by Brian Woods
The SB-205B Surround Sound Recording Earbuds, from Andrea Communications, are a unique combination of audio earbuds and stereo binaural microphones. Binaural microphones have a special design meant to replicate the shape and placement of the human ear. The idea is that recording with binaural microphones will provide for the listener a closer reproduction of what the human ears hear live. The SB-205B is worn like traditional earbuds, with the respective left and right microphones on each one. The earbuds require power, so the audio recorder being used must have the ability to provide phantom power for them. Check your recorder's specs for this information. The cord on the earbuds forks into two 3.5mm outputs, one for the line in or mic in on the recorder, and the other for the headphone input. Be careful that you are plugging the cords into the correct inputs on your recorder, as swapping them usually results in shrill feedback.
It's possible to listen real time while you are recording, and the binaural microphones can be muted via an inline on/off switch and volume dial. You'll want to experiment with the different recording and input levels offered by both your recorder and the earbuds, to make sure your recordings are neither too soft or loud enough to cause distortion. It takes a little getting used to hearing your surroundings through the earbuds, and you'll notice that every sniff, exhale, or tooth click you emit is amplified. The earbuds themselves aren't the most comfortable, but they are sufficient and provide clear sound. I suppose if the researcher only wanted to utilize the microphones, the headphones end of the cable could be left unplugged. I verified that audio still recorded perfectly when I tried this. Operation of the earbuds was simple, overall.
I plugged both ends of the SB-205B’S cable into my Tascam DR-05, and headed outside to a favorite park. I started a new recording, plugged in the earbuds, and started walking. I immediately noticed that the binaural microphones are somewhat sensitive to wind, so I faced a different direction and was able to reduce the rumbling I was hearing. Walking on gravel was also noisy, so I found a grassy area. The SB-205B really worked and sounded best when I was sitting or standing still. After obtaining several minutes of audio, I returned home to listen to the quality of the file.
I transferred the file to my PC, and opened it in Audacity, a free audio analyzing and enhancement program. The original file was an .mp3 captured in 128kbps. I exported a short clip that features the sound of thawing tree branches crashing to the ground, and me commenting on it. I chose this clip because it is a good example of the SB-205B handling both my voice, which was very close to the microphones, and the breaking branches, which were about 20 feet away. You can listen to this clip by clicking HERE. Headphones will be necessary to fully appreciate the clip.
In conclusion, the SB-205B is best used when the researcher is quietly sitting stationary, collecting audio. Clothing and body movements are picked up easily. Wind also. The quality was quite full and clear, though. The audio recorded at the park sounded great, almost “3 dimensional" with how noises to the left sounded distinct and spatially separated from the ones on the right, or in front of me. I don't think the earbuds are comfortable enough to wear for long periods of time, but for short to medium recording sessions, they would be just fine. For the majority of my audio recording, I still prefer an omnidirectional external microphone that I can securely clip to my hat or a stationary object.
You can find the SB-205B binaural earbuds, by Andrea Communications, for sale by online merchant Amazon.com. At the time of this writing, the listed price was around $25.
Lowlands Bigfoot Research Group