Everything You Need to Know About 8D Audio
It’s becoming increasingly rare for music creators and fans to discover a fresh sound, nowadays.
But if you’ve never heard of 8D audio then today is your lucky day. 8D is basically a stereo effect that creates a unique listening experience where the music seems to be swirling around the listener’s head with crisp multidimensional sounds pouring in from all directions. One caveat: it only works with headphones. So, slide on your best noise-canceling set, sit back, and enjoy!
What Is 8D Audio?
8D audio applies a continuous and gradual panning between the left and right stereo channel. This effect is further enhanced by changing the balance of frequencies for each stereo channel (i.e., for each ear) and playing around with reverb.
If you want to hear an excellent example of 8D Audio done right, then give 8D Audio Pentatonix’ remix of Billie Eilish’s Ilomilo a listen. Notice how you can almost feel the music moving around. It’s almost hard to grasp whether the music is playing outside or inside of your head. Try listening to it from regular speakers and the effect is lost. This is because both channels come from the same direction, whereas the audio in headphones can be 100% isolated from one ear to the other.
Now here comes the kicker. There’s no new technology or techniques used in 8D Audio. In fact, this effect was quite popular in the ‘70s. Pink Floyd used it (makes total sense!). The difference is that in today’s 8D music the panning is continuous, while back in the ‘70s the panning was static. Be that as it may, I’d love to hear an 8D remix of any Pink Floyd song. If that’s your next project, let me know!
How to Create 8D Audio
Adding an 8D effect to your music project seems straightforward. Sennheiser offers a free plugin (surprise, surprise, they sell headphones!) called AMBEO Orbit. This plugin integrates with your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) and lets you create immersive binaural panning, by giving you full control over the positioning of mono and stereo sources in the 3D sound field. In other words, you can spatially place your sounds left to right, front to back, and top to bottom to create the desired effect.
Is 8D Audio the Future of Music?
8D Audio is not per se the direction in which music is evolving. This is the wonderful thing about music. It doesn’t shed its old ways to make room for new ways. It just grows and becomes richer. 8D is a style choice you can apply in your mixing, as you would reverb or lo-fi. I wouldn’t build a whole repertoire around it. Use it wisely in songs where it makes sense. It will keep your music fresh and your audience at the edge of their seat. Looking forward to hearing your 8D music creations on the interwebs. And don’t forget about that Pink Floyd 8D remix!