Headphone Spatialiser for Podcasts

The University of Salford’s SpatialPodcast plug-in is designed for podcasters wishing to add more dimensional sound to their recordings. It will help podcasters create spatial audio for headphone listening without needing to understand some of the more complex binaural plug-ins available. Intended for audio producers willing to experiment, but limited by their audio knowledge, the plugin uses a mixture of binaural and non-binaural processing to produce a more spatial sounding headphone mix.

Here are two examples of a 10 minute podcast mix by Eloise Whitmore. The first is a usual stereo mix, and the second uses the SpatialPodcast plugin. The SpatialPodcast has been used across the Narration, Dialogue, SFX and Atmosphere tracks – mainly using the ‘out of head’ setting and adjusting the width and distance.

This plug-in realises a preset-based binaural spatialisation tool with high level “meta” controls for podcasting. The user can choose one of five different presets for different kinds of podcast content, which adjusts the options available for spatialization. The source input can either be mono or stereo. The panning can either be “in head” which uses a standard equal-power pan algorithm or ”out of head” which allows 360 degree panning using binaural spatialisation. A distance control emulates distance using a convolution reverb and gain scaling. When the plug-in has a stereo input and is on a stereo track with the “out of head” mode, the azimuth control becomes a width control, to spread the stereo image.

The 5 settings are; narration, dialogue, sfx, atmospheres and music.

Setting In Head
mono / stereo
Out of Head
mono
Out of Head
stereo
Narration
(studio based recordings)
pan / distance azimuth / distance width / distance
Dialogue
(Location recorded interviews)
pan / distance azimuth / distance / elevation width / distance
SFX
(spot or sound effects)
pan / distance azimuth / distance / elevation width / distance
Atmosphere
(Location wild track recordings)
pan / distance azimuth / distance / elevation width / distance
Music
(Only works in stereo)
distance n/a n/a

The plugin can be downloaded free:

For Windows extract and run the .exe file that is in the zip file. Note the directory the plug-in is being saved into. Start your DAW and it should automatically pick up the new VST/audiounit /AAX plug-in. Sometimes you may need to go into the plug-in manager within the DAW to tell it to scan the directory for new plug-ins. The plug-in can be added as an effect to each track. At the top of the plug-in select the most appropriate description of the track (e.g. ‘narration’) and this will choose appropriate default settings. You can then play with the controls to fine tune the sound you want.

The plug-in is implemented in C++ using the JUCE framework, and is based on several open source projects/libraries including Tomasz Woźniak’s binaural panning code and Cockos’ WDL convolution engine. The source code is available on Github.

Recordings by Eloise Whitmore, coding was by Oliver Larkin, and thanks to Tony Churnside.

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