No echo

Echo is an important, albeit subtle, aspect of sound recordings, providing some indication of the size and type of physical space. Last week I was lucky enough to visit the anechoic chamber at Salford University, where echo is deliberately almost entirely absent, due to the absorbing nature of the chamber walls. It’s amazing how much the brain relies on echos reaching the ear to provide information about physical surroundings.

In the chamber, where there are virtually no echos, the brain is receiving a signal from the ears that the physical surrounding is a tiny space, whilst the eyes are saying the room is large. I wasn’t there long enough to sense it, but this can quite quickly lead to motion sickness.

Most recordings on the Around Sound app will have some echo, because they are taken in environments without such sound absorbing features. We’ll post a recording taken in the chamber on our next visit. Below is a picture of the chamber.

Anechoic chamber

Aroundsound begins

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This is the start of something special; a new way to capture, organise and share sound. Aroundsound starts here and in this post we’ll tell you a bit about why we think sound is interesting and what we’re building.

Audio listening is on the rise. Weekly podcast listening doubled in the last three years (Ofcom), and sales of voice and smart speakers are increasing at a pace. Whether it’s drivetime radio, a workout podcast or a meditation soundscape, we can all agree that hands-free sound helps us to multitask, or switch off and escape.

Yet sound is something most people consume rather than capture. This means too few of us today have personal soundtracks – audio recordings of our favourite people and places.

I’ve been experimenting with my personal soundtrack, and for the last year have been capturing audio recordings of my family and my life. I’m a convert, and this is what has inspired me and our team to create Aroundsound.

I’ve noticed a few things about how sound is special:

  1. What we overhear today is not always here tomorrow. Voices change, fade, and disappear, daily routines become much-missed rituals.
  2. Though we can’t stop time, sound gives us the chance to replay it.
  3. There are a lot of everyday moments, that otherwise go uncaptured (I take plenty of videos and picture, but I don’t want to spend my life looking through a screen. And sometimes, the sound is the experience, not what is framed in an image)
  4. Informally, I have experienced the cognitive power of sound, when I’ve listened back to sound captures of my own. Just like reading a book is different to watching a movie, listening back to sound can be better when you imagine the picture. With such immersive power, researchers are already examining how sound might improve mental deterioration and depression, as well as boost learning outcomes for students of all ages.

Sound can literally offer us a blast from the past or an earphone into an experience, and complement that which we capture visually. What’s more, real life recordings are powerful without being perfectly produced.

There are plenty of apps for taking sound recordings, and I’ve experimented with a few in my time, but they are often difficult or awkward to use. I’ve found that organising recordings is painful (long lists of files to sort through), and sharing recordings with other people isn’t the staightforward and fun experience it is with (for example) picture sharing apps.

Aroundsound will be a sound app with a difference. The app we’re building will allow you to record sound super simply, organise and listen back to recordings easily, and share them with family or friends. The app is currently in prototype, on Android, and will be released as a private beta to Google Play very soon. We’ll turn to iOS later right after that.

If you’d like to hear when the app will be available for download, please drop us an email hello [@] gritstonestudios.co.uk and we’ll be in touch.

Look out here for further updates.