True 3D Audio Based on HRTFs is Back, and VR Needs It

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Does anyone remember Aureal 3D? Back in the late 90's, Aureal brought true HRTFs (head related transfer functions) to desktop PC gaming. It was the first time you heard true 3D-posotional audio from 2 speakers. Then they were bought out by Creative Labs and the A3D API was essentially killed.

Up. Down. Left. Right. Front. Back. Everywhere. And with precision.

If you've been longing for true, 3D positional audio based on science, consider the technology reborn.

Ossic VR just launched its Kickstarter campaign for the Ossic X, a 3D positional headphone that produces true HRTF 3D-positional audio. I've tried it, and it works.

The crazy thing is not only does it work, it works tremendously well. Ossic's claim to fame is its automatic calibration technology, which reads the measurements of your ears and head dimensions and features. From there, custom HRTF functions are produced for you and you only. Sounds are matched to your ears.

The effect is nothing short of amazing.

I tried a VR demo using HTC's Vive headset and a prototype of the Ossic X. In the demo, you're in a room that looks like you were transported to some place in Lord of the Rings. Creatures, objects, environments and other elements were part of the room. With the Ossic X headphones on, I could pin-point with exacting precision where things were happening. This isn't just virtualized audio--the headphones were using my head's custom HRTFs to make my brain behave as if I was in a real space.

The most impressive moment? I heard a sudden creeping noise coming from above me from behind. I turned around, looked up, and a moment later, a beastly creature broke through the wooden ceiling.

Ossic VR doing actual physics modeling.

Ossic VR doing actual physics modeling.

The prototype I tried was early, and I spent most of the time with Ossic's team to talk techs and how things are modeled and mapped. There's no doubt I'll return back to the company's lab to give myself a second audition.

The final design. The prototype I tried had PCB boards on it.

I already have a VR headset on the way. Now I'm just waiting for Ossic to ship its headphones. More to come when I get my hands on a prototype.

Tuan Nguyen
Tuan is the Editor-in-Chief of Maximum PC, and loves all things tech. He's been building PCs and ruffling feathers in the industry for 20 years, and isn't afraid to call out bad products and services. In fact, it's very common to hear the words "this is shit" escape his lips. If you want to know if something is "Kick-Ass" or not, email or tweet him.