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Binaural Mixing of Popular Music

In this engineering brief, we present an initial experiment that was conducted to gain insights into what kinds of sound sources would benefit from binaural rendering for typical electronic dance music (EDM), pop and rock tracks. Original multi-tracks for three different songs (EDM, Pop, Rock) were divided into four elements: drums, bass, guitar/synth and vocals/lead. Eight different mixes of these elements were created in 3rd-order Ambisonics using the RoomEncoder and BinauralDecoder of the IEM Plugin Suite, with different combinations of binauralised and non-binauralised (i.e., stereo) elements within the mixes, ranging from a full stereo mix to a full binaural mix. A multiple comparison listening test was conducted online, with 21 subjects participating. Their task was to rate the eight mixes in terms of overall immersive experience as well as perceived spatial and timbral qualities. Results showed that mixes with non-binauralised drums were commonly rated higher than mixes with binauralised drums for all three attributes. The full binaural mixes were rated lowest in general, whereas the mixes closest to a full stereo mix tended to be rated highest for Pop and Rock, but less so for EDM. These results suggest that (i) simply panning all sources in binaural would not necessarily lead to a more immersive experience compared to a traditional stereo mix, (ii) a spatial contrast between binauralised and non-binauralised sources might help improve immersiveness (e.g., drums in stereo and guitars widely panned in binaural), and (iii) optimal binaural mixing techniques would tend to depend on the genre of music.

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