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A Virtual Reality Perspective on Headphone Audio

This paper is about the headphone presentation of virtual audio environments and the headphone playback of multichannel audio recordings. It briefly reviews the role of sound in virtual reality applications, highlighting some shortcomings of the current sound-for-VR products. The implementation cost of the standard head-tracked spatializing algorithm is considered. A look at cost reduction raises the question of cue ranking. The author argues that the basic head-movement deltas 'out-trump' the other cues. This prompts some reflections on the binaural, transaural and Q-biphonic techniques, and on the more-recent 'bifield' proposal. The paper then presents a new strategy for VR sound. The revised scheme uses a multichannel internal representation of the sound field at the listener's head. Its merits include lower implementation cost when rendering multiple sources, and good adaptability to the consumer 'headphone-surround' application. Finally, the importance is emphasized of reserving a sixth channel for height in future multichannel formats such as the proposed high-quality-audio variant of DVD.

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