Binaural Stereo Recording

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Recording a Piano
Recording Bass Guitar
Recording Acoustic Guitar
Recording Acoustic Part 2
Recording Nylon strung
Choosing microphones
Stereo 1: XY coincident
Stereo 2: Blumlein Pair
Stereo 3: Middle-Side
Stereo 6: Binaural

Stereo Recording 5: Binaural

In essence Binaural recording is a stereo recording technique that differs from all the others in that it has to be played back through headphones as opposed to speakers. Binaural recordings can be some of the most realistic recordings spatially, but only when played back on headphones and usually if played back on speakers, the stereo imaging can be quite poor. This is because the headphones ensure that each ear only hears what was recorded by the microphone on that side of the head, whereas speakers produce crosstalk so that some of the sound from the left speaker can be heard by the right ear, and vice versa, muddying the spatial imaging. Binaural recordings are made using a pair of microphones spaced about 6 inches apart so as to imitate the human ears but crucially with a baffle in between them to emulate the head and dummy heads (models of a human head with mics fixed to, or inside) are available from some high end suppliers such as Neumann. However these dummy heads can be very expensive (The Neumann K100 Binaural Head costs £5,500) so most sound engineers use their own head, and either attach mics near their ears such as on a pair of glasses, or in some cases tape them inside their ears. However perfectly good results can be obtained by spacing two mics 6" apart and putting a sound-absorbing baffle like a rolled-up towel between them to emulate the head. The spacing of the mics, and the 'sound shadow' cast by the head, produce auditory cues that the brain decodes into spatial information that can be uncannily accurate and a recording played back in the same room as it was recorded in, can be very scary! If someone speaks behind the head on the recording, for instance, the listener will usually turn to answer someone who's no longer there!

Ideally the mics should be Omni directional, and the Sony ECM 50 omni lavaliere mic was the standard for early experiments in Binaural recording. You can still pick them up fairly cheaply on EBay but happily most cheap tie-clip mics from Maplin or Radio Shack are miniature Omnis costing only a few pounds. With the new range of small battery powered stereo recorders like the Zoom H4 it is within the grasp of anyone now to get out there and start making some Binaural recording. As with all techniques, the advice is to experiment and many amateur binaural recordings can be very impressive, especially on subjects with stereo movement.

Most of the info on this page was taken from Steve Marshall's excellent site on Binaural Recording and there's much more detailed information on all of this on his Sound on Sound article about the making of Bilocation.





Microphones and recording 2012. Stereo Recording Binaural