A remix of Billie Eilish was widely shared on Twitter and WhatsApp in recent days. It concerns the song Ilomilo in '8D', where it seems with headphones as if the music revolves around you. But how does this work?
Many people are surprised, but '8D audio' is not new. YouTube is full of songs that seem to run through your head. Some have been on it for years. Playlists with these kinds of songs have also been available on Spotify for some time. 8D audio is a name for binaural audio, the underlying technology of which was invented a century ago.
"It is a form of 3D audio in which the sound seems to come from 360 degrees," says music producer Wessel Oltheten. "That is something that is actually not possible when you use headphones. Normally music on headphones only comes from the left, right or somewhere in between, but with a trick it can be stretched to three dimensions."
Neuropsychologist Rebecca Schaeffer from Leiden University says that people can process sound from left and right well. "That is less with sound coming from the front and rear. And we are not very good at handling sound coming from above and below. For example, if a smoke alarm goes off on the ceiling, you often do not immediately hear where it is comes from."
Extra layer creates depth
Because audio comes from only two sides, a simulation is applied to 8D audio, making it seem as if the sound is coming from everywhere. The acoustics of the hearing shell and the head of the listener are used for this. "The effect is comparable to two subtly shifted images that a 3D TV presents to your eyes," says Oltheten. "You don't see two images, but one new image with depth."
Schaefer says that 8D audio "just like a 3D movie or in virtual reality provides more immersion. " This makes it look like you are there.
When mixing sound, it is possible in the computer to indicate with coordinates where the sound should be heard, says Oltheten. "Filters then simulate that the sound reaches your head from the angle at which it is programmed."
Billie Eilish is one of the artists whose music can be heard in 8D. Photo: Brunopress.
'8D adds little to music'
Oltheten doesn't think this is the future of music. "In the past, artists like Madonna have experimented with this. At first you think, 'wow, this is great', but after that it turns out to add little to the music. Music is not conceived with the idea of flying around in your head. It would also be weird if you are at a concert and the band is running around you. "
Experiments were also conducted with the advent of stereo. "The Beatles put the drums on the left and the piano on the right, for example. We didn't know that at the time, which is why it was interesting. But afterwards you may wonder whether the music has improved."
There are more disadvantages of 8D audio. It doesn't work like that when you're listening without headphones, and some people experience dizziness. "It suggests something similar to reality, but it just doesn't make sense," says Oltheten. "The same goes for virtual reality, you do something that doesn't quite correspond to reality. Your brain constantly tries to interpret that and it tires out."
In addition, the effect is not the same for everyone and the audio does not rotate when the listener turns his head. "Due to these limitations, the effect lends itself especially to large gestures; things that are clearly moving around," says Oltheten. "The result is much less convincing with subtle 3D placement."