Questions for "stereo"-hearing people

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Caesius
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Questions for "stereo"-hearing people

Post by Caesius » Tue Jun 16, 2009 9:09 pm

Because I'm curious as to what it's like to hear out of both sides of your head.


Do you find it strange, uncomfortable, or unnatural listening to monaural audio through stereo equipment?

Does music with a lot of panning (moving of instruments and sounds between the left and right sides) bother you? What if the volume shifts between the left and right sides or is unbalanced?

How accurately are you able to judge direction and distance to a sound source?

Given that trilateration requires three "receivers" to pinpoint a location in a 2D plane, and having two ears allows for two points of intersection in front of and behind you, do you ever have trouble determining the direction of a sound (front or back) if you don't turn your head? (I'll prepare a diagram if this point is too confusing)

Edit: This is trilateration with three intersecting circles (since the diagram on Wikipedia is confusing since it involved three spheres). Taking away the pink circle leaves two points for the black circles to intersect and I imagine is similar to how you guys judge direction (possibly even with two spheres where the points of intersection form a circle), turning your head to make the direction unambiguous.

Are you able to determine the height that a sound came from as well? Is height also potentially ambiguous?

Whenever you cover one ear, does it feel like you've lost your sense of depth comparable to closing one eye?


Feel free to ask questions in return.
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The Commissar
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Re: Questions for "stereo"-hearing people

Post by The Commissar » Tue Jun 16, 2009 9:27 pm

I hate panning. It feels weird to me. Also, I can easily tell if one side of my headset is louder than the other, and it is very annoying.

Distance and direction is easy for me to determine.

Not too familiar with trilateration

Height is kind of ambiguous unless the source for me is directly above me.

One ear covered doesn't change much for me, as I can still hear with that ear.
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Jintor
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Re: Questions for "stereo"-hearing people

Post by Jintor » Tue Jun 16, 2009 9:34 pm

Yes, yes, pretty accurately, not really, height is harder to judge but possible, covering an ear isn't the same as closing an eye because sound waves just transfer through the hand (i think).

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Re: Questions for "stereo"-hearing people

Post by DuaneMoody » Tue Jun 16, 2009 9:37 pm

panning
Offhand, only one musical sting from ZZ Top's "Pearl Necklace" comes to mind and it's frickin' awesome.

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Caesius
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Re: Questions for "stereo"-hearing people

Post by Caesius » Tue Jun 16, 2009 10:00 pm

I linked to an unambiguous diagram of trilateration in the OP; I don't know if that's how the ears actually work though, since I must admit that I'm not sure if I can judge distance, and if I can then it's entirely unconscious. But I do know for a fact that it's difficult for me to judge direction. The best initial clue is how "clear" a sound is, since "unclear" sounds tend to come from the left side, if I notice them at all; frequently I will not notice if someone is addressing me from my left side if I'm spacing out or focusing on a clearer sound (like a TV). Once I notice a sound I'll probably have to turn my head at least once (and half the time not even in the right direction) to get a better handle on where it's coming from.

As for panning, I think most songs don't make such heavy use of panning that the right channel sounds "less full," but I noticed that chiptunes do -- recently I've begun loading modules into ImpulseTracker and turning off stereo output and the result tends to sound much better. Also, my current preferred media player and/or sound card appears to have a "glitch" whereby sometimes a song will start to play with whacked-out frequencies and I likely won't notice until a certain point in the track; after some experimentation in Audacity it seems as though it's either switching the channels or merging them into one... or it really is just wacky equalization. :roll:


Edit: Also, one more question about panning -- Does your brain easily meld the two inputs into one "image" (like it does for vision) so it doesn't sound like you're listening to two songs at once?
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fanatic
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Re: Questions for "stereo"-hearing people

Post by fanatic » Tue Jun 16, 2009 10:03 pm

some times when i am at work i will listen to my music though one ear peice so i can talk to my co-workers or my boss i never really had to much of a problem except i am probably damaging the hearing on my left hand side a lot more then the right.

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Caesius
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Re: Questions for "stereo"-hearing people

Post by Caesius » Tue Jun 16, 2009 10:04 pm

fanatic wrote:some times when i am at work i will listen to my music though one ear peice so i can talk to my co-workers or my boss i never really had to much of a problem except i am probably damaging the hearing on my left hand side a lot more then the right.
It's no big deal. Really. :P
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ForbiddenTwo
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Re: Questions for "stereo"-hearing people

Post by ForbiddenTwo » Tue Jun 16, 2009 10:19 pm

I've gotten pretty ridiculous in online games in terms of being able to determine where things are by sound, to the point where people have claimed I was cheating somehow.

I think it really depends on how much you hone the ability, and how accustomed you are to the sound in question.

I mean, there are times when I've gone nuts trying to locate something thats beeping SOMEWHERE in the room, but I have no idea where because the sound is just the right frequency to confuse me.

