Should I listen through headphones or speakers?
The best immersive listening experience is when the sound event is played back where it was recorded. And since this is all about binaural music reproduction, the answer is simple: headphones.
Why aren’t loudspeakers the best solution compared to headphones when it comes to sonic converters for binaural audio applications?
If you listen through loudspeakers, the artefacts of the room are always perceived as well. This makes the immersive experience of a 3D audio experience almost impossible. In addition, the sound field during playback is limited by the two speakers.
Headphones, on the other hand, completely block the sound of the outside world, prevent the hearing of artifacts in the local space and make it possible to be “fully present” in the virtual world. Like mentioned above, the configuration of a virtual speaker is limited by the size of the room with the speakers, while the use of the headset allows an unlimited virtual room. Perhaps the most important thing is that Headphones enable interactivity, which is a central element of the 3D experience. Users need to be able to move around the scene, and fixed speakers make it extremely difficult to follow their movements.
Effects when listening to “ordinary stereo” through headphones
The sound emitted by the transducers of the headphones is transmitted directly to the affected ear and not to the head and both ears, as in natural listening. In-ear plugs also eliminate the acoustic filtering effect caused by the anatomy of the ear canal. This means that the brain does not have the necessary information to correctly localize the sound. In particular, the directional information essential for the acoustic location of sound sources is not available. Instead of a natural frontal position, the strict separation of the two stereo signals by the headphones leads to an unnatural position mapping. The sound appears to exist completely inside or at the edge of the head and not outside.
This unnatural effect is avoided when you listen to a binaural recording through headphones!
However, if you want to optimize object-based mixes for a natural listening experience over headphones, you need to introduce Head Related Transfer Functions (HRTF) into the processing chain. They are used to simulate the filter functions of the auricle.