Stereo effects

Before I got burglarized and subsequently moved, I kept my stereo on a shelf next to my drums. Great for practice.

Since I’ve moved, my drums are stored offsite. Not that bad of a deal, since I can still bring the laptop to listen & practice. So, now my stereo is back in my office. The left and right speakers are now in opposite corners of the room, roughly equal distance from my head. One is at sitting head level, one is higher up.

Why does this matter? I was listening to some music the other day, and noticed it was easier than normal to hear the panning, and the different mixes between left and right. I thought this was interesting, and did some Googling — stereo effect distance speakers — and a page talking about calibrating in anechoic chambers caught my eye. It was such a cool page, I wanted to share it. I realize it’s from a speaker manufacturer, but it still has good info.

It’s an article called “Stereo Effect” by William R. Dudleston. The section called “The Physiology of Localization” was especially interesting. It talks a bit about how our ears are separated by about 6 inches, which is the exact distance required for the waves hitting each ear to be exactly out of sync at the frequency our ears are sensitive to. This makes it really easy for us to hear which direction something is coming from. Then it describes a bit about how the shape of our ears mask different frequencies so that we can get more info than just left and right, but also up and down, and forward/back. Basically, the location and shape of our ears are tuned perfectly for us to hear in 3 dimensions. Not surprising, but the mechanics of the description are great.

After a while, the article starts selling you a bit on their hardware. But until then, it’s a solid read.

Actually, this reminds me of something I read a while ago; I think it came from a THX engineer. Apparently, when they calibrate their theaters and the speakers — yes they calibrate the theater itself — they don’t sit in the very middle of the room. Sitting slightly to the left or right makes a difference in the stereo effect, making it more pronounced. So, when you go to an action movie, sit slightly off-center. The movie may sound better.