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Perceptually Ergonomic 3-Dimensional Sound for Headphones.
Headphones are required for the effect.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Rökkurró @ 12 Tónar Record Store (Off-Venue)

And now the band that is responsible for me going to Iceland Airwaves in the first place. Those bastards...

Rökkurró playing inside 12 Tónar (ultra hi-fi binaural manikin head in foreground):

Album: Það kólnar í kvöld...

This quintet melds warm contemplative candlelit dynamics with jazzy syncopated tapestries as they swap instruments and create interesting contrasts of mood, often sounding more cinematic ensemble than rock quintet.

Meaning of the Name
For those of us who don't speak Icelandic it might seem their name is merely some Icelandified version of "Rockers" or something like that. Though, this is not even close. In fact, "Rökkurró" is the combination of 2 Icelandic words with much deeper meaning:

Rökkur (sunset / twilight) + (quiet / calm) = Rökkurró

This basically describes the time of day when the sun is setting and everything seems calm and relaxed.

How apt: I couldn't believe how perfectly fitting a title this seemed to be for their unique sound after thinking it was some derivative of "Rock___" for so long.

Impressions of the Rökkurró Sound:
Indeed, like a setting sun, the bright warm vocals seem to cast beautifully long winter shadows, with their internal dialogue of swooning cello, while conversing with the rich smoldering accordion lines. These tender but elegantly reasoned lines seamlessly mesh with the integral guitars that vary from tonally rich chords and arpeggiation to jazzy-surf counterpoint and even ethereal textures that all sum to create the underlying harmonic backbone-often adorned with sweet glockenspiel.

Bonding these elements together is the sleek dark bass that is at once exacting and particular in highlighting the overall harmonic direction and relating it to the often nuanced syncopation of the unifying percussion that cleverly reminds: the drum set is indeed a melodic instrument. The carefully crafted drum patterns ebb and flow-sometimes recursive and subtly phased while, at other times, Rock. While there are legions of groups who anchor their paradigm on shock, Rökkurró have somehow reinvented awe.

Reykjavik - Clearing Thursday Weather:

The Scene:
The cozy space in 12 Tónar was packed wall-to-wall. People overflowed to the entry stairs but, listening to the recording, you'd probably think there was no crowd at all because everyone was so quiet and attentive. The set list includes songs from their release Það kólnar í kvöld... (English: "There's a chill in the air tonight...") as well as a new song. I would highly recommend checking this album out: you will not be disappointed.

Off-venue: 12 Tónar (best record shop ever)
Reykjavik, Iceland
2008, October 16, 17:00

(Use Headphones for All Recordings)
Iceland Airwaves 2008 - Rökkurró at 12 Tónar by BinauralAirwaves

Binaural Recording Info:
Microphone Setup: Ultra Hi-Fi Binaural Manikin Head
Master Recording Format: 88.2kHz/24bit

This is chronologically out of order with the rest of my posts but I couldn't resist since it was easily one of my favorite Iceland Airwaves concerts plus I have 2 other concert recordings of Rökkurró. So, I figured I'd spread them out.

I hope you'll enjoy rehearing their 12 Tónar concert as much as I have. As I said, Rökkurró and their music are really responsible for drawing me to Iceland to make these recordings. And since I have enjoyed their music so much I am compelled to give a heartfelt personal stamp of approval and recommendation for their album because it is really quite sublime. Check it out: Það kólnar í kvöld...


Friday, November 7, 2008

Barack Obama Elected President of the United States: Harvard Square Celebration!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have never seen anything like this. A spontaneous wide scale eruption of cheering, celebration, and congregation in tribute to the election of Barack Obama as the next President of the United States. This went on for hours in the streets which had to be closed down. People were simply beside themselves with excitement yet everything was hugely peaceful.

There were people everywhere, chants, tears of joy, cars honking, more enthusiasm than I have ever seen before in my entire life!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The enthusiasm of hope and change!!!!!!!!!!!!


