Acoustically Transparent Headphones

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


    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.

    The 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 innovation:
    The team’s prototype systems utilises 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 the innovation achieves:
    This paper will summarise experimentation that has taken place with several prototypes, developed over the last few years. Initially the team gathered data which suggest the concept is effective by testing with various makes of headphones, microphones, and amplification systems. And then the team built and tested a series of prototype units, each comprising an independent headphone/microphone/amplifier setup.

    The team has tested the prototype system in collaboration with a several professional performers, and analysed the resulting recordings. These tests have provided two outcomes:

    1. The performers agreed that the prototype system produces an acoustic environment that is an improvement over that produced by the standard headphone arrangement; this enables a more comfortable performance, particularly in the more physically challenging passages, i.e. particularly loud and or 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 their performances; this produced a noticeably better quality of tone.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationPaper Abstracts for Innovation In Music 2017
    Subtitle of host publicationUniversity of Westminster, 6-8 September 2017
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016
    EventInnovation in Music 2017 - University of Westminster, London, United Kingdom
    Duration: 6 Sept 20178 Sept 2017


    ConferenceInnovation in Music 2017
    Abbreviated titleINMUSIC 17
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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