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I'm curious if there's any notable difference between a binaural recording and a typical stereo miking pattern when listening in a studio environment. Is there anything that needs to be compensated for? Obviously I've listened to binaural recordings on my personal gear, but I want to get a professional perspective on this.

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Binaural recording and playback is awesome because of the spatial localization reproduction. It's almost true 3D. Left, right, up, down, forward, back, and distance are all reproduced fairly well. The only catch is that you have to listen to it in headphones. Earbuds actually work better, since the shape of the outer ear (Pinnae) is already accounted for in the recording, so if you use cans, you are just going through the outer ear again. That fact aside, an unaltered binaural recording is going to sound funky through studio monitors. This is because the recorded binaural signal already has localization "imprinted" on it, and when you listen to speakers, your ears are going to localize the sound again. You cannot prevent the right ear from hearing the left speaker and the left ear from hearing the right speaker. This isolation is only possible with the use of headphones.

You can, however, CONVERT binaural to stereo for playback on a pair of speakers using a loudspeaker crosstalk canceling system. This can be either software conversion or a hardware converter You can pull it off with most binaural recordings fairly well, but it works best with a Binaural Impulse Response (or BIR). There's a good article about it here. AES has an article about it as well, but you have to purchase it. If you're interested, it's located here. I've done a ton of work with binaural, so if you want to know more about it, let me know.

  • @Colin Hart Wow, I just learned a bunch from your answer... – Andrew Spitz Mar 18 '10 at 23:01
  • Glad to hear it! That's what SSD's all about! – Colin Hart Mar 18 '10 at 23:46
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For me, there is a big difference. When listening with headphones, the spatial reproduction of binaural recordings sound incredibly accurate (not quite that accurate in front though). When listening back on speakers, the middle of the stereo field is quite dead. It really doesn't portray a good stereo image. It's a pity because it would be a great way to record inconspicuously without sacrificing a nice stereo image.

This is just my experience. Anyone with another view point?

  • if what you say is true how would a simple cardioid mic faced at the center of the stereo image while recording binaural would sound? (or maybe a super cardioid?) i am going to try this when i find a dummy head. – Nikos Chatzigeorgiadis Mar 22 '10 at 13:59
  • @Nikos Chatzigeorgiadis Well let me know when you do try it. I'd be curious to hear how it sounds. I guess a mid-side setup would be similar. – Andrew Spitz Mar 22 '10 at 14:30
  • Research the "Decca Tree" this is an array of omnidirectional mics. I fear that introducing a cardioid mic into a simple binaural setup would degrade the binaural capabilities simply to 'fill in' the image a little when reproduced on speakers. It might be worth also researching the "jecklin disc" which is a way of using an absorbant surface between the two omnidirectional mics to simulate a head-related transfer function, which as I understand it, improves imaging when used with speakers. – Mark Feb 22 at 12:10

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