The Sound of Hope and Change:
(Use Headphones for All Recordings)
Obama Election Night Celebration - Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA, USA by BinauralAirwaves
Microphone Setup: In-Ear Microphones
Master Recording Format: 44.1kHz/24bit

Harvard Square:
For much of the recording I was facing north looking at the large crowd centered in the half circle thing that swirls around in the square.

Translation Note: Some of the chants are in Spanish. "¡Sí se puede!" translates to "Yes, we can!".

A tapestry of 700 newspaper covers from around the globe with the news of Obama's victory.

I hope that people around the world can share the experience and excitement that this monumental event is.


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sunday, Reykjavik House Show: Úlfur Hansson Lighthouse Sound Installation

Grótta Lighthouse Sound Installation

Grótta Lighthouse which is an island at this moment:

Elín Hansdóttir, b. 1980

Úlfur Hansson, b. 1988


Project: Helix

Location: Gróttuviti- lighthouse in Seltjarnarnes

Date: October 12, 2008, 21:30

About the project: Vocal installation in Grótta lighthouse in collaboration with local choir Selkórinn.

The house show wrapped up and we had very little time to get to Úlfur Hansson's lighthouse sound installation--we had to make it to Rökkurró rehearsal soon after that. Karl AKA "The Heir Electric" grabbed a ride with Árni, Hildur, and myself. It becomes very "cozy" in the car when you have 4 people and a cello.

Árni and Hildur actually took me out to the lighthouse earlier in the day when it was light as it is very scenic. It's different from any other lighthouse I have ever seen in a very bizarre and interesting way: at high-tide the lighthouse becomes an island, at low-tide, it is a peninsula and you can simply walk to it.

Satellite image of the lighthouse:

Another view from farther away:

The concept for the lighthouse sound is pretty interesting. There was a choir singing descending pitches so the music always sounded like it was falling but it never really fell.--a gerbil wheel of musical descent. Karl said this reminded him of an electronic music piece that had a similar effect but used falling sine waves. It is a really cool effect.

To even get to the lighthouse you first arrive in the parking lot and you can see the lighthouse off in the distance with a path marked with large flames that show you the way to get to the lighthouse. Following these flames you walk over rocks and seaweed and sand, basically unable to see much of anything. It took about 5 minutes to reach the lighthouse. It was packed--what a great turnout.

The view looking back toward the parking lot and Reykjavik from the lighthouse. You can see the flame outline of the path:

This recording is quite long (19:20) and a lot of that is due to waiting at each of the landings between staircases since there were so many people packed in there. I was expecting a spiral staircase but this lighthouse had floors every ~6m/20ft which were connected by straight staircases. People had to go both ways on the narrow steps which was not easy. And, as you got close to the top, where the choir (and fog machines!) were, it became even more packed with people. At the very top there was a bright light, fog machines, and the choir behind a white sheet covering the highest staircases entry to the next landing.

Looking up at the top of the lighthouse:

The recording includes my descent down the stairs as well all the way until I get outside. This is what it sounds like:

Sound Installation:
(Use Headphones for All Recordings)
Ulfur Hansson Lighthouse Sound Installation - Sequences Festival - Reykjavik, Iceland by BinauralAirwaves
Artist: Úlfur Hansson
Song/Piece: Lighthouse Sound Installation @ Sequences Festival
Microphone Setup: In-Ear Microphones
Master Recording Format: 44.1kHz/24bit

It was very eerie as you ascended in this haze of fog while the descending pitches grew louder and louder. Perhaps this is an allusion to the sensation of vertigo--these contradictory senses of ascending (the lighthouse) and falling (the sung tones of the choir), while you swirl around landings and up the lighthouse stairs, in a haze (fog), but never getting to a destination, only the sound growing more and more intense. Very cool.

Klive is Úlfur Hansson's alter ego under which he makes really cool electronic music (very much different from this sound installation). Here is what Klive's Iceland Airwaves bio says:
Playing a self-devised genre he dubs 'concrete', this tongue in a cheeky-chappy slaps sexy female vocals over abstract electronica. Klive sounds a lot like Aphex Twin and Jackson & His Computer Band.
Look forward to these recordings from Wednesday. I recorded his performace at Hressó with female vocalist (amazing voice) and 4 brass players (who were Björk's brass players). This was a great show. I'll be posting them soon.


