Binaural for Stereo Projects

If you don’t produce in Ambisonics, but in stereo, you can still get the full audio quality and auditive benefits of Munk Productions Ambisonic Ambiences (MPAA).

 

Same sound
Example of a 5.1.4 Surround sound setup
Sketch of a 5.1.4 Surround setup

The Ambisonic channel format needs to be decoded into whichever speaker arrangement is needed for playback. This can be “real” speakers set up as e.g. a 5.1 Surround configuration, as 7.0.4 Surround with height
channels, and any other multi-speaker setup required – or simply for two-speaker playback. The latter is called “binaural” format and is suited for a traditional stereo speaker setup or headphones/earbuds.

You can get MPAA packages with binaural files only, or together with the 16-channel Ambisonic files.

The actual sound of the binaural files, complete with the 3D audio “information”, is the same. We just did the decoding for you, so you can add the files directly to your stereo project.

Audio files recorded using a sound field microphone (like the one we use) sound best when listened to on headphones or earbuds. The is because the “sweet spot”, the position in which the listener experiences least phasing issues and best localisation, is relatively small with such recordings. When wearing headphones, the listener is always exactly at the sweet spot. That doesn’t mean the files can’t be used for multi-speaker reproduction, but it places more emphasis on being at or close to the sweet spot to get the best listening experience.

 

Ambisonic advantages

What you get with the Ambisonic version is the possibilities of an Ambisonic production workflow. These include

  • ability to change the perspective of the recording in any direction (like turning your head sideways, up or down, or tilting it)
  • advanced spatial manipulations (zooming into specific sound sources within the recording, stretching or compressing the image in specific directions, and more)
  • simulation of 3-dimensional spaces with reflections and reverberation (room simulation and Ambisonic reverb)
  • choice of playback system setup (stereo/binaural, various Surround configurations)
  • possibility for the listener to use head tracking like in video games (the audio follows the movements of the listener’s head)

Such techniques are not available in a stereo project workflow, where the audio has already been decoded into two channels.

 

A note on decoding

The binaural versions of our ambiences were decoded using the “Binaural Decoder” from the free IEM Plugin-package. This is currently (2020) the best sounding decoder in our opinion.

If you produce in Ambisonics and decode to binaural, please note that there is a great deal of difference in the sound of various decoders. To get the same sound as our binaural files contain, use the IEM decoder.

See the page on Frequency Spectrum for more on this.