Read Me: About the Surround Headphones[xi] Files

I spent most of yesterday afternoon creating samples of the Headphones[xi] process for 11 tracks of various genres. Today’s post is the README.txt that I should have added to the folder. I know some of you have already downloaded the tracks…and the response/comments have been uniformly positive. If you have a reasonable set of headphones and want to experience something the attempts to “place” the music outside of your head, it’s worth downloading a few…or all… of the examples.

There are 11 Headphones[xi] examples on the FTP site (if you haven’t yet requested the access credentials, please click here). They are:

1. Mosaic – Guitar Noir AIX 80018 Laurence Juber, acoustic guitar/ Domenic Genova, acoustic bass/Steve Forman, percussion

2. The Gypsy Life – The Gypsy Life AIX 85053 John Gorka, vocals & guitar/Amelia K. Spicer, background vocals/Susan Werner, piano & BGV Russ Rentler, mandolin/Michael Manring, fretless electric bass

3. Say A Prayer For You – Hanna/McEuen AIX 80048 Jamie Hanna, vocals and guitar/Jonathan McEuen, vocals & guitar/TJ Russell, electric bass/Jesse Siebenberg, drums

4. Primavera – Primavera AIX 80050 Destani Wolf, vocals/ The Banda Brothers

5. On the Street Where You Live – Tormé Sings Tormé AIX 83042 Steve March Tormé, vocals

6. Mujaka – The Latin Jazz Trio AIX 80011 Luis Conte, percussion/David Garfield, piano/Dave Carpenter, acoustic bass

7. Libido – Threads AIX 85063 James Walker, flute / Bryan Pezzone, piano / Tim Emmons, electric bass / Mike Packer, drums

8. The Kerry Dance – I Play The Piano AIX 85059 Terry Trotter, piano

9. Goldberg Variations Acoustica – The AIX All Star Band AIX 86060 Dean Parks, guitar/Laurence Juber, guitar/Jim Cox, piano/Alberto Lopez, percussion/Kevin Axt, electric bass/MB Gordy, drums

10. Bach – Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 – Allegro BWV 1050 – Bach – Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 & 5 1338AX The G. Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra

11. The Pines Of Rome – The Pines of the Appian Way – Beethoven and Respighi – Symphony No. 6 and The Pines of Rome AIX 80006 The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra/Zdenek Macal – Music Director

I have processed about 2 minutes of each of these tunes through the Smyth Realiser and digitally captured the output as a two-channel file. To demonstrate the effect of the processing, I switched from the Surround Virtualization to the normal headphone mix a couple of times during the playback. There should be a dramatic shift in the sound between these two options.

The room is my surround mixing room and the filtering in my own.

In listening to these files during the transfer process yesterday, I preferred the “processed” version to the normal version. In the Oppo Headphones, I found the difference to be very dramatic and I had a very hard time listening to the normal stereo version. This is not universally the case. Some listeners like the normal “inside-your-head” version better. Not a problem.

The future of audio reproduction is going to be multichannel and the Headphones[xi]™ processing allows convincing surround playback using headphones. It certainly is different than normal headphone listening. But as I stated a couple of days ago, this is not the only way to bring surround sound to headphones. I’ll tackle Headphones X, Astound Sound, Darin Fong, Beyer Dynamic and new Korg processes in future posts.

BTW The tunes that I have uploaded in Headphones[xi] format are the same ones that are available as High-Resolution stereo tracks…the only difference is the processing and the upper sampling rate limit of 48 kHz. The Symth box is limited to 48 kHz at the present time.

My plan is to make Headphones[xi] versions of all of the surround tracks available on iTrax.com as part of the 2.0 version of the site.


Mark Waldrep, aka Dr. AIX, has been producing and engineering music for over 40 years. He learned electronics as a teenager from his HAM radio father while learning to play the guitar. Mark received the first doctorate in music composition from UCLA in 1986 for a "binaural" electronic music composition. Other advanced degrees include an MS in computer science, an MFA/MA in music, BM in music and a BA in art. As an engineer and producer, Mark has worked on projects for the Rolling Stones, 311, Tool, KISS, Blink 182, Blues Traveler, Britney Spears, the San Francisco Symphony, The Dover Quartet, Willie Nelson, Paul Williams, The Allman Brothers, Bad Company and many more. Dr. Waldrep has been an innovator when it comes to multimedia and music. He created the first enhanced CDs in the 90s, the first DVD-Videos released in the U.S., the first web-connected DVD, the first DVD-Audio title, the first music Blu-ray disc and the first 3D Music Album. Additionally, he launched the first High Definition Music Download site in 2007 called iTrax.com. A frequency speaker at audio events, author of numerous articles, Dr. Waldrep is currently writing a book on the production and reproduction of high-end music called, "High-End Audio: A Practical Guide to Production and Playback". The book should be completed in the fall of 2013.

9 thoughts on “Read Me: About the Surround Headphones[xi] Files

  • Thanks, Mark, for providing the Headphone[xi] demo tracks. Actually listening to them as I comment here.

    IMHO, the processing results in an undeniable and positive change in the listening experience with headphones…maybe even beyond that achievable with a high end playback system, a comparison worth investigating.

    Certainly a reasonable buy-in considering what high end audio components go for and certainly a potential boon to those whose primary listening enjoyment is with headphones.

    Have not read the white paper available on the Smyth Research site but, on first pass, strikes me as being a form of DSP on steroids which is not to be construed as criticism by me. I certainly do not have the creds to comment on the methodology.


  • James Greg

    I have to admit Mark, I was staggered. Even with a pair of low end folding Sennheiser PX100 headphones the difference is phenomenal. I agree with Frank that the effect is beyond that achievable with a high end playback system.

    The problem now is that I am not sure I want to listen to anything else when using headphones!


  • An addendum to my previous post…
    After hearing the very obvious difference in the Headphone[xi] files when the processed and unprocessed(?) sections of each track were switched back and forth, I wondered why. Went back and downloaded the corresponding HD Audio tracks for comparison. I will say that the differences between Realizer-processed and HD Audio tracks were far less obvious though I still prefer the Headphone[xi] treatment. Not sure what the explanation is for the huge disparity of the Headphone[xi] tracks without processing and the corresponding source HD Audio tracks. If the Headphone[xi] tracks were all that I had heard, the Realizer would have been much more of a “want”.

    Mark, can you provide some additional insight?

    • They are the same 5.1 files however, the stereo versions/sections in the Headphones[xi] version are a “folddown” of ALL of the channels to stereo not the discrete stereo mix that was provided previously. They were also normalized.

      • Interesting! Wondered if that might be the case since the differences, to my ear as noted, between the Headphone[xi] and source tracks are much closer sonically than the folded-down segments inserted.
        Thanks for clarification.
        Looking forward to your continuing consideration of the Smyth technology.

  • I guess my comments would have been more appropriately posted to the original Smyth article. 🙁

  • Blaine J. Marsh

    I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I don’t really like it. It seems to lose focus. The soundstage is large and that is good. But the individual elements need to be more localized. This was particularly apparent in the John Gorka sample. Just my opinion.

    • This type of presentation is not going to please everyone…the expansion out of your head works for me and the majority of listeners, but whether you prefer it over traditional stereo is your personal decision.

  • Dylan Carter

    At least this is more enlightening than one of the reality TV stars, kim who?

    Joey what?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *