You may have heard of binaural beats but you’re still not sure if you can listen to them without headphones.
The answer is no (but).
Headphones are an important part of binaural beats because of how the beats are designed to work. Just as a refresher, let’s go over that explanation quickly.
Binaural Beats Work Endogenously
Since I use 432 Hz a lot, let’s use it as an example.
To create a binaural beat track, a 432 Hz frequency would be played to the left ear. Then, a different one – say 442 Hz – would be played to the right ear. The difference between these two frequencies would be 10 Hz.
That 10 Hz difference would be felt endogenously (i.e. a perception created in the brain) as a pulse or a beat occurring at 10 times per second.
This is what would be known as a 10 Hz Alpha binaural beat with a 432 Hz carrier.
However, for the beat to be felt, there can’t be any “cross-contamination” of frequencies, so to speak. Each ear must listen to 1 frequency only. And it just so happens that headphones are the perfect device to allow for that type of isolation 🎧
So, in conclusion, you can’t listen to binaural beats without headphones, otherwise they won’t properly entrain your brainwaves.
Now, let’s dive a little deeper into the issue.
Let’s say you wanted to listen to binaural beats through your phone speakers. Would it work?
Well, for starters, the phone doesn’t allow for frequency isolation and therefore both frequencies would reach both ears.
Secondly, your phone only has one speaker and therefore plays audio in mono, not stereo. This means that instead of having a left speaker dedicated to playing 432 Hz and a right speaker dedicated to playing 442 Hz, there is only one speaker for both frequencies, making a binaural effect impossible to occur.
However, what seems like a limitation, turns out to be an advantage 🙂
You see, when you only have one mono speaker playing both frequencies, this results in them creating an interference pattern with each other. This interference ends up resulting in a 10 Hz pulsing beat, known as a monaural beat.
Unlike a binaural beat, the monaural beat happens exogenously, as a real phenomenon in the physical world, instead of a phantom phenomenon inside your brain.
Both monaural beats and binaural beats have been shown to possess the ability to entrain brainwaves.
Practically speaking, this means that if you are listening to binaural beats through your phone with headphones, you can listen to binaural beats, and if you unplug them, you will have access to monaural beats. So it’s a 2-in-1 track.
By the way, this effect would not be achievable with computer speakers. In fact, that would be the worst of both worlds. Playing binaural beats through stereo speakers would result in frequency “cross-contamination” and would also not result in any monaural beat.
If you are interested in listening to some brainwave entrainment tracks, check this page.
Sound Engineering and Research @ SonoFields