CES: The First of 2 Binaural Video Reports

We experimented with binaurally recording the sound of some of the exhibit rooms at last November's New York Audio Show using a pair of Sony lavalier electret mikes suspected in front of Herb Reichert's ears. The results were positive but the binaural "you-are-there" effect was not as great as we had hoped, due to the fact that mikes were a little too far away from the the ears' pinnae.

So, for our coverage of the 2018 Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas, we purchased Sennheiser's "Ambeo" binaural system, which mounts microphones on the outer surfaces of a pair of earbuds, thus allowing the pinnae to influence each mike's pick-up pattern. The Ambeo connects to an iPhone and its output can be recorded with the iPhone Camera app. JA scrupulously kept his head still while recording, so if you listen to the soundtrack of this video with headphones, you will hear what he heard without getting motion sickness.

In this report, John Atkinson visits the Lamm, Vandersteen, and VTL rooms, talks to the exhibitors about their systems and their thoughts on the show, listens to some of his recordings, as well as some chosen by the exhibitors, and offers his thoughts on what he had just heard. But first, Michael Fremer shows off his Karaoke skills!

TC's picture

The sound quality for this video is better than the New York show was. I thought the VTL room sounded the best. Some examples of vinyl may have been nice. Will Water Music be released?

Axiom05's picture

I believe that the clarinet/piano music in the VTL room was vinyl. I could hear surface noise (pops) at times in both channels.

mtrot's picture

Well, that first room sounded awesome, but I guess it should have at the price!

Doctor Fine's picture

Fremer makes an excellent point about the longevity of our components and their lack of obsolescence.
I explain it in a similar way saying that a really great stereo system is like a fine piano and it costs perhaps twenty thousand to purchase initially or quite a bit more if you have the dough for the very top brands.
The payback is measured in the many years of satisfying home music reproduction which brings the life of the concert hall right into your listening area.
I call it one of the greatest economical bargains you can achieve.
My own system has cost a minimum to keep it running these last 20 years and has allowed me to "time travel" all the centuries of exotic fascinating and often intoxicating music from different cultures of our world.
Nothing I own can compare.
My wife and I marvel at what we own every single time the darn thing is turned on.
What else can do that?
A car?
A boat---maybe.
A fine violin, sure if you know how to play it well.
But for sheer lazy pleasure mile after mile a stereo system that is just like the real thing is top of the line.

supamark's picture

Sound is much better than last time. I agree, the Lamm room was rolled off in the highs (and a bit wooly in the bass) with a very wide soundstage. The Vandersteen room was much better balanced tonally, but the soundstage wasn't as wide as the Lamm room. The VTL room had great dynamics, though I wish you would have included the choral recording from the 1st two rooms for comparison (clarinet was *not* a good match for that set-up).

I've never heard Wilson speakers in person, but if their "house sound" includes that lack of compression I can see why they have their devotees.

RH's picture

Interesting, my view was the opposite. To my years the Lamm/Kharma room sounded the richer, smoother and more natural. The Vandersteen room sounded very good, but sounded more obviously like I was listening to a recording on a hi fi system.

I love that the videos are employing binaural recording. That said, I'm not getting nearly as much of the type of realism I've encountered before in binaural recordings. I'm not getting, for instance, the sense that the speaker sound is actually in front of me. It still has the off to the sides normal headphone orientation.

supamark's picture

my headphone/amp combo (Schiit Asgard II and Hifiman HE-500) could sound very different than yours; as well as taste - what you describe as richer I describe as wooly. As I said the Lamm/Karma soundstage was wider which is generally more realistic, but part of that may be down to differences in room size (Vandersteen seemed a bit cramped). Neither was really to my taste.

Ortofan's picture

... on my previous suggestion [https://www.stereophile.com/content/day-1-nyas-binaural-video-report] or if it was already in the works, but using the Sennheiser Ambeo mics has resulted in a huge improvement in sound quality, even when heard via speakers. In the future, maybe the videographer can sit slightly off to one side so that we can see something other than the back of the listener's head.

Any evidence that the Lamm amps, with only 38W, weren't being driven into peak clipping?

If VTL wanted to display with a less ambitious (as in cheaper) Wilson speaker, the Sabrina might have been a better choice than the Duetta.

David Wareing's picture

Good to see you tinkering with binaural again, JA. I have given up for the moment, after a good try..
https://freesound.org/people/dwareing/sounds/189818/ - Goofball.