Office Hours Season 5: One Voice In Each Ear Or Not?

Over the years we have recorded Office Hours episodes in different ways. For the last two seasons we’ve experimented by using a technique that was used in the early 70s, putting one voice predominantly in one speaker and another voice predominantly in another speaker. If you’re in a room, listening to two or three others talk, you would hear the voices coming from different directions. For the last two seasons we’ve experimented by attempting to reproduce that experience. It works well with headphones or if you’re between two speakers. It doesn’t work as well if you’re nearer one speaker than other or using only one speaker. So, here’s your chance to help us engineer the audio for season 5 of Office Hours.

Do you like the voices separated (one voice to the left and another to the right) or do you want to hear all the voices in the same channels without any separation?

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  1. I listen with a mp3 player, using one ear piece. So, split into stereo is not so good.

  2. I belong to a vanishing breed who remembers the fascination of “ping-pong” sound effects of early stereo records in the late 1950’s. (Vinyl, anyone? That’s back when a CD was something subject to penalty for early withdrawal.) It was beyond clever half a century ago but is often annoying now. Clearly recorded mono is just fine for interviews. Since we imagine the participants sitting together around a small table, engaged in friendly conversation, the illusion of separation is actually less realistic.

    • Hi Frank,

      This is helpful. I’ve heard some of that audio. We only pan 16 degrees to the left and right, so it’s not the old “ping pong” effect. We played with that effect in the studio but it isn’t realistic. No one in a room hears only one voice with the left and one voice with the right. I remember, however, an FM morning show in the early 70s that had one host in the left channel and the other in the right.

  3. As a bandwidth-challenged country bumpkin with failing dollar-store earphones, I vote for aural monism.

    • Shocked that Aural Monism goes unchallenged at Office Hours. Will the scandalous doctrines never cease? In fact someone chuckled – that’s right CHUCKLED! Even the (spoken in a whisper) Roman Catholic Church condemned this as a heresy in 429……….but I’ve always liked the bell. It has good fidelity (and good vibrations) and as long as I’m convinced there aren’t any elements changing there it’s all good.

  4. Though a recovered audiophile, I have to confess I didn’t notice one way or the other. But my preference for speech recording is mono (save the pristine stereo soundstage for music).

    FWIW, as a bicycle commuter, I also often listen with only the right earbud (so with the left I can monitor all those homicidal cagers). Another thing that is important to me is level. Often I’ve had to give up on a promising podcast because I just can’t hear it over the road noise with my mp3 player turned all the way up.

    Another pet peeve of mine is recordings at too-high fidelity, like an interview in 128-bit that takes like 50MB for an hour. Often I will crunch that down to more like 32-bit, which is all you need to understand the conversation. (32-bit is the compression rate I use for Hoagies & Stogies)

    So that brings up another possibility. You could record in high-quality (say, 64- or 128-bit) stereo, and provide that in two formats: “high-quality” (original) for those that value that kind of thing, and “low-bandwidth” (32-bit mono) for those that want a quicker download, less space, and maybe one-ear listening.

  5. Also, if you stick with stereo, I have the ability to download LAME like anybody else, and crunch it down myself. In fact, that just gave me an idea for a feature-improvement to the podcast downloader I wrote for myself in perl (it’s called plodder) — I could pass everything I download through lame to force it to 32-bit mono, and I could maybe even resample to a higher db if necessary as well…

    • Roger!

      I was just out for a bit and paid attention to the volume level of the recent MLK episode, and it was marginal for me. Listen to OH at a comfortable volume, and then without changing the volume, start up any episode of Christ The Center from THAT’s what I’m talkin about! Theology I can Hear!

      • We had some technical issues on that episode. Mea culpa. Now, if someone wants to donate the several thousand we could use for upgraded mics and amps, I’m right here!

  6. Interesting poll results as of this moment: 20 votes on one channel, 19 votes on the other.

  7. Personally, lose the bell ringing & you could put
    all voices in all channels…jus’ sayin’…

  8. Whoever does Reformedcast used to split the interviewer and interviewee voices pretty severely. You pretty much couldn’t hear, using just one ear piece.

  9. This explains why, when I listen in the car, I always had a funny feeling I could hear one voice better than the other. I guess it was always whichever voice was on the left side speaker.

    I vote for all voices on one track, just so I don’t have to continue driving with one hand on the volume control.

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