Listening with ears shut

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If you take a stereo pair of loudspeakers and cover up one of the channels so no sound comes out of that speaker, what do you get? Mono. Right. Mono with no directionality, reduced soundstage. Like the old days when there was nothing BUT mono.

But if you cover one of your ears with your finger so no sound gets in, what do you get? I am not sure, but it isn't mono. Try it. You can tell directionality, imaging, three dimensional sound.

It's rather obvious why we need two loudspeakers to try and fool ourselves into believing there's a three dimensional image in the room, but it's less obvious why that same logic doesn't apply to our ears. In fact, what we learn is that the shape of the ear itself helps our ear/brain mechanism determine position of sounds through complex timing and phase relationships. What's simply mind blowing to me is that we can determine positioning and imaging with but one ear.

It's always been known that you don't need great hearing to enjoy high end audio and be a great listener. Some of the best listeners I know can't hear well past several kHz or have greatly reduced hearing in one ear. My friend Peter is as deaf as a hornet in one ear but is a terrific listener and can spot problems with imaging, depth and tonal balance in an instant. Now we know, at least partially, why.

Thanks to one of my readers, Acuvox, for this great bit of information.

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Paul McGowan

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