You may have noticed that when you listen to music through headphones it sounds as though the music is coming from inside your head? Well, the principle of binaural audio recording is that it replicates the way that our ears work by building into the recording all the interaural ('between the the ears') spectral and sound pressure level differences that tell your brain whereabouts, in the three-dimensional space around your head, a sound is coming from. To make a binaural recording you need a dummy head with a stereo pair of microphones built into the ears and then, when you take a recording and listen to it back through headphones the sounds that you recorded will sound like they are outside your head. Not got a dummy head to hand? You can just put small microphones in your own ears which creates the same effect...sounds cool right?! Imagine taking a binaural recording at a gig so that one day, in a moment of nostalgia, you can listen back and hear the experience just as you did on the night with the band on the stage and your friends singing around you.
Binaural recording is a great way to record soundscapes because you can give your audience the same feeling of immersion that they would feel if they were at the real location. Therefore, when I first started recording and archiving natural soundscapes, I made my own dummy head. The binaural effect is amplified if the dummy head is a little larger than a real life head so I started with a shop bought mannequin head and constructed around it using wood and car body filler. I even added a pair of silicon ears! The ears are important for the binaural effect as our ear pinnae 'shadow' sounds coming from certain angles, especially the rear. Within the ears I placed a pair of Soundman OKM-II Professional binaural microphones. You don't need to use specialised binaural microphones to record your own binaural sound however the Soundman range are designed to also fit in real ears so are useful for times when you want to record from the perspective of your own head, or if you are going undercover!
Here is my binaural dummy head in action at Westport Beach, Machrihanish on the western coast of the Mull of Kintyre. Listen to the angry Atlantic surf as it roars along the beach.