Recorded monaural
April 3, 2002 12:22 PM   Subscribe

Recorded monaural sound came first. Then stereo. Long before our digital five channel goodness was binaural sound. Close your eyes, put on your headphones (a must) and enjoy a holographic 3D sound spectacular.
posted by pedantic (18 comments total)
there are also some examples of holophonics here. although the .wav files are quite large - some 6mb ones here - but the matches one and the hairdryer one are worth a listen.
posted by Spoon at 1:18 PM on April 3, 2002

For those who arent familiar with her, also check out the works of the artist Janet Cardiff,who works in this medium. I've given copies of her book Missing Voice as a gift - it is unique and wonderful.
posted by vacapinta at 1:30 PM on April 3, 2002

Why thank you, Pedantic. I just bought some new headphones yesterday.
posted by pheideaux at 2:46 PM on April 3, 2002

Steve Martin:
"So I bought a googlephonic stereo. That sounded like shit, too. Then I thought: Maybe it's the needle"
posted by TacoConsumer at 3:19 PM on April 3, 2002

Two weekends ago, I heard HREF="">The Next Big Thing on WNYC about the 1940's (?) recording medium known as wire. I'm not clear what this is, but the program was fascinating.

(can't figure out why this link doesn't format... it's the March 23 program via
posted by ParisParamus at 3:35 PM on April 3, 2002

The Next Big Thing [fixed link]

Audio restorer Art Shifrin has a passion. He takes old, crackling wire recordings and makes from them clear audio sound, providing glimpses into the earliest days of recording. Here he shares some of his radio gems, straight from the wire. [via the WYNC page, 3/4 way down]. Thanks ParisParamus.
posted by pedantic at 4:04 PM on April 3, 2002

Why didn't that link format?
posted by ParisParamus at 4:11 PM on April 3, 2002

Paris, this is what it looked like: <a>HREF.
Your bracket > was put in too early and should have gone at the end of the link URL. Oops.
posted by ashbury at 4:40 PM on April 3, 2002

Yes! Thanks. The idea of putting more than a letter in a tag takes some time to get use to.
posted by ParisParamus at 4:44 PM on April 3, 2002

This is just amazing.
posted by geoff. at 6:01 PM on April 3, 2002

I was so flabbergasted I forgot to ask. How can I tell biaural recordings from normal? I would spend a fortune on some of this classical music. I know the one site linked to it, but I like buying from stores. I'd use that online shop as a last resort.
posted by geoff. at 6:05 PM on April 3, 2002

This is a gimmick befit an eleven year-old and his new tape recorder. What's the big deal?
posted by ParisParamus at 6:35 PM on April 3, 2002

What are you talking about Paris? It's actually like there's depth to the sound. Am I the only one who's hearing this? Maybe it's my sound card.
posted by geoff. at 6:37 PM on April 3, 2002

No, you're not the only one, geoff. While wearing headphones, there is depth. It will not work with normal speakers because of crosstalk (where sound from one speaker overlaps the next). When recorded in binaural, and heard from two sources that do not have crosstalk (headphones), your ears are tricked, basically, into hearing depth. Otherwise, it will just like normal stereo on loudspeakers.
posted by pedantic at 6:49 PM on April 3, 2002

I might add, here's an article on do it yourself binaural. It also gets at how binaural recording captures 3 of the 4 elements in how humans localize sound -- time delays, intensity differences and the structure of the head and ears. All of which become moot when there is crosstalk and each ear does not experience the time delay, etc.
posted by pedantic at 6:54 PM on April 3, 2002

Well, I heard the same depth when I was twelve. And again, when I was 20, and trapsed around Paris recording people and women and all that. I'll listen again, but it just sounds like a stereo mike. (Actually, when I was 12, it was a pair of AKG headphones plugged into the microphone jack on a cassette deck.)
posted by ParisParamus at 7:04 PM on April 3, 2002

The idea behind binaural audio is similar to that of stereoscopy; our brains use subtle differences between our individual bilateral senses to determine depth and direction.

In the case of stereoscopy (such as the venerable View-Master), slight discrepancies in the view from each eye allow us to determine distance. Two cameras are positioned so that each records an individual eye's viewpoint. These separate views are then force-fed to each respective eye, recreating the illusion of depth.

Binaural recordings require a bit more finesse, but the principle remains the same; record each ear's experience and then force-feed playback to the appropriate ear. Headphones are therefore required for the apparent effect since loudspeakers spill their sound everywhere.

Because our heads are full of fluid and other resonant cavities, however, realism is often accentuated by literally placing the recording mics in an artificial "recording head." If done well, this far surpasses any stereo mic technique, allowing the listener to locate sounds not just left and right of center, but also above/below and fore/aft of the recording position.

As computers become more computationally powerful, we are beginning to see digital processing capable of recreating this phenomenon in real-time using a technique similar to raytracing. While the acoustic models employed by today's soundcards are still somewhat simplified, it won't be long before all immersive environments take advantage of our stereo senses to increase their realism.
posted by johnnyace at 4:13 AM on April 4, 2002

You bastard, that's what I was going to say.

That's what I love about metafilter. Such a broad range of expertise. Thanks for the explication, johnnyace, and for the link, pedantic.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:24 AM on April 4, 2002

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