The Human Brain

mickyatesIdeas, Mick's Photo Blog, Photography Leave a Comment

I had occasion to write this short piece in a debate about sound systems and in particular ‘spatial audio’. But if you swap hearing for sight, the idea is the same for what we see and the tech we photograph with.

Over the years I think we’ve tried most kinds of sound tech, albeit not the extreme in £s but certainly the extreme in approaches. Quadrophonic, DCC or Video Disk, anyone? We had our first DSP (Digital Sound Processing) rig in the late 1980s, which emulated all kinds of concert hall sounds. And now we have three independent Hi-Fi systems at home, all different.

Recently, Apple Music introduced ‘spatial’ audio using ‘lossless’ streaming, and I like it. Even on ‘traditional’ two speaker systems, it sounds great and an improvement on previous streaming methods.

The funny thing is, though, that whilst we humans only have two ears, our built in DSP brain can figure out all kinds of clever stuff – what is behind us, above us, below us, close to us and far away from us. It can hear what is clear and what is fuzzy. It processes for fear and for fun. We know if we are in a cave, in the snow, or in a small room, even with our eyes closed. The old grey matter processes stuff and we take it for granted that what we are hearing is ‘right’. Our brain is not stereo, and like it or not technology has always been behind our brain.

We all take for granted movies that immerse us – 5.1, 7.1, now 9.1 and more. The human brain has been processing 3D sound for ever, in its own admittedly limited way. Tech is always trying to be as good.

When I go to a jazz club, I don’t listen for the sound stage separation or the signal to noise ratio. I listen to the music around me, and the experience I feel. Let’s face it, just what is the original signal but something our brain will always process?

Of course we don’t know what this round of tech will go or whether it will last. But I do know that tech will keep on trying because our brain is so far still the winner.

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