The Fritz Files – Snakecharmer-Binaural

02007-09-13 | Binaural, Music, Recording, Studio | 30 comments

QuickTime Video – Up Close: The Fritz Files – Snakecharmer-Binaural
Click on above link to view a QuickTime vid of our performance of Snakecharmer in my studio last month. It’s a rather large file and if your connection is slow you might have to wait for it to load. Use headphones, as that is the only way to experience the surround quality of a dummy head recording. You might have to turn up the volume as we did not compress the sound and it is therefore lower than most CDs.
Dummy Head Recording
Binaural Recording
Head-Related Transfer Function

I enjoy watching this video because you can close your eyes and HEAR where the instruments are, then open your eyes and see whether you got it right. This song will not be part of the album, which has been mastered and will soon be uploaded to the ListeningLounge. As soon as the album becomes available I will let you know.

PS: just to be clear about this. The audio was recorded using Fritz, the dummy head you can see in the middle of the room. That audio was then used to replace the sound the video camera recorded. So, you see what the camera sees and hear what the dummy head hears.


  1. Vic2rh

    That’s almost as fun as being front and center at your concert! Very cool stuff… can hardly wait for the album!

  2. Carol

    What an experience! I played it once just watching you and listening. Then I remember my hearing aids which do help a little and listened again; this time with my eyes closed. Wonderful, and yes I could hear when you were on the floor and of course when you went around. and where every bit of music was coming from…Just like you are here. Awesome. such a recording! Such possibilities! Such fun!

  3. Jacqueline

    Way to cool, and fun !

    Awesome!!!! Jackie

  4. ~C4Chaos

    wow! love it!!! it’s like being there in the room! just need a little boost on the volume. how come this is not on YouTube or Google Videos yet? :)

    i think it would be cool to have a special device that would automatically rotate Fritz’s head like a mirror ball.

    looking forward for more binaural samples!



  5. ottmar

    C: We can’t boost the volume of the file w/o losing the dynamics. Just crank your laptop a little more. :)
    It will go to YouTube and Google Video eventually. Wanted to hear what the reaction is here, first. Several people suggested putting Fritz on a motorized lazy susan or suspending him from a motor, but that might actually make some listeners throw up. Come to think of it, that might be cool! Rock & Roll!!! We also think that the surround sound effect could be improved by Fritz having shoulders and a torso, because that’s what our brain is used to when analyzing the differential between left and right ear as well as up and down…

  6. steve

    That’s SO cool! I downloaded the video and put it on my video iPod… The sound stage is exactly what’s on the screen…

    The simple elegance of this type of surround sound is vastly superior to AC3 or DTS, IMHO…

  7. dave


  8. Eddie Russell

    this is brilliant, i watched once, then listened again…..if this is going to be an uncompressed album, how big is the cd going to have to be in terms of size, how many songs is it possible to cram onto a 700/800 mb normal disk

  9. christian

    great experience. looking forward to the fritz files at listeningloung


  10. Adam Solomon

    Eddie, I think there’s a difference between compression in mixing, where the sound levels are kind of equalized for loudness purposes (how this album will be uncompressed) and compression in file format, where various algorithms are applied to make the file size smaller, without affecting too much the sound or quality of the music (in which I’m imagining this album will be compressed, presumably to a range of MP3s, as is typical with the Lounge – I think OL said they’re dropping the AIFF).

  11. Adam Solomon

    Ottmar–If you can’t crank the volume without losing dynamics, does turning up the laptop lose dynamics in the same way?

  12. ottmar

    Adam: No, that’s the funny part, really. Modern amplifiers, even the little ones in your laptop, are quite capable. They can push the audio without compressing the music or compromising the dynamics. In other words, compressing a file (and we are NOT talking about mp3 or file-size compression here, this is about volume/dynamic compression – two very different kinds of compression!!) is not necessary and diminishes the musical experience. I am not categorically against compression and have used a small amount on some albums. But “Up Close” is about BEING THERE and hearing what Fritz heard. It is supposed to sound as if the listener had sat in the studio among us. Compression would take away from that sensation. Maybe I should write a post clarifying the difference between size-compression (mp3, AAC, OGG, FLAC etc.) and volume-compression…

  13. Luz

    I did feel as if I were sitting in the studio–and in fact my chair was just to the right of Stevo! ;-) What an experience!

  14. Eric

    that was a treat. i could feel the inside of my ears reacting to a different type of stimulation. i think my brain was telling my ears “you’re wearing earphones now” and then when the sound started to bounce around my hair follicles started tingling. i wonder how much more the experience would enhance by using surround sound headphones (

    very exciting when you think of the possibilities. if i remember correctly Fritz was only staying temporarily?

  15. Adam Solomon

    Ooh, that was really something when you listen to the audio-only, in the dark with everything (computer monitor included!) turned off. Anyway, Eric, don’t surround sound systems work in a much different way than these holophonic recordings do? The impression I got is that the dummy head recording utilizes more subtle methods to get the impression of surround sound for regular headphones (sound into each ear), while surround sound headphones kind of brute force that sensation (not to knock surround sound systems, which are awesome!) by actually placing speakers strategically around the listener (or in the case of the headphones, the listener’s ear). I’d imagine that the latter kind of system needs specific information in order to achieve the effect–sound A goes to speaker A, etc.–which would probably not be what the holophonic recordings provide. That is to say, I could see the surround sound system (or headphones) making the binaural experience that much cooler, or just as likely they could strongly interfere with the effect (my guess is you’d lose the intended surround sound effect but you’d get something very very cool instead). Ottmar, would you know any more about that? Would be a pretty interesting experiment.