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Validus Razgriz
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Re: Questions for "stereo"-hearing people

Post by Validus Razgriz » Tue Jun 16, 2009 11:18 pm

Hilariously, my right ear is messed up right now (getting over a cold) so the volume is down in that ear right now.
Caesius wrote:Do you find it strange, uncomfortable, or unnatural listening to monaural audio through stereo equipment?
Not really. I used to listen to Midi's a lot about a decade ago and I've done some minor Midi programming (I have one song submitted on vgmusic.com) so I'm used to hearing monolateral sounds through headsets and stereo speakers.
Caesius wrote:Does music with a lot of panning (moving of instruments and sounds between the left and right sides) bother you? What if the volume shifts between the left and right sides or is unbalanced?
Panning doesn't bother me at all, but if one side of a headset is louder than another, it does bother me.
Caesius wrote:How accurately are you able to judge direction and distance to a sound source?
Direction I can judge well, but distance not so much. I use this a lot when I go hunting, since there are so many trees and brush in this area, you'll hear animals before you see them.
Caesius wrote:Given that trilateration requires three "receivers" to pinpoint a location in a 2D plane, and having two ears allows for two points of intersection in front of and behind you, do you ever have trouble determining the direction of a sound (front or back) if you don't turn your head? (I'll prepare a diagram if this point is too confusing)
Generally, turning my head improves my ability to judge the direction of a sound.
Caesius wrote:Are you able to determine the height that a sound came from as well? Is height also potentially ambiguous?
Not at all unless the height difference is great.
Caesius wrote:Whenever you cover one ear, does it feel like you've lost your sense of depth comparable to closing one eye?
I can't judge distance that well with two ears, anyways, lol
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Re: Questions for "stereo"-hearing people

Post by vermithrx » Tue Jun 16, 2009 11:29 pm

I don't know if I've encountered monoaural audio through stereo before. I like collecting sounds and my tastes are eccentrically eclectic, so if I have I probably though it was done on purpose. Do you have something I could sample?

I love panning and wish I could find more music that uses it to good effect. To the edited in question: Yes, my brain melds the two inputs. A full pan usually sounds like the instrument is circling around behind me from one side to the other.

I unbalance volume deliberately because I am more hard of hearing in one ear than the other, but once I have it set up the way I like I don't change it. I hate using headphones or speakers that won't let me adjust each side individually because then my bad ear becomes a distraction.

Most of my life I had equal hearing in both ears and direction was easy for me, but ever since my scuba accident two years ago I'm always off by a lot. I suspect that distance is determined mostly by volume and is judged relative to other sounds (which makes it always a little hit-or-miss), because sounds coming from my right side always seem farther away than those on my left now, since they're softer. Also, sound coming from ahead, behind, above and below me always seems to be coming from my left. I still haven't adjusted to it completely.

Sounds coming from in front of me are always a little clearer than those coming from behind (notice the angle and shape of the ear), but turning my head makes it much easier to tell. Height is always ambiguous.

Covering an ear is more akin to looking through glasses with one of the lenses fogged up. Much less information is recieved by the covered ear and a lot of that is randomized sorta like soft static or a heavy breeze blowing across it, but my attention automatically shifts away from it and focuses more on the uncovered one to try and make up the difference. It makes it much more difficult to tell direction.

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vaen
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Re: Questions for "stereo"-hearing people

Post by vaen » Wed Jun 17, 2009 12:36 am

I've had one side of earphones brake down before and It felt extremely uncomfortable, as if one side was suddenly numb or something. I definitly prefer having 1 piece in over having 2 with 1 not working right.
I don't really care if music is stereo or mono, though the general quality in stereo songs tend to be higher.

and I can get kinda dizzy if I've got headphone on and something(s) sounds like it's buzzing quickly around my head.

about triliteration.. I've been wondering about that myself. I hear things in a 3d plane and I've never mistaken a sound from behind or from above for something from below of in front of me or vice versa. I can't explain it myself though.

also, certain frequencies definitely are way harder to pinpoint. mostly very high and very low. especially low is hard to pinpoint. (hence bass boxes for pc's being somewhere beneath the pc's mostly) but I definitely had some other tones that I had difficulty with placing.

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Caesius
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Re: Questions for "stereo"-hearing people

Post by Caesius » Wed Jun 17, 2009 2:07 am

vermithrx wrote:I don't know if I've encountered monoaural audio through stereo before. I like collecting sounds and my tastes are eccentrically eclectic, so if I have I probably though it was done on purpose. Do you have something I could sample?
Easiest way would be to download Audacity and just convert some random tracks from stereo to mono. In the latest beta release (1.3.7) you import files from File > Import > Audio and convert the track to mono from Tracks > Stereo Track to Mono.