Sunday, Reykjavik House Show: Ólafur Arnalds

(Use Headphones for All Recordings)
Ólafur Arnalds - House Concert by BinauralAirwaves
Microphone Setup: Ultra Hi-Fi Binaural Manikin Head
Master Recording Format: 5.6MHz/1bit Direct Stream Digital

The final set at the house show was:
Ólafur Arnalds

His group consists of him on piano and controlling the electronics/beats + a live string quartet. The melding of classical and popular elements is really difficult but he pulls off this feat remarkably well.

I really love hearing a live string quartet. Most people would just grab a synth or sampler and say "here is the string quartet". Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately?), a box making sound is just not the same as 4 real/breathing string players. Human beings playing music, compared to a premade backing track, add so much more nuance and subtlety and it really comes through by making the music all the more beautiful. Though, the unfortunate reality is that there are very few hybrid popular/classical groups (popular meaning "non-classical") that actually have a real string quartet. Sigur Rós, Björk, and I know that one of my friends played violin as part of a quartet with Jethro Tull. Pretty short list (even if I'm surely forgetting/don't know of others).

Let's take a moment to think about the logistics of why this is:
You are Ólafur Arnalds and are going on a tour to Europe and North America. You need to cut costs so you are able to make some cash for all of the music you're playing--and by "make some cash" I mean "just barely cover the immense costs of traveling and staying in hotels night after night"--think of the cost of flights, train trips, hotel rooms, and meals to travel to say 33 cities in 35 days... then multiply by the number of people you are taking. Why in the hell would you ever want to increase your musician posse by 400%/4 musicians when you could just plug in a MIDI or sampler unit and have something "approximately" the same?

The answer (in my mind):
You have to really care about the music and it being true to what you intended to have a real string quartet. The fact that Ólafur Arnalds not only has a live string quartet in Iceland but everywhere he travels in the world is truly remarkable and more than worthy of mention. This dude cares about sound and it being good. If you like interesting music and nuanced sound you should support Ólafur the next time he comes to your city. Not just because he has the balls to have a real string quartet but, primarily because his music is cool. You will not be disappointed.


This second recording is tragic, in a way. My recorder died right in the middle. The batteries could have cooked an egg they were so hot... well not quite that bad but they were piping. It's very unfortunate as this is a cool piece. So, I wanted to at least make what exists available. I have more recordings of Ólafur Arnalds from other shows later in the week so do not despair.

What seems to have happened:
(for non-audio-geeks: be satisfied that the batteries died a tragic death. And then skip this paragraph.)

My super hi-fidelity mics, being super hi-fidelity mics, require a lot of phantom power and I discovered during this session (the maiden voyage of my system in a live concert) that I needed different, more robust (robust="true 48V/10mA"), phantom power. Though, this glitch changed my recording throughout the rest of the week almost negligibly. The whole "phantom power issue" became a non-issue thanks to people like Árni from Rökkurró letting me borrow some awesome equipment and by using my portable setup (I have a completely different setup with tiny mics that I physically place in my own ears). This portable setup was the only thing that could work in many of the concerts because the crowd was so packed. Indeed, it was basically impossible to use the manikin at any of the on-venue shows because of the huge crowds. So, this portable setup was key/the only option for the on-venue shows.

By the way, Karl AKA "The Heir Electric" and Hildur from Rökkurró are string players in Ólafur's string quartet--they are currently on tour in Europe. It is really awesome how many musicians are involved with different groups in Reykjavik. Everyone seems to be looking out for one another, no matter their genre. In my mind, this is one of a hand full of the fundamental reasons that the music scene is what it is in Reykjavik: Utopian.


Saturday, November 1, 2008

Technical Note: Odeo Audio Player Hiccups

I've noticed that the Odeo Audio Player that I have been using to embed the audio in my site will start playing immediately but it just can't handle the higher quality mp3 files that I have and, therefore, starts stopping the audio at multiple points. This REALLY kills the music. So, until I find something better...

