Binaural Recording- An interview with Nicholas Prout of Chesky Records

Binaural Recording- An interview with Nicholas Prout of Chesky Records

Nicholas Prout is the recording engineer for Chesky Records. Over the years Nicholas has developed the skills of capturing musical performances using binaural recording techniques. Binaural recording is a method of recording sound that uses two microphones, arranged with the intent to create a life-like sound sensation for the listener when played back over headphones. As featured throughout the Chesky Records Binaural+ series, this recording technique provides the listener with an intimate playback of the musical performance.  Subtle head movements of the singers, improved instrument separation, realistic dynamics and room characteristics all contribute to placing the listener in the middle of the performance. I was lucky enough to talk with Nicholas about his equipment and techniques for capturing great binaural recordings. His dedication to the technique and craftsmanship shine through in his incredible recordings; please make sure to check them out. When asked what you do for a living, how do you reply? I say that I’m a recording engineer.  If pressed I say that I work for Chesky Records and my job is to make the records.  I record the performances, edit together the best version of the piece of music from all available takes, then master it and prepare it for whatever format is needed.  Usually a CD master, a 96kHz 24 bit master, and a 192kHz 24 bit master. When did you become interested in binaural recording, and what bought it about? I read an article about recording with a dummy head in the late 70s.  I was intrigued so I recorded a folk singer using two Neumann U67s with a roll of paper towels between them.  I don’t know if...
Human Echolocation – Seeing With Your Ears

Human Echolocation – Seeing With Your Ears

Human Echolocation is the ability of humans to use sound echoes to help determine their immediate and nearby surroundings. Using methods such as tapping a cane on the ground, stamping their feet, or making clicking sounds with their mouths they are able to interpret the resulting echoes/reflections to provide them with an internal “map” of their surroundings. Similar in principle to sonar used by bats, toothed whales and dolphins, reflecting sound waves returning to the ears provide important clues such as proximity, density, shape and size of nearby objects. Working Mechanics of Human Echolocation   The auditory system processes sound waves as they reflect off surrounding surfaces and enter the ears, much like the visual system with light waves reflecting off objects and into our eyes. “The auditory system has the amazing ability to detect faint differences in volume, frequency and timing between the left and right ears of incoming reflections. It is these subtle differences that make human echolocation possible.” With echoes, a blind traveler can perceive specific information from far beyond their immediate surroundings. Echoes provide information about the nature and placement of objects such as walls, doors, stairs, ceilings, overhangs, cars, poles etc. Echoes can then provide further information such as location (proximity), dimension (size and shape), and density (how thick or thin). By interpreting the interrelatedness of these qualities, blind people can perceive much about the nature of their surroundings. Whether visually impaired or not, all humans (with operational auditory systems) use sound clues to understand their surroundings. Make a noise in a large enclosed space and you can hear the delay in reflections as...
Sending Bitcoin Transactions via Sound Waves

Sending Bitcoin Transactions via Sound Waves

The versatility of Bitcoin as a payment mechanism continues to impress me. Released from the shackles of governments and banks, money now has the ability to spread and be shared in ways we have yet to imagine. Here’s an interesting new(ish) one: You can send your Bitcoin transactions via sound waves. By simply allowing your mobiles microphone to listen to a “chirp”, all the required information for making the payment to the merchant or digital Bitcoin wallet is provided in a mere second or two. The information received in the broadcast would include the payment address, the amount to pay, and the label (Order ID, invoice number, description etc). Why use sound waves? Faster than taking a photo – Creates a faster payment then using a camera to scan a QR code. The transaction is instantly picked up by the receiver, and pre-fills in the Bitcoin address, amount and label. (Assuming the wallet has chirp integration) You don’t have a camera or NFC – Maybe it’s broken, maybe you don’t have one, or maybe you are safety conscious and don’t want your phones camera to be enabled. All working phones have an in-built microphone and speaker. Chirp In Action Chirp is a phone application available on iPhone and Android that uses sound to transmit information between devices. Although not Bitcoin integrated, it demonstrates the application of using sound as an information transmission medium. It is designed for quick and easy sharing between people in the same place. A ‘Chirp’ is like a tiny piece of music, and each chirp lasts about two seconds. “The system listens out for a...
Audio Pixels – The Future of Speaker Design?

Audio Pixels – The Future of Speaker Design?

First Major innovation in audio speakers in nearly 80 years Audio Pixels Limited is on the verge of producing what they are claiming to be the “First major innovation in audio speakers in nearly 80 years.” Audio Pixels have developed a revolutionary technological platform for reproducing sound, enabling the production of an entirely new generation of speakers that will surpass performance specification and design demands of the world’s top consumer electronics manufacturers. The Australian based company was founded in 2006, and is publicly traded on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) under the trading code AKP (at the time of writing, their share price was at $10.35). The Audio Pixels website states: “Our patented technologies (principle patents in national phase in 13 countries), employ entirely new techniques to generate sound waves using low cost micro-electromechanical structures (MEMS). This innovation enables the production of speaker products that deliver performance that is many orders of magnitude better than conventional speaker technologies, all in an affordable package that is roughly only one millimetre thick!” These claims are big to say the least. One wonders how a speaker “one millimetre thick” could produce a wide range of frequencies (especially the lows), and at semi-decent volumes. Skeptical I am, let’s take a further look into this company and their technologies. Audio Pixels Business Model Audio Pixels plan to produce and sell a single type chip that can be used either as a standalone speaker, or cascaded in any multiples up to 64 units of the same chip. The number of chips is determined by the application in question, and the requirements of the manufacturers audio specifications...
Bitcoin and the Music Industry

Bitcoin and the Music Industry

If you haven’t heard of bitcoin yet, then you may want to get in the know. Bitcoin is a new technology developed by Satoshi Nakamoto, an anonymous figure who published the first bitcoin specification and proof of concept in 2009. Bitcoin can be viewed as cash for the internet, a global currency for the ever connected worldwide society we now find ourselves in. Bitcoin is a decentralised peer-to-peer payment network that is powered by its users, with no central authority or middleman. To offer a quick summary of Bitcoin, here is the definition provided on the Bitcoin.org website: “Bitcoin uses peer-to-peer technology to operate with no central authority or banks; managing transactions and the issuing of Bitcoin’s is carried out collectively by the network. Bitcoin is open-source; its design is public, nobody owns or controls Bitcoin and everyone can take part.” Bitcoin can be a confusing topic for those new to the subject, especially if the little information they have has come from mainstream media. Mainstream media tend to focus on the negative news, such as price volatility, regulations and bans enforced by various countries, and of course the infamous crash of bitcoin exchange Mt Gox.Using mainstream media to formulate an opinion on bitcoin could be a bad idea, as the reporters likely have an extremely limited understanding of how bitcoin works, and are in the business of creating revenue through views and click-throughs, not enlightening the masses. At present governments worldwide are unsure on how to approach Bitcoin in terms of regulation, and how to define it; Is it currency? Is it an asset? Is it legal? etc....