Sensory postcard – Cafés (Binaural)

This post has been sitting un-composed in my inbox for ages. In the meantime, inspired by my own blog-archiving of cafe soundscapes I wrote a thing called “The Coffee-Office, Soundscapes of Productivity,” something like this, and it’s available here, published in BC Studies Journal (Or download the file here: 189054-208605-1-PB): . I have been recording with my iPhone for so long, I don’t really feel competent in field recording practices, or latest technology trends. Basically, unless you do a pro-setup with stand, high-quality recorder, excellent wind sock, and well-calibrated levels, there will always be handling noise, and inconsistent levels due to movements. My experience recording cafe soundscapes on my Olympus (old times…) versus my iPhone didn’t seem different, and the iPhone offers so much more convenience and versatility. The dramatic change for me came from using Roland’s recent binaural recording buds. Plugged into any sort of decent audio hardware recorder (I’m using a Zoom H2 currently) it cuts down on handling noise fantastically, and aside from chronically uncomfortable buds that slip out of the ear, the recording process is amazing. And, it brought me back the joy of live monitoring (something you lose with the smartphone recording – most won’t allow it anyway, it’s a forced 1-way system, either listen, or record, not both).

The dramatic shift that occurred for me using binaural buds was in how much less ‘flat’ and cluttered cafe soundscapes seemed upon re-listening. In my experience of simply hi-fi wav recordings, re-listening later was a tedious experience. The stereo field somehow compresses sound together into a unified field that is louder and more chaotic, resisting attempts to identify unique sounds and sound events. The binaural field surprised me with much more subdued levels, distributed across virtual space, with a proper sense of proximity. The experience is similar to me to standard versus 3D cinema. The depth created the ambience I think cafe goers enjoy, rather than the compressed cacophony of a stereo recording. Check it out for yourself.

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