Many purists still resist the idea of wireless headphones. But times are changing, and wireless earbuds are here to stay. However, there are still valid questions about their sound quality, one of them being, can earbuds have surround sound?.
Unfortunately, earbuds still cannot reproduce surround sound. One of the factors is that each earbud represents a single independent loudspeaker with no link to its pair. In addition, earbuds have external sound interference since part of the earbuds lies outside the ear canal.
The emergence of earbuds in the global market is a relatively recent development. There are still many opportunities concerning this equipment and the technological advances that it will surely experience in the short term.
This article will discuss information about surround sound and the main advantages that earbuds can provide.
Surround sound refers to all products, equipment, and technology whose primary purpose is to envelop the listener in sound from all angles.
To put it simply, to achieve surround sound, you have to place several speakers around where you expect the audience to be.
Typically, there is a center speaker at the front, one on the left, and one on the right—two speakers on the sides and two speakers at the back.
By placing all these speakers in this way, the interconnected audio system can provide an immersive audio experience, which is almost impossible to achieve in any other way.
In the summer of 1969, surround sound first entered the home. At that time, it was called quadraphonic sound because of the four horns it used.
The sound was discreet compared to what we hear today. This first sound came from the four bulges that were in each corner of the room.
The sound was not very clear and of short duration. However, researchers did not give up working on this three-dimensional sound experience despite this first failed attempt.
It was not until 1982 that Dolby Laboratories introduced Dolby Surround to the world. This technology added a surround sound signal to a stereo source through matrix coding.
Since that time, Dolby and DTS have been the companies that have contributed the most to refining the quality of domestic surround sound.
Understanding why earbuds still can’t optimally reproduce surround sound requires technical explanations that could be pretty complex.
But we are going to try to make it as simple as possible to clear all possible doubts.
To understand this technical limitation, we must define what virtual surround sound is and how it differs from traditional surround sound.
The traditional surround sound decoding and processing method works thanks to interconnected loudspeakers.
But if we want to transfer this same surround effect to equipment such as soundbars, we need to think outside the box. In this case, is where virtual surround sound comes into play.
The virtual surround sound allows the soundbar or other equipment to produce surround sound with only two speakers.
An example that can illustrate both techniques can be when watching a movie or playing a video game. They have multichannel audio to be played on speakers for multiple listeners.
You could hear this sound under two types of approaches:
- Authentic surround sound (hardware). The listeners will receive the sound thanks to the actual placement of 4 or 6 speakers distributed around the room. This method is, for many people, the authentic surround sound.
- Virtual surround sound (software). Surround sound occurs when you add an internal or external processor to the two speakers. This processor takes the multichannel audio and applies a binaural algorithm to bring the sound into a virtual space around each ear.
As we have already understood, obtaining authentic surround sound is a mechanically complex task.
Surround sound advances in portable music devices are so far only present in headphones. The headphones that promote the surround sound feature are large, expensive, and quite heavy.
Virtual surround sound does not require the headphone to have special hardware. Still, it does require complex signal processing to produce a relatively convincing sound field.
The virtual surround sound system has a significant advantage. Suppose you combine it with head movement tracking.
In that case, it causes the virtual surround speakers to block sound displacement when the person moves his head.
This attribute makes the experience quite similar to that of a movie theater. However, this technology is only available for devices that have a motion tracking system.
At the moment, earbuds cannot have surround sound. Several factors make this improbable at the moment, such as:
- The independence of the speakers for each earbud.
- The small size of the equipment.
- The sound reception in the earbud is not 100% since part of the equipment rests outside the ear pavilion.
- Motion tracking technology is necessary.
At the moment, the earbuds do not have surround sound. Still, they make up for this by growing with a series of exciting benefits that invite everyone to try this fabulous equipment.
The most evident and essential advantage is that we don’t have to move around with cables hanging around.
This benefit gives us total freedom and autonomy, something that we will not get with other types of headphones that are not wireless.
An example of this is Bluetooth technology in earbuds. In the beginning, it was difficult to pair the earbuds. The connections were interrupted at every moment.
They were also very expensive, the playback did not work, and the sound quality was poor. Today the pairing is much easier, the performance is superior, and the prices are much more affordable.
The batteries of the first earbuds only lasted about three hours. When they stopped working, the battery had completely used up its charge.
One of the significant limitations of early devices was the difficulty of fitting a large battery into such small devices.
Over time, manufacturers came up with a solution to the riddle of keeping the battery charged continuously: the earbud case.
Now that the three-hour discharges no longer occur. These earbuds are capable of running for 5 to 10 hours on a single charge, which is all you need to use them virtually all day long.
If you are not a constant user, you may only need to charge them once a week.
One of the factors that most attract new users of these versatile devices is their design and comfort. Nowadays, most earbuds offer the following features to make the experience more pleasant for the users:
- They are very lightweight.
- You can adjust them to the ear canals without moving with the person’s movement.
- The controls and buttons are convenient.
Some specific earbud models offer a noise cancellation feature and an intelligent listening mode that automatically activates the ambient mode.
There are some models of earbuds aimed at the fitness segment. These models can track fitness and are sweat-resistant.
In addition, their unique design means that sweat from physical activity will not affect the sound quality, and the earbuds will not slip.
Although this feature is still on the waiting list for earbuds, we are confident that surround sound will be a reality soon.
The same thing that happened with Bluetooth optimization or the battery charging system will occur.
But in the meantime, keep enjoying this useful, fun, and practical equipment to the fullest.