My Suggestion:
1) Download the podcast and listen to it with your iPod or other player.
To do this:
  • iPod (this all assumes that you have iTunes already installed): Click here or the iPod icon on the right side of my site. This will prompt you to download the podcast from within iTunes. After all the files are downloaded, you will have no internet bandwidth issues becuase you've already downloaded it all. You can simply play it on your computer or from your mp3 player.
  • Other Players: If you're not simply using iTunes, you are probably used to syncing podcasts with your software/hardware. So, I will hope that is indeed the case. I have a link for alternate podcatchers which should be helpful.

2) Playing it via the Odeo player:
Click "Play" (starts download of the track) and quickly hit "Pause" (same button) (stops playback but the download continues. Wait a minute or two or possibly more (depending on your connection and the length of the track), and then hit play again. Enough of your track should be downloaded now that there will not be hiccups. You can see a green line increase from left to right. This indicates how much of the file is already downloaded to you computer.

Quick Recap:
Your connection likely cannot keep up with the required transfer rate of the audio and therefore drops out... hitting play and pausing allows it to download a lot of the track so that you have a nice big buffer and don't get drop out/pauses in your audio playback.

Reasoning for Having Large High-Quality mp3s in the First Place:
I opted for high quality/high bandwidth mp3s because it is imperative for our perception that the audio be of the highest quality possible. That is why I made my master format the highest quality possible in the world today: 5.6MHz/1bit DSD. I want to give the most accurate/realistic perception of what happened acoustically and have your experience be simply natural: as if you are there.


Friday, October 31, 2008

Sunday, Reykjavik House Show: My Summer As A Salvation Soldier

Let me open this post with a picture of the really cool looking red house across the street from the show. You'd think that Reykjavik would look drab gray with all of the aluminum sheets covering cement walls but no: it is one of the most colorful cities I have ever seen. Árni was telling me that people paint the aluminum panels and I must say, it has a really nice effect. Look at some pictures of Reykjavik: it's extremely pleasant, not at all gaudy, just extremely pleasant.

Below is set 2 of the house show with:
"My Summer As A Salvation Soldier"
My Summer as a Salvation Soldier - House Concert by BinauralAirwaves

Binaural Tidbit:
Listen for the mewling cats in the first song and their collar bells (mainly to the front right/right side [direction assumes your headphones are on the right way and your desktop computer was wired correctly, unlike my desktop computer {laptops are almost surely OK}]).

Binaural Recording Info:
Microphone Setup: Ultra Hi-Fi Binaural Manikin Head
Master Recording Format: 5.6MHz/1bit Direct Stream Digital


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Balmy North Atlantic Weather in Iceland

And by "balmy", I mean "cycloney". This is completely off topic but I just saw this really cool satellite image of Iceland in the midst of tandem cyclones. For full resolution and a description from NASA (the photographer), check it out here. By the way, in case you are not some sort of geography/country-border-silhouette buff: the island of Iceland is right about in the middle of the top edge of the image--hard to see beneath the cyclone(s) cloud(s). For reference:

Ok, enough of this... why am I making small talk about the weather from Nov. '06??? The real issue here is how much this weather pattern looks like an owl. Allow me to introduce...

Exhibit 1:
Case closed.

Forced Segue:
As I was saying: Binaural Recording!!! Back on topic! Hooray!


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sunday, Reykjavik House Show: The Heir Electric

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday: We'll sell you the whole seat but you'll only need the edge. Sunday was like a monster truck rally of awesome music--sans monster trucks and mullets. I didn't think I would be bombarded with this many music options until Iceland Airwaves was in full swing but Sunday was a most pleasant contradiction. Of course, there was so much interesting music going on that the choices became perplexingly difficult. Though, in the end, I definitely heard a ton of awesome music, even if some other music was missed due to this specific trajectory.

