It is not strange that many of our grandparents say that all times in the past were better, however it is very rare in the world of science to hear that there are old technologies that are better than the current ones. Well, today we are already used to talking about 3D images and we are even seeing the first applications of holographic images where we can perceive a person as if they saw the truth, but what about sound? How much has technology advanced in this branch? Certainly a lot, since its inception when it went from monaural sounds (Mono) to stereo sound, we were able to capture the sound with much more depth and realism than before, then came Dolby digital systems and home theaters with 5 audio channels allowing us to feel an surround sound experience. However, what if I told you that before all that, just a few years after the evolution of stereo, in the 80s a technology was developed that allowed sound to be perceived with a realism not yet equaled by current surround audio systems. .
We are talking about the Holophony. This concept comes to be in the world of sound, the equivalent of holograms in the world of images, achieving a 3D perception of the sound that reaches our ears as if we were listening to it in the real world. This technique was developed in 1980 by Hugo Zuccarelli, an Argentine who discovered that interaural relationships (differences in time and intensity between the ears) could not determine by themselves the location of a signal in the meridian of the head (forward-backward, top-bottom), since these are null. For all practical purposes, a sound reaching both ears at the same time could not be localized (mono).
The Ringo microphone
To achieve the Holophonic sound effect, Zuccarelli created a microphone that simulates a human head with 2 ears. This microphone allows sounds to be recorded and then reproduced as if one had been there in the place where the artificial head was placed. The first prototype of the artificial ear was known as “Ringo”, due to its resemblance to the Argentine boxer Oscar Ringo Bonavena. The name of the prototype alludes to the characteristic of emitting part of Ringo’s ears (ringing in the ears) which is the foundation of Zuccarelli’s spatial location theory.
If it’s so good, what happened?
This technology, apparently unbeatable in audio quality, today is nothing more than a curiosity, and little or nothing is used in the world of music and cinema. Virtually the only major commercial use of this system in music was seen on Pink Floyd’s “The Final Cut” album. So what happened? Why was it not widely adopted?
Basically The first big problem that this technology faced in its early days, was that in order to achieve the incredible effect of 3D realism, you had to use headphones to listen to the recording, which made this system impractical to be used in a concert or a movie theater or any environment where the viewer was not using their hearing aids. However, although Zuccarelli was later able to overcome this limitation by developing a pair of Holophone speakers, his invention was never widely adopted.
Many of Zuccarelli’s activities were held back by the recording industry, and especially the vested interests of multinationals who decided to promote more expensive sound systems (Dolby, Dts, Sony, etc.) that required more electronic equipment and multiple speakers to obtain a more primitive result (to obtain sounds in the vertical plane, some companies propose speakers in the ceiling). The Zuccarelli holophonic system only needs 2 channels, or two stereo speakers. Zuccarelli also designed a pair of loudspeakers capable of recreating the effect in a conventional room.
Let’s hear some holophony
In more recent years, with the advent of computing, an algorithm called Cetera, which is capable of processing the audio tracks recorded with Zucarrelli’s Ringo microphones and generating typical audio files (such as mp3s) that you can listen to with your headphones and feel the incredible 3D audio immersion that only Zuccarelli’s holophony can give you. . Thanks to this algorithm, you can get some audio samples on the Internet that give us a very precise idea of the power of Holophony, so put on your headphones, close your eyes and enjoy these audio clips (keep in mind that with speakers you will not be able to perceive it, you must use headphones).
A voice whispering in your ears
Matches spinning through your head
glass breaking in your head
A very annoying vacuum cleaner
Now do you agree on something with your grandparents? after all Holophony, a technology from the 80s that reproduces sounds in 3D is not used today, making at least a few things from the old days better.