Surround Virtualization for Headphones

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jagxjr15

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I've found a gizmo from EPOS | Sennheiser has made me very happy with rendering 7.1 through stereo headphones: their GSX 1000 Audio Amplifier. This thing's intended for gamers, so there's an intercom channel that's easy to ignore. On the Mac you do need to delve into Audio/MIDI Setup to get the Mac to understand it takes multichannel on first use; after that, it needs no special prep.

No doubt the Smyth A16 Realizer is far superior, but I get full surround (including rear channels) that's entirely satisfactory for casual listening or movie viewing from the GSX 1000. Evidently it's got a Cyber Monday deal going for it today... $189.00

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LDTP484/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_YVZGJRR0VZW59PATJ7E5

Sure, it's running on some population-averaged HRTF. That having been said, it works well for my friends and I. My expectation is that there will be a lot of more sophisticated devices at lower price points joining the A16 in the next year.

Bob
Thanks for the low-cost tip.
 

Soundfield

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Well, it works for the vast majority of people. It didn't work for me either, until I closed my eyes while listening. Also, it may depend on the choice of headphones: the Stereophile review of the AKG 1000 headphones said that they produced the binaural effect for people who didn't get it from any other headphones.
I must have tried dozens and dozens of different types of headphones over the years. None of them have ever done anything to solve the very unrealistic 'in-the-head' imaging I get with ordinary stereo (let alone binaural), and which I find particularly unpleasant.
 

jagxjr15

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I must have tried dozens and dozens of different types of headphones over the years. None of them have ever done anything to solve the very unrealistic 'in-the-head' imaging I get with ordinary stereo (let alone binaural), and which I find particularly unpleasant.
The AKG K1000s might work for you. They are unlike all other headphones, to my knowledge, in that they do not touch your ears, which is why AKG calls them 'ear speakers' rather than headphones.
The 'ear speakers' sit in a metal frame which goes over your head, and the 'ear speakers' swivel about so the angle of the speaker units with respect to your ears/head can be adjusted. I had no problems wearing them for hours at a time. Since they are more like loudspeakers than headphone transducers, they have to be driven by a speaker amp; they will not work if you try to drive them with the output of a headphone jack; but the ideal solution is to drive them with the matching AKG K1000 amp.
 

stevendive

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Try closing your eyes when listening. Binaural only works for me if I close my eyes while listening -- and it's night and day -- eyes open, stereo only -- eyes closed, the full 360 immersive binaural effect! Also, it may depend on the choice of headphones: the Stereophile review of the AKG 1000 headphones said that they produced the binaural effect for people who didn't get it from any other headphones.

I've tried all sorts, just to try to cancel visual domination effects. Nothing's worked at all well so far. The closest to working for me at all has been ambisonic binaural, which may work better with head tracking if I ever get to try this.

My original question was really the other way around. For binaural with visual reinforcement, as happens with VR + headsets with ambisonic audio (3rd or greater order ambisonics), hearing might be trained to perceive good surround including elevation.
 

jagxjr15

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I've tried all sorts, just to try to cancel visual domination effects. Nothing's worked at all well so far. The closest to working for me at all has been ambisonic binaural, which may work better with head tracking if I ever get to try this.

My original question was really the other way around. For binaural with visual reinforcement, as happens with VR + headsets with ambisonic audio (3rd or greater order ambisonics), hearing might be trained to perceive good surround including elevation.
Right. I have never tried binaural with video. I don't know of any films with binaural soundtracks, come to think of it. The Kraftwerk: 3D The Catalogue Box has a disc with a "Headphone Surround 3D mix", but I haven't gotten around to listening to/viewing that one yet. I can tell you that if you are watching a movie, the Smyth A8 imaging, when it works, does not change or collapse if you close your eyes.

But I was surprised that my small stack of (audio only) binaural discs only imaged properly with eyes closed, with the AKG K1000 system. I doubt that the AKG would work with the Smyth, but I've never tried them together. With the Smyth I only used the Stax headphones supplied with the Smyth, and lately with the Sennheiser 800S cans.

The human brain/sensorium is very good at adapting to the environment to compensate for changes, but whether and how much (and how) visual cues affect audio perception is a hard problem. Floyd Toole's book on speakers in small rooms treats some of the issues.
 
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doity

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I have virtually no experience with the newer Surround headphones as all of my listening is done on old school analog equipment. Obviously most should/would work on such systems as a headphone jack is a headphone jack right? No? Anyway the point is moot as I don’t have the $ to invest in a costly toy like a Smyth system......though I wouldn’t mind being able to.

I do own a pair of the Koss Phase 2+2 four channel headphones and they work remarkably well, and no need for a computer or a screen to operate them. The Koss phones do a fantastic job of surround without having to do a brain scan before using them. The only problem is that sometimes it is hard to differentiate between front and back, even if it is a very ‘discrete’ listening experience. Meaning that I can definitely hear the separation of instruments and vocals. It just is more of an encompassing listening experience and not as life-like as you probably get with newer technology.

How do the TOTL Smyth headphones sound in comparison to an actual 4 or 5.1 “real life” listening experience?
 

jagxjr15

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I have virtually no experience with the newer Surround headphones as all of my listening is done on old school analog equipment. Obviously most should/would work on such systems as a headphone jack is a headphone jack right? No? Anyway the point is moot as I don’t have the $ to invest in a costly toy like a Smyth system......though I wouldn’t mind being able to.

I do own a pair of the Koss Phase 2+2 four channel headphones and they work remarkably well, and no need for a computer or a screen to operate them. The Koss phones do a fantastic job of surround without having to do a brain scan before using them. The only problem is that sometimes it is hard to differentiate between front and back, even if it is a very ‘discrete’ listening experience. Meaning that I can definitely hear the separation of instruments and vocals. It just is more of an encompassing listening experience and not as life-like as you probably get with newer technology.

How do the TOTL Smyth headphones sound in comparison to an actual 4 or 5.1 “real life” listening experience?
Back when I using the Smyth A8 with the Stax headphones I was running the signal through the Trinnov processing in a Sherwood R-972 receiver and when it all worked it was really great, the best thing I had ever heard, but the Sherwood was a mess and when it finally died, the fun was over. The R-972 was the flakiest thing I ever had and it was hell to set up. I will never use another one. At that time I was a daily follower of an R-972 user thread and it wasn't just my unit: EVERYBODY had trouble with it. Outlaw Audio had announced that their next receiver was going to have Trinnov, but they eventually gave up on it, seeing how much trouble the R-972 was. That and the flaky nature of the A8 were too much for me. I have been chasing the dragon ever since.... Maybe this will be the year it all works. I also like 3D TV and I have a 2K+ Cinera setup for that -- but first I have to get the audio side to work.
 
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