Sunday House Show in Autumn
Reykjavik, Iceland


This is a picture between sets where a lot of people left to get some fresh air, AKA smoke (it was relatively packed during the music). You can see my ultra hi-fi manikin head in the foreground with the Icelandic hipster haircut (not so apparent from the back). He is looking intently at the chandelier and sound stage. I took the picture while bracing the camera on the door sill since I needed a long exposure with as little movement as possible. You can hear this door, that I used as a stabilizer, being opened in back of you at least in Song 1 of My Summer As A Salvation Soldier set.
The Heir Electric
My Summer As A Salvation Soldier
Ólafur Arnalds

This house show was in a small neighborhood next to the Reykjavik Airport
It was a brisk clear autumn night and people gathering indoors in the comfort of someone's home to enjoy music seemed apropos.

It took a while to setup my ultra hi-fi binaural recording manikin--this would be its debut live concert recording. Perhaps, at somepoint I'll post a bit about how I built the binaural manikin head and the technical/artistic decisions that I made to create what is quite probably the highest fidelity binaural recording system in the world (not to brag or anything).

At anyrate, I started capturing the acoustic environment somewhere in the middle of The Heir Electric's set.


(Use Headphones for All Recordings)
2008 10 12 House Concert - The Heir Electric - 2nd from last by BinauralAirwaves
Artist: The Heir Electric
Song/Piece: Unknown
Microphone Setup: Ultra Hi-Fi Binaural Manikin Head
Master Recording Format: 5.6MHz/1bit Direct Stream Digital
Streaming Format: mp3 LAME 3.97 variable bit rate ~240 kbps 44.1kHz

If I remember correctly, The Heir Electric played 3 pieces and this is the 2nd of those.

The Heir Electric:
Basically, The Heir Electric is a solo act that sounds more like a swath of musicians (perhaps a modern string quartet + some electronic musicians) creating interesting textures with loop and effect pedals. Think Steve Reich ("Electric Counterpoint" comes to mind) meets, Jimi Hendrix (shreding the violin [instead of guitar]) meets, Shostakovitch (interesting syncopation and harmonic dissonance), meets Daft Punk ("phat beatz" that are like comfort food). It's really fun to watch this come together because not only is The Heir Electric crafting this large sound in front of you but he is often doing it using his toes to turn knobs and tweak sounds. His toes.

The Heir Electric's 3rd and final piece was interesting not only in that it was a cover but it was a cover of a musician who was playing at this same show: Ólafur Arnalds. It's the last track from Ólafur's album "Eulogy for Evolution" which is now available in North America.

(Use Headphones for All Recordings)
2008 10 12 House Concert - The Heir Electric - last song - Olafur Arnalds Cover by BinauralAirwaves
Artist: The Heir Electric
Song/Piece: Cover of Ólafur Arnalds' last piece on the album "Eulogy for Evolution"
Microphone Setup: Ultra Hi-Fi Binaural Manikin Head
Original Recording Format: 5.6MHz/1bit Direct Stream Digital
Streaming Format: mp3 LAME 3.97 variable bit rate ~240 kbps 44.1kHz

An aside regarding the name "The Heir Electric":
I cannot claim that "The Heir Electric" is indeed the exact written name of this artist. I know his real name is Karl and he is a really interesting guy who seems to be hugely into classical and electronic music and their hybridization. Though, it was unclear to me if he actually went by "The Air Electric", which sounds the same when spoken. I only heard him say it; never saw it written. "Air" could definitely be an allusion to the era of Bach and The Heir Electric's classical ("classical" encapsulating all time periods of classical music, as opposed to meaning the "classical period" within classical music) influences.

However, I must say I very much hope that Karl is indeed "The Heir Electric" as that can be understood in so many various and interesting ways. He's not the heir apparent, he's not the heir presumptive, he's... The Heir Electric.

Wait. Wait. Wait. Does that mean whenever electricity dies (like, for instance, my iPod battery on a long flight) Karl is crowned in a lavish ceremony and, from then on, wears a cape that reads "The Electric"? Is it his bank account that my electric bills go to? It's hilarious, confounding, and, more than anything, vexing.

It's a tragedy but I don't have any contact or website for The Heir Electric.

Karl: drop me a line por favor.

Ok, there is far more to hear from Sunday.

The rest of the house show including:
My Summer As A Salvation Soldier
Ólafur Arnalds

The lighthouse sound installation put on by:
Overview of the Sound Installation

Plus, I heard a Rökkurró rehearsal.

