How and Why Binaural Recordings Work
Grab your best set of headphones and relax as you take a trip on the adventure of 3D surround sound made by binaural recordings. Binaural recordings give you the illusion that you are actually experiencing the sounds in the environment. Without getting too technical yet, the way binaural recordings work is by recording the sounds with microphone positioning exactly where ears would by and including a "dummy head" in between the two microphones at the time or recording. This causes the sound waves to behave the same way they would if you were in the environment.
You have to wear headphones with these binaural recordings so there is no "bleed through" of the sound from ear to ear. Remember, the recordings already included the presence of a head in between the microphones to separate just the right amount of sound and cause a real ambient delay between the two channels. If you think stereo sound is great, this is a 3D movie for the ears. Put your headphones on and listen for yourself.
Virtual Barber Shop Recording 3D Recording
Virtual Barbershop and Haircut
The Virtual Barbershop is probably the most famous example of binaural recording, so this makes a great intro and example. Hit play on this youtube embedded video and shut your eyes for the best imaginative effect. This is a great demonstration of how underrated sound is as a sense, and gives you some idea of how blind people are able to "see" where sounds are coming from in a room. Watch out! You may find yourself feeling tingly around your neck as you listen.
Virtual Barber Shop Induced Feelings
Holoacoustic Demonstration with Visual Confirmations
In the following example of a binaural recording you get to see as if you are sitting and looking straight ahead. I like this one, even though there are similarities to the virtual barber shop, because your eyes get to confirm that it isn't some sort of digitally altered trick. You know it is an actual recording, and you can still see where things are with your ears even when the things are not in view.
3D Sound Demonstration
Binaural Recording Demo
Binaural Street Sounds
3D Sounds on a Street
As you listen to this street binaural recording, imagine this audio being part of a movie. You can actually close your eyes and tell that the drivers are driving on the left side of the street unlike in the U.S. This effect is so cool, and it would be a great idea for a movie. An audio movie could be produced using binaural recordings. It would be especially cool if that binaural movie was about a blind person getting around.
Binaural Movie Poll
Binaural Nature Recordings
Even though the quality of these youtube videos isn't the greatest, you can still get the feeling you are there with these. The virtual thunderstorm takes me back to when I would sit on the screened porch with my Dad and listen to the thunderstorm. He would usually fall asleep, and I would too sometimes. Nature has a way of making you slow down, relax, and de-stress. This binaural recording allows you the opportunity any time you want.
Rain and Stream Binaural Recordings
In these other two nature recordings, you can be soothed by the smooth sounds of rain or the stream. It's interesting that when you look at the dummy head from a couple feet away, the sound doesn't seem to match up as well as the other videos that were "first person" camera shots.
This shows the true precision of the binaural audio's ability to allow your ear to accurately position the ambient sounds. Our ears are amazing microphones, and it's interesting that these amazing recordings are captured by getting as close to recording from a real human head and ear as possible.
The technology is not that complicated, it is just positioning of microphones and placing a dummy head in to represent the listeners head for playback. The question is, why aren't more recordings done this way, and why are people content with regular stereo. The answer is a little more complicated and is explained in the next video, but boils down to the restriction of this technology use for headphones only.
Loudspeaker Binaural Technology
In order to allow you to hear binaural recordings in say... the movie theater, you would have to come up with a new technology to allow the isolation of sound for each ear. This is explained in the video, but may be a little complicated for you. I disagreed with one part talking about how matching up binaural recordings with high definition digital video would create the most real experience. I think the perfect experience would be 3D sound AND Video. I already enjoy 3D movies, but I would be willing to wear headphones at the movie theater to get the total 3D experience if I had to. Would you?
3D in the Movie Theaters
Some Great MP3's of Binaural Recordings
Here's an example of a bluegrass band playing in the evening. You can hear the tree frogs, crickets, and ambient sound of a tent in the country and people bantering back and forth during the song, which makes for an organically genuine experience. Download the song for your enjoyment.
Here's a motorcycle recording that you can feel and position each bike.
Binaural Recording Gear
Binaural Recordings on a Budget
If you don't have the money to invest in a dummy head and mic set, it might be a little more reasonable to buy a set of in-ear binaural microphones that you use your own head for a sound shaper. This is actually more realistic than anything because you are using your actual head.
Then you will need some sort of device to record to. I suggest an i-Pod with a Belkin Tune Talk attachment that has the option of a power boost if you need it. I've used the Tune Talk attachment for recordings using the line in with good results and the built in microphones give you a decent stereo spatial pattern.
Beyerdynamic DT 770-Pro
Funny Reaction to the Virtual Haircut
Binaural Recording of The Maasai in Kenya
Let Us Know What You Think About the Binaural Recordings
Rozyk on January 20, 2016:
Dirk Bertels on June 08, 2014:
Love the top 2 videos - 3D Sound Demonstration in particular is the first sample where I can actually hear up and down as well.
I'm also interested in what equipment you actually used for this recording.
richard on May 31, 2012:
Ok, so gee-wizz sound effects are useful demonstrations of binaural. But where can we get hold of full-length commercial recordings of actual musical performances? or albums with binaural sections in them.
I only know of two.
Pink Floyd: The Final Cut in The heroes return
Quincy Jones: The Dude (non specific - the whole album?)
I read somewhere that many recordings were put out on LP and Cassette. (mostly in Germany) There ought to be some re-released on CD surely. Anyone?
Eric Sheng on February 21, 2012:
Very very informative. thumbs up
Robin on January 17, 2012:
What mics was used in the top 2 videos?
Leftybass on March 24, 2011:
Also check out Kall Binaural Audio. They're based out of Halifax, NS, and have some great musical binaural examples. It would be awesome if more musicians/bands recorded binaurally.
Listen to "One Man Rumba" -- it was multitracked and layered all with a dummy head mic, and sounds awesome!
DaNoblest from California on March 11, 2011:
While I don't know anyone who uses binaural recording I definitely plan to try it myself in the future.
I am not surprised about HD-280's. I love them!
Blake Flannery (author) from United States on March 11, 2011:
There may be potential to use binaural recording to spice up our own recordings. Do you know of people using this type of "dummy head" recording for home studio setups? How do you think it would sound once you layered a few things?
Sennheiser makes some great stuff, and the HD-280's have become about the most popular studio headphones I know of.
DaNoblest from California on March 11, 2011:
This is one of the most awesome hubs I have come across. I love sound and will be looking into this technique now! Thank you so much for sharing this!
By the way I was listening with my Sennheiser HD-280s. I will vouch for them being a great buy. They worked great with this type of sound.
auralintrigue on February 22, 2011:
have a look at either www.3dhorrorfi.com or www.filthybeauty.com as these are the leading commercial sites for binaural recordings