Living life to the fullest is all about having experiences. As we move deeper into the digital era, we can now use technology to create new and unique ones, enhancing how we play games, watch films and listen to audio as well.
The way we consume sound and music has been pretty much the same for over half a century, that is to say through a set of stereo speakers or headphones and more recently, surround sound systems like Dolby Atmos. Although there are now many variations of surround sound, multi channel audio can most often be found in cinemas, studios and bespoke listening environments.
With advances in technology, especially in the video game world, 3D audio, that gives a sense of depth, distance and height has seen a sharp rise in demand. As such, many AAA video games and virtual reality simulations are now produced using 3D audio techniques like binaural audio.
Although the technology has existed for some time and is used a lot in the scenarios we have mentioned, 3D audio has yet to be used en mass by individuals in their general day to day. This is something that Exitus AB are determined to change by bringing 3D binaural sound into the audio book market, opening up a world of new listening experiences for consumers of audio books.
Binaural audio, what's that?
Although most of us will be used to hearing sounds positioned at different places in a stereo mix, binaural audio creates a listening experience that's on a totally different level.
In real life (compared to listening to a stereo recording) our ears pick up on many subtleties from the world around us. Sounds arrive at our ears with intricate differences in time, volume, phase and other factors. Our brain uses this information to process and understand where the sound is in relation to us in 3D space.
Binaural audio is recorded or mixed in a way that captures the differences our ears would usually pick up on when listening to sounds coming from different positions relative to our head in the real world. The result is a truly 3D audio listening experience, when using headphones for playback. It sounds amazing.
What you're listening to sounds like it's coming at you from outside of your headphones, like the sounds are actually happening in the room you're in.
Noises fly at you from above, below, to the side, around your head, from everywhere. If you are yet to experience binaural audio check out the video below.
Given how amazing it sounds, it's surprising that this type of audio isn't more mainstream already. The majority of the general public are largely unaware of its existence. Those who do know about it tend to be hardcore gamers, cinema buffs or people interested in music tech, like the the team at Exitus AB.
To achieve a realistic binaural sound, a recording needs to be made with a specialist microphone configuration attached to either a person's ears or a dummy head. That way the microphones pic up sound in the same way your ears would. If a dummy head isn't practical, audio can be mixed in 3D using technology used to develop AAA video games.
It's all about the experience
Former students Matt and Ryan discovered binaural audio while studying Electronic Music Production at dBs Music Plymouth. During one of their modules they designed their own dummy head and started experimenting. As they got deeper into the project it became apparent that this type of audio was significantly more immersive and engaging than stereo sound.
Binaural sound offers the most satisfying listening experience you can get.
The more they experimented, the more they became invested in the idea that binaural audio offered the highest quality and most authentic listening experience you could get. It was so immersive that Matt and Ryan were convinced it needed to be used more to enrich everyday experiences.
Listen to Exitus AB's 3D audio showreel:
How studying a masters helped bring their ideas into fruition
As Ryan and Matt reached the end of their Electronic Music Production degree they were brimming with ideas and had fostered an even deeper passion for working in audio. They embarked on a Masters in Innovation in Sound to get the support, knowledge and industry connections needed to take the next step.
Postgraduate study gave them the space to develop their ideas further, get connections and conduct deeper research into technologies that could bring their inventions to market.
Matt said: "While we were studying our Masters, our ideas really came together, we were able to organise our plans, deepen our knowledge and develop the strategy to start our own business in Audio Production, Exitus AB Productions"
Their postgraduate studies happened to coincide with the unfortunate outbreak of Covid 19. Experiencing life in lockdown and a world in flux inspired Matt and Ryan to pursue an ongoing theme present in their discussions - escaping reality. Binaural technology could be be the perfect vehicle for people to escape reality into a 3D audio world.
The team considered different mediums and ways to offer both an escape and a 3D experience. Bringing these themes together and spotting a gap in the market, audio books offered the perfect medium to exit the world and get lost in a totally immersive listening experience.
Audio books became their first line of products. Their first feature was an interpretation of H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds.
Ryan said: "War of the Worlds gave us the opportunity to get really creative with sound design whilst gaining a proof of concept and getting feedback, the positive feedback was almost unanimous. This lead to audiobooks becoming our first product."
What next? 3D worlds...
With audio book production underway, we asked Matt and Ryan about their plans for the future and they certainly are exciting. While their passion remains in sound they have plans to incorporate visual and interactive elements to their next project, The Venue.
Work on creating virtual night clubs, music venues and performance environments has already started. The project is currently in its infancy but we have been promised another interview to get the full story when developments continue.
If you want to learn more about 3D audio get connected with Exitus AB productions via the links below.