphasis on the superior surround soundfield achieved when playing binaural CDs through this matrix decoder. More details at www.rocktron.com
Taking Sound in Another Direction is the title of John Sunier's latest article on binaural, appearing in the Winter 1998 issue of LISTENER magazine. For a reprint of the complete article and more, go to the Binaural Bulletin Page.
MAJOR FEATURE ON IMAX BINAURAL! "As Wide And As Deep As It Gets" - The New 3D Image and 3D Binaural IMAX, by John Sunier
This eight-page profusely illustrated article appears in Volume 6, Number 4, Issue 26 of WIDESCREEN REVIEW, which reached newsstands in early January. This bi-monthly publication is subtitled The Essential Home Theater Resource, and has news and reviews of DVD and widescreen laserdiscs as well as articles on HDTV, DSS and home theater components. For more information visit their web site. See also shorter article below on same subject.
BINAURAL & COMPUTERS: The multimedia and virtual reality areas of the computer hardware and software worlds are agog over what they call Interactive 3D Audio. This is especially suitable for computer gaming and VR environments. Software now allows almost any sound to be placed aurally anywhere in a 360-degree sphere around the listener to headphones or speakers at their computer. Known as "spatialization," this adds tremendous realism to games and VR. New MicroSoft software for developers provides the proper algorithms for either headphones or speaker listening - the user merely clicks on the proper icon. Most of the sounds are not recorded with a dummy head but "convolved" from original mono sound sources. The next version of the popular Sound Blaster sound card for PCs will have some of this new technology. It has also been rumoured that a 'high-end" sound card for computer audiophiles is coming soon! The next step in adding realism will be the inclusion of "head tracking," so that sounds remain in their same location when the user turns his head. Some military and specialized pro systems are already using head tracking.
One of the developers working in 3D Audio decried "the transducer-impoverished environment" in which his software would be used. He was referring to the puny speakers usually hung on each side of the computer monitor, sometimes bolstered by a third tiny speaker laughably dubbed a "subwoofer." The answer to much better sound plus better 3D effects for multimedia
computers is simple: plug in some quality headphones, such as the Grados or Sennheisers, that sound good with the low-power
output of most computer sound cards. As a user sitting in front of the computer monitor you aren't going anywhere anyway, right?
We received a packet of reviews from Germany of the work of the CHORALCONCERT trio, all of whose recordings we stock on both the Nabel and KlangRaume labels. Here are some choice excerpts:
The organ screams, and the sax leads the lonely melody of Out of the Depths I Cry to You.
Slowly despair fades and an electric guitar joins in support. Upon celebrating Martin Luther's 500th anniversary, the trio ChoralConcert recorded 14 hymns by the Protestant reformer. The jazz musicians...mold the religious spirit of the songs as Luther wished ...that not pray the lips alone but that the words flow from the bottom of the heart. = FOCUS magazine.
The way that the improvisations of the two jazz musicians and choir master complete, intensify and increase each other, I dare to call a miracle!This Reformation hymns are both calling upon the European tradition and also reflect the present. Organist Karl Scharnweber...contributes his fair share to this profession's achievements that have honored the art of improvisation for centuries now. This recording, a sequel to ChoralConcert Vol. I, offers an outstanding sound quality as did its predecessor. = HI-FI VISION.
Organist Karl Scharnweber, educated in Halle, has joined with two jazz musicians, saxophonist and flutist Thomas Klemm, and guitarist Wolfgang Schmiedt. Both studied at the Hanns Eisler University of Music in Berlin and have been internationally acclaimed ever since. This time they have chosen eight Lutheran hymns dating back to between 1480 and 1680. they have rearranged the hymns in an unusual way and turned them into strikingly contemplative improvisations. This is a performance of hymns expressing a surprising musicality. It is a music filled with thoughts, revealing a restrained dramatic force fed by great patience. Each hymn if differently arranged. Some are jubilantly performed by the pipe organ before the sax joins in celebrating the theme of the hymn. In others, the flute is trilling in duet with the tuned-down electric guitar. Then a hymn starts out unorganized, taking some time before the theme reveals itself. Finally, the organ strikes heavy, dissonant chords or gives way to the sax's version of a devotional paraphrase. Listening to these recordings, you will always sense the location and space. You will hear the echo, the flute player's breath and clatter of the different organ registers... = DIE ZEIT.
COMPATIBILITY OF BINAURAL RECORDINGS ON LOUDSPEAKERS...is no longer a factor since both of the commercial artificial head mike systems used for 99% of our CDs and cassettes are specially equalized for proper playback on stereo speakers. See both our FAQs and The Binaural Bulletin for various quotes on this concern. Most binaural CDs sound as good or better on speakers than the best purist stereo recordings! And they possess hidden ambient information too; keep reading!
WHEN IT COMES TO MATRIX SURROUND SOUND...we have much more than just compatibility; binaural recordings have more clean, phase-accurate ambience information than most standard stereo recordings and certainly better than Dolby Surround music recordings. The result with any surround processor operating on the L - R signals in a recording is a natural and enveloping surround soundfield that many prefer to the new 5.1 digital discrete surround format! The 5.2.5 Circle Surround processor is highly recommended, as is the quite amazing ($149) PhaseAround passive processor. [Contact us here for more info on PhaseAround, Also visit Circle Surround's home page via our Links]
For Virtual Audio, BINAURAL is Where It's @
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