A touch of experimental production with the electro-acoustic trio Alan Madec (accordion and effects), Joss Turnbull (Zarb and effects) and Loup Barrow (cristal Baschet and hang).

I had been looking for a team of musicians with whom I could explore live binaural. Which meant they would have to accept this simple premise : the set-up and balance of the sources should be arranged around a dummy head so that each listener would be able to enjoy the same audio quality.

When Alan asked me to engineer their sound (4 acoustic instruments, 2 pairs of monitoring speakers for the effects and a subwoofer with column for the cristal), I suggested we gave it a try.

The tour was organised and it was a little late to consider going right through the idea (i.e. kit out the whole audience with headphones), but the group was well suited for a life-size test. The audience capacity required no additional audio system : we only had to adapt what already existed. 

The « tableau » format set-up is kept but the trio is now settled in a semicircle around a KU100. The  pairs of speakers are crossed and the distances, azimuths and volumes are adjusted to provide, as far as possible, 3 satisfying balances :

  • the first for the easy playing of the musicians (they had already rehearsed in this same layout in order to  get accustomed to it)
  • the second for the dummy head, central on the set (with a nearly 180 degrés opening)
  • the third for the audience (since they’re not wearing headphones at this stage)

The setting is experimental but these are real concerts : therefore we need to compromise. In the end, with this very dynamic, completely improvised music, a « natural » balance is easy enough to reach. 

Once this configuration is determined, native binaural shows its worth : the clarity is total, in an unquestionable space, the musical dynamics benefits from the excellent signal to noise ratio of the circumaural headphones and the distant recording is perfectly right with the timbres. We’re as close as can be to natural hearing. 

On the third concert, about ten headphones were available to those interested in the audience, for comparison purpose. « a journey experience »came up as a comment a number of times. 

Our next step : include the equipment of the audience in the budget of the tour, which shouldn’t raise any difficulties compared with the cost of the average audio system.

Categories: Music