Radio 3 trials surround sound for headphones

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Listen to the 2007 carol service from King's in surround sound

Radio 3 has made a recording of the 2007 Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s College, Cambridge, available in surround sound as part of an experiment.

The recording, posted on the Radio 3 website, is designed to play through normal headphones but sound like the recording is coming from speakers placed around the listener. The files are in a ‘binaural’ format and can be played through headphones plugged into any computer with a stereo output.

Robert Brun, head of technology at BBC Audio & Music said: ‘This experiment is an attempt to enhance the standard ‘stereo’ sound headphone users have had for over 50 years and, although it is only a trial at this stage, if listener feedback is positive it could offer a significant improvement to audio quality in the future.’

As part of this experiment the 2007 recording as well as a recording of the 1958 service will also be available in a surround sound format suitable for loudspeakers – such as a home cinema system. The carol services have been chosen for this experiment because of the rich acoustic in King’s College chapel.

You can hear this year’s service live from King’s College, Cambridge on Radio 4 at 3pm on Christmas Eve and again on Radio 3 at 2pm on Christmas Day. You can watch the service on BBC Two on Christmas Eve at 5.45pm.

Elizabeth Davis