Binaural sound is ‘a sound production technique that mimics the natural hearing cues created by our head and ears to create the impression of 3D sound when listening on headphones’ (Pike, 2013). So when you listen back on your headphones the idea is that it feels as if you are really there – unlike stereo sound which sounds more like it is inside your head. You can get the idea here, there is an interactive demonstration of binaural sound.
The idea of binaural sound is not new, it first appeared in 1881 and by 1933 was being showcased at the Chicago World’s Fair by AT&T Bell Laboratories. It was here that the first dummy head was used and this is still the case today (Lalwani, 2015).
As you can see in the picture a dummy head is roughly same shape and size as a human head. It has microphones in either ear, to pick up the sound as a human would. Having read about binaural sound and having listened to some interesting recordings, I decided to have a go at it myself.
I don’t have a dummy head that I could take out and about to record with, so I made my own DIY version. I used two Sony Lavalier mics with tiny furry windshields and I then became the dummy head, with one taped to each ear.
I walked around Manchester with these fur balls stuck to my ears and my phone camera out in front of me, capturing my walk. The recordings I got were pretty successful for such a DIY setup. See a 1 minute clip below, don’t forget to wear your headphones, the sound is not the same on speakers!
Lalwani, M. (2015). Surrounded by sound: how 3D audio hacks your brain. Retrieved 30 November 2016, from http://www.theverge.com/2015/2/12/8021733/3d-audio-3dio-binaural-immersive-vr-sound-times-square-new-york
Pike, C. (2013). BBC – Research and Development: Listen Up! Binaural Sound. Retrieved 1 December 2016, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/researchanddevelopment/2013/03/listen-up-binaural-sound.shtml