These $300 Sennheiser headphones are the perfect gadget to help you make movies with your smartphone
- Sennheiser's $300 Ambeo Smart Headset is a pair of earphones that also has a powerful binaural mic - meaning it can capture 3D sound through a microphone in each ear. In other words, the audio capture is in stereo, reproducing exactly where the sound was coming from.
- Sennheiser teamed up with director Roxanne Benjamin to produce a thriller short film called "Final Stop," which was recorded using an iPhone and Sennheiser's Ambeo Smart Headset.
- When viewed with a pair of stereo headphones, the film is a great example of how you can get professional-quality film and audio on a consumer-level budget - you don't need to spend thousands of dollars on video and audio equipment to produce a thrilling and immersive experience.
If you've ever jumped into the weird world of ASMR on YouTube, you've probably come across someone using a binaural microphone. Put simply, it's a microphone that can record 3D audio - sound that really seems to be coming from anywhere around you when you play it back.
However, recording and reproducing spacial, binaural audio can be expensive and difficult. If you want to give the viewer/listener the feeling of being in a room, you need to position the microphone (or microphones) in the correct fashion, and you might need some pretty expensive recording equipment.
Sennheiser's $300 Ambeo Smart Headset is an attempt to alleviate the issues that come with 3D recording. The headphones double as a binaural recording device. Each earbud has a microphone that picks up audio all around the wearer - which means when you listen back to the recording, it sounds like you're standing right where the audio was recorded, and you hear things right where they happened.
After briefly testing out the headset in an 'experience' room that Sennheiser set up, I was impressed with how accurately the device was able to replicate the sound of what I had just experienced in person with my own two ears.
As long as you keep the phone's camera pointed in the direction you're looking, the audio comes out sounding spot-on. The headset also has active noise cancelation, and an amplification feature that provides real-time sound monitoring and amplified audio of what's happening around you. While these features can be a fun novelty in daily use, there's a very promising real-world application that Sennheiser recently showed off: amateur filmmaking.
The German audio company teamed up with director Roxanne Benjamin to produce a short film, titled "Final Stop." Watch the full film by Roxanne Benjamin here. It's best (and recommended) to wear stereo headphones while watching.
The short thriller was recording using an iPhone, and the audio was captured through an Ambeo Smart Headset that was worn by the cameraman. The result is a film shot with gear you can carry with you in a backpack, but that has truly immersive sound.
Throughout "Final Stop," viewers are subjected to various creepy sounds that, when coupled with the positional audio, sound like you're really experiencing them. Stereo audio is able to provide an enjoyable listening experience when it comes to music, and is perfectly fine for watching films and TV, but true binaural audio is on a whole different level of immersion. Things that happen behind, above, or next to the cameraman are reproduced exactly as he would have heard them.
The fact that the film was made on an iPhone is also impressive. It's long been said in filmmaking that who's behind the camera matters more than what kind of camera you use, and mobile cinematography has started to grow a following in recent years as phone cameras have improved.
But this film has effectively shown that by coupling a smartphone you probably already have, and a $300 audio device from Sennheiser, you could have the tools - if not the cast and crew - to make a reasonably immersive film on the cheap.
While the price point might be a bit high for someone who just wants a pair of quality headphones, and the market for 3D audio might not quite be there yet, I came away seriously impressed by this headset. The Ambeo Smart Headset certainly isn't for everyone - and it's not marketed for everyone. But if you want a portable, discreet, and easy way to record 3D audio of what's happening around you, it gets the job done - and impressively so.