What Is 8D Music?

Keaton Robbins | May 16, 2022

Headphones with number eight inside

The world of music is ever-changing, especially regarding how we listen to it or hear it. With each new technology comes a new listening experience. 

8D music is a relatively new term that’s making waves across YouTube. But listening to a video to try it out may raise more questions than it answers. So what is 8D audio, really? How does it work, and how is it any different from so-called 3D or 4D Audio?

In this article

  1. 8D Music
  2. How It Works
  3. Binaural or 3D Audio
  4. What About 4D Audio?
  5. Is 8D Music the Next Big Thing?
  6. Can 8D Music Be Dangerous?
  7. A Final Word

8D Music

In short, 8D is a form of editing that gives the illusion of physical space when the listener uses headphones. Of course, you will still only hear two audio channels, but a careful mix of panning and reverb makes it feel like a speaker is swinging back and forth to your left side, then to your right, and back again. 

Some listeners like the sensation because they feel more immersed in the music. There’s a particular illusion of presence because your brain is convinced sound is coming from the physical space around you.

How It Works

The details are pretty complicated, and techniques vary between content creators, but the remixes you can find on YouTube all take advantage of the way our ears make sense of sound. It turns out that the tiny differences in timing across the air and our skulls as sound waves travel through us can be calculated.

It’s important to wear headphones when listening to 8D music, because you need two separate audio channels in order to judge the distance to the source of the sound.

So, for instance, if you hear a car alarm on the street outside the window off to your left, the sound hits your left ear, and then your right ear in a way that tells you the source is on the left.

Some equations have been figured out for each ear’s sense of space, and they’re called Head-Related Transfer Functions (HRTFs). And as an article by UC-Davis explains, “once you know the HRTF for the left ear and the right ear, you can synthesize accurate binaural signals from a monaural source.”

Or, in other words, you can trick your brain into believing sound is coming from somewhere else because scientists have hacked the way our brains interpret sound.

Binaural or 3D Audio

This concept might sound familiar if you’re aware of binaural or 3D Audio. YouTube content creators and voice talent have been experimenting with 3D Audio in the form of Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (or ASMR) for several years now.

ASMR has become a significant subfield of YouTube video content because creators can play with binaural recording techniques as well as editing techniques to achieve the “shivers down your spine” effect of someone passing close behind you in physical space.

ASMR feels intimate because of these “tingly” sensations intended to help people relax just by playing sounds that trick your brain in the same way 8D audio does. Well, almost.

8D Audio is different because it is not actually rerecorded in any particular way, but it only takes advantage of HRTFs through editing, not recording.

So 3D audio is by no means outdated technology. For example, take the famous virtual barbershop video, which has amassed nearly 40 million views since it was posted in 2007. The video may be old by internet standards, but it achieves the illusion of physical presence, the “new trend” of 8D audio claims today. 

What About 4D Audio?

4D Audio has made attempts to gain traction, but there’s a lack of a general agreement about what it is. In 2014, it was presumed to be the “next big thing,” but, it turned out to be a rather complicated binaural audio setup by EDM artist Max Cooper.

2018 saw the arrival of 4D headphones, but they are essentially 3D technology. The only slight difference is their application to virtual reality, in which the headphones could also physically vibrate to help accentuate the 3D effects. 

Is 8D Music the Next Big Thing?

We’re skeptical that 8D music will ever take off in the way that 3D Audio has. Voice actors interested in experimenting with unusual dimensions in sound would be better off exploring 3D recording. 

That said, 8D music is not to be totally disregarded. There must be an audience out there, given the recent rise in popularity of the term. 

Notably, mixes that pan the Audio in a soothingly slow manner are more effective, generally, as well as mixes of instrumental Music. This edited version of Max Richter’s “On the Nature of Daylight” is an excellent example of 8D Audio done well. 

Richter’s composition is already profoundly moving and introspective, so the immersive effect of 8D works well. It puts the listener in a contemplative space, perfect for the already creative effects of instrumental music.

Pop music can sometimes be well-edited, too. For example, Justin Timberlake’s “Mirrors” can have an immersive feeling in this video. The song has an unusual depth to it for its genre, which makes it stand out.

Can 8D Music Be Dangerous?

While we’re discussing how to hack the way our brains interpret sound, it’s worth asking if 8D could be dangerous. If you enjoy it, the good news is that it’s highly unlikely.

There is always the chance that you could damage your hearing by listening to those headphones too loudly, and maybe if you closed your eyes and walked on a tightrope, you could lose your balance, but in most situations, 8D music is perfectly safe.

You might find that you enjoy the effect of the shifting direction in the same way that so many have been drawn to 3D Audio. 

A Final Word

Although 8D music overtaking 3D music is improbable, you might personally find that it helps you focus or relax. If you like it, be sure to check out the slow-panning and instrumental mixes out there, especially. 

You might also find that you enjoy binaural recordings, which we believe are more likely to stick around. 

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