ImmersAV – Point-of-View Binaural Audio Recording with Hi-Def Video, Blu-ray (2014)
Host: Robert B. Schulein
Contents: Four demos in both binaural and speaker-oriented versions: binaural demo with dummy head, John Moulder Quartet, Fifth House octet plays Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, Graham Blyth organ concert
Video: 16:9 1080i HD
Audio: English PCM stereo & binaural
Bob Schulein has had a 40-year career in audio, including mic design, pioneering work on multichannel matrix encoding/decoding for broadcast and music recordings. Before forming his own consulting firm, he was with Shure and Etymotic Research. His current project is this Blu-ray of hi-def video and binaural audio to create a more immersive AV experience. He feels that as more and more people access content on portable devices, the quality of headphone listening is becoming increasingly important. The Blu-ray intends to show how binaural audio technology could create immersive spatial sound experiences for those listening over head phones (and not requiring more than two channels).
The first two cuts are hi-def videos of Bob walking around his binaural dummy torso (which in some of the photos also has arms and legs). The effect on headphones is similar to the best binaural, and this may be the first demo I’ve heard in which he moves down low so that one can hear the difference from his being up at the level of the mics in the ears of the dummy head.
Each of the three sections has two parts: the first is recorded with the dummy head binaural mics and the binaural signals are then processed and equalized for stereo playback on speakers. H & L are used to identify the differences. (Thus the dummy head remains in all the videos.) There is a jazz quartet in the tune “Magical Space,” an excellent classical chamber octet (with an audience) in an arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, and organist Graham Blyth in a pipe organ concert. I’ve always thought organ recordings in true binaural were greatly superior to multichannel speaker playback. (Of course we’re talking about good headphones here; forget those ear buds and especially those awful little white ones which come with Apple devices.)
The imaging, localization and sound externalization of the binaural demos are terrific, and illustrate clearly the advantages of this two-channel technology of reproducing a surround ambiance that is far superior to any multi-speaker surround playback system, no matter how many channels. The main problems are of course the required wearing of stereo headphones, the fact that a certain small percentage of listeners cannot hear the binaural effect (just as a small percentage cannot see 3D effects), and the inability (except with highly specialized lab gear) to exactly match the particular binaural recording to the headphone, ears and brain of the particular listener.
While the binaural effects were terrific on good headphones (and I have found that even the lowest-fidelity two-channel recordings preserve most of the binaural effect) I must say I preferred the processed loudspeaker recordings for the jazz and Nutcracker selections. There seemed little difference between the two on those selections. A video that deals specifically with the cross-talk cancellation filters may be found at:
At any rate, this is a fascinating effort to bring binaural reproduction to a new audience that may be totally unfamiliar with it, what with the increased proliferation of stereo headphones used with computers and mobile devices.