Sennheiser’s Ambeo Smart Headset.
Sennheiser’s Ambeo Smart Headset.

Sennheiser’s Ambeo Smart Headset brings 3D sound to iPhone

ICONIC German sound specialist Sennheiser together with Apogee have a created a super compact recording headset that can record sound in 3D.

The Ambeo Smart Headset delivers not only stunning audio for the listener - but also records it as you film with your iPhone.

The results are particularly impressive when you have different sounds coming from left to right - such as walking through a market, having a skateboarder go by, or listening to the ocean waves crashing.

The recording is achieved via two omni-directional microphones integrated in the ear pieces that work alongside a premium A/D converter, mic preamp and SoftLimit from Apogee.

The two microphones capture the subtle differences in timing, volume and timbre that occur as sounds from different directions reach each ear.

When played back on headphones, the result is lifelike audio.

While they come with a hefty price tag, if you are the sort of person to fork out more than $1500 for the best iPhone on the market, you probably want decent sound to go with your 4K video.

Sennheiser and Apogee’s Ambeo Smart Headset features two microphones for 3D recording.
Sennheiser and Apogee’s Ambeo Smart Headset features two microphones for 3D recording.

What is particularly pleasing is that as you are recording the sound, you can listen to it via a transparent hearing amplified setting.

If you want to shut the sound out altogether while recording, you can switch to full noise cancellation mode.

Co-CEO of the family company, Dr Andreas Sennheiser, said the device allowed people to relive the same balance of three dimensional sound and 180° visual perspective that we as human beings are accustomed to in our perception of the world.''

"Sound is crucial to how we understand the space around us, and the (headset) lets you record this sense of depth, detail and realism." Daniel Sennheiser added.

Once captured, the 3D sound files can be enjoyed through any headphones on any stereo-capable device.

The Ambeo Smart Headset features an integrated premium Apogee A/D Converter built into the remote control.

While currently only available for iPhone, it is expected to be available for Android devices soon.

As expected with a high quality device, you can adjust the mic sensitivity to normal or loud environments such as concerts to achieve distortion free recording.

We tested the headset in front of a mate's music session, right in front of the stage, just below the speakers.

The recording was exceptionally clear and strong.

Sennheiser’s Ambeo Smart Headset : Sennheiser’s Ambeo Smart Headset put to the test at a performance featuring Sunshine Coast musician Stuart White.

For those wanting finer controls, there is also a dedicated app.

There is a rocker switch to select either transparent hearing or active noise cancellation.

We tested the noise cancellation while mowing the lawn and couldn't hear the lawn mower at all, except when the earpieces came out slightly. With an ear hook design, the earpieces stayed on well most of the time, however, including when running.

Controls also include a button to start and stop music which you can also use to take a phone call.

With a recommended retail price of $469.95, the headset is not cheap but if you love your music and love recording sounds around you, the price is not over the top.

Q and A with Sydney photographer and content creator Benjamin Lee @itchban

What are some of the best applications for these headphones?

The Ambeo smart headset's recording uses two omni-directional microphones that capture the subtle differences in timing, volume and timbre that occur as sounds from different directions reach each ear.

In other words, it can record moving sound. So, I found the best way to capture the 3D sound is when something is moving from left to right (or vice versa), as the audio will move with it. Things like skateboarding and sports where people are running on the pavement work well.

I'd also recommend using the Ambeo smart headset if you want to capture the essence and vibe of the location that you're at. It works well at capturing immersive sound environments to make the viewer feel as if they're actually there.

How close do you have to get?

The headset can pick up audio quite well so you don't have to get too close. A good tip is to look in the same direction that you are filming your video, as this will help sync the 3D audio to the video that you are filming.

Where could you see them being put to best use?

Filming or walking through sound rich environments such as markets, beaches and festivals. It works especially well when there is sound coming from multiple sources and directions.

How much better are they then normal recording from the latest iPhone?

The Ambeo Smart Headset is a new way of recording, it allows you to record and create a true life-like audio experience with 3D sound that you wouldn't get by recording with your iPhone alone.

They are far superior to the normal iPhone recording in so many ways. Not only do they record in an omni-directional setting, the sound quality is much clearer and cleaner compared to what you get using the iPhone. It records a fuller and larger sound stage and really makes you feel like you're there.  It was amazing to play it back and hear sounds coming from behind me - it was like I was back there filming again!

How is the technology different?

The headset is different because each ear piece is fitted with omni-directional microphones allowing you to record binaural audio. The two microphones work alongside a premium A/D converter, mic preamp and SoftLimit with Apogee proprietary technology, which is a unique technology that automatically optimises recording levels so you do not have to worry about distortion.

The captured sound is delivered through the lightning port of your iOS device as pristine digital audio, and plays back to your ears through high-quality Apogee digital to analog conversion.

You can also customise your sound experience by adjusting the mic sensitivity to normal or loud environments to suit what you're recording.

The headset also has a cool Situational Awareness feature which amplifies the outside noise and allows it to pass through the earbuds.

This is handy when you want to be able to hear your surroundings whilst listening to your music. Turning this feature on actually enhanced my normal hearing, and I was able to hear my surroundings a lot clearer. On top of that, the headset also features Active Noise Cancellation.

Do they help in getting around wind noise?

Like any other sound recording device, it works best when there is little to no wind. The wind noise can help add to the 3D experience however, as the headset will record the wind noise binaurally.

If it is a windy day, and the wind is blowing into the right side of your body the headset will record it the same as if you were actually there.

What sort of people are likely to use them?

I actually recommend the headset not just to professionals, but to anyone who wants to capture video or audio content from their smartphones!

Anyone can use them, you don't have to be an audio expert. You plug them straight into your iOS device, put the ear pieces in, open the iOS camera app and you are ready to capture a binaural recording, so anyone can use them.

Whether you're travelling to another country or if you just want to capture some memories, this headset will largely improve your content. Audio is often an overlooked component when people are filming their experiences but it is so important. We remember so much from hearing familiar sounds.