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The rise of 8D Audio on YouTube (melmagazine.com)
46 points by imartin2k on Nov 30, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 75 comments

I don't like this at all.

I listened to this one:


And it's just too distracting, it doesn't feel like being in the room with the music at all. It just feels like it's going from the left ear to the right ear. It just sounds really weird.

It doesn't invoke the feeling of being at a concert at all, as the sound is constantly "moving" in space. Maybe it would be like being at a concert where I'm in some sort of car circling the stage... With the source of the music constantly changing.

Agreed. You're sacrificing the actual sound of the music, making it muffled and otherwise poor quality, adding in the "amazing" swing-it-around-your-head effect (which by the way you could do decades ago), and calling it better.

I listened to "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Nothing else matters", and compared to the originals. The originals were much better.

Maybe if you're listening on rubbish earbuds anyway, the effect sounds cool. But on my reasonably expensive headphones it just kills it.

So, I listened to some of the other linked tracks, and they're much better than the Bohemian Rhapsody one, although they still just sound like someone discovered the pan control. The virtual barbershop was cool, but that's specifically because they recorded it with the proper equipment.

Uh yeah, that's pretty bad. It would make more sense if you could get/extract the individual instruments and voice tracks and then "place" them in various locations of 3D space. But then if the location doesn't change I guess it'll just sound like a new mix and that's quite mundane.

But then I don't get ASMR videos either (I find them rather unpleasant and a bit creepy usually) so I suppose I'm a bit of a snob.

I think the problem with these manufactured "spatial" videos is that because there's no spatial information in the original track, they're pretty much forced to swing it around your head to demonstrate how "cool" it is. If they'd separated the various instruments and laid them out like a real, intimate gig, that would be impressive.

I found it quite disconcerting, verging on making me feel seasick/dizzy. I tried a few different 8D's but it just makes listening to music feel like too much hard work. When I kick back with my tunes I don't really need the singer to be leaping and spinning inside my head. Nick Drake's vocal sound staging are just perfectly fine the way the studio recorded them.

That said, I could see a use for this in gaming with a VR headset (are they still a thing?) if that was your bag.

I haven't kept up with the technical developments, but when I was experimenting with an Oculus dev unit a few years ago, I remember a good deal of work going into creating the frameworks and tools to generate good, positional audio as an important part of creating immersion.

Makes sense that this would be both useful and easier to do well since there actually is positional data for where sounds ought to be coming from. Ideally you'd have the audio equivalent of the tools used to simulate generation, occlusion, reflection, and refraction of light on the graphical side.

But adding it to stereo tracks via post-processing is a lot harder to do well. It reminds me of "simulated surround" effects on my old home theater boxes but with more panning around instead of just trying to route certain frequencies to the proper speakers.

I agree with your sentiment. I do not like this at all. Feels like somebody is playing with the 'Balance' knob on my equipment. I prefer close reproduction of the original music.

Somewhere were I can separate voices of back singers, where I can position mentally, where instruments are (if acoustic performance).

Instead this 8D thing I just listened (Bohemian Rapsody) -- sounded horrible. Quality of recording is bad, muffed and then amplified, and the constantly and unnaturally shifting balance of sound -- just felt annoying.

I am wondering if the onset of low-quality, heavily modified audio chips/earbuds, and recordings that proliferate YouTube and mobile devices -- is one of the cause of the new 'modify-shit-out-of-original' trend.

I don't like it neither. This is horrible.

I tried Bob Marley's "Is This Love" and a bunch of others, and they are nausea invoking experiences. The constant back and forth stereo panning is just disturbing.

It probably makes a big pile of cash to the uploaders though since it's easy to do and sounds peculiar.

This idea would be so much better if the instruments were split out to individual tracks and each track would be panned to certain point in space and kept there.

> it doesn't feel like being in the room with the music at all. [...] It doesn't invoke the feeling of being at a concert at all

> It just feels like it's going from the left ear to the right ear. ... the sound is constantly "moving" in space.

I don't think it's meant to sound like the former. For better or worse, it's meant to sound like the latter.

I'm surprised that Pink Floyd isn't in their playlist.

"There are a few different ways you can make it, but it’s really distinguishable when someone makes 8D correctly. When it’s done wrong, the music doesn’t sound like it’s in the room with you. It just pans back and forth."

That's what the few examples listed in the article sounded like to me; in fact I found the panning of the instruments and vocals a bit frustrating to listen to. Perhaps this works better on some people than others, i.e. non-musicians?

I think the problem is more that people's ear shapes are pretty different, and the exact way that sound coming from a specific direction presents itself is different for every person - so you pretty much need a different profile (HRTF [1]) for every person to make them accurately hear sound coming from specific directions.

I played around with those a while ago since it makes a pretty large difference in the realism of positional audio (both for surround video and for games). For me especially for differentiating between sound coming from in front of and from behind me. But I never really got it to work globally. [2] has a list of 50 different HRTFs. Only ~5 of them manage to make the sound come from in front of me correctly.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Head-related_transfer_function

[2] https://www.reddit.com/r/linux_gaming/comments/2ot5ov/enable...

Don't most people look at YouTube on their phone or crappy laptop speakers? I look forward to the day when people care about their "hi-fi" stereo again, but I don't see that coming anytime soon.

Unfortunately, I feel that the only ones who will "care" about it "again" are the only ones who care currently. There's a reason people don't have Hi-Fi setups anymore; they're completely unnecessary and a waste of time/money/space when >80% of the population will tell you they can't hear a difference between the EarPods that came with their phone, and a $10,000 top-of-the-line stereo hooked up to $2000 monitors.

Anecdote time; friends of mine own(ed) a niche A/V store, their grandparents opened the store in the early '60s and their primary focus was to carry, sell, service, and most importantly demo everything from a $50 loudspeaker to the $10,000+ amp. Back then, every product was completely different from the next. A $50 amp and a $500 amp was like the difference between a CRT TV and a 4K OLED TV, same with speakers. About 25 years ago when their parents took over, it was already becoming evident (mainly with everything going digital) that the difference between a $50 amp and a $500 amp wasn't nearly as pronounced as it was 50 years ago. 5 years ago the business pivoted away from A/V, because nobody is going to spend $500 on an amp or receiver when they can pick up a $30 soundbar at Walmart and get 95% of the quality/experience. I've seen it myself; the family is still a bunch of die-hard audiophiles where money is absolutely not an object when it comes to audio, to the point they built a home theater and spent $30,000 on a custom-built 11.2-channel tube-based Atmos receiver, >$2500 per speaker (that's right, nearly $30,000 in speakers), and around $10,000 for each subwoofer. While most of our friend group will tell you it's unquestionably the greatest sounding thing on the planet, there's still a few who'll put in their dollar-store earbuds, load up a 360p song on YouTube, and tell you completely straight-faced it sounds no different.

There are middle-grounds between folks happy with dollar store earbuds and those spending $30k on a stereo system. Many in that middle care about sound quality PLUS design. This is why Bang and Olufsen still exists, and I admit I'm a sucker for good design too, I own awesome 1980s Magnepan speakers that look even cooler than they sound.

People spend $200 or $300 on Beats headphones, and are happy to overlook the inferior quality to get a hot name brand. I have two wishes:

(1) that companies with very strong brands actually cared and invested in quality and R&D (ahem, beats); (2) that companies that actually do have the quality and attention to detail in their product, find a way to use modern media effectively, and not just drive potential customers to their particular products, but encourage folks with a passion for pure beautiful sound that their aim is worthy.

Agreed - a well mixed track will use stereo panning as an artistic feature. These tracks, at least in my opinion are gimmicky at best and actively detract from the original at worst.

It might be because I'm a little hung over this morning, but all of the linked yt videos make me feel ill.

I get that it's a novel feeling to hear music coming from a "soundstage location" that isn't traditionally used in mixing, but the novelty only lasts for so long, and constantly moving it around just draws your attention to it moving over actually listening to the song.

Me too. The constant movement made me feel sick.

I only listened to the Queen song, but I don't think I like this. It's amusing and interesting, but I feel like it's an awful way to listen to music. Maybe it could have practical applications for other types of audio, but for music I find it distracting and it takes away from the original song.

