Lorr Kramer, the local representative of the Smyth Research “Room Realizer”, came by the studio yesterday to assist with yet another measurement for a client that was in Los Angeles. A measurement in this case means that he sat in my surround sound studio with tiny microphones in his ears while Lorr ran a series of sweep tones from the various speaker configurations (5.1 B&Ws and the THX certified theatrical JBL system) we have. The result is a set of filter parameters that can be loaded into the client’s Smyth “Room Realizer” that will emulate the sound of the physical space in a set of headphones. It’s a very cost effective and extremely convincing way to hear a “virtualized” room using headphones as opposed to the “inside your head” sound typically experienced in headphones listening.
It turns out that the AIX Studio is a prime target for Smyth owners to get measured in. The discussion forum over at Head-Fi.org recommends my studio quite highly and we had a large number of Smyth owners schedule a measurement session in the room. Why is this room so special? We chatted about it yesterday following the session.
Figure 1 – A photo of the AIX mixing room before the theatrical system was installed.
The AIX Studios main mixing room is unusually large as audio recording studio go. It’s actually more similar to a great home theater than a typical mixing room. We have 5 B&W 801 Series III speakers on anchor stands in a large circle around the central mixing location. In addition, I can reconfigure the room into a 7.1 listening environment by shifting the location of the left and right surround speakers and adding two more B&W 805 speakers in the rear. Finally, the client can have a measurement done through the THX certified theatrical system with the 146″ Stewart Film screen lowered.
There are other surround headphones available. DTS makes Headphones X, Darin Fong has a system, Beyer Dynamic, Beats, Astound Sound and the Headphones 3D app are all options in addition to my own Headphones[xi] version.
I did research into binaural audio as part of my dissertation many years ago and can tell you without hesitation that the Smyth Research methodology is by far the best. It’s customized to your particular head and ears. The goal is to recreate the acoustic properties of specific room AND a set of speakers. And the coolest thing that is unique to the Smyth Research unit is the IR head tracker that “locks” the virtual speakers directly in front of you even if you turn your head from side to side.
Figure 2 – The Smyth Realizer
The unit is not cheap. With the lowest cost Stax headphones, the package is just over $3000. So what is a surround headphone fan on a budget to do? Well, if you enjoy the recordings that I produce on AIX Records, you can access the Headphones[xi] version of the surround mixes. Yep, I take the Smyth process and my own set of filters and capture the 2-channel output. I make those files available on iTrax.com and iTunes…and on some of the latest Blue-ray titles; I place the Headphones[xi] files on the ROM section of the disc. The new iTrax.com will have an option to download these files.
These files can also be loaded onto portable music players. They are just like any other stereo file except they produce a processed “surround” or “outside your head” listening experience.
I’ve prepared a number of example tracks and will put them on the FTP site later today for anyone interested in hearing how Headphones[xi] sounds. You can also listen to The Beatles “Eleanor Rigby” in Headphones[xi] on YouTube. See below: