Sixnon

New Sennheiser "VR Mic"

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Does anyone have any further information regarding this mic? Images from CES suggest an 4 capsule ambisonic setup, but marketing material from Sennheiser mentions a 9.1 format in the context of "a groundbreaking technology that promises the ultimate in audio capture and reproduction."

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According to the Sennheiser Press Release, the AMBEO 3D is a full system that encompasses "capturing, mixing, processing and listening". For the CES demos, Sennheiser chose to use their 9.1 surround playback format, however, as I understand, this technology is not strictly a 9.1 system. They continued to make emphasis on 3D sound.

This picture of the mic was the only thing I was able to find:

56a40ce413787_IMG_1524Cropped.jpg.9ba926

It very much does look like an ambisonics / tetrahedral mic.

All the details pertaining this system are yet to be revealed online.

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I guess we'll wait and see. It just seemed a strange choice to introduce as groundbreaking. Given all of the interest in VR, however, I'm surprised there's not been more products of this nature in the last few years.

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40 minutes ago, Sixnon said:

I guess we'll wait and see. It just seemed a strange choice to introduce as groundbreaking. Given all of the interest in VR, however, I'm surprised there's not been more products of this nature in the last few years.

I think when they say "groundbreaking", they mean the entire system, not just the mic, but everything from capture to listening. And I'm willing to accept that if it is as seamless as it seems and I hope it will be, since most systems available today only really do one or 2 of the things.

Here's a video I found where they touch lightly on the Sennheiser VR mic:

However, I think they're misinterpreting how the mic works. First this is definitely not the "first VR microphone". There's been other microphones released advertised specifically for VR (including the RondoMic linked below). They also make it sound as though the entire process is dumbed down and automated to recording, and putting on some special headphones that help do all the head-related transfer functions; I'm fairly certain that it's a bit more complex than that, anyway.

And, there's also been plenty of developments in technology for VR and VR audio. For example, here are some of the latest recording microphones that have come into the market catered to VR, 360 and other 3D sound recording:

3Dio Sound Free Space Omni:
http://3diosound.com/products/omni-pro-binaural-microphone

Audeze Tetrahedral:
https://www.audeze.com/products/microphones/planar-magnetic-microphones

Brahma Ambisonics Mic:
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1569945514/brahma-affordable-ambisonics-microphone/description
http://www.pro-tools-expert.com/home-page/2014/8/21/brahma-ambisonics-microphone-review.html

Chris Milk's 4-position binaural dummy head:
http://www.roadtovr.com/hello-director-chris-milk-revolutionary-virtual-reality-concert-experience-featuring-beck/

Dysonics RondoMic and RondoMotion:
http://dysonics.com/
http://www.videomaker.com/videonews/2015/11/dysonic%E2%80%99s-rondomic-brings-immersive-audio-to-virtual-reality

There have also been some amazing developments in VR / 360 cameras, some with integrated microphones that work in similar fashion as the options above. For example:

Nokia Ozo:
https://ozo.nokia.com/
http://venturebeat.com/2015/07/28/nokia-reveals-the-ozo-virtual-reality-camera-with-8-shutter-sensors-and-8-microphones/

What's most important though, is how to get the content to consumers, and this has seen a lot of improvement and new developments. There are now many different options for VR headsets that can go as cheap as $30 for a cardboard cutout that you can adapt to your phone with a free app (Google Cardboard). Here's a good list of the best options available:
http://www.wareable.com/headgear/the-best-ar-and-vr-headsets

It's truly exciting times for those of us that are involved in this niche.

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Thanks for such a detailed response José.

I realised as I sent that last response that I was being a little simplistic. I was aware of the Brahma mics, but they hardly seemed mass market and have been reviewed well enough, but as having significant issues which I guess is understandable given the humble manufacturing process...and for that reason expressed surprise that there hadn't been more mass market appeal for this kind of product. 

I was aware of 3dio's binaural product, not so that they had branched out with the free space omni...which looks a lot like the setup of the Chris Milk head. Again, I had seen that Beck project a few years back, but that kind of format didn't seem to gain too much mass market appeal.

