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New earbuds let you record 3D audio to your phone

New earbuds let you record 3D audio to your phone


A Kickstarter project aims to make binaural audio more mainstream

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Earlier this year I showed you how binaural audio recording can recreate extremely realistic 3D sonic environments. For that project, we used a microphone embedded in some crazy fake ears. While this is a common way of recording binaural audio, it's not the only way.

A new Kickstarter product from Binauric called OpenEars could make recording binaural audio easier than ever by building the microphones into in-ear headphones. Many binaural microphones try to simulate the shape and density of the human head in order to reproduce the way sound actually reaches our ears. OpenEars sidestep that by using your own human head and letting you simply place the microphones in the right spot. The microphones also double as wireless Bluetooth headphones, and a mode called HearThrough allows mixing in live sound from the environment with music you're listening to, making it safer to ride a bike while listening to music, for example.

Recording 3D sound to your phone could open it up to a more mainstream audience

To me, this product feels inevitable. Binaural mics that go in your ears have existed for a while and range from $60–500. But they can't be used with most (maybe all) smartphones because the average mic jack only supports a mono signal, but stereo is a prerequisite for binaural recording. I own a couple pairs of these, but I never carry them around because that would mean also carrying around something to record with, like a bulky H4n Zoom. OpenEars have the advantage of also being headphones, so when you want to record something, they're already in your ears. For a suggested retail price of around $225, this is just a little bit more than you would pay for a nice pair of in-ear binaural mics.


Today, binaural audio is mostly used in music, sound design, and niche YouTube communities. Making it easier to record 3D sound directly to your phone could open up the idea to a more mainstream audience. Imagine if every Snapchat you received was recorded in binaural. The immersive quality of 3D audio would literally add another dimension to video on social networks. Just wait, the binaural wave is coming.

This isn't Binauric’s first foray into speaker-mic hybrids. Its first product was a Bluetooth speaker and binaural microphone called Boom Boom. Although I haven't tried OpenEars yet, I have been playing with Boom Boom for the last couple of weeks, and I will vouch for both its sound quality and design.

Binauric says OpenEars will be compatible with GoPro, potentially adding an aural dimension to POV extreme sport videos. Binauric has even created special mics called OpenMics, which can be mounted on a helmet.


Binauric plans to ship to the first 500 backers by November with mass production scheduled for March 2016, but it's a Kickstarter product, so that may change. And there is one downside — because it’s using a unique Bluetooth protocol for processing high-quality stereo audio, it has to use a special app to record. The app is fine, but I want to use these mics for everything: Snapchat, Vine, Hyperlapse, Instagram, FaceTime, Skype. So even if Binauric's headphones pan out, my dream of binaural Snapchats is in the hands of phone and app makers who would have to work with this protocol, and maybe one day binaural can reach the masses.

Verge Video: Hear New York City in 3d audio