3D sound technology (binaural) allows to create a sound anywhere around the head, including above, below, and behind. This way of listening is much more natural - this is how we experience sounds of the world. In traditional stereo on headphones, sound is flat - located between the two ears - left and right. 3D sound technology (binaural) allows to create a very realistic sound located in the space around the listener.
Binaural sound technology mimics the way we hear sounds from the world around us.
When listening to the sounds in natural life - our ears play a very important role in recognizing the position of the sound. The detection of localization is based on 3 cues: differences in time arrival to both ears, differences in level, and spectral changes.
Let's imagine that we have a loud speaker located on the left of our head. The sound from the speaker will reach the left ear earlier than the right, the sound in the left ear will be louder than in the right one, and the timbre of the sound will be different between the two ears.
The timbre of sound is influenced by our body, specifically the auricle, shoulders and even the chest. Before reaching the ear, a sound wave bounces off the auricle, as well as the shoulders or torso. It is these reflections that cause the amplification or weakening of certain frequencies - and that is why the timbre of sound changes. Depending on the location of the sound source, our body parts will alter the sound color in different ways (more scientifically, we can say that they modulate it). All these differences can be measured and described by HRTF (Head Related Transfer Function).
Our brain compares the differences (cues) between the two ears and based on that recognizes the position of the sound source. If we take these differences and impose on any sound we can artificially change its' position.
First and obvious need for 3D sound are Virtual Reality experiences and games - spatial audio is necessary to create a truly immersive experience in VR. Besides that, it can be used in pretty much any audio piece. There are many tools that allow to include 3D sound in music compositions, audiobooks, podcasts etc.
As we discussed before, binaural technology is based on the natural way of hearing. Each of us has unique shape and size of ears which influence the cues that our brain utilizes to detect the position of sound. Yet, most of the applications use cues from the model of human head. The more your head differs from the model, the more inconsistencies in the localization of sound you experience. We can expect that next years will bring fast ways of obtaining personalized HRTFs.
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