I became a fan of Binaural recordings well over a decade ago. A technology that became briefly popular in the early days of the search for surround. Using a very interesting concept and relatively affordable requirements, Binaural allowed the effective reproduction of a surround sound environment, using only headphones. Unlike simple stereo in traditional recordings and systems, Binaural recordings created a definite spatial soundstage. Sound could be close or far, above or behind or in front. In other words it offered an alternative to expensive receiver/multi-speaker Dolby Surround setups, using only the binaural recording and a pair of headphones.
Needless to say the cost effective Binaural was crushed out of existence by multi-million dollar marketing push of competing technologies such as Dolby and licensing deals of companies whose livelihood depended on selling you expensive receivers/decoders and multi-speaker setups.
And don’t get me wrong, those things have their place. I grew up during the age of great speakers and receivers, from Polk to B&W 801s to Legacy Classic series; sound systems that cost more than cars. And I went through my share of such systems, but for personal entertainment, when you are not trying to blow the roof off or entertain a roomful of people… such systems are overkill.
Especially now in the age of miniaturization (and to some extent isolation) that the itunes and media player model has made of music listening, everyone is listening through headphones. And in such an environment Binaural not Dolby, is the surround scheme that is most impressive and immersive.
Unfortunately big business has a way of killing the affordable technology or alternative technology in favor of the bloated, controllable, and prohibitively expensive model. So for this reason there is only a handful of mass-produced binarual music cds in existance.
Thankfully the very nature of Binaural means anyone can produce recordings using this technology. The detriment of that being you get the binaural recording technique, coopted by ‘new agey’ and suspect alternative health types, putting out mostly awful CDs that are supposed to help you receive some exceptional brain state. Most of these CDs are what you would expect from such claims.
But the real fans of Binaural understand the technology is for making kick-ass ‘you are there’ sound recordings.
Binaural allows effective placement of sound using headphones. So yes it makes for effective recordings of environments, be it a rain forest or a subway or a concert hall.
So without further ado here are the best binaural recordings currently available:
The Mist Movie Tie-In: In 3 D Sound [Abridged, Audiobook] [Audio CD]
Release Date: October 2, 2007
Suspended in a haze of terror, humanity makes its last stand against unholy destruction!
Stephen King’s sinister imagination and the miracle of 3-D sound transport you to a hot, lazy day in a sleepy all-American town — where a sudden, violent storm leaves behind a mysterious mist that traps you in the supermarket with dozens of others, cut off from your families and the world.
The Mist is alive, seething with unearthly sounds and movements. The Mist has you in its grip, and this masterpiece of 3-D sound engineering surrounds you with horror so real that you’ll be grabbing your own arm for reassurance. To one side — and whipping around your chair, a slither of tentacles. Swooping down upon you, a rush of grotesque, prehistoric wings. In the impenetrable mist, hearing is seeing — and believing. And what you’re about to hear, you’ll never forget.
Richard Strauss: Also Sprach Zarathustra; Camille Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3 (Organ)
‘This is my favorite classical recording in my whole collection. This is a true audiophile recording for those seeking recordings with above standard audio qualities. This recording uses the binaural Neumann KU 100 dummy head and 20-bit resolution. Binaural recordings produce natural ‘3d’ audio, in 360 degree direction using only standard headphones. This is not Dolby surround. This is two-tracks. You don’t need a 5 speaker setup, all you need are headphones!
If you are a headphone user you should not hesitate one moment to get this, especially if you’ve never heard a binaural recording before. The difference is profound. When listening with headphones you will experience the orchestra as if you were there- all the instruments will be in their proper locations and distances all without using mixing board tricks.’
— Amazon reviewer
‘Binaural recordings are very rare and very unique. But in my opinion, binaural is the BEST way to record live music. Why? Because binaural captures the exact audio of a live event in 100 percent natural 360 degree audio.
To hear the binaural effect properly you must wear headphones while listening to this CD. And when you do, in effect, you will ‘be there’ like no other audio technolgy can offer. In fact, I’d say binuaral is far superior than Dolby or any other 3D technology.
When listening with headphones, thanks to the binaural recording technique, you will hear every instrument in every location exactly as they really are- the perspective is incredible. You can detect the exact distance and location of each musician. This is an UNBELIEVABLE experience! ‘– Amazon Reviewer