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FAQ on Binaural vs. Stereo recordings

Question:
What is the difference between a stereo recording and a binaural recording?

Answer:

Some quick definitions:

  • Mono=one channel of audio signal
  • Stereo= two different channels of audio signal, recorded with two microphones spaced apart (or with a single microphone with two elements)
  • Dual mono=two channels of the same audio signal coming from the same microphone
  • Binaural=two different channels of audio, recorded on either side of a human or artificial head, preferable in the ears

"Stereo" recordings are essentially any recording made with two channels of audio, where the signal on each channel is different. In contrast, "dual mono" is also two channels of audio, but where the signal on each channel is the same. Either of these recordings can be made with Omnidirectional (sometimes called binaural) or Unidirectional (sometimes called Cardioid) microphones.

In a stereo recording, when you record something with two microphones spaced some reasonable distance apart, you get slightly different sound waves hitting each mic, resulting in different sounds recorded in each channel. When you play the recording back, you hear a sense of space between the speakers (or headphones) which creates the stereo image.

"Binaural" recordings are two channel recordings created by placing two omnidirectional microphones inside, or as close to the ears as is practical. Using this technique, the head and ear structure affect the way sound waves are picked up by the microphones so that the location information contained in the frequency, amplitude and phase responses of the left and right channels closely match the cues required by the human auditory system to localize sound sources. Positioned in this way, the microphones accurately capture sonic information coming from all directions and will produce extremely realistic recordings when listened to through headphones.

If you have any questions regarding this topic, please contact us.

The Sound Professionals™, Inc.
3444 Sylon Blvd.
Hainesport, NJ 08036 USA
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