[ProAudio] stereo perception through headphones

Corey Bailey Audio Engineering proaudio at baileyzone.net
Thu Jan 30 11:20:39 EST 2020


FWIW, I don't use headphones (cans) for recording & mixing unless the 
situation demands it (some live events, etc). I always prefer "known" 
speakers. The reason; headphones can fool your ears for a host of 
reasons. That said, I will often check things with cans as well as play 
a mix in mono and check that situation with cans as well. Mixes intended 
for AM radio are often separate mixes that are always mono.

My $0.02


Corey Bailey Audio Engineering

On 1/15/2020 11:20 AM, egosfield via ProAudio wrote:
> Since the list has been quiet -- I hope this is not inappropriate:
> I am unable to perceive a virtual soundstage when monitoring stereo 
> tracks through headphones.  I wonder how common this is.
> I use them for tracking, but not for mixing or aesthetic editing.
> I can form a subjective impression of the timbre of instruments, 
> distance from  and characteristics of microphones, timbre of room 
> reflections, sometimes the size of the room, depending on apparent 
> reverb characteristics.
> But central signals always feel like they are in the center of my 
> head, and the subjective image extends outward from my head like a 
> figure of 8 microphone with lobes parallel to the soundstage - mickey 
> mouse ears.  I have tried various HRTF modifications with no 
> significant help.  I still perceive central images in the center of my 
> head, and the virtual soundstage is never in front of me.
> I had assumed that this was my own neuro-cognitive 'deficiency', like 
> people who are unable to free view stereo image pairs (which i do 
> easily, wall eyed or cross eyed) or who can not in fact perceive 
> visual stereoscopic information at all  and do not see 
> stereoscopically (there is up to low double digit prevalence of this 
> in the gen pop).
> But a good friend who is a well respected designer of high fidelity 
> equipment has the same response.
> I have Stax, Etymotics, Sennheiser HD580, and AKG 240 'phones and  my 
> 'soundstage' experience is the same through all of them.  Lots of 
> detail, of variably contoured frequency response, but no 'real' 
> soundstage.
> Yet i see headphones commonly evaluated for "sound stage" and people 
> report hearing a virtual performance space in front of them.
> I am also unable to perceive effective binaural imaging -- central 
> images remain in the center of my head, although more lateral content 
> seems more peripheral, and  only the lateral virtual sources seem 
> anywhere slightly forward of my head.
> I'm now old enough to have lost hearing above 14kHz, but i had the 
> same headphone experience when  I was in my 20s and could hear 
> television CRT synch tones. I have no problem with stereo localization 
> with speaker playback, and can easily distinguish the type of spatial 
> clues provided by coincident microphone techniques vs. those of near 
> coincident (ORTF, NOS etc.) with time of flight differences included.  
> I remember (and saved) the long discussion here about coincident vs. 
> near coincident techniques.  I prefer near-coincident aesthetically if 
> there is any depth in the array of performers.
> I haven't found a good discussion of this kind of 'deficiency' in 
> easily available neurological or audio sources.  I checked a few texts 
> I own on audio perception (Berg "The Physics of Sound", Butler "The 
> Musician's Guide to Perception and Cognition", McAdams ed. "Thinking 
> in Sound - the cognitive psychology of human audition" but found no 
> relevant discussion of headphone soundstage reproduction of stereo 
> music (although Butler comes with a CD of examples utilizing headphone 
> playback for examples of perceptual issues in tone localization).  The 
> ENT literature I have access to is even less relevant.
> I'm trying to find out if my deficiency is relatively common, and 
> other folks just report as headphone 'soundstage' a level of 
> perception that I consider inadequate to deserve that description,
> Can someone point me to a discussion of such variability in stereo 
> depth perception through headphones?  I suppose the people who create 
> HRTFs have done a bunch of work on it.
> I can also note that in the past, i had a "Professional" (HA!) Sony 
> Walkman cassette deck that sounded reasonable through headphones, but 
> when used as a line in to a good stereo system for speaker playback 
> showed unacceptable and easily perceived flutter.  My ear/brain system 
> was somehow canceling or ignoring the flutter  when listening through 
> headphones.
> If this is not appropriate to the list, the moderator can just delete it.
> Considering how many people use earbuds for their music listening 
> these days (and mp3 files).   I hope this issue has been address 
> technically somewhere.
> best wishes to all,
> eg
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