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Re: HRTF failure
Sorry if you receive multiple copies of this email - I accidentally sent
it to the wrong address yesterday!
You could try looking at papers such as this one to see some of the issues
involved in presentation of binaural stimuli via headphones:
Your problem MAY be because of the headphones. I don't know the detailed
specs, but I believe the DT-770 is a circumnaural diffuse-field design.
Diffuse-field headphones try to recreate the effect of an HRTF (very
loosely). This is intended to make audio recorded and mixed for loudspeaker
presentation sound realistic on headphones. If you play a binaural recording
through these headphones, the HRTF will have been applied twice - once
(accurately) during the Kemar recording, and then again, albeit
approximately, on playback.
For realistic playback of binaural recordings, you should really use a
free-field headphone (which doesn't try to mimic an HRTF). It might even be
worth investing in some good in-ear headphones to make sure there's no
residual effect due to the listeners' pinnae. If your budget won't stretch
that far, I believe the Beyerdynamic DT-660 is a free-field design, is
cheaper than the DT-770, has a much flatter bass response, but is otherwise
very similar. It's not as well-liked by the audiophile community, but I
think that's because they don't usually listen to binaural recordings, so
the DT-770's diffuse-field design might be more appropriate for them.
Incidentally, if you want to compare measured frequency responses,
impedances, etc. for the more popular headphones, there's a rather nice
"build-a-graph" feature at this web address:
I hope that helps!
Principal R&D Engineer, Aculab plc, UK
From: AUDITORY - Research in Auditory Perception
[mailto:AUDITORY@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Christian Kaernbach
Sent: Friday, November 14, 2008 10:44 AM
Subject: HRTF failure
We encounter a problem when trying to place a sound at a virtual
position in space by means of head related transfer functions (HRTF).
We use sounds from the IAPS database (International Affective Digitized
Sounds System, Bradley & Lang) as well as simple white noise of six
seconds duration. We use the Kemar HRTF, the "compact data" with zero
elevation. We convolve the original sound data with the HRTF data as
suggested in the documentation. The final sounds are presented using
Beyer Dynamic DT770 headphones.
We have tested the precision with which our sounds are placed in virtual
space, by presenting them to eight listeners. The listeners had a
touchscreen lying on their lap, with a circle plotted on it, and they
could indicated the direction where they perceived that the sound came
from. We presented to them in total 144 sounds, 72 noises and 72 IAPS
sounds, coming from 36 virtual directions (0°, 10°, 20°...) in
The results are shown in a figure that I put in the internet:
The red dots are from IAPS sounds, the yellow dots are from the noises.
The x-axis shows the "true" (virtual) angle, the y-axis shows the
estimated angle. As can be seen in this figure, listeners could well
discriminate between sounds from the left and sounds from the right. But
not more than that. There is a certain reduction of variance for sounds
coming from 90° and from 270°, but there is no correlation with angle
within one hemifield.
Now we are eager to learn from you: What could be the cause for this
A) HRTFs are not better than that.
B) The headphones are inadequate.
C) It must be a programming error (we don't think so)
We are grateful for any help in interpreting the possible cause for this
Thank you very much in advance,
Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel