Binaural Recording

I’m thinking of buying an MXL 990 condenser mic, to add to my other mic of the same type. If I put both on separate mic stands, with both a couple feet from, with both panned left and right, of course.

Could I achieve a binaural effect with this, or just stereo?? I’ve always wanted to use this with music, so could someone add a suggestion if this isn’t what I thought it was??

I give up. It’s impossible to Google this microphone without thousands of “really cool” listings and no specifications.

If the microphone has a Figure Of 8 pattern available–which is what this type of mic would have with no baffles or other tricks, then I would think you could mount one directly above the other such that the two “8” patterns were at 90 degrees. If you stage a performance between two of the lobes, then this setup should simulate binaural recording.

You need to be excessively careful about room echoes and any sounds coming from the other three sides. Those are very live and will tend to whip around the performance field and make people ill.

If they produce cardioid patterns, then you should again mount one above the other and point one left and one right. Then you can walk completely around the setup and the stereo image should be OK, but you have all the problems of cardioid microphones; The back side sounds funny and the patterns are never perfect.

Do you have two preamplifiers and a mixer of some sort? The idea behind binaural is simulating a human head, so no, you can’t separate them on two mic stands.


I heard some remarkably good binaural recordings made with the aid of a couple of panasonic WM61A electret microphone capsules stuck onto the ear pieces of a pair of glasses, then recorded with a portable DAT machine. These capsules, as with other electret capsules, require low voltage phantom power. (Thinks to himself, Hmm, I might try this with my Zoom H2")

Here’s the mic:

I have a 2-mic mixer, yes, as well as a preamp, and I already have studio foam up, but I don’t get what you mean by “mounting one above another”.

Thanks, but I got the photograph. What I need is heavy numbers. How many dB down is the response pattern at 90 degrees off axis?

What is the frequency response at 15 KHz?

Like this…

Click on the magnifier and it will give you the polar specifications. Every time I went digging for those numbers on your microphone, I started to get “It’s really cool” commentary instead of numbers.

Not all microphones will do binaural work and I need the specifications to tell.


Missed a step. I mean two microphone stands and the microphones mounted one above the other so the two heads almost touch. The top one will be upside down. Then I go over to the specification sheet to figure out where to go from there. The spec sheet that’s missing.

If you do that with the right microphone, you don’t need the head.

Even that little capsule has a good spec sheet…

If you dig in the Zoom instructions, don’t you find that the microphone assembly already will record binaural because of the directional characteristics they built in?


You understand one of the disadvantages of “real” binaural is you can’t move the microphones. This means the glasses with the microphones mounted on each earpiece must be worn by a plastic or rubber head, not the real thing. The first time a real head turned around to look at somebody talking, the audience will fall over.


Yes absolutely. David Attenborough hushed tones “and to our right are a pair of young gorillas talking to a doorman, we must be careful not to disturb them, but if we gently turn toward them…” Wild :open_mouth:

Neumann KU100
This looks a little mad, but it is a real microphone:

There are small condensers in each ear designed to give a genuine reproduction exactly as if you were sitting in the place of the sound recorder…

There is a little about it here:

It is not possible to capture the binaural effect with your contemplated microphone setup. You will get stereo (left-right), and depending on the microphone arrangement and other factors you may capture some soundstage “depth” (in front only).

“Binaural” is an industry term that means a specifc type of surround sound that utilizes human ear pinna, which are the external flaps of your ears. Whereas other surround sound technologies typically rely on more than 2 channels of audio, in the “real world” humans only need 2 channels of audio, ie 2 ears feeding signals to the brain. The reason why this works for humans (and other animals) is principally because of ear pinna, which reflect received sound within them in a physical mix that introduces phasing/timing/frequency differences that the brain interprets as spacial/directional info.

The very “best”, ie most realistic, binaural recordings must be done using the same ear pinna for both recording and playback…your own. This is because your brain has “learned” the unique shape of your ear pinna. Of course, that makes it tough to share binaural recordings with others :slight_smile: if you have atypical ear pinna. So, manufacturers of binaural microphones typically also supply “dummy heads” that have artificial ear pinna that approximates the typical shape of ear pinna (the differences between manufacturers’ dummy heads have marketing claims of superiority in their pinna design). Sennheiser MKE-2002 is an example of an excellent binaural microphone that can be used with your own ears, but also is supplied with a dummy head for those situations where that is impractical; the dummy head has standard mike stand threading/adapters.

Although binaural recordings provide good soundstage reproduction when played back over loudspeaker stereo systems, it is only possible to get the binaural surround sound effect when listenting to playback on headphones.

I have been doing binaural recording since the early 1980s. My most amazing recordings are those of nature (eg, bee swarms around you), but also have some really great stuff of live concerts (audience behind, musicians in front) and a couple I engineered for CDs. I’ve done some fun stuff, such as sticking my head in a toilet while flushing, or putting on a shower cap in the shower (to protect the microphone, of course) and turning the water on it. Binaural is a truly amazing, yet simple, surround-sound technique that captures a hemispherical sound field, ie, left-right, front-back, up-down. And, it’s compatible with standard stereo playback systems, no additional gear required. The Nimbus recording label produced binaural recordings almost exclusively, primarily of orchestras and some acoustical jazz. The new Zenph Studios (amazing new music software technology BTW) of Cary, NC, is also producing binaural recordings in conjunction with the Sony label.

Actually, Nimbus was using (and AFAIK still uses) a variation on the Soundfield microphone, not “binaural”.

– Bill

Here are examples of binaural mics with a few binaural recording samples:

I’ve got a few here on a site I’m putting together around binaural audio for the sheer fun of it. The “demo recording” is a great demonstration of not only what a dork I can be, but the “shaker” audio is really strong.

The toothbrushing demo is also a trip. I also have a various thunder and other outdoor recordings as well.

Again, this site is just only being put together and in no way complete (nor are the audio files), but if you’re interested in hearing some binaural demos, there are a few there, and you can even upload some of your own.

Thanks boundless (or should that be “boundless thanks”)
There’s some really good ones there - I nearly tripped over your dog :stuck_out_tongue:

Hey, Steve! Thanks for listening. Those were recorded so long ago. I have a backlog of storms and such that I haven’t posted yet, some of which are really great.