Virtual reality sounds terrible. The bevy of 360-degree video cameras are visually immersive, but what they lack is convincing ‘lifelike’ audio. Cue the Sennheiser Ambeo Smart Headset, . It has an omni-directional microphone on each ear that record the sound surrounding the videographer, from whatever angle it comes in from. Is this a new personal audio frontier?
Sennheiser Ambeo Smart Headset Review
The concept behind the Sennheiser Ambeo Smart Headset is simple; it can record moving sound. If you take a video of a car driving from left to right across the shot while wearing it, the audio will move with it. Using an omni-directional microphone in each ear, it records the audio where you hear it. And it gets better; the recorded audio can then we played back through any regular pair of headphones.
For now, these earphones only exist for the iPhone; the audio cable is terminated in Apple Lightning (which also provides the power), though Sennheiser told us that it will also develop a version for Android devices. The Apple Lightning termination is critical because it takes advantage of new audio processing features in OS 10.3.1, the most recent update. In fact, the Sennheiser Ambeo Smart Headset doesn’t work at all if you attach it to an iPhone running 10.3.0; we tried just that, and found that it defaults to the iPhone’s microphone.
The mesh-covered binaural microphones themselves on each earbud are rather large, though they don’t feel heavy, and in our test the in-ears fitted snugly.
So when would you ever need to record your own immersive 3D surround sound? The answer is simple; anywhere you record video already.
For example, a busker playing a saxophone was very clearly on our left-hand side, and audibly moved to the right-hand side of the soundstage when we turned around. However, trams and vehicles behind us or more than about five metres in front did not appear to create much in the way of moving audio. The closer, the better.
Swapping between using the microphone on the Ambeo Smart Headset and that of the phone, the latter seemed very muffled and indistinct. So using the Ambeo Smart Headset brings a jump in sound quality per se, as well as adding binaural audio effects.