How do lessons learned from bats and dolphins help advance 3D headphone mixes to now offer a VR virtual reality three dimensional soundscape for today’s cutting edge recordings?
Music and technology have long had a synergistic relationship: whether it’s industry legends such as Les Paul and Leo Fender, or contemporary hitmakers such as Max Martin and Ryan Tedder, advances in technology continue to provide us with new ways to create and experience music.
Echolocation is a term used to describe locating objects in space by determining the time for an echo to return and the direction from which it returns with familiar examples being radar and sonar. In the case of bats and dolphins (and even some humans, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_echolocation) this involves the emission of a sound and unconsciously processing the echoes generated by sonic reflections from objects in the sonic field to create a sonic “image.” This sonic image is used in conjunction with information from the visual field to synergistically create a detailed image or map of the environment.
While various types of sound processing have been used to help add realism and a sense of depth to recorded music, previous efforts have been limited by the need for expensive and complicated equipment to help achieve this effect. Headphones are currently one of the most popular ways to consume music. They are small, portable, and comparatively inexpensive. They also offer a unique challenge in that the signals that go to each ear are completely separated, i.e., the left ear does not hear the sound being emitted by the right headphone cup and the right ear does not hear the sound being emitted by the left headphone cup. Under these circumstances, some of the normal cues that help us to localize sound are not available.
Music producers and audio engineers, film and TV shows, and the video gaming industry all are trying to create the most realistic experience for their audience and this trend will only accelerate with the increasing use of augmented reality and virtual reality technology. 3D headphone mixes are at the current forefront of this trend as sophisticated producers and audio engineers are now able to use this evolving technology to make stereo mixes where sounds are now localized in three dimensional space and which appear to originate from the left, right, top, bottom, or even from behind the listener. The quality of the resulting listening experience is maximized when the spatialization techniques are applied on a stem by stem basis to the various recorded tracks (stems) that have been created and utilized to come up with a final mix.
One advantage of using headphones or earbuds is that the sound that you experience is not influenced by the acoustic properties of a conventional speaker system or the individual characteristics of the room or space that you are in. While the 3D mix is still able to add some extra sense of dimension to your listening experience when experienced through a conventional stereo system, the experience is optimized for use with headphones for the reasons described above.
Just as bats combine what they hear with what they see to form a composite image, when you combine listening to a 3D headphone mix with visual images that also create a three dimensional visual element the resulting experience is magical!
Laurie and I have worked with Nashville producer Jeff Silverman and German Cinematographer Heiko Gentsch to create a 3D headphone mix lyric video of our song “Into Me You See (Here & Now).” “Into Me You See (Here & Now)” has been submitted for consideration as Best American Roots song in the upcoming Grammy awards and has also been nominated for a 2019 Hollywood Music and Media award as Best Americana/Folk/Acoustic song. To explore the 3D experience for yourself grab a pair of headphones or earbuds and click here:
We hope you get a chance to compare the two and we would love to hear what you think!
Sign up for our monthly newsletter and get a pre-release download of “Into Me You See (Here & Now) [3D mix]” in wav high quality.