Sennheiser has been showcasing its AMBEO range of solutions in virtually every show since CES 2016 in January and more recently at IFA 2016, in Berlin, Germany. At this year’s IFA, visitors could immerse themselves in the future of audio technology with Sennheiser, including the new microphone that allows professional 3D audio recordings for VR productions. At the IBC show in Amsterdam, targeting broadcasters and content production, Sennheiser provided further details about the new AMBEO VR Mic, including its availability at the end of 2016.
Broadcasters are long familiarized with multicapsule microphones arrays for surround/multichannel production and ambisonics and the neo AMBEO microphone will certainly be considered more for spatial audio than actually “virtual reality” - which is something that the production community agrees it’s coming, but no one knows exactly when and how.
“The demand for compact microphones that capture spatial audio to match visual 3D experiences has increased enormously in the recent past. For the user to gain a truly immersive experience, however, it is imperative that the sound within VR is also 3D,” says Kai Lange, Sennheiser’s product manager, Broadcast and Media. “The AMBEO VR microphone has been designed specifically for VR/AR purposes and enables VR content producers to capture the natural, immersive environment, providing a realistic and immersive experience for the user.”
The AMBEO VR Mic is an Ambisonics microphone that uses four carefully selected, matched capsules in a tetrahedral arrangement. It is fully balanced and powered by 4x 48 volts phantom powering. The handheld microphone comes complete with a split cable with four color-coded and labelled XLR connectors according to the capsule position, a Rycote suspension mount and a foam windshield.
Also included is the necessary encoding software that translates the A format file generated from the recording of the four microphone channels into a B format file W, X, Y and Z. This format is recognized in the Ambisonics world, the W component being the omni and the X, Y, Z components being figure-of-eight capsules along three spatial axes. The A to B format encoder will be available in VST, AAX and AU plug-ins for the any digital audio workstation, and as a stand-alone version for Mac or Windows.
“To ensure that the AMBEO VR Mic is ‘right on target’ with what the AR/VR community needs, the entire development process was accompanied by intensive field testing with VR content producers,” explains Kai Lange. “In fact, we have just concluded an extensive creators’ program with participants from across the international VR audio/video industry, who put the microphone through its paces.”
The AMBEO VR Mic targets VR production agencies, VR content creators, the Ambisonics community as well as studio engineers and owners, and will become available in November 2016.
AMBEO is Sennheiser’s program and trademark for truly immersive 3D audio. The program will cover products and technologies for the entire audio signal chain, from capture to mixing and processing to reproduction. AMBEO operates with a height elevation that gives audio back its natural three-dimensional character, creating a totally new experience that is set to change music and sound forever. AMBEO products are consistently developed with an early involvement of users, producers, content providers and technology partners across the globe, creating tools that not only match their demands but also shape the future of audio.
In addition to the AMBEO VR Mic, Sennheiser developed an algorithm to generate 9.1 upmixes from original stereo recordings and the Venue Modeling Audio Plugin, which allows recreating any room sound characteristics.