In my home office I have two sets of stereo speakers - front and back. A kind of pseudo-surround sound but it's just two banks of stereo. The "8D Audio" (terrible name imo) doesn't sound too bad in that kind of set up because you're already immersed in the sound in a way that's more natural/forgiving than having headphones on. However even in that situation I don't feel it adds anything aside a massive dose of novelty so I only managed 2 demo songs before switching back to regularly mastered tracks.

I listened to the first one by Queen, it sounded like a tinny AM radio sitting in the corner of the room.

Sounded like that but the radio is on a huge motorised lazy susan behind me. Yeah, truly mind-altering stuff.

The Queen example sounds pretty bad to me, but the later examples sound like the music is in the room with me. I don't really like how the music seems to be spinning around me though, I wonder if that's needed to get the effect.

I read the article and I listened to the samples and I fail to see where the "8D" comes in.

Early virtual surround sound examples always seemed impressive, if gimmicky: a plane would fly over your head and you'd hear it move from back to front.

But the examples in the article sounded like someone had discovered the stereo pan knob on a mixing desk and was slowly going from left to right.

And I think your example of the plane is where this technique is applicable. In a cinema for example, imagine yourself watching a horror movie and you can hear the evil demon sneak up behind your back. shivers. In a concert setting however, the source of the sound is (usually) static, while I might move my head slightly from time to time and pick up the sound from different angles. If that could be simulated using headphones, that would be pretty cool! But again, I fail to see what purpose it would serve in a normal stereo setting where the sound is produced the same way, from stationary speakers. Then of course there are other factors like the venue layout, design and material. As well as speaker placement, mixing of the sound and even the crowd itself. Which all contributes to the sound and the "feeling" of listening to the music.

> I might move my head slightly from time to time and pick up the sound from different angles. If that could be simulated using headphones, that would be pretty cool!

This could surely be done (and probably has been done) using a VR headset or even just IR lights and cameras a-la TrackIR. If latency was low enough, you could process the sound to model the changes caused by head position/orientation.

Well, the source may be static, but it may be distributed. Think of a big symphonic orchestra.

Of course, but that doesn't equal the sound "moving around", the violin section will always remain in the same place for example, which is the feeling I get when listening to one of those 8D Audio videos on youtube. The sound moving around that is.

>I read the article and I listened to the samples and I fail to see where the "8D" comes in.

"these go to eleven"

It's just a happy nerd smiley

> binaural audio

By far the best use of binaural audio I've heard is the simulated voice-hearing of psychosis that Ninja Theory used in Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice.

[trigger warning re: psychosis, other mental health issues for all of Hellblade]

The very impressive - and disturbing - opening of the game (headphones required): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-SRoil79g0

Dev diary about designing and implementing the voices: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQQ2Jm2dgXk&t=0s&list=PLbpkF...

Is this a joke? This just pans the audio from left to right. People are (choosing my words carefully) easy to please these days.

Having worked on that field a long time ago, there is absolutely no way the binaural effect can work well for everybody on every kind of headphone.

The way the fake front / back / top / under positioning is done is by simulating frequency alteration depending on sound origin (for example, your ear geometry filters higher frequencies this way when they come from the front, and this other way when they come from the back).

The problem is that not only your whole body is sensitive to sound waves, but also every person's body is different. If you want a good effect, you need to calibrate the frequency alteration to work with your body, using your sound equipment.

In 2018, the world rediscovered stereo.

Or QSound. I remember my tape version of The Immaculate Collection sounding pretty fancy on my JVC boom-box.



Mixed results. Mostly unimpressive. The Mura Masa mix was a bit of a more interesting experience: you could tell they'd put some thought into it.

Edit: From the comments I'm starting to wonder if certain people perceive this effect differently. I'm very much on team "so you discovered the pan nob?" but the way people are talking, I have to assume that there's two groups of people having two wildly different experiences.

This is a young generation who grew up hearing cellphone speakers, trashy computer speakers placed close together (because the manufacturer thought 3' wire was cheap enough), and earbuds that deliver sound but fail to isolate environment noise, so the brain is assaulted with near-mono information. These people have never experienced true stereo: wide separation. So flanging has been rediscovered and is considered amazing, just as when it was applied to guitar signals in the '70s.