The offerings in your post suggest that in fact there is a push to the market place in this context..and it seems to be all kicking off this year with some very recent product announcements. I'm very interested to hear of the performance of the planar magnetic tetrahedral mic from Audeze when it lands. 

One of my points regarding the technology is that it's a repackaging of a fairly old format. I know some here love Ambisonics, some hate it. Dysonic have taken a different direction, but frankly I was underwhelmed by their example video...perhaps one needs the motion tracking hardware for it to make sense?

I was looking at this kind of tech 6 or 7 years or so ago for a project intending to map Indigenous song cycles in a cartographic space, and it's certainly progressed...I thought it would have happened before now. At the time I was looking at the likes of DPA's 5.1 array of capsules as a most efficient setup for capturing that audio in rugged country.

In fact the VR doesn't interest me that much, but am interested in how the technology could be brought to sound capture for it's own sake..ie aside from video capture.

That being said the ozo does look pretty impressive!

Again, I'm grateful for your detailed response José, and if you can think of any further reading around that particular niche of the audio world, I'd be appreciative if you could share it.

 

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So I did a project for youtube with this mic as a sub-sub-sub... contractor. I really enjoyed working with it so just bought one. I've not done much MS recording and wonder if this would replace ms recording in the future or at least be another option if post can handle. I really like listening with these type of mics as I've also used the tetra mic. 

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IMMO without Z info (height) any of these systems make sense.

The best for VR is any ambisonic A system (tetra-microphones), best the higher order such as the eigenmike (Very expensive) https://mhacoustics.com/products, but first order is enough (Less spatial resolution than higher orders). 

First order such as: Soundfield (The best solution), Core audio, Brahma, Sennheiser Ambeo ...

Is just my opinion 

 

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From wikapedia 

"It is possible to recreate the three-dimensional soundfield, however the soundfield microphone particularly shows its versatility in a stereo or mono application. For example, a forward-facing cardioid is produced by2W+X{\sqrt  2}W+X. By combining the signals in various proportions, it is possible to derive any number of first-order microphones, pointing in any direction, before and after recording. For instance, provided the W, X, Y and Z signals are recorded separately, it is possible to pinpoint the microphone to a certain response from the audience even after recording. Examples of software that perform these calculations are Visual Virtual Microphone, SoundField's Surround Zoneand Ambisonic Studio's B2X decoders plug-ins.

In other words, the B-format recording can be decoded to model any number of microphones pointing in arbitrary directions: each microphone's pattern can be selected to be omnidirectional, cardioid, hypercardioid, figure-of-eight, or anything in between. This can be done live or in post-production (after the recording is made)." 

Considering one of the most popular mics (cs3e) has 3 capsules this seams like a viable option.

Though tetra mic site talks about this decoding technique, Sennhiser dose not mention it on their site. 

 

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7 hours ago, seth said:

 

In other words, the B-format recording can be decoded to model any number of microphones pointing in arbitrary directions: each microphone's pattern can be selected to be omnidirectional, cardioid, hypercardioid, figure-of-eight, or anything in between. This can be done live or in post-production (after the recording is made)." 

Considering one of the most popular mics (cs3e) has 3 capsules this seams like a viable option.

Though tetra mic site talks about this decoding technique, Sennhiser dose not mention it on their site. 

 

The A format is converted to B for process, this is the process of conversion  http://pcfarina.eng.unipr.it/Public/B-format/A2B-conversion/A2B.htm .

The big problem with native B format is make a array for localization, you need one W (omni), and three X/Y/Z (fig 8), four microphones and is very difficult do a coincident array. You can do a B array without Z, but this not make sense for VR (I want the information if I move my head up and down).

The AKG blue is a native ambisonic B array without Z, is a big difference in size in comparison with the SPS200

 

arrays.jpg

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Unfortunately that article is over my head 😬. I'm not sure the date either as there is new software to handle a format recordings. 

 

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Thanks Sb but it's similar to other content I've seen. Not very deep. Going to have time for test in a few days. 

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Interested to hear your thoughts Seth. Let us know what you think apropos ease of capture/post in comparison to M/S. As I've said earlier, I'm interested in this mic and others like it outside the context of VR. 

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Anyone had any real world experience with the Ambeo VR yet?  I am considering picking one up for ambience/bg recording for film and some potential VR work.  No one in Austin has one available to rent/test, so wanted to get input before making a blind purchase :-)

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On 27/2/2017 at 6:21 PM, Korey Pereira said:

Anyone had any real world experience with the Ambeo VR yet?  I am considering picking one up for ambience/bg recording for film and some potential VR work.  No one in Austin has one available to rent/test, so wanted to get input before making a blind purchase :-)

Me, good for ambiences (considering his price)

 

 

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Hi Ramallo - As I think you have both the SPS200 and the Ambeo, it would be really helpful to learn how you compare the two in terms of self-noise? Frequency response? Sensitivity to moisture / cold /heat? I am thinking of acquiring one mainly for quiet ambience recordings.

Thanks!

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I had one on loan from Sennheiser for a couple of weeks and was generally impressed with how it behaved, although it doesn't measure up to a Soundfield. It's well built, which makes it quite heavy (just over 400 grams: for comparison, a Soundfield ST450 is 291 grams and the TetraMic is 89 grams), uses a screw-fit DIN connector, which feels a little cheap  - definitely not a Lemo - and quite chunky. Rycote have just announced a Cyclone that works for the Ambeo and I got hands-on with it yesterday at BVE in London, so location work shouldn't be a problem. They've made a right-angle connector for the mic connection, which is very neat and helps with the fact that the mic is also pretty long at 212mm without the connector and 270mm with.

I used it outside on a reasonable chilly night in a noisy scenario with no problems, and more recentlly outdoors on a still day for some close-up birdsong which gave good results, although in both cases the sound-field is a little less focused than I would like.

Sennheiser claims a response of 20-20kHz, but I'd say it rolls off pretty steeply at the bottom end from about 80Hz. There's no overall calibration file for each microphone, which is the same as for the SPS200, but not for the TetraMic, which comes with a calibration file to even out the response and my TetraMic goes all the way down, which is both good and bad, obviously.

The Ambeo has some form of preamp built in and is balanced out and powered via standard 48V Phantom and the output level is perfectly fine into the mic input of an SD788, for example. My ST450 outputs at line level from the control box and needs 12 via a Hirose, which makes it less portable than the Ambeo or the SPS200, but I like the extra features available with the control box.

The Ambeo, the SPS200 and the TetraMic all output in what's called A-Format, which is basically just the capsule outputs: in order to get useable audio from it, you need to do a conversion from A-Format to B-Format. Sennheiser provides a plug-in to do that conversion and it allows you to set rotation, mic position and a low-cut filter. It also lets you choose the B-Format output; either the older FuMa format, or what's becoming the new standard, AmbiX, which is nice. However, I found that it didn't play nicely with my standard workflow, which is Nuendo-based, and I had to make the conversion from A-B in TwistedWave. Luckily, Svein Berige at Harpex has a beta of his brilliant plug-in which handles both the SPS and the Ambeo A-Format inputs as well as standard Soundfield B-Format and a whole bunch of other refinements and may soon handle the TetraMic as well.

Self-noise is difficult to judge: I'd say probably a bit better than the SPS, but that's based on memory, really. The TetraMic needs a superaltive pre-amp, because the output level is pretty low and you need the gain whacked up on quiet atmospheres, so the lower-cost recorders are not really compatible.

They're a bit scarce at the moment, so I was only able to hold on to my test version for a short period before it had to go back to Sennheiser to be passed on to someone else, but I'm hoping to get one back later on this year for some music recording comparisons with the Soundfield and the TetraMic.

I also have a comparison test with the Ambeo and the Zoom H2n in ambience mode - horizontal only, obviously, and that's quite interesting...

If I didn't already own two tetrahedral arrays, I'd seriously consider buying an Ambeo for sound effects work, but not for music recording.

Regards,

John

 

 

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Wow, thanks John, that was a very informative and interesting read!

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8 hours ago, petersont said:

Hi Ramallo - As I think you have both the SPS200 and the Ambeo, it would be really helpful to learn how you compare the two in terms of self-noise? Frequency response? Sensitivity to moisture / cold /heat? I am thinking of acquiring one mainly for quiet ambience recordings.

Thanks!

The Ambeo have a higher noise than the SPS200, but the SPS200 is a quiet microphone (12dB equivalent noise per capsule, 6dB more the Ambeo). The SPS200 are more prone to suffer by humidity (is a external polarization condenser) (I had problems with humidity but is very unusual), I belive that the Ambeo is more rugged to humidity due his electret elements.

The frequency response is better in high frequency in the Ambeo due his closer capsules (Less phase issues), the rest, much better the SPS200, specially with complex sounds (Music)

For ultra quiet noise the best IMMO is the Soundfield ST450 (Large Diaphragm Condenser)

IMO, the SPS200 is far better than the Ambeo (As suggest his price difference), but the Ambeo is nice for the price.

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17 hours ago, Constantin said:

Wow, thanks John, that was a very informative and interesting read!

Agreed, thanks John (and Ramallo) for the in-depth responses!

I am leaning towards moving on the Sennheiser as I don't quite think I am ready budget-wise to jump into the Soundfiled offerings yet!  If nothing else, if/when I do upgrade again it sounds like the Ambeo would be a good one to have in harsher recording environments / as a backup.

I will share my findings once I have it and have a chance to take it for a spin.

Thanks all!

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I would also like to thank John and Ramallo for their generous sharing of knowledge and experience.

The other factor with the Soundfield is the takeover by Rode, and what they'll do with that.

This is the first offering, A to B done in the mic base, choices of stereo out, plus B format from a small multipin connector.
http://www.soundonsound.com/news/rode-announce-six-new-mics-soundfield-video-mic
VideoMic SoundField: The world’s first on-camera ambisonic, 360-degree surround sound microphone. Clearly the acquisition of Soundfield in 2016 is starting to bear fruit. Don't expect this to be the last Soundfield/Rode crossover product...

 

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Thank you very much John and Ramallo for all of the excellent information, very helpful. Opinions on self-noise a bit different, but speaks to how close they must be to each other in this regard. I've used the SPS200 in the past and experienced an occasional bit of noise issues  - maybe attributed to very high humidity (jungle, cave). Like you say, ambeo seems a good, rugged choice for varied outdoor atmospheres.

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On 2/3/2017 at 9:21 PM, soundmanjohn said:

Luckily, Svein Berige at Harpex has a beta of his brilliant plug-in which handles both the SPS and the Ambeo A-Format inputs as well as standard Soundfield B-Format and a whole bunch of other refinements and may soon handle the TetraMic as well.

Hi John,

Where is this Beta?, the last I see is the 1.4 (145) and only have Fuma and Ambix options.

Regards

Suso

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I don't think it's generally available yet: as a beta tester, I get my files from a different location. There may be a reason Svein hasn't released it to the wild yet, but if you drop him a line, he may well be happy to point you in the right direction.

Oh, and with regard to the self-noise of the Ambeo and SPS200, I suspect it's actually more to do with the recorder than the mic in my case. I was using a Tascam 680 with the SPS200, as I hadn't quite saved up enough for my current SD788, which I used with the Ambeo. Rather a lot of difference in the pre-amps...

All the best,

John

 

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I tried both mics with the same preamp (a DAD AX32) (also with a F8) the SPS200 needs 6-7dB more gain  for get the same output, but even with this gain diference have less noise than the Ambeo, the Ambeo have the same amount of noise as the DPA 4, IMMO isn't so much

I wrote to Svein ;-)

Best

Suso

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