Picture of Lancaster Jazz festival deck chairs with Sam Hobbs in front row.

SonicSound – Jazz North’s search for an enhanced listening experience for live jazz recordings

Icon for Jazz North's Sonic Sound recordings

Jazz North’s SonicSound icon will appear on artist videos to indicate binaural audio and wearing headphones recommended.

In search of a better listening experience for live jazz recordings we are experimenting with binaural recording. Normally this would use a solid mannequin head but we enlisted Rebel Elements musician & producer Sam Hobbs to use his own head to record the latest Jazz North northern line artists at their showcase at Lancaster Jazz Festival. Binaural is a method of recording sound that uses two microphones, arranged to create a 3-D stereo sound sensation which places a listener wearing headphones in the same acoustic space as the performers and audience.

Binaural recording is intended for listening with headphones. This effect is often created using a technique known as “dummy head recording” where a mannequin head is fitted with a microphone in each ear. The 2019 showcase recordings were made via the head of musician and producer Sam Hobbs sitting in a deckchair wearing a special binaural microphone in each ear. The idea is really simply, the person recording the sound finds a position with the best sound mix, gets comfortable and presses record. So thank you Sam for spending 8 hours as a human microphone stand. You can spot Sam sitting in a front row deckchair (sunglasses) and thank you to the festival sound engineer who did a great job mixing the sound for the acoustic space of Sun Square.

Technical facts about Binaural Recording See wikipedia.org/wiki/Binaural_recording
The term “binaural” has frequently been confused with “stereo”. This is a legacy from the mid-1950s when the recording industry misused ‘Stereo’ as a marketing buzzword. Conventional stereo recordings do not factor in natural ear spacing or “head shadow” of the head and ears, since these things happen naturally as a person listens, generating their own ITDs (interaural time differences) and ILDs (interaural level differences). Because loudspeaker-crosstalk of conventional stereo interferes with binaural reproduction, either headphones are required, or crosstalk cancellation of signals intended for loudspeakers such as Ambiophonics is required. For listening using conventional speaker-stereo, or mp3 players, a pinna-less dummy head may be preferable for quasi-binaural recording, such as the sphere microphone or Ambiophone. As a general rule, for true binaural results, an audio recording and reproduction system chain, from microphone to the listener’s brain, should contain one and only one set of pinnae (preferably the listener’s own) and one head-shadow.

Example artist track with SonicSound