Come on, the majority of people regardless of their generation will have grown up playing music on dodgy speakers, whether that's 8 track player in a car, a portable transistor radio, a boombox running on D-cells or a CD player with builtin speakers.

Yes I think it's dumb when people listen to music on their phone speakers. No this doesn't mean they're any different from the rest of us. This is just "pssh, kids these days!" spread out over a few sentences.

Yes I'm an old codger saying keep off my lawn, but it's more than that. These kids were cheated in the quality department. Audio experience delivered to consumers has degraded across the spectrum because of diminished expectations and mass production choices. I have a mono '70s portable radio with a 6" permanent magnet speaker cone that delivers such impressive bass you forgive the distortion. Boom boxes of the 70s with even simple crossovers and dual/triple speakers per channel were magnificent, but large. The irony is that as the quality of magnets and materials improved, the industry was already on a track that emphasized smallness and thinness over everything else. I could sketch a graph that shows general improvement of quality over time for everyone, because that was the expectation. Then it plateaus right around the time mass production was shifted from Japan to China, and a separate overlapping curve which represents those who can discern quality and are willing to pay arises. Today if you can discern quality of sound reproduction you are part of a small captive audience and despite improved technology and materials, your choices are limited unless your funds are unlimited.

Simpler put, 'high fidelity' has become a boutique item. And as expectations fall, it's going out of fashion.

I can also only assume the same thing (and I'm on your team - I've listened using decent but not awesome headphones i.e. HD 380 pros); the large number of 'OMG this has changed my life' comments on the various videos seem to indicate there is some kind of good experience to be had here by somebody (just not me!)

I suspect "8D" is an emoticon instead of actually referring to a mythical 8 dimensions --- an expression of surprise and amazement when they heard what can be done using stereo.

I suspect its a 4chan prank, 8-D

IMO, Virtual Barber Shop was more impressive.


This is absolutely amazing, and is one of the first things in a while where technology has made my jaw drop.

A lot of these vids are a bit gimmicky, and over doing it, but this is so cool.

Genuine question: which part, specifically, was amazing? I'm wondering if there's something some people perceive (such as yourself) and others, like me, don't.

I'm familiar with directional audio (when playing games, 7.1 sound or w/e) and stereo sound (when listening to music), there is something that feels super immersive from some of the tracks.

I've just spent 30 minutes listening to as many as I can, some are terrible and some are great, maybe try more tracks.

I can totally empathize with people saying that this is annoying/distracting, and I can't see myself doing it for a long period of time, but as a tech demo/cool thing, I find this awesome.

The thing with binaural is that the listener isn't "safe": the singer can go sing very near one's ear, violating expectations of personal space. So there might be rejection when used unfairly.

I think binaural is a great opportunity for more access to emotions when used well.

We made a tool for this kind of effect: https://www.auburnsounds.com/products/Panagement.html

Even though its kind of gimmicky it's pretty amazing

I'm listening to the Owl City track on a train, and had to take off my headphones to make sure the music wasn't blasting from my phone. Pretty cool.

It's actually even more annoying than an Owl City song that doesn't oscillate from left to right behind my head.

I think one aspect of it that adds to the annoying experience - it's as if the music is lurking around in your personal space right behind you, which is really irritating when a person does it.

Had the same reaction though. Even if it is a bit gimmicky I'd like to see new songs that try to maximize the effect. Could be a pretty cool trend

More so than ‘8D’ I wish more music was recorded in 5.1; I realize the vast majority of people doesn’t have a 5.1 setup so its probably not worth the money and mixing effort (minimal by the way, instruments and voices are already recorded individually).

If you do have 5.1 and an Apple TV hooked up, search for ‘surround speaker check’ in the App Store and play the 5.1 test. You’ll be amazed how nice 5.1 music sounds.

Hmm, when a guy approached me the other day boasting about 8D music I laughed so hard, it sounded so much like snake oil. I did some cursory research though but did not find anything.

