It used to be that everyone listened to music in their homes using hi-fi stereo systems with huge amps and speakers. But today, almost all music is listened to using ear-bud speakers.

Stereo sound through headphones often doesn't sound the way it should, since the recording is based on two sources, not on two destinations.

Given the digital source and the processing power available, it shouldn't be that difficult to convert a stereo source to close to what its binaural recording would have been.

Do mobile phones etc. that people use for music have a binaural setting, or even have that as the default mode? (And if not, why not?)


Some answers are saying that it simply isn't possible. I don't know why they say that.

Stereo recordings are made by using two or more microphones and mixing the result into two channels. When played through two speakers, someone listening at the sweet-spot in front of those speakers should hear a close approximation to what the original performance was.

Binaural recordings are made using a special dual microphone that records what each ear of a human listener would hear. When played through headphones, the listener will hear what they would have heard at the live performance.

It's possible to play a stereo recording through two speakers, position a binaural microphone at the sweet-spot, and produce a binaural recording of what someone listening to the stereo sound would hear. — Binaural re-recording - Wikipedia

Today's hardware and software is fast and powerful enough that it should be able to simulate that re-recording process.

Obviously it won't be as good as an original binaural recording, but an app should be able to convert the standard stereo recordings everyone listens to into a much more realistic binaural sound when using earbuds.

I'm asking why this isn't already done. Simply stating that it isn't possible is not a good answer. Perhaps it isn't possible, but if so, I'd like to know why.

  • 1
    You cannot generate binaural data from stereo. It's simply not possible. I'll let someone smarter than me fill in the answer as to exactly why, but expect to see references to Haas or the precedence effect
    – Tetsujin
    Sep 22, 2019 at 16:14
  • 1
    "You cannot generate binaural data from stereo. It's simply not possible." But you can. One crude way would be to play the source through stereo speakers and record the result with a binaural microphone. That same process could be digitally simulated in software. Oct 23, 2019 at 13:31
  • Binaural recordings don't need 'special microphones' at all. You can make binaural recordings with a pair of lavaliers if you like. You can also simulate binaural from stereo using delay lines. It's rough and ready, but it works. See Answer below.
    – Mark
    Oct 24, 2019 at 10:21
  • Strap one of these to your phone. radiomuseum.org/r/dynamicele_quadnaural_1500_pa.html
    – Alaska Man
    Nov 17, 2020 at 21:50

3 Answers 3


No, they do not. It might be possible to cross-connect a short delay across the left and right channels in order to simulate two speakers in front of the head, but this is generally not done. The left channel - as supplied by the media file or stream is simply routed to the left ear-bud, and the right channel to the right ear-bud. Generally, no more complex than that.

It's possibly available with an app, but generally the standard functionality would leave this sort of thing alone as it is the cleanest way to treat the signal.

If BL=Binaural Left and BR=Binaural Right...

  • BL=(Stereo Left) + (Delayed/filtered Stereo Right)
  • BR=(Stereo Right) + (Delayed/filtered Stereo Left)

The delay must be consistent and non-zero. Tune to taste. Slight low-pass filter across some of the higher frequencies as well.

The result will be a forward-perceived binaural stereo sound-stage and will only work on headphones. It's rough and ready, and not perfect, but it proves a concept.


Of course it is possible.

The processing power is there in the phone.

There are a number of plugins or hardware solutions available for studio work. Examples include Waves NX, Toneboosters Isone, Sonarworks Reference 4, 112dB Redline monitor and probably many more. As far as I know they are not super popular, but what do I know. I do not know if they are available for phones.

It is possible that different versions of the mix are made to fit the distribution, and it could include versions tailored for headphone listening having these kinds of effects in place.

You might find this kind of audio effects as apps or similar for your phone doing a search.


"I'm asking why this isn't already done."

Because it is not necessary.

Why mess up a good stereo recording.

Another reason; the music should be played the way it was recorded and NOT bastardized by some "smartphone" algorithm. If it is recorded in Stereo, play it in Stereo,If it is recorded in Binaural, play it in Binaural.

But that's just me, i get all my music from 12 inch vinyl discs with grooves in them, spinning at 33 1/3 RPM's while a little diamond stylus picks up the vibrations in the groves and sends it to two speakers, or four speakers on my quadraphonic system.

  • Alaska Man You're missing the point. A stereo recording can only be accurately heard with stereo speakers. It just sounds wrong through headphones. To hear it as intended, you need to feed some of the left channel to the right ear and vice versa, with a slight delay (phase shift), thus simulating a true stereo experience. Sep 16, 2021 at 23:51
  • You are correct that it is totally inappropriate to listen to stereo using headphones. But many people do it, often without any choice. But what they hear could be made so much better with a little software. Sep 17, 2021 at 1:15
  • Alaska, Peter and Ray - while your opinions are valid, there is no "shoiuld", "wrong" or "inappropriate" - many choose their own playback preferences because they prefer the sound that way. People even like Beats headphones despite their obvious failings.
    – Rory Alsop
    Sep 18, 2021 at 12:56

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