How to record binaural electronic music?
November 28, 2010 3:37 AM   Subscribe

I´m looking for a way to record electronic music using binaural technology. I already have all the necessary equipment (binaural mics, dummy head, DAW, etc.), but I want to record the sounds DIRECTLY from the source without using the dummy head, is it possible?

My idea is to get rid of all ambient noise when recording, since the electronic music that my DAW produces is already "pure". If I use the dummy head, the sound will get "contaminated" with ambient noise (I do not have a dedicated studio at my house, this is, properly isolated), so my question is simple: is there any way to record my music without using an external sound source (i.e. speakers or monitors).

Thanks in advance!

PS: I already have a Digital Recorder to capture "live" sounds. If I can use this to record my music, would be great...
posted by Matrod to Computers & Internet (6 answers total)
My understanding is that in binaural recordings both the spacing of the ears and the shape of the ears/head affect the recorded sound. Additionally, I would guess that the spacing of the ears would not make nearly as much difference if the actual reflections of the room were not part of the recording.

The only way I can think of emulating this would be to record the same sounds direct and via binaural mics and then try to figure out how they are different, then somehow apply that filter to the direct signal. I'm not sure if this is possible, or how close it might come to real binaural sound, or how difficult it would be.
posted by snofoam at 5:44 AM on November 28, 2010

Along the lines of what snofoam says, there are DSP projects to recreate the binaural effect: this one, for example. Check out this comparison of binaural mics vs binaural plugin too.

Google "binaural plugin" for more.
posted by supercres at 6:42 AM on November 28, 2010

The term you might be missing is "Head-related Transfer Function" or HRTF. The idea of the dummy head is that it performs some filtering on the sound it hears, and that by applying it to sound before you record it, the sound will be more natural-sounding when heard later piped directly to your ear drums.

The dummy head, in a sense, is a an analog, real-world plugin. There's no reason why you couldn't apply this function to your audio digitally, with a plugin like supercres is talking about, but the problem is you don't really have the same source data. The HRTF supplies your ears with clues on how to locate the source of a sound in space when its applied to a sound with a real-world origin. Its not that the plugin will do nothing, its just that your asking the plugin to do a bit more than is really possible: the information the HRTF would ideally be applied to including room reflections, etc is not there, so your results might not be as good as you are imagining.

Basically, the stuff you are calling "contamination" is part of what makes the binaural effect work. However, if all your sounds would be coming out of a pair of speakers next to your computer, even if the results were recorded perfectly with the dummy head, it probably wouldn't sound that interesting. With a perfect binaural recording, you'd put on your headphones and think "wow, it sounds just like I am sitting six feet away from Matrod's computer and I can hear where the sounds are coming out of the speakers".
posted by jeb at 9:09 AM on November 28, 2010

So let me understand this? You want to create music digitall, then play it through your speakers and record it with the dummy head to accomplish what?

Any daw will have plugins to place sounds anywhere in psychoacoustic space that you want. Or you can just use stereo panning, reverb, delays and filter to achieve the same effect. There's no way that recording it through the dummy head is going to approach teh quality and clarity you will get if you do the mixing in your DAW. Buy any decent book on mixing and mastering, and it will explain how to do this in detail.

Save the head for when you actually want to record ambient sound.
posted by empath at 1:36 PM on November 28, 2010

I'm sort of confused, too... do you mean that you just need a controller to trigger the sounds in your computer, playing the controller in real time?
posted by peewinkle at 2:11 PM on November 28, 2010

Hi everybody,

That was exactly the thing I was looking for: binaural plugins. Right now, I´m doing some tests with the Soundhack that supercres suggested.

My idea is not to reproduce the feeling of being in front of my computer, since this will "destroy" all the essence of the binaural recording. And yes, the dummy head is perfect for ambient audio. My goal is to introduce the "binaural feel" onto my music, since I´m working in meditation and relaxation techniques, using binaural beats as well, but that´s another story...

I´ll report back my results. Last but not least, any ideas on a good production and mixing book?

Thanks for all your insightful answers.
posted by Matrod at 6:55 AM on November 29, 2010

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