So, stay tuned. More binaural audio + context will soon be posted.


Árni and Hildur, Your Families, and Rökkurró: Þakka þér fyrir!

Firstly, before any binaural recordings from Iceland Airwaves 2008 are heard, it is my pleasure to thank my extraordinarily amazing hosts Árni and Hildur of Rökkurró and their most hospitable families for not only making my trip/binaural recording possible but hugely memorable. Árni was key in convincing me that I had to make a pilgrimage to Iceland Airwaves and, throughout my entire stay in Iceland, Árni and Hildur and their families made me completely forget that I was traveling because I simply felt at home.

Many thanks are also due to the entire Rökkurró band for lots of great music in rehearsal and concert and many good times all week. You are all great musicians and hearing you guys play was a true highlight of the trip. Plus you guys totally made my day by playing Dagur Þrjú (Track 9 on their album Það kólnar í kvöld... english: "There's a chill in the air tonight...").

So, to Árni and Hildur, your families, and Rökkurró...

Þakka þér fyrir!


Monday, October 20, 2008

Just Back From Iceland Airwaves 2008: Recordings Coming Soon!

I'm freshly back from Iceland Airwaves and am editing the many hi-fi binaural recordings from this amazing week of music. So, stay tuned as there will be many new recordings coming in the next week or two.


Sunday, October 5, 2008

Ultra Hi-Fi Binaural Recording: Completely New Recording Setup


I have completely rebuilt my binaural recording setup from the ground up. It is now perhaps one of the highest resolution binaural recording systems in the world today. However, please note that none of the posted recordings on this page are made with this setup... yet.

At Iceland Airwaves, I will be recording in 5.6MHz/1bit DSD which is 2x the resolution of Super Audio CD. Then I will mix this down to share it over the internet. In a sentence this means: damn good sound.

Contact me for information if your group is interested.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Annie and the Beekeepers + The Low Anthem @ Lizard Lounge 2008/09/06

Impressive Acoustic Groups:
Wow, what a great show! I had never heard of either of these groups before this show but was blown away. They both:
  • Performed amazingly--really great musicians all around.
  • The show was mixed really well.
  • The loudness of the mix was optimal (no earplugs required).
What more could you ask for?

A Short Rant About The Overuse of PA Systems:
My only complaint was with the use of a PA system--putting a microphone on every instrument + voice etc. and mixing it through speakers. PA systems are great for large spaces and overcoming noise. Though, since both of these groups had such warm "acoustic" sounds and it was such a small space, I think they should have just done it all acoustic with no speakers. Often times I think PAed shows are strange because you go and listen to what amounts to a live CD because you're really only hearing everything through speakers, instead of the acoustics of the instruments*. Seems backward to me.

This "magical" acoustical quality is what makes music really come alive. Acoustic instruments are made to fill these types of spaces and both groups clearly knew how to make their acoustic instruments sing--so why did the acoustical subtlety need to get lost through speakers? On my binaural recording, the effect of this is that it is more one dimensional in terms of the spatialization because you're mainly perceiving 1 loudspeaker that I'm standing close to. Please don't misunderstand: this is a rant on PA systems generally masking the subtlety of awesome groups, absolutely NOT the musicians or the sound mixer--they both rocked.

*Of course, if you're... let's say... Nirvana, this gripe might not apply to you quite as much.

The Recordings:
I wore the mics in my ears and was standing...

Annie and the Beekeepers:
A bit further back kind of near the bathrooms (as you can hear) to the right of the right speaker.
(Use Headphones for All Recordings)
Annie and the Beekeepers @ The Lizard Lounge by BinauralAirwaves

The Low Anthem:
Closer to the bar, quite close to the left speaker/stage.
2008 09 06 - Lizard Lounge - The Low Anthem - Charlie Darwin by BinauralAirwaves

You really have to check these guys out.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Comprehensive Description of Binaural Recording

John Sunier provides a clear and thorough description of what binaural recording is and covers its history in this article.

Of course, I think hearing binaural recordings with headphones, is still the most readily tangible description.

