This study uses binaural technology for headphone monitoring in world music, jazz and free improvisation recording sessions. We first conducted an online survey with twelve musicians to identify the challenges they face when performing in studio with wearable monitoring devices. Then, to investigate musicians’ perceived differences between binaural and stereo monitoring, we carried out three comparative tests followed by semi- directed focus groups. The survey analysis highlighted the main challenges of coping with an unusual performance situation and a lack of realism and sound quality of the auditory scene. Tests showed that binaural monitoring improved the perceived sound quality and realism, musicians’ comfort and pleasure, and encouraged better musical performances and more creativity in the studio.
- Date: Septembre 2016 - September 2018
- Place : Radio France Quality and Innovation Departement - Paris Conservatoire (CNSMDP)
- People involved : Hervé Déjardin, Amandine Pras
- Huge thanks to all people from all the musicians that participated to the study, and people from Radio France Quality and Innovation Department
Musicians’ binaural headphone monitoring for studio recording
I investigated this topic due to my personal experience as a sound engineer. Indeed, I worked on numerous recording sessions, managing both the sound recording part and the musicians’ headphone monitoring mix part, with various musicians who made me aware that wearing headphones often bring difficulties: feelings of discomfort, a lack of connection among the members, physical constraints… That’s the reason why I decided to look at 3D audio over headphones, namely binaural audio, for the monitoring mixes, with the original hypothesis that the intelligibility would be increased due to the wider space and better sound unmasking using binaural audio in comparison with stereo audio.
- To establish musicians’ challenges and their need to perceive a realistic auditory scene when monitoring on headphones during recording sessions
- To identify the pros and cons of binaural headphone monitoring
- To observe a potential impact of binaural monitoring on musical performance and creativity.
The study was conducted in two different contexts using the KLANG:fabrik device for the live binauralization of audio sources, with three AB comparative tests between musical recordings using binaural headphone monitoring and stereo monitoring:
- Radio France - 04-27-17: Jovanny Parvedy - World music musician
- Paris Conservatoire (CNSMDP) - 05-31-17: Free improvisation trio
- Paris Conservatoire (CNSMDP) - 06-01-17: Jazz trio
Results : Binaural vs Stereo monitoring
- Better sound quality and intelligibility with binaural audio
- Better comfort perceived with binaural audio
- Binaural monitoring has a positive influence regarding musical play and creativity
- Binaural audio allows to renew with a known situation (rehearsal or live performance)
- Lack of externalization for 1/7 musician
- Difficulties to adapt to 3D audio monitoring for one musician (being very used to stereo monitoring)
Want to know more ?
- Paper: Bauer, V., Déjardin, H., & Pras, A. (2018). Musicians’ Binaural Headphone Monitoring for Studio Recording. Audio Engineering Society Convention 144.
- Workshop: 144th Milan AES Convention, workshop Involving Performers’ Creativity in Innovative Audio Research - Berg, J., Pras, A., Bauer, V., Soudoplatoff, D., Sundkvist, P.
- Poster: Bauer, V., Déjardin, H., & Pras, A. (2018). Musicians’ Binaural Headphone Monitoring for Studio Recording. JJCAAS 2018 :
- Workshop: Bauer, V., Déjardin, H., & Pras, A. Musicians’ Binaural Headphone Monitoring for Studio Recording. DMRN+12, Center for Digital Music, Queen Mary University