Developments in Binaural Headphone Playback

Developments in Binaural Headphone Playback



There is a lot happening at the moment around Binaural Headphone playback. This feature could inherently solve several "issues" associated with headphone listening, mostly for productions that traditionally have been conceived for speaker playback. As Dolby, AURO-3D and several others have introduced automatic binaural rendering for platforms like Apple Music, Tidal and Amazon etc., discussions have started about the sense and non-sense of this exciting possibility to bring the "Immersive experience" to listeners who do not have the room space and/or resources and motivation to have 10+ speakers installed in their living room.

TSoT now started with a rather standard algorithm and already some albums give very exciting and convincing results. Other productions, recorded in particular recording locations, seem to "fight the algorithm" a bit, so more research has to be done to make this feature ultimately convincing for all albums. Biggest problem is the psycho-acoustical learning curve of the ear/brain in accepting the "impulse response" that is applied by the algorithm to the original signal. As if one places new speakers in an unfamiliar room...Always confusing at first! It takes time to get used to the new setting before the delicate details in the recording reveal themselves through the "veil" of the immerse soundscape and eventually feels comfortable, balanced  and transparent.

Many headphone specialized customers therefore, do (at first) feel it as a trade off against the obvious gain from the immersive soundscape and still prefer the standard stereo. After some time however it seems to grow on you...Of course the true Immersive 9.1 speaker playback is the reference, as this delivers logically more transparency, time resolution and natural harmonics to start with and emulating this with an arbitrary artificial "room" and speaker performance is a tough challenge.

Nevertheless there is a lot of development ongoing by several researchers in the business and I am confident in the coming months there will be more options available, which can be even more tailored towards the recording esthetics of The Spirit of Turtle. The ultimate goal is to offer you the experience of the AURO-3D 9.1 monitoring, like in the HQ|NORTHSTAR studio. Keep checking in as there will be some interesting stuff coming up next year!

Bert van der Wolf 2022


HQ|NORTHSTAR Studio with 9.1 Immersive Audio Monitoring

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