If you breakdown the word "binaural" you can see that it is simply the combination of "binary" and "aural" which, when put together mean "hearing with two ears".


Headphone Selection

Headphones Have a Lot of Variation:
A friend of mine said he listened to one of my recordings and had this very realistic experience where he thought the door behind him kept opening. Turns out it was just the door on the recording. Then he went home and listened to the same track with different headphones and barely got the effect. So, the moral of the story is that headphones are hugely variable and you need to choose headphones with specific characteristics in order to get the unique attributes of binaural recordings. We already have enough variation between people in the shape and size of the outer ear, so the headphones should be as accurate as possible.

It is true, you can get significant variation based on just having different headphones when listening to the same exact binaural recording. This is because there is not only inherent variation in the quality of headphones but the placement of the drivers (the little speaker in each side of the headphones) changes vastly ("vastly" means up to ~1cm, which is huge when you consider how small the features of your ear are) depending on the headphones.

What is Optimal For These Recordings:
The placement of this driver should optimally be in the exact same location as where my microphone was in my ear when I made the recording. This yields the most accurate reproduction and consequently the most realistic experience.

Specific Headphone Characteristics to Shoot For:
  • "In-Ear" Headphones: Don't use the big ones that go around or on the outside of your ears (I love this type of headphones, but they are just not meant for this). You want them to sit in your ear right where my microphone was during the recording. Something like an iPod earbud is the correct type in terms of where it physically sits. However, those are pretty low quality so if you have something higher quality that sits in the same place, that is preferable. Of course, if it's the iPod earbuds or huge "traffic controller" headphones, the earbuds are probably better because they sit in the right physical location.
  • High Quality Headphones: You want your headphones to be capable of reproducing all of the frequencies and timing of the recording as exactly as possible without distorting or coloring. The fine timing, amplitude, and frequency details give your ears the information they need to determine where a sound came from. So, the more transparent your headphones are, the better an experience you'll have.
Ok, so now you have your high quality in-ear headphones, now what?

Left in Left... and Right in Right:
You want to make sure to wear them in the correct ear. Left in left and right in right. Duh, right? Well, it's extremely important for us to get the most realistic experience so it definitely warrnats repeating. Usually headphones are marked. It doesn' hurt to check this though as I know that my iPod headphones are in fact reversed.

Set The Sound Level to What You Would Expect in Reality:
You can playback these recordings at any volume you want. Though, I think bringing it to about the level you would expect to hear in those situations will give you a more accurate experience. Clearly, a rock concert is going to be a lot louder than chamber music. Of course, headphones turned up really high are not good for your hearing. Also, in many of the recordings there is a lot of variation so while you might set it to a reasonable volume, it very well could get deafeningly loud after that. So, please be careful and use good judgement.

Remove Extra Processing:
Sometimes you have "level compensation" turned on or maybe "EQ for rock". You should not have anything extra as it will change the recording and you want as clean a reproduction as the original for maximal effect. So, please be aware that anything extra will degrade your experience.

Time to Enjoy the Sound:
There you go. You should now have a killer headphone setup. Well, at least you should know how to select one or chose from your existing headphones and attain the most optimal playback system for binaural recordings. Now, it's time to start listening!


Cool Binaural Demo

I really like this binaural demo because it has some vivid examples of getting accurate spatial perception. Because you're "virtually getting your hair cut" you get the sound of sheers and other interesting sound not only around your head, both near and far, but also from above. This recording makes it easy to experience the unique "I heard it outside my head, just like in real life" qualities of binaural.

Additionally, this might be a good track to use if you're trying to figure out which pair of headphones is the best match for these recordings. In this vein of "calibration" I'll be posting a track soon too that you can use to kind of determine which headphones you use based on the properties of my specific recording setup.


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Binaural Recordings Coming Soon!

I am in the process of mastering a number of binaural recordings I have made and they should be ready for your ears soon.

It has been taking a bit longer than expected as I decided to test out various mp3 encodings to ensure that the maximum quality is achieved, yet, the files will be small enough that you won't have to spend much time waiting for them to download.

Get your headphones ready: I should post a few in the next week or so.