My new BFF

binaural

One of my constant searches/google alerts for years has been for an affordable binaural dummy head rig, not because I had an urgent need, more out of interest & a desire to experiment with the medium (without having to spend US$8k on a Neumann rig).
Then a month or so ago I received a random phone call from a young woman who is planning a project which in terms of audio will be totally binaural. As she outlined the project I became more & more interested in the concept behind it – I can’t go into details about the project yet, as it is still deep in development, but as my motivation for experimenting with binaural recording grew, the universe eventually responded & now I am the owner of this vintage Sennheiser dummy head:

binaural
(photo by previous owner, thanks Dan in Melbourne)

First released in 1974 the original Sennhesier model MKE2002 came with a pair of omni mics and required the wearer to have a mullet for proper use. But times have changed, mullets come and mullets go, and while I bought the dummy without its original mics, I already had a plan in mind to use my DPA4060s instead. The original mics had a 9V power supply… that chin attachment is quite strange, which might account for the strange look on the face of mr mullet. The manual for the Sennhesier MKE2002 is here

binaural

But as always the proof is in the results, so before I go making any great pronouncements I will do some tests & see how well it images binaural sound with the DPA4060s. Here are two demos from the original model, hopefully it goes without saying but these require headphone listening for full effect.

I posted some photos to FB and asked for comments on peoples experiences with playing back binaural sounds on normal speakers and a few helpful people provided valuable insights, so I hope they don’t mind me quoting them here… (Please feel free comment if you have experience with binaural recording, first post is moderated so there will be a delay before it appears)

Joseph Fraioli: I find that speaker playback imaging varies depending on which mic system you use. The Neumann imaging sounds great on speaker playback, though with the dpa 4060 setup on headphones it’s amazing, while there’s a bit of a whole in the center on speakers.

Sebastian-Thies Hinrichsen: The Neumann KU8i is built for being mono and speaker compatible. It also has more “mids” than the newer, more neutral sounding KU100 (I tested it in January for my online magazine FieldRecording.de)

Thanks Joseph & Sebastien!

One test I have in mind is to set it up in my garden & then slowly walk around it in 360 degrees, while making pretend insect sounds with a shaker. The dummy head has a mic stand mounting socket on the base (ewwww, where the spine would be?) so once I am confident with the mic placement & trust the mics are secure I am keen to try it on a boom too – literally putting my head & ears into places that are not necessarily safe or feasible for them to be.

Let the experimenting begin!

 

5 Responses to My new BFF

  1. Arnoud says:

    Ha that’s a great headshot 🙂
    Not exactly sure about the weight of the head, but perhaps also invest in a body harness if you’re going to boom with this fellow.
    The neumann head is about 12 kg (similar to a real human head).

    A company in the netherlands created a lightweight version for a documentary set in Spain, they use 4061 because of the lower sensitivity being ‘better’ for recording purposes, i personally don’t see any problem in using 4060’s, just a tip.

    Here’s a link:
    http://www.deherrieboerderij.nl/huur-hb-binaural-head.html

    it’s pretty cheap (50 euros)

    Enjoy the experiments!

  2. Jon Clark says:

    You may also want to invest in a bag to go over the head when recording in public so you can minimize the “What you doing?” factor.

    I worked in a theatre in the 80’s that had a Neumann head mounted on the ceiling for sound booth monitors. It sounded quite good over the speakers in the booth but I still opened the window and leaned out.

    • tim says:

      Maybe they should make the dummy head more frowny/intimidating 😉

      As someone with no hair, I wonder if all these dummy heads validate how important it is for your hearing to shave your head (otherwise they would include a wig with them)

      dang! tried a search for ‘effect of hair on hearing’ but google got confused & was no help at all…. hypothesis stalled

  3. Willem says:

    Hello Tim
    You probably already knew, but the whole speaker compatibility discussion with dummy head recordings has a lot to do with phase issues. Phase problems can vary a lot in practice and it depends on what you are recording and if your subject is moving around or not. I often flip the phase or put a small delay on one of the stereo channels and try to trust my ears.
    Next to that there is a great plugin that is my go-to tool to help me judge and correct phase issues for binaural stereo recordings: Voxengo’s PHA- 979 http://www.voxengo.com/product/pha979
    Also, I did an interview on the Tonebenders Podcast about my modest experiences with my own home made DPA 4060 binaural dummy head.
    http://www.tonebenders.net/tonebenders-episode-nineteen-listener-questions-and-willem-sannen/
    I hope you catch the binaural virus and I’ll be looking forward to your experiences with dummy head recordings.

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