CES 2016: Sennheiser Announces 3D Audio Technology for Virtual Reality

At CES 2016, Sennheiser announced Ambeo, a 3D audio technology that could be used to improve positional audio in virtual reality. Given the growing interest in VR at the moment, this is an important development – pinpointing the sounds you hear in VR goes a long way in making the experience feel real, and as of now, the best way to accomplish this is a rather old technique called binaural recording which uses two microphones at a slight offset, to replicate the difference between how your two ears pick up sounds.

Sennheisers Ambeo 3D technology creates a more immersive mix, and it has been used in the creation of a VR game called Eden as well.

“3D audio is the new frontier of excellence, set to transform the listening experience for users across a broad range of applications, from virtual reality gaming to audio recording and broadcasting,” announced co-CEOs Daniel Sennheiser and Dr. Andreas Sennheiser. “We have been active in this area for some time with 9.1 mixing and recording and the audio design for high-profile exhibitions. We are now increasing our efforts considerably to introduce this amazing sound quality into new products and applications, enabling users to experience and shape the future of audio.”

Composer, producer, and musician Simon Franglen, well known for his work on the films Titanic, Avatar, and most recently Spectre, commented: “Every time I do an immersive mix, I notice how much more clearly I can hear what’s going on within a track. The extra playback area allows individual voices and instruments room to breathe in a way that the flat plane of a stereo mix can never hope to accomplish. 3D audio gives a completely new experience to the listener. Not only are they inside the music, but they get the opportunity to really hear the detail and the arrangement that the musicians, arrangers and producers put into the recordings. Even as a professional, I have listened to tracks that I have thought I knew intimately to discover so much more than the stereo or mono mix was able to give me. Once you hear this, music changes forever.”

As we mentioned, Sennheiser’s Ambeo technology is also being used in a VR game called Eden, which takes place entirely in an imaginary landscape. “The Sennheiser 3D sound rendering engine used in Eden allows a smooth transition between real-life sounds and virtual audio sources,” explained Andreas Sennheiser. “Such an engine will be the future of 3D sound in augmented reality applications.”

Sennheiser also announced a new virtual reality mic that captures audio in four quadrants, that it believes will enhance audio capture for live action VR.

An interesting development from Sennheiser is venue modelling software – unlike other reverb tools, the venue modelling technology can very accurately model the room characteristics, to make it sound like you’re really listening to the audio in another location. Sennheiser says that this will allow DJs to listen to their sets as if they were in the middle of the audience at a club, and thus tweak their performances for the best results. This is likely to be available by mid-2016, while Sennheiser’s VR mic will be launching in the third quarter of 2016.