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Topic: The Joy of 3D Music

  1. #1

    The Joy of 3D Music

    I would like to know what other members think of 3D music.

    As many of you are aware, a market doesn’t seem to exist for these recordings. As one who produces a 3D copy of every mp3 I make, I am surprised by just how few surround-sound recordings I find online. In a world rife with 3D graphics, we sadly do not hear much 3D music (not foley) outside of movie/game soundtracks. Why is this? Just as our eyes perceive the world in three dimensions, our ears perceive sound in three dimensions. That being the case, you would think people would clamor for surround-sound as they do for its counterpart.

    As one who composes mainly for instruments that would ordinarily be performed on a stage, such as guitar, piano, violin, and orchestra, I generally produce recordings where I direct the reverberant sound rather than the source sound to the back speakers, thereby emulating the natural effect of acoustics in a room or hall.

    The other approach to 3D music recording is where the source sound itself is channeled to the various speakers to create a “floating in space” quality to the music. This is the more common approach to 3D sound engineering.

    To me, the problem with most commercial 3D music is that the wrong technique is applied to the recording of it. Of course, it all depends on the tastes of the composers, recording artists, and sound engineers involved in a given project; they may actually want one effect or another. I am specifically referring to the basic rap-around technique we hear in so many of these recordings where the sound is handled much the same as simply duplicating the stereo image to the back speakers. For example, I recently listened to a "3D" recording of a Brahms symphony engineered in this way. I guess the intent was to place the listener in the middle of the orchestra as if the listener were a part of it. This approach may be preferable to some and I respect that, but to my ear, it is unnatural and somewhat disconcerting. Very few of us know what it is like to listen to an orchestra from within the orchestra; however, many of us know what it is like from the outside. In a live setting, the ensemble is usually anywhere from our ten-o'clock to two-o'clock position. From that, we then hear the source and its resounding timbre as determined by the halls acoustical properties. This is why I choose to record my stage music by the first method described above.

    As those of you who have surround-sound systems can hear, music recorded in this way literally heightens and deepens the listening experience.

    What do you think?

  2. #2

    Re: The Joy of 3D Music

    3D music would be great as far as I'm concerned but I question as whether the common listener knows or understands the difference in sound. Most people hear music on radio or tv and don't hear the subtle differences between stereo and surround sound. Surround sound to most people has to do with percieve sound effects in a movie. They can hear a truck or car coming from behind them in the theater only to see it enter the seen a position that is reflected by the sound effect. As for music I don't think the general listener needs or cares to grasp the idea of being amongst the performers i.e the bass player behind them and the horns up front. I really don't think the market is there yet for the general listener therefore the need for 3D sound is not yet relevant.

    Well, those are my humble thoughts on the idea. Maybe I am wrong but I do know if the general market wanted that type of sound we would see a lot more of it being produced.
    [Music is the Rhythm, Harmony and Breath of Life]
    "Music is music, and a note's a note" - Louis 'Satchmo' Armstrong


  3. #3
    Senior Member fastlane's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Shelton, Washington State

    Re: The Joy of 3D Music

    Maybe someday with different technology it will happen. Right now music listening seems to be going in a different direction.


  4. #4

    Re: The Joy of 3D Music

    The average consumer would never pay even close to $200.00 bucks for a pair of headphones,
    let a lone a nice sound system for their living room, or any other room as far as that is concerned,
    and I ain't talking about a bogus Bose radio.

    I look at this "3D" idea as nothing more than surround sound and while surround sound for
    many movies is nice and not a fad, it is to me, just another gimmick that recordings of "real music" don't need.

    Quadraphonic sound died a horrible death back in the late 70's.

    While we do hear sound from all around us, we still have only two ears and a very nice recording of real music can be achieved beautifully on two channels of audio.

  5. #5

    Re: The Joy of 3D Music

    If you've never heard Thomas Tallis' motet "Spem in Alium" for forty voices, with its eight choirs spread around the balconies of a large cathedral then, three dimensionally, you haven't lived!

    If you don't know the work, I urge you to find the recording (2D only) made by the Tallis Scholars on the Gimmell label.
    CDGIM 006.


