Genelec has recently announced its ‘Aural ID’ technology, which uses your Head Related Transfer Function (HRTF) to tailor your headphone listening experience to your own body. When Aural ID becomes available, you’ll be able to measure your own sonic signature using your smartphone, via its camera, in order to get a personalised response when using headphones or virtual reality devices.
Put a bit less cryptically, the dimensions of our head and upper body interact with sound reaching our ears. Sound from a certain direction might, say, also bounce off a shoulder before entering your ear; or your entire head might shade your right ear from a sound coming from your left side; as well as sundry other reflections and interactions that all shape the frequency and timing of what your ears actually hear. Your own profile is unique to you.
The idea is this: using the Aural ID app, you use your phone’s camera to create a recording around your head, from which the necessary measurements of your head, shoulds and ears are taken. Genelec says that the system pays “special attention to modelling of the external ears” in particular.
Crucially, Genelec have said that Aural ID will also measure what may be an even more important factor: the bumps and ridges in your pinna – ie, the cartilage of the actual ‘ear’ as we know it. If you’ve ever studied your ears or anyone else’s, you’ll have noticed that there’s no way for sound to reach the inner ear without first reflecting off these ridges. As each person’s ridge patterns are individual, these provide yet another ‘sonic signature’ to how you hear, and are instrumental in your judgment of an incoming sound’s elevation.
Once your measurements are uploaded to a web-based calculation service, the numbers are crunched and you can download the relevant SOFA file – an AES-standardized file for describing HRTF. Your unique HRTF can be loaded into a plugin such as Binauralizer to be played back via your DAW’s master buss. Genelec haven’t specifically mentioned launching their own software to enable your put your cushy SOFA files to good use.
While binaural recording and playback systems may allow you to “hear with other people’s ears”, Aural ID is a sort of “hear with your own head and torso while using headphones” take, which should provide a more comprehensive, more realistic listening experience. Another plus to the system is that’s it’s fairly non-invasive, only taking its measurements visually.
Genelec are a monitor manufacturer who don’t currently sell headphones. Could this move point towards a future launch of a set of Genelec cans? Seeing as the Aural ID service will bear a price tag, perhaps not – although it seems unlikely that Genelec would create something that would specifically help producers to use other companies’ products.
Aural ID should be coming in Q2 of 2019 (ie, in the next three months). The price hasn’t yet been announced. Find out more at Genelec.com.
As well as being an Editor At Large for Electronic Musician, James also dispenses software news and views as the co-host of Appetite For Production Podcast, and tweets on Twitter as rusty_jam. You can find his 'collected works' at his website, XoverFreq.