Spatial audio goes compact
Sennheiser is aiming to reduce the complexity of immersive audio microphone setups with the Ambeo 3D Mic. Described as ‘an ideal tool for any professional VR production’, the manufacturer states that the microphone ‘puts everything into a compact and easy-to-use handheld’.
‘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,’ said Kai Lange, product manager, broadcast and media at Sennheiser. ‘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 calls on four matched KE 14 capsules in a tetrahedral arrangement, reportedly allowing users to capture the sound that surrounds them from a single point. It is fully balanced and has 48V phantom power for each capsule. The 400g handheld microphone comes complete with a split cable with four colour-coded and labelled XLR connectors according to the capsule position, a Rycote suspension mount and a foam windshield. It offers a frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz and handles a maximum SPL of 130dB(A).
As Sennheiser is directly targeting VR production agencies, VR content creators, the Ambisonics community as well as studio engineers and owners with the microphone, it enlisted the help of these professionals in the development process. ‘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,’ explained Mr Lange. ‘In fact, we have just concluded an extensive creators’ programme with participants from across the international VR audio/video industry, who put the microphone through its paces.’
One of the key results of this programme was the 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 recognised 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 plugins for the customer’s preferred digital audio workstation, and as a stand-alone version for Mac or Windows.