I already know where the sound is coming from: my headphones.
Oh, looks like we’ve got a smart one, here. Well, your headphones might pump out some decent volume, but they won’t have a patch on the immersive, surround sound kit that Sennheiser’s stuck in these little ‘buds. See, thanks to some nifty audio trickery, the Ambeo Smart Surround can replicate directional sound sources handy now that we're all watching 360 videos and doing VR.
Direction? Like my sat-nav?
Well, no. It’s more like standing in the middle of a band as it plays. Close your eyes and you’ll be able to point at where the guitar amp is and whereabouts the virtual drummer’s thrashing out a killer snare fill. Alternatively, take up a listening perch at Clapham Junction and you'll be able to hear angry train travellers approaching from all angles.
So it’s like VR for my ears?
Exactly. To go with the VR for your eyes. It’s all about binaural audio, which basically means sticking the listener within the sound itself. If you ever tried the ‘Virtual Barber Shop’ it’s like that, but even better. In fact, it trumps surround sound, too, because you’re truly at the centre of the listening experience, isolated from outside sounds.
Will it work outside of VR? I’d kill to listen amongst the Beatles.
Outside of VR? Why the Dickens would you want to leave? But, sadly, for the full experience the recording has to have been made as a binaural one - and there’s no simple conversion process that means you could use it with conventional movie tracks or music tunes. In the past creating binaural audio has meant using professional kit - including dummy heads and several mics - though that’s all about to change.
Wait, I can make my own?
You can indeed. Aside from the Smart Surround offering stellar directional audio quality, the real boon is the on-board recording tech. Stand anywhere with interesting sounds and you’ll be able make your own binaural recordings in a jiffy, using the two microphones.
I bet I have to tell it where to listen, though.
It would seem not. Rather, the clever ‘phones place sounds by replicating real-world differences in volume, resonance and the like to produce 3D sounds files that offer proper depth. It’s probably something that has to be heard to be believed - which will be possible when the Ambeo Smart Surround is released by Sennheiser in the second half of 2017.
Want to add 3D sound to your VR recordings, instead? Sennheiser also makes a mic for that very purpose - and it'll set you back a tasty £1440.