Now that there's this Queen demo, I recognise the kind of rendering effect this is achieving, and such schemes making the sound more realistically spatial with headphones has been existing for years (decades), such as Dolby Headphones[0] or binaural audio[1] either beforehand or via post-processing (e.g Bauer stereophonic to binaural[2] a.k.a BS2B).

[0]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1bgMX4UCjw

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binaural_recording

[2]: http://bs2b.sourceforge.net/bs2b_lib.html

HN, please fight back and prevent this from being called "8D". Non-technical people are getting fooled by this. If the term continues to get used, it will become a standard, perhaps even making its way into dictionaries.

I haven't felt this annoyed by something I've heard since the time ten years ago my boss tried to argue us into writing VB.NET instead of C#. At least the audio of that conversation was received normally...

You probably need a good pair of headphones with a good soundstage to experience as intended. The effect on my TFZ series 2 isn't very pronounced or immersing.

I notice that while I get the effect with my Bose QC25s, it's even more pronounced with the noise-cancelling (and amp) turned on than with it turned off.

It is fun to listen to a few songs, mainly to see what is possible for sound localization with stereo headphones. But I really don't want to listen to music like this, i.e. moving left and right behind my head, all the time. Quite perturbing for me, but all brains are different (speaking knowingly, I have aphantasia), so maybe some people really like it.

This reminds me of one of the demos that used to come with Sound cards back when I was in high school. You could make anything sound like it was inside of a concert hall, a bathroom, or a street... You could even "position" yourself to make different tunes comes from different angles.

It _can_ be nice, if properly used.

The Queen example is lousy at best: instead of having the single audio source wander in space, it could have been used with a true mix to actually position (and move, properly) each voices/instruments in space.

But of course, you'll need the original tapes to be able to do that. :p

My thoughts exactly. I'd like to be able to hear the guitar here and the vocalist here and the drums over there. If the individual sounds move around separately that's cool. The Virtual Barber Shop example does a good job illustrating that, with a voice on one side and a phone on the other simultaneously etc. They even play with distance as well as direction. I have only a vague idea how that works, but it definitely adds to the experience. The Bohemian Rhapsody example, by contrast, is just crap. Panning the entire ensemble from left to right, over and over? Meh. Then it's not even stereo like it was originally. It's just sequential mono. It's reduced, not expanded.

These effects generally require at least having the original separate tracks, if not specialized recording techniques. However, I still have hope that advanced signal processing can separate the parts well enough after the fact to get a satisfactory result. I'm no ML fanboi by any means, but I'm pretty sure those techniques could be productively brought to bear on the problem as well. I'll bet there's a grad student or two working on it right now, and I wish them great success.

There is a project that does attempt to disentangle musical instruments and voices in the waveform domain that is interesting, http://jordipons.me/apps/end-to-end-music-source-separation/

...such that the results could be flanged and recombined separately. But as you hear in their demos, any recombined result would be a Picasso painting as compared to a photograph, maybe interesting though.

I agree... going to be limited and annoying without at least the stems.

I quite liked this demo, which shows a bit more potential for placement :


Going back and listening to the example again, I can see (well ... hear really) how the music feels like it "surround" you (it a bit difficult to identify where the sound is "coming from"). But for the most part, you just ear the music panning left and right.

To me this feels like moving a photograph in front of someone's face and calling it 3D. Pretty underwhelming, and I wonder if the creators of such effects ever listened to high-quality recordings on good headphones.

For more on how the brain positions sounds in space, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sound_localization

I would be much happier if record companies brought back dynamics to music.

Listened to one of these two weeks ago and I really like it. It's worth mentioning though that not all of them are the same quality or give the same feeling of moving sounds around.

"8D audio", or in other words "Nothing new with added marketing spin"

ASMR is also mentioned in the article. I find it pretty effective at evoking sensations.

It’s always fascinated me why we are sold 7.1 audio when we only have two ears.

Because the world is 3D, and our two ears can discriminate in amazing ways. We hear through bone conduction and tactile response and even some ultrasound and, oh, also through our ears.

Sounded like some idiot teenager had found the pan control.

Pan pot automation is now 8D?

‘Cos I can’t hear anything else going on in there

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