Binaural recordings are reproductions of sound the way human ears hear it. In fact, the word “binaural” literally just means “using both ears.” When you listen to a binaural recording through headphones, you perceive distinct and genuine 360° sound.
It’s the purest, most natural way to record and listen to music.
Now, almost a century after the demise of the Theatrophones, investors are starting to revisit 3D audio technology: the prototype of Sony’s VR headset Project Morpheus includes a custom 3D audio binaural solution in its development kit. “3D audio adds to the feeling of presence that we strive so hard to achieve with the visuals in VR,” says Richard Marks, senior director of research and development at Sony Computer Entertainment America. “When sound is perceived to come from the same direction as a visual stimulus, the credibility of the virtual experience is greatly increased. While purely visual VR experiences can be made, adding 3D audio greatly magnifies the impact and depth of a VR experience.”
3D audio offers a more expansive experience than its visual counterpart. “Unlike with the visuals, 3D audio is not limited to the field of view of the display and can be rendered to give a ‘complete 360-degree’ experience,” says Marks. “One of the biggest challenges for VR design is that the user can look in any direction, and may not even be looking when something momentous occurs. But using a 3D audio cue, it is possible to steer the user’s attention to look in the direction of the sound, similar to techniques that are used in live theater.”