Immersive Stereo Sound Recording With This Binaural Microphone

Sound recording has been a consumer technology for so long now that it is ubiquitous, reaching for a mobile device and firing up an app takes only an instant. Anyone who takes an interest in audio recording further will find that while it’s relatively straightforward to make simple recordings. But, as those among you who have fashioned a pair of Shure SM58s into an X configuration with gaffer tape will know, it can be challenging to create a stereo image when recording outside the studio. In the quest to perfect this, [Kevin Loughin] has created a binaural microphone, which simulates a human head with microphones placed as ears to produce ambient recordings with an almost-immersive stereo image.

Commercial binaural microphones can cost thousands of dollars, but this one opts for a more budget design using an off-the-shelf mannequin head sold for hairdressers. It’s filled with high-density foam, and in its ears [Kevin] placed 3D-printed ear canals with electret microphone capsules. On the back goes a battery and a box for the bias circuitry.

The results as you can hear in the video below the break are impressive, certainly so for the cost. It’s not the first such microphone we’ve shown you, compare it with one using a foam-only head.

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Binaural Hearing Modeled With An Arduino

You don’t have two ears by accident. [Stoppi] has a great post about this, along with a video you can see below. (The text is in German, but that’s what translation is for.) The point to having two ears is that you receive audio information from slightly different angles and distances in each ear and your amazing brain can deduce a lot of spatial information from that data.

For the Arduino demonstration, cheap microphone boards take the place of your ears. A servo motor points to the direction of sound. This would be a good gimmick for a Halloween prop or a noise-sensitive security camera.

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3D Printing Binaural Microphones

Binaural audio is probably the coolest thing you can listen to with a pair of headphones. Instead of just a single microphone, binaural recordings use two microphones, set inside an analog for a human head, to replicate exactly what you would hear if you were there.

The only way to record binaural audio is with fake plastic ears attached to a dummy head. Most of the famous microphone manufacturers have something like this, but with a 3D printer, anything is possible. [Carlos] created his own binaural microphone using a 3D printer and went through the trouble of creating a few audio demos. The results are weird, like [Carlos] is whispering into your ear.

The ears used in this microphone setup are taken from a Thingiverse project by [Jonathan March]. This model did not properly model the ear canal,and didn’t have any way to mask the sound from ear to ear; this is why the professional models also include a head. [Carlos] fixed these shortcomings and created a few 3D models that accurately model the human ear and head.

There’s also a simple stereo microphone amplifier for this project that is designed to fit right between the ears. This amplifier was designed in KiCAD, and the PCB is single sided. It’s not quite simple enough to assemble on a piece of stripboard, but [Carlos] did manage to manufacture it on some copper clad board in his mill.

The results? It sounds awesome. [Carlos] put together a demo of his microphone, link below, and it only works if you’re wearing headphones.

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