Acoustically Transparent Headphones

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


    The object of this research is to improve the quality of a performer's acoustic environment when using headphones in the recording studio. This leads to foldback that sounds more natural, which in turn leads to performances of higher quality.

    Current situation
    When it is necessary for performers to use headphones in the recording studio - perhaps when making overdubs or playing with click tracks - the majority choose to place only one headphone on the ear, leaving the other ear uncovered. Single sided headphones are not uncommon. This suggested to our team that there is a need for an alternative.

    Description of the Fix
    Our prototype systems use a pair of standard headphones with a pair of microphones mounted near the ears. A small electronic circuit powers the microphones and mixes their signals with the foldback signal; and the performer has direct control of the amplitude of both signals.

    What we've done
    This paper summarises experimentation that has taken place with several prototypes, developed over the last few years. Initially the team proved the concept by testing with various makes of headphones, microphones, and amplification systems. And then the team built and tested a series of prototype independent headphone/microphone/amplifier units.

    The team has tested the prototype system with a several professional performers, and analysed the resulting recordings. These tests have provided two outcomes:
    1. The performers agreed that the prototype system provides a better acoustic environment; this enabling a more comfortable performance, particularly in the more physically challenging passages (ie generally loud and high).
    2. An analysis of the recordings suggests that when using the prototype system, the performers were better able to manage the energy they put into the recording; this produced a noticeably better quality of tone.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationInnovations in Music Conference, University of Westminster
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2017


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