But if you're curious, here's one chiptune that I went through the trouble of converting from stereo to mono after noticing a huge improvement from doing the same in ImpulseTracker:

http://www.fileden.com/files/2007/2/6/7 ... Stereo.mp3
http://www.fileden.com/files/2007/2/6/7 ... erglam.mp3
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Cirno
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Re: Questions for "stereo"-hearing people

Post by Cirno » Wed Jun 17, 2009 3:19 am

Do you find it strange, uncomfortable, or unnatural listening to monaural audio through stereo equipment?
I personally don't like it. Stereo separation makes most things more relaxing to listen to. Most instruments are not panned completeley left or right though, as that actually stands out in a way that can also be jarring. I think that's because its unnatural for any real sound to do that.
Does music with a lot of panning (moving of instruments and sounds between the left and right sides) bother you? What if the volume shifts between the left and right sides or is unbalanced?
Rapid panning can be weird. Panning is part of songwriting and is really made or broken by the composer. A constant unbalance in one side is intensely annoying to me.
How accurately are you able to judge direction and distance to a sound source?
Direction is much easier to determine than distance.
Given that trilateration requires three "receivers" to pinpoint a location in a 2D plane, and having two ears allows for two points of intersection in front of and behind you, do you ever have trouble determining the direction of a sound (front or back) if you don't turn your head? (I'll prepare a diagram if this point is too confusing)
Its usually clear whether a sound is coming from in front or behind me. Ears work that way. It is still easier to determine the exact source if I turn my head around.
Whenever you cover one ear, does it feel like you've lost your sense of depth comparable to closing one eye?
It is more of a loss of directional awareness. Vision isn't really comparable though, being far more dependant on that than hearing for most things.
Does your brain easily meld the two inputs into one "image" (like it does for vision) so it doesn't sound like you're listening to two songs at once?
Yes. Stereo separation of sound is very contiguous, and when receiving input from both sides the brain naturally interprets it as having a physical position around you rather than being two separate inputs. This happens unconsciously. Imagine panning being a continuous line extending horizontally through your head from left to right. Sounds can move from left to right and it is easy to perceive it as moving through physical space from left to right. Certain stereo effects can make sound feel "deep" in a physically huge sense, as if the music physically exists "around" you. There are even recording techniques that simulate the way ears actually pick up sound. I have one such song that has studio noises in the beginning of it that physically sound like they are coming from a corner behind you to the left. It has made me look behind me in surprise. searching for what made the noise before I realized that it's part of the song (The song is Hello Dearest Love by The Appleseed Cast if anyone is wondering, and to get the effect you need to be wearing headphones).

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Re: Questions for "stereo"-hearing people

Post by vermithrx » Wed Jun 17, 2009 3:25 am

Caesius wrote:Easiest way would be to download Audacity and just convert some random tracks from stereo to mono. In the latest beta release (1.3.7) you import files from File > Import > Audio and convert the track to mono from Tracks > Stereo Track to Mono.

But if you're curious, here's one chiptune that I went through the trouble of converting from stereo to mono after noticing a huge improvement from doing the same in ImpulseTracker:

http://www.fileden.com/files/2007/2/6/7 ... Stereo.mp3
http://www.fileden.com/files/2007/2/6/7 ... erglam.mp3
Uh...wow. Thank you so much for making me aware of this, Caesius. When I get around to buying a new mp3 player I'll be converting my favorite tracks to mono so I won't have to use expensive headphones or lose sound quality due to my lopsided hearing anymore. :mrgreen:

To answer your question, It is certainly different, but I don't have the vocabulary necessary to describe how. When I can adjust the volume on either side properly I think I prefer stereo, but if I can't things get distorted a little and it ends up annoying me. Mono doesn't seem to have that problem.

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Re: Questions for "stereo"-hearing people

Post by Major Major » Wed Jun 17, 2009 3:34 am

"Do you find it strange, uncomfortable, or unnatural listening to monaural audio through stereo equipment?"

No, not really. It isn't that particularly noticeable when you aren't looking for it. Mono is just the same sound coming out of each speaker, it's not that big of a deal.

"Does music with a lot of panning (moving of instruments and sounds between the left and right sides) bother you? What if the volume shifts between the left and right sides or is unbalanced?"

Depending on the sound and frequency, it can be quite frustrating, but typically it doesn't bother me. Different volumes do bother me quite a bit, and having one earphone bothers me even more. It sounds odd when your missing part of the song, not to mention you can hear the world around you on top of the song out of one ear.

"How accurately are you able to judge direction and distance to a sound source?"

Direction is a given, it's not that hard to tell where a person (or whatever else) is located around you based on hearing. Distance by voice is difficult to tell because everybody speaks at a different tone, but distance by footstep is not too difficult to judge.

"Given that trilateration requires three "receivers" to pinpoint a location in a 2D plane, and having two ears allows for two points of intersection in front of and behind you, do you ever have trouble determining the direction of a sound (front or back) if you don't turn your head? (I'll prepare a diagram if this point is too confusing)."

Yes, turning your head helps, as your ear lobes tend to block out some sound from behind you. Then again, you should be able to answer this yourself, you aren't completely deaf.

"Are you able to determine the height that a sound came from as well? Is height also potentially ambiguous?"

If it is, for example, a person calling me from a balcony or location elevated by at least one stories up, then yes, I can tell. Any lower than that and it's up to my knowledge of my surroundings and general direction of the sound, and if the person who called or whatever is visible.

"Whenever you cover one ear, does it feel like you've lost your sense of depth comparable to closing one eye?"

Being used to having two ears, it is frustrating, yes. But I cant compare it to blocking one eye anyway, I'm half blind (that is, I have half vision in one eye and good vision in the other; so I tend to see mostly everything out of the one eye, while a small percent of vision is from my other eye).
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