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An HMD with automatic 3D sound? Um, no.

Level 2
A new 3D audio myth is calling out to developers like a siren's song. Time for a debunking session.

Have you seen any new HMDs being advertised that have integrated headphones that imply they can provide 3D sound automatically?

How about this one? ... and-video/

You mean I don't have to buy a 3D audio plugin for several hundred dollars? Shut up and take my money!

Not so fast. It's utter BS.

A quote from the above press release: "This technological feat of vision is completed with holophonic audio sound, recorded live in 360° thanks to a binaural microphone that perfectly recreates a “spacious and enveloping” sound sensation following the user’s movements."


All of that is meant to snare VR developers who can't afford the usual 3D audio plugins. The implication is that this HMD will render your audio in 3D automatically, when in actuality that is impossible.

How dare they say those things if they're not true?

First, let's cover the fact that holophonic mics and binaural mics are completely different, and they seem to think they're the same thing. A holophonic mic is completely inappropriate for virtual reality recordings. A single holophone is meant to output directly to a 5.1 or 7.1 mix, neither of which is ideal for VR.

Second, let's cover the fact that a binaural mic alone is insufficient to render VR audio with dynamic head tracking. You need an omni array if you're going to use binaural hardware at all. They didn't say anything about an omni. Things smell fishy.

But the real question is: Why are they talking about 3D audio techniques at all in a press release about their HMD? If you ask them directly, you'll discover that their HMD does no 3D audio rendering whatsoever.

Wait, what? Why do they have all this stuff about 3D audio in their press release then?

Simple: they want you to think their HMD can render audio in 3D, even though it can't.

How do they get away with that without being accused of false advertising?

Well, when they mention the 3D audio stuff, they're actually talking about a demo running on their HMD. They're not talking about the hardware itself. You can use holophonic or binaural mics for any VR experience on any HMD. So of course it'll sound pretty okay, but the 3D-ness of the sound has nothing to do with the HMD. They don't actually say it does, so it's not technically false advertising. It's just extremely likely to trick people who aren't familiar enough with holophonic or binaural recording equipment.

This has been a 3D audio BS debunking session, brought to you by AJ. As the VR scene goes mass market, keep your eyes peeled for BS and keep a tight grip on your billfold.