5 Ambisonic Microphone Options for your next Big Project
VR and 3D Audio have exploded in popularity over the past few years, offering us experiences we’ve never had before. Here are our best recommendations for capturing your own 3D audio.
With more and more headphones offering a 360° listening experience. It seems like dynamic, 3D audio is here to stay. We’ve compiled a few options of microphones and add-ons currently on the market (or available this year) that target full 360° capture achieving full Ambisonic recording.
Sennheiser is known for its quality microphones and build quality. The AMBEO VR is no exception. Underneath the removable cover are four KE14 capsules positioned in a tetrahedral configuration offering full 360° spatial audio recording from wherever you are located, resulting in real Ambisonics recordings.
The capsules of the Sennheiser AMBEO VR Mic deliver A-format, a raw 4-channel output that has to be converted into a new set of 4 channels, the Ambisonics B-format. This is done by the specifically designed Sennheiser AMBEO A-B converter plugin, which is available as free download for VST, AU and AAX format for your preferred Digital Audio Workstation for both PC and Mac. B-format is a W, X, Y, Z representation of the sound field around the microphone. W being the sum of all 4 capsules, whereas X, Y and Z are three virtual bi-directional microphone patterns representing front/back, left/right and up/down. Thus, any direction from the microphone can be auditioned by the listener during playback of Ambisonics B.
At an RRP of $1,295.00, it’s not cheap. Still, if you work a lot on VR projects or produce 3D content and are in the market for a new microphone dedicated to your projects, this could be an excellent option from a highly reliable and reputable brand.
- Four matched KE14 capsules
- 360° Recording
- AMBEO A-B Format Converter plug-in to convert the recorded signals from A-format to B-format
- Frequency response: 20 – 20,000 Hz
- Sensitivity: 31 mV / Pa (-30 dBV) @ 1 kHz
- Nominal impedance: 200 ohms
- Max. SPL: 130 dB SPL
- 4 x 48V phantom power necessary
- Length: 215 mm / Diameter: 49 mm / 25 mm
- Weight: 400 grams
- Includes swing mount, windscreen, and adapter cable DIN12 to 4x XLR3M
Another option from a titan in the microphone world, RØDE. The NT-SF1 is their entry into the Ambisonic microphone space built in collaboration with ambisonic pioneers SoundField, who invented the first commercial ambisonic microphone.
The NT-SF1 records the entire spherical sound field—every sound from every direction—in perfect A-Format™ audio. You can convert to B-Format™ audio and then manipulate it infinitely using the “Soundfield by RØDE” plug-in. Alter the mic directivity, position, and rotation after recording; create a full 7.1.4 surround mix; create a fully head-tracked 360° soundscape for immersive video. The possibilities are, quite literally, only limited by your imagination.
A cheaper offering than the Sennheiser AMBEO VR but still hitting the high standards you’d expect for a microphone at this price point, the design and finish of the microphone is flawless (I love a matte black finish!), and RØDE has done a superb job of offering another option to the ambisonic audio market.
- Ideal for VR, Film, and Game Audio
- Cardioid Capsules in Tetrahedral Array
- Four 1/2″ TF45C Condenser Capsules
- 20 Hz to 20 kHz Frequency Response
- Ultra-Low Noise, Phantom Powered
- 4-Channel, A-Format Output
- Supports Flexible B-Format Manipulation
- Includes Spherical Windscreen & Cover
- Includes Custom Shockmount
- Includes XLR Breakout Cable
If you have no budget, value high-quality materials & craftsmanship, and need absolute top-of-the-line audio capture, then the VR microphone from Nevaton might be for you. This isn’t targeted at everyone, at €3,999.00. It’s primarily aimed at sound designers, studios, and film production units who need the best of the best in Ambisonics recording.
Dedicated filter sets for format conversion (Ambisonics A to B format) are available and produced by Professor Angelo Farina, an Ambisonics and acoustic researcher at the University of Parma.
The Nevaton VR is an ambisonic microphone, designed for 360° spatial recordings in the highest quality. The Nevaton VR delivers Ambisonics A-format, a four channel output, which can be easily converted to Ambisonic B-format with most of the major DAWs on the market, plugins or decoders.
- Incredibly low self-noise (4dBA)
- Ability to handle very high sound-pressure levels (142dB)
- Switchable attenuation: -10dB
- Switchable Low-cut filter (80Hz, 6dB/Oct)
- Heated capsules (for parameter stability in diverse climatic conditions): Two switchable heating modes: 4mA or 8mA heating current
- Using the 8 mA switch position also allows to use long cable runs (length of more than 200 meters)
- RF filter against radio interference
- The microphone comes with a 10pin -> 4 XLR3 cable, with a standard cable length of 3m
If you don’t want to fork out for a brand new microphone and own a Zoom H8 or are considering a different option, then the VRH-8 Add-on for the Zoom H8 is a solid choice. It is only available for preorder and is rumored to be released in Q3 of 2022.
Zoom is known for its excellent audio recorders. This add-on to the H8 will make it more accessible for current owners or new owners an option into the Ambisonic audio space for a fraction of the price of other microphones.
“The VRH-8 is an Ambisonