When I first saw the press release for the new Sennheiser Ambeo Headset in collaboration with Apogee, I was immediately intrigued, and I'll admit, slightly confused. Why would they put external microphones on headphones like this? What is 3D sound?
The Ambeo Headset is two devices in one, a pair of high-quality earbuds with active noise canceling that sound fantastic and a set of microphones that are made to record audio alongside your iPhone/iPad video to enhance it with full 3D sound.
It’s a strange combination but the more you start to experiment with it the more it starts to make sense as a consumer/prosumer product.
What exactly is 3D sound?
The best way to explain it is simple, the sound is essentially duplicating what it would be like to hear it from the point of view of the person recording the video. For example, if you are walking through a crowded market (like we do in the demo video) you can hear the sound move as if you were walking through the environment yourself. Subtle little sounds move in and out of earshot as your ears move through the scene if you close your eyes you can feel the space of the room, all the noises from all the angles. In a word, it’s trippy.
This effect is some aural spice for what can often be noisy or just plain flat and dull audio that accompanies your iPhone/iPad videos. The 3D sound can liven up just about any video and takes you into the environment that is being filmed in a whole new way.
For the more prosumer types out there this device also allows a simple hack or audio upgrade to your DSLR, OSMO, etc. if you opt to use a better camera than your iOS device. Just wear the headphones in the environment you are filming and slip the phone in your pocket while you use the other camera, the put it together in iMovie or any other video editing software and boom, you have 3D audio.
The potential of 3D audio is just starting to be realized, and over time it seems that we will start to see more and more clever applications of this tech.
What is Binaural Recording? Aka 3D Audio - From Sennheiser
Your ears and brain work together to create an immersive 3D audio landscape of your surroundings. The AMBEO SMART HEADSET captures this landscape with high-quality microphones mounted in the earpiece. These microphones utilize the actual outer structure of your ears to replicate the same 3D sound image that you hear naturally. Your 3D recordings made with the Ambeo Headset can be shared using standard stereo headphones. The AMBEO Smart Headset represents the culmination of over 70 years of research and development from two industry-leading audio companies, Sennheiser Electronic and Apogee Electronics.
How are the actual headphones?
The buds themselves are much better than I anticipated, especially on a device like the Ambeo. I’m already a huge fan of Sennheiser’s sound and tuning, and these are no exception. The sound is vibrant and dynamic, bathing your ears in perfectly balanced sparkling highs, mids, and lows.
Comfort & Build
The Ambeo Headset is decent on comfort for what it is, the one big caveat with these headphones is that they have a large plastic processing piece that hangs in the middle of the cord. This little box is essential because it houses all the tech that makes the mics work as well as the Active Noise Cancelling but considering what these headphones do it's a small inconvenience.
The earbuds themselves fit well and come with a variety of tips to dial in the fit, plus they have built-in rubber hooks to secure them in your ears should you be running and gunning for your video shots.
The build is solid and mostly plastic to keep the weight down, with some metal mesh on each bud to protect the mics on each side and the buds themselves are in a metal housing to keep them safe.
The headphones work in conjunction with the Sennheiser/Apogee Smart Headset app which gives you quick access to some of the cool features like 3D Mic control, ANC and Transparent Hearing Levels.
ANC - The Active Noise Cancelling is quite good, it works well on airplanes, in crowds, and in cars to drown out the unwanted ambient noise and bring you into the music. I tested them in all three situations and was impressed.
Lighting Plug (iOS Only) - These headphones were designed to be used with iOS devices, more specifically with an iPhone, so it comes with a lightning plug allowing it to work seamlessly with the app/phone.
Transparent Hearing - This feature is exactly what you think it would be, a feature that lets the ambient noise in at various levels so you can be aware of what's happening in your environment while listening to the buds. The three levels are reduced, natural and amplify, they all work well but natural was my perfect setting for walking around San Francisco with music playing, just enough awareness without sacrificing my music experience.
If you are someone that makes a lot of iPhone videos and are intrigued by 3D audio (make sure to listen to all the examples on the Sennheiser site HERE) this product is going to get you pumped to get out there and create some content and figure out some great ways to use these. The bonus is that you get a great pair of headphones that work seamlessly with your iPhone and can block out the world when you are traveling or chilling in noisy environments. They are a bit spendy, so if you are not interested in the 3D Audio function these are probably not for you, and there are a LOT of options for ANC buds at this price point.
As a content creator and tech nerd, I'm a massive fan and will be carrying this buds around with me everywhere along with my Olloclip lenses and Pivot grip, because you never know when the moment will strike.
Headphones with Lightning connection for iPhone and iPad (MFi certified by Apple)
Built-in professional microphones for 3D audio recording to capture sounds like you hear them
Effortless recording with any App that captures stereo audio, including iPhone Camera App
Transparent Hearing lets you hear the sounds around you and blend them with audio from your iPhone
Active Noise Cancellation blocks distractions in your surroundings
Additional telephone mic lets you take calls and operate voice control on iPhone
High-quality headphones with signature Sennheiser sound
Apogee’s proprietary Soft Limit and mic preamp plus precisely tuned A/D and D/A conversion