June 22, 2008

Curious George Audible: Is there a reason that headphone earpieces are designated "left" and "right?"

I've been pondering this and can't think of a single reason as to why it would make a difference, with any of the music or podcasts I listen to, that the left channel is playing in my left ear and the right channel is playing in my right ear. It doesn't fundamentally change the experience for me if I switch them. Therefore, why bother marking earpieces as "left" or "right?" Is there a scenario in which it is important that I'm just not grasping? Enlighten me if you can, o Monkeys!

  • I think it's to give you an indication of the way to hear things as they "should" be, and as they have been recorded. If you were a symphony-goer, you'd expect to hear the woodwinds coming from one particular direction, and the violas from over there. Imagine watching a baseball game on the telly that was somehow filmed backwards - you'd be disoriented to see first base on the left, no? Same thing with music, sorta.
  • If you play video games, you'd get confused very quickly if you got L and R backwards. Relevant Ask Metafilter thread
  • Well, then, I guess the Ask Metafilter Thread covers this! I never think to check Metafilter before posting, but I should. Thanks, dirigibleman. Monkeybashi, feel free to delete this if you consider this a doublepost of sorts.
  • Not a double at all -- a Curious George question with a link to a relevant answer. :)
  • I never think to check Metafilter before posting, but I should. Why heavens should you? Let's have a little Filter loyalty here!* And it means nothing, NOTHING that AskMeFi is the first answer that came up when I googled. **surreptitiously looks around to see if anyone notices that Mefi is in daily history*
  • *flounces off in a huff*
  • I had a fluffernannernutter sammich for lunch. (Now that the question is answered it's a free-for-all, right?) That's peanut butter, banana and marshmallow fluff. Oeey gooey good!
  • I had some Turkish baklava at a street fair today. Tasted just like Greek baklava, except the sign said "Turkish."
  • Many headphone earpieces will have an uncomfortable fit if you put the left on the right, or the right on the left. So they label them. Whether the headphones are ergonomically designed or not, I can't think of a reason to not label the channels. It may never matter for you, but it's very easy to identify and label at the point of manufacture, quite a pain in the but to identify and label after you've purchased.
  • MetaWhat?
  • There are two things I notice 1: The track sounds different in reversed headphones than the way I remember it. 2: Stereo pans (where the engineer changed the track balance to get a moving sound effect) go around behind my head instead of in front of it. That said, most live music isn't even mixed in stereo, since it's both more expensive and narrows the soundscape. If you want to listen to mono mixes, get live concert recordings.
  • What is the sound of one sammich fluffernannernuttering?
  • A set of headphones is like a big fluffy old marriage. Two round objects connected by a leathery thing. Over time, the leathery thing wears out and then you need to use your hands.
  • *sadly looks at leathery thing, wonders if SaddleButter would work* Yummy granola, here.
  • I'm waiting for 'phones that can auto-detect which side of the head they're on, and adjust accordingly. Doesn't seem too difficult, but then I'm not an engineer..
  • Always tried to get it right. So far I've blown two amps trying to rewire stereo sound into a mono SONY speaker, with two 4" woofers. (From Goodwill for $10, very expensive dollars as it turned out!) Good luck to you, kittenhead, whatever you end up deciding with that whole left/right speaker dichotomy. (For now at least, I've decided not to even bother rewiring that speaker deal out in the garage...)
  • I don't know if all bands do this, but I noticed many years ago that tracks by "The Who" always place Pete's vocals in the right channel and John's in the left, With Roger's in both (for center channel). On stage, they're always situated that same way, with John on the left and Pete on the right.
  • I once accidentally donned my headphones backwards to watch a DVD on my laptop. It took me a good 15 minutes of movie before I tracked down the source of my sudden and complete disorientation.