Sennheiser pushing 360º audio recording with forthcoming prosumer headphones - UPDATED
Monday, 01 May 2017
A step towards ambisonic audio going mainstream: the forthcoming Sennheiser Ambeo Smart Headset headphones have microphones in each ear and (I assume) a sensor to record head position. The device encodes ambisonic audio which is sent to your iOS device to be recorded as an audio file or as the soundtrack to video you are recording. [Not correct, see update below]
Ambisonic audio records a sphere of audio - so that when you play it back, if you turn your head, the sound seems to stay in the same place. This is more like the real world where if you hear a door open to your left and turn to see who is coming in, the audio source will come from in front of you, not from your left.
Richard Devine reports in iMore:
VR and AR is the latest hotness, and a big part of the experience there is the audio. After all, having a fully immersive, 360-degree visual experience is going to lose a lot without the necessary audio to go with it. As Sennheiser said during its brief presentation at the event, your eyes see information, your ears hear emotion.
Ambeo is the branding applied to the company's 3D audio products, and it already has one of the world's first portable VR microphones. The idea is straightforward; just as you're capturing 360-degrees of video, Ambeo captures audio in the same sphere, rather than a flat plane as you'd get with regular video content.
Upon plugging the Smart Headset into an iPhone, you're prompted to install a companion app which doesn't yet exist. It's early days still, so that's something we can overlook, but you don't need it. The iPhone detects it just fine as an external microphone and you can use it with the stock camera app or a third-party one such as Filmic Pro.
Sennheiser has not yet announced a release date. The first version will have a Lightning connector for iPhones and iPads. A following version will have a USB C connector.
2nd May UPDATE:
Peter Hajba has pointed out on Facebook that this product will record binaural audio, not ambisonic. Sennheiser’s more specific press release from earlier this year.
Thinking it through, it would be very impressive for this to work as I hoped without significant separation between microphones - and without a third mic!