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New Monaural

Not "discarding stereo."

New Monaural's mission, working toward a solution

Almost everybody knows what it is like to share a single pair of in ear headphones with a friend to listen to music. When people with unilateral hearing loss listen to music through headphones, they hear the music exactly like that. Because they cannot hear through one of their ears, even if they put headphones on both ears, all they will hear is a single channel.

Fortunately, with most music if you listen to only the left or right channel alone, it will not sound particularly unnatural. However, depending on the music, sometimes part of the music is created with a sound image localization that does something such as separate vocals and instruments into separate channels. As an easy to understand example, consider the famous song "Are you Gonna Go My Way" by Lenny Kravitz. In this song two guitar riffs are played in different octaves, and these riffs are completely separated from each other into the left and right channels.

When a person with unilateral hearing loss listens to this song through headphones, because they cannot hear the full song as intended, unfortunately it is not very enjoyable. This is an extreme example, but similar problems can occur in all kinds of music.

Producers and mixing engineers take stereo audio as a given when creating a sound image localization. They do not consider that there could be people listening to only a single channel of the music. As a result, the one channel that the listener can hear might sometimes go silent, the arrangement might sound almost like karaoke for a moment as components go missing, or other oddities might occur depending on the song.

If the listener wishes to do something about this issue, it might be possible to use monaural playback headphones or a conversion cable. If they are listening to the music on their smartphone, there is a simpler solution. On iOS and Android an accessibility function "Mono Audio" can be enabled, making it possible to listen to all music monaurally with normal headphones.

iOS Accessibility Screen

However, does this actually solve the problem for listeners with unilateral hearing loss?

This solution gives up on stereo, and replaces it with something that slightly alleviates the problem. It spoils the intent of the music, settling for simply making it monaural. Is this the solution we were hoping for, one we can be happy with?

We simply want to enjoy music normally, without having to jump through a lot of hoops. Just like a person with normal hearing, we want to be able to listen to music through stereo. Even if our hearing loss is congenital, even if we do not know precisely what it is like to listen to stereo music, naturally when we are at a live concert we can feel the depth of the music. Surely we are not living in a monaural world where the left and right channels are simply combined together.

That sensation that we get from listening to music through stereo speakers or at a live show, if only we could experience it the same way monaurally. If only we could experience it when listening to our usual music through headphones. This is at the core of the solution that Emotionale has been striving for, and it is the foundation of this concept.

The ultimate goal is to avoid downgrading the music in conjunction with the limitations of being hard of hearing. It is not to simply spoil stereo sound into monaural sound, but rather to give birth to a new monaural idea. New Monaural is the monaural music player that was designed specifically to realize this goal.

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