    Also, just came up, I noticed when watching the video that the palmas in the middle seem to follow tangos compas. Do they? Is there a kind of tangos/rumba switch going on at any point in there? I’m kinda curious about that now….

  16. Curt

    This is exactly what has been missing from recorded music. Many thanks to OL, Jon, Steve and Dave for doing this project.

    Regarding the comment above that it needs to be louder… I applaud the approach of uncompressed recordings! OL, I sincerely hope that you are starting a trend in recordings to come from ALL musicians and you definitely raise the bar!!


  17. ottmar

    Eric and Adam: there are basically three kinds of surround sound. The most natural is what we did with the dummy head as it simply utilizes the dummy’s EARS and nose to shape the sound – see the Head-Related Transfer Function link in the post. I would like to do some experiments adding shoulders and a torso to the dummy head sometime, because I believe that might make the experience even more realistic.
    The second kind is what you experience in movie theaters. The most well-known methods are Dolby 5.1 and DTS. The listener is surrounded by speakers and the sound-engineer can place any given sound in any of the speakers and thereby creates an illusion of space.
    The third method is entirely electronic and for the most part totally worthless. It uses an algorithm to create a sense of space from any stereo recording. I am guessing that’s what the headphones you mention would do. And it might actually totally ruin the experience of a binaural dummy head recording.
    To experience the dummy head recording all you need is a good set of headphones – or “cans” as musicians call them. The better they seal against your head, the better. iPod-type earbuds allow too much sound to escape – which can then be picked up by the other ear and pollutes the effect – just try covering the little earbuds with your hands to hear what I mean.

  18. Eric

    You were right about the earphones. Originally I used iPod like earphones and after listening to it again with my Sennheiser HD280s, it’s night and day. I like it when you and Dave were moving around. Look forward to the new album droppin =)

  19. Adam Solomon

    Thanks for the explanation! I’m curious what the binaural recordings would sound like with a Dolby/DTS type system. No, you’d lose the intended effect, but I think the sound waves–especially in an open environment–would interfere in weird ways.

  20. ottmar

    Adam: Dolby/DTS require at least 6 channels – Front-Left, Front-Center, Front-Right, Rear-Left, Rear-Right and Sub-Woofer. If the digital stream does not contain all of that information it does not work. Many AV receivers do contain programs that create a surround sound “EFFECT” from a stereo source. But that also would not work in this case, because Binaural Dummy Head stereo is based on the left side being isolated from the right side. That ONLY works with headphones, as you would have crosstalk between the left and right side if you use speakers. But don’t let me stop you.

  21. Eddie Russell

    ahhh i see now, a compressor is used to change the relative audio level of each instrument in music, in ‘up close’ you are just using the relative distance and placement of instruments from fitz to get the desired audio level etc

  22. ottmar

    Eddie: No, the relative volume of each instrument is normally adjusted with a “fader”. Sometimes compression is also applied, in the case of an acoustic upright bass for example. But you are correct that, because we didn’t have individual tracks (and therefore faders) for each instrument, we did have to adjust the volume with the distance from the head. Which is also why I moved away when I started playing rhythm. You should read this and this regarding the subject of compression. Both are well written and in depth.

  23. Raice MacKool

    In a word, “wow!” That is sooo much fun to listen to.

  24. Andrew

    Very cool, can’t wait to get the whole release! Watching the video made me wonder – what would it have sounded like if the rainstick at the end had been placed above Fritz – would it sound like it was raining all around you, or would the sound just be “above your head”?

    Bonus points for rubbing the palms together for a “shaker” sound – I’m stealing that one for sure (I love video – gives all the “tricks” away)!

  25. N6SPP

    Very nice imaging and depth. A real pleasure to listen to.
    Thanks Ottmar for sharing this with us.

  26. Tom

    Listening and watching the four of you experiment with “Fritz” was priceless. Thanks. Do electric instruments like the bass react in feedback with “Fritz”?

  27. Pat

    Years ago there was a device for home stereos that was called “digital delay”. you could make your listening room sound like various concert halls around the country. My fav was the Paramount in Seattle. However those have gone by the wayside, much to my dismay.
    Then along comes this. All the fun without shaking the crystal cabinet.
    This is the perfect answer to us up in the years who may have a bit more quiet taste in music than we had in our youth, but still crave great acoustic experience. THANKS

  28. Joachim

    Hey Ottmar, wie geht’s? Amazing! I wouldn’t have thought that the effects are that pronounced. Where would you typically position the microphones in a ‘conventional’ recording?

    It’s good to see how much you care about the sound of your music and that you’ve done some serious research yourself. I don’t have that impression of many musicians, who seem to rather leave it up to the recording engineer.

    We saw you at Scullers in Boston the other day. Great performance! Not sure about the E-guitar at this point. But that’s a different topic.


  29. Carl Cook


    I listen to your music exclusively on headphones, so it is my personal wish that all your work be captured this way. Very nice. I found my way here from, a site of a friend, “Steve”.



  30. David Hendry



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