Paul Horner’s KS campaign is coming to a close. They timer on his page is now counting down in hours rather than days. He and I are very pleased that he was able to get the support of 45 backers and achieve his funding goal. I talked to Paul the other day about his project and told him I would post an update and work up a stretch goal if we reach $2000. I added that to his page this afternoon. You can check it out by clicking here.
The incentive offered if the $2000 level is reached is a version of the project prepared for “headphone surround”, which is one of the latest technologies being used with headphones. It allows headphones listeners to hear virtual 5.1 playback using a standard set of headphones. I’ve been investigating this new technology for a few years and can tell you that it’s pretty amazing.
Humans can perceive sound from all directions. Just because we only have two ears doesn’t mean that stereophonic sound is the limit of our hearing sense. Sounds from above, behind and even below can be heard and processed by our brains. The new formats being used in current movies are examples of an increased interest in height information. DTS:X, Auro 3D and Dolby Atmos extend traditional 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound to include height information. The post houses and theaters have added speakers to the ceiling and developed technologies that let movies mixers use the added dimension. If you haven’t had a chance to experience a move with height channels, treat yourself and find a Dolby Atmos or Auro 3D equipped theater.
And these new technologies are not limited to movie theaters. Dolby and their hardware partners are providing Atmos systems for home theaters too. There are speakers with upward facing drivers in addition to the forward facing drivers. I read about a Yamaha sound bar that claims to be able to direct sounds to the ceiling with some clever digital processing.
There are a few companies that have attempted to deliver immersive or surround mixes via headphones, which tops the list of most popular audio accessories. The goal is to provide motion picture soundtracks and immersive computer game audio to individual users through headphones. There’s not a lot a music being produced or remixed in 5.1 surround, so the trend has not yet caught the attention of the music industry. But they should be paying attention. Headphone surround is very cool.
The best system currently available has been around for a few years. It’s called a Smyth “Room Realizer” and it reproduces the sound of an actual listening environment using a standard pair of headphones. Obviously, the better the headphones they better the experience. If you buy one of their boxes, it comes with an entry pair of Stax headphones that produces a very convincing spatial image.
The Smyth approach is unique among companies working in this area. They require that each purchaser visit a desirable space to have their ears and devices “calibrated”. A customer visits a studio like mine and has their ears measured using sweep tones played sequentially in each of the 5.1 speakers. This is done while you look forward and to the left and right. An IR sensor detects the position of your head and an individual filter profile is created in the box. Everyone has his or her own personal filter profile.
When a surround track is input to the Room Realizer, the personal filter processes the sounds in the “virtual” speakers to match the real speakers where you were measured. It’s very convincing. In fact, I was blown away.
So Paul Horner’s album exists as a 5.1 surround mix. If his campaign reaches $2000, every backer will receive a set of files prepared using my profile done in my studio. Despite the fact that the processing doesn’t match you exact outer ear, the results are very impressive.
To be continued….