  6. #6

    Re: The Joy of 3D Music

    Besides having only two ears, we have only two eyes as well. So why is it that we crave 3D graphics but not 3D music?

    Of course beautiful recordings can be achieved with only two audio channels, as Dan’s own recordings attest. I just wonder why I seem to be one of a very few who craves this kind of enveloping music experience.

    As I write this post, I am listening to the Tallis work that John Recommends. Hearing it in stereo is beautiful, of course. However, hearing it in surround-sound is glorious as the work’s heavenly polyphonic weavings transport me in a way the stereo version fails to.

    I am not advocating an overthrow of stereo. I understand the more crucial evolution was from mono to stereo. Moreover, I understand that factors involved in producing and listening to these recordings generally prohibit people from easily enjoying them. One has to have a surround-sound system and unusual recorded media designed to carry the 3D signal. One has also to be “in the box” to experience the 3D effect.

    Nevertheless, my reason for starting this thread is to try to discover what fellow music enthusiasts think regarding this rather neglected issue.

  7. #7

    Re: The Joy of 3D Music

    Hmmm- who is to say that today's recordings are not already "3D"? Producers and technicians work pretty hard to place instruments into three dimensions as it is- even on a so-called "2 channel" recording.

    Left, Centre, Right, Near, Middle, Far, we use all of those to place instruments in our recordings. It may be just a matter of semantics, but I have always considered placement on the stage to be a three-dimensional exercise.

    More prosaically, the structure of our ears gives us better hearing forward than rearward, with better clarity and dimension through separation to the front. Past 90 degrees from front centre, our acuity tails off rather quickly. Humans with minor differences between ears quickly learn to compensate to the front, but are less able when the sound originates from the rear (this from personal experience).

    With my composer/producer's hat on, I can see that as an exercise, it may have merit, but as a consumer I don't see much future (other than as a fairly valuable sound effect) for this type of three-dimensional sound. Even in the 'real' world, it's but a niche.

    Kevin F..

    KM Frye- (SOCAN)
    Music Director- Four Seasons Musical Theatre- 2016

    Bella Vista Studios

    GPO4, JABB3, Garritan World Inst, REAPER, Roland VS2480 DAW

  8. #8

    Re: The Joy of 3D Music

    I do think that certain things are cool when they are recorded and played back in a medium where three dimensional sound is reproduced such as this recording of the virtual haircut.


    Don't listen on speakers, you need stereo headphones.
    I personally do not feel like listening to a recording of an orchestra sitting in the center of it.
    The effect for fun and amusement is legitimate, but takes a way from the music, that is if the music is more important than the audio experiement.... IMO.

  9. #9

    Re: The Joy of 3D Music

    I think I'm with you on not wanting to sit in the middle of an orchestra to hear a work, Dan ... most of the time.

    Over Christmas I went to three operas in Prague and at least one of them, I can't remember which, maybe Aida, had a few brass instruments positioned on a balcony. Their fanfare on the arrival of a King or Prince was very dramatic!

    I recall that other composers e.g. Mahler (Symphony 2?) use this dramatic trick.

    Should it be part of the at home experience or should it be reserved for performance?

    It can certainly add to the effect of being immersed in a performance.

    Just my 2d.

  10. #10

    Re: The Joy of 3D Music

    my two cents...

    We have two eyes, two ears .... and just one brain. Too many thing will divert its weak level of attention from the main focus.
    I think the main focus should be music and only music, so I do completely agree with Master Dpdan.
    I totally despise 3d movies (can't stand those funny glasses), I do not mind at all about dolby surround sound but I always appreciate a good movie with a well written story and well performed.
    Same thing in music: I want good music, well composed and well performed. I do not even mind if the recording is clipping or is noisy. If the music is keeping my level of attention high, I will not even notice technicalities. If I begin to notice technicalities, that probably means the music is not so good.

    The strings on my guitar are 3 years old (and the A is nearly unwound) and I do not change them even if I have at least 3 spare sets (and change...) somewhere on my shelves. My fretless bass is still on (ugly) factory strings...
    My only problem is that I can not phrase like John McLaughlin or Jaco and it is not a matter of instrument and/or strings.

    But that's just me, and these are very subjective matters.


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