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Would the human ear be a good microphone?

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Would the human ear be a good microphone?

Postby Humphreysbogort » Tue Nov 13, 2012 10:49 pm

This is a silly question I have always wanted to ask.

If you were somehow able to wire an xlr lead into a human ear (obviously this is not actually possible - but let's pretend)
Would it make a good recording mic?
Part of me thinks that it would be the perfect mic? For example it would have very low self noise characteristics.
However sometimes we select microphones that give an 'unatural' or 'larger than life' sound. Would it just be a boring ruler flat omni aka a measurement mic.

Humour me.
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Re: Would the human ear be a good microphone?

Postby Scramble » Tue Nov 13, 2012 11:26 pm

But which bit of the ear are you wiring up?
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Re: Would the human ear be a good microphone?

Postby Humphreysbogort » Tue Nov 13, 2012 11:43 pm

Good point. I suppose the output signal the auditory nerve.

However I'm more asking this from a philosophical standpoint. As in can we engineer a better listening device using technology than nature has provided.

Or to look at it another way. Is the goal of any microphone design to be as close to 'reality' as we perceive it? Or to enhance reality?

Maybe I'm losing touch with reality?
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Re: Would the human ear be a good microphone?

Postby SafeandSound Mastering » Wed Nov 14, 2012 9:21 am

The thing is the human ear is extremely connected with the on goings of reality. The ears output is interpretted by the brain, as you can direct what it hears to some degree, you can choose what you wish to focus on. Subconsciously there is also the filtering out of 'information' which is not deemed of value. It's frequency response also changes depending on the level of the audio entering the ear. I think it might be difficult to model the ear based on these factors and think mics are best because they produce a more predictable response in practical recording situations.

It is complex because the ear and brain are an interdependent phenomena, an ear is not much use on it's own (a wave guide) without consciousness being able to interpret it's output.

cheers

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Re: Would the human ear be a good microphone?

Postby Moroccomoose » Wed Nov 14, 2012 9:30 am

Its an interesting thought.

A lot of our perception of sound is done in the brain in much the same way our brain constructs what it thinks we should be seeing... After all relying solely on the mechanics of our eyes, everything would appear upside down!!

Our brain filters lots of things which will shape how we hear sounds. Hence loudness perception. Being more alert to alarm sounds though they may be quiet, being able to pick out a single conversation in a crowded room etc. Its all clever stuff.

I'd have thought the 'best' microphone would be one that is able to provide the 'best' information to a sound generator to reproduce the same air pressure variation to re-generate the pressure waves in the air as they were, rather than only reproducing the air pressures that the mechanics of the humans ears are sesitive to.

Maybe you should use a cat's ear (Don't try it on the neighbours pet!) they can hear a wider range than us lowly humans. But again, it could be all down to perception thing rather than mechanical collection of data.

Maybe bionic DAC would be more useful?!
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Re: Would the human ear be a good microphone?

Postby Moroccomoose » Wed Nov 14, 2012 9:31 am

SNAP!!!
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Re: Would the human ear be a good microphone?

Postby Mixedup » Wed Nov 14, 2012 10:10 am

Hmmm... if the ear isn't accurate (which we know it isn't), then you're capturing sound with one, and then replaying it through another, thus doubling whatever effect. Unless you plan on directly replaying the signal to a brain without first going through the ear.

Interesting thought, though. There's evidence to show that the brain is quite malleable in terms of how it interprets the senses. In mild form, that can manifest itself in synesthesia — and is the case for everyone at an early age — but research has shown that this can be manipulated: people have been able to develop a sixth assisted 'sense', such as detecting direction using magnetism and a vibrating belt. After a while, the belt vibrations are interpreted differently by the brain — it no longer has to go through the steps of "ah, north is the buzzer at 12 o'clock, so I'll turn that way" or whatever; it just reacts to the impulse and immediately 'knows' where north is. *In theory* I see no reason why a brain couldn't be retrained to similarly sense sound that is captured as a signal and is directly 'played' into a sensory receptor other than the ear.

On the other hand, you could just try getting the mic selection and placement right and play it through a decent speaker
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Re: Would the human ear be a good microphone?

Postby Scramble » Wed Nov 14, 2012 1:36 pm

Did you ever read this SoS article about the ear?

How the Ear Works
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Re: Would the human ear be a good microphone?

Postby SafeandSound Mastering » Wed Nov 14, 2012 3:23 pm

It is also unlikely that a biological organ evolved as a very effective means of danger avoidance would make a great drum kit recording, lol.

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Re: Would the human ear be a good microphone?

Postby Scouser » Wed Nov 14, 2012 4:00 pm

Well I would like one, if there was such a thing..

When im tracking, what I want is what I hear, but the mic hears something completely different, then you have to spend time compensating for this..
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Re: Would the human ear be a good microphone?

Postby Guest » Wed Nov 14, 2012 6:00 pm

I've been writing about something related to this: Alexander Graham Bell built a Phonautograph using parts of a human Ear. Here's a webpage about it you might find interesting.
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Re: Would the human ear be a good microphone?

Postby MarkOne » Wed Nov 14, 2012 9:12 pm

I suspect that the human ear would be a terrible microphone... However the human ear coupled to that rather clever bit of signal processing firmware AKA TheBrain(TM) is a different matter.

It's like the eye... Rubbish! Only around 5MPix in colour mode and a dirty great hole in the middle of the sensor. But boy, does that image processing software kick a$$
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Re: Would the human ear be a good microphone?

Postby Scramble » Wed Nov 14, 2012 9:25 pm

And the image is mostly out of focus. And upside down. And the colour contrast is not much like the processed result.
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Re: Would the human ear be a good microphone?

Postby Guest » Thu Nov 15, 2012 5:18 pm

er... what (apart from the ear/eye) are you comparing it to? Do you plug your HD devices directly into your brain?
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Re: Would the human ear be a good microphone?

Postby Piccco » Tue Nov 20, 2012 5:00 am

Interesting chat. I think you would have a living human plugged in like a kinda living, breathing EQ in the signal chain choosing what to focus in on. Otherwise it might inadvertently miss what your trying to record, like a omni mic in a busy room.
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