Bobby O called Headphone Surround the next big thing in audio the other week, so I had to check it out. Samples are up at http://www.robertmargouleff.com/. I’m unclear how the technology works, but it simulates something like a 5.1 or 7.1 channel surround sound system on standard stereo headphones.
A quick listen to the headphone surround mix of “Thank You” on earbuds didn’t jump out at me… until I listened back to the original stereo mix. Then, the original mix seemed two-dimensional and flat compared to the headphone surround mix.
The Eleanor Rigby sample is cool because it A/Bs the standard and surround mixes back and forth for you, allowing you to compare the two. You also hear the different points in the surround mix solo’d (left-surround, left-front, center-front, right-front, right-surround). I notice that the surround mix does sound spacier, not necessarily in a pleasant way. Maybe it’s achieved using some type of convolution processing on the “-front” sounds, placing them “farther away” perceptually in the mix.
The standard mix sounds dry in comparison (again, not necessarily a bad thing; it is, after all, how the artist originally presented the material). One slightly weird thing about the standard mix, in comparison to the surround mix, is that I notice how the standard mix seems to place the sound directly inside my brain, instead of spread out in front of me like the surround mix.
Drew checked it out, too, saying “I listened to Eleanor Rigby and strongly prefer the standard version.”
I don’t disagree. Remixing existing studio works into headphone surround doesn’t do anything for me. I can see it working for live material, though, and it seems like a cool tool for artists to create sound specifically intended for headphone surround in the future.