PreSonus Blog

Studio One: Your Binaural Beats Lab

By Craig Anderton

When I heard about “binaural beats,” I was interested—I like beats, and I’m into binaural audio. But this has nothing to do with either one. Instead, it’s a sonic phenomenon that’s supposed to influence our mental state. Some think it’s woo-woo new age silliness, while others think it’s a largely unexplored area of psycho-acoustics.

I don’t know which is correct, so this tip is not a diss or endorsement of binaural beats. Instead, Studio One makes it easy to experiment with the concept, so you can decide for yourself if it has merit. Try it, and feel free to post your reactions in the comments below.

What We Do Know

Neurons in your brain create electrical signals that result in brain waves. EEG machines can measure their frequencies. Different frequencies occur during different mental states. For example, during deep sleep, the frequency range is 1-4 Hz. These are called Delta waves. Theta waves (4-8 Hz) occur with complete relaxation.  Alpha waves (8-14 Hz) are associated with meditative/creative mental states, and Beta waves (12-30 Hz) happen when your mental gears are alert and turning.

With biofeedback training, it’s possible to recognize when you’re in various mental states. Eventually (the differences are very subtle), you can identify when you’re in a particular state, even without a biofeedback machine. But can you induce a particular state in your brain? This is where we leave science behind, and enter the anecdotal world of binaural beats.

What We Don’t Know

Binaural beats play back two different frequencies through headphones. They’re offset by frequencies that correspond to brainwaves. The claim is that by making the offset equal to specific brain wave frequencies, listening to binaural beats causes your brain to do “frequency following,” which helps induce a certain state. For example, if you want to go to sleep, you offset two frequencies by 1-4 Hz, like 100 Hz in one ear and 102 Hz in the other. Or if you want to go into an alpha state, the frequencies could be (for example) 110 Hz and 120 Hz.

There have been studies about using binaural beats for pain reduction, sleep disorders, and the like (search on “have there been any credible studies regarding the efficacy of binaural beats?). Some results have shown potential, some haven’t, and others are too influenced by bias. The jury’s still out on what conclusions we can draw.

Studies are always done with headphones that separate the two frequencies going into your ears. There are “binaural beats” videos on YouTube, but many of them are just a single sound that mixes waveforms from two frequencies. Others are true stereo. Perhaps not surprisingly, the comments for the various videos range from “hahahaha what morons” to “OMG, this solved my insomnia problem.”

Studio One Setup

It’s easy to check out this phenomenon for yourself (fig. 1).

Figure 1: Channel and effects setup for experimenting with binaural beats.

1. Create two audio tracks. They can be mono or stereo.

2. Insert a Tone Generator in each channel. Choose the Sine waveform.

3. Pan one channel full left, and the other full right.

4. Offset their frequencies by the desired amount.

Using Binaural Beats

I don’t have a clue how to use this technique. I did see some studies that thought 10 minutes was about the optimum listening time. Others recommend much longer. It seems listening at a low volume is better (or at least less annoying, given that you’re listening to constant tones). I didn’t see anything that specified optimum frequencies for the tone generators, other than the offset amount. This is very much a DIY research project.

But does it work? Well, this is new to me, and I don’t know…so I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts.