Experimenting live binaural audio engineering for an early music performance.

Come Sorrow – photo @ Laurent Feichter

The set-up is a simple one : a dummy-head, positioned near the stage, broadcasts a binaural rendition of the Ensemble Près de votre Oreille (the « Close to your Ear Ensemble », what an appropriate name…) founded by Robin Pharo.  Some thirty headphones connected to an S2/D8 Feichter Audio system enable the audience to compare their usual listening to that using binaural and headphones . 

In the reverberating acoustics of the Sainte Anne chapel in Lannion, fine Elizabethan pieces of the early 17th century for voice, lute and viola da gamba form the « Come Sorrow » programme of March 21st 2019. 

The concert isn’t audio engineered and the last rows of listeners are very far from the critical point : the quartet is floating in the reverberation.

In order to give the most distant members of the audience a better listening experience,  Feichter Electronics and the Agence  du Verbe have offered the Rencontres Internationales de Musique Ancienne en Trégor (RIMAT) association to test this binaural engineering solution. The volume of the distribution system is set to roughly match that of natural hearing. Naturally, the audio-visual fusion can’t work : the viewing angles don’t coincide anymore. But the definition is far better and the listening more accurate. 

The feedback questionnaire filled in by the audience shows that they were rather pleasantly surprised by the headphones,  given the demanding context. The vast majority of which :

  • don’t usually listen to music through headphones
  • found the experience to be pleasant
  • spent at least half the concert wearing the headphones
  • felt closer to the music thanks to the headphones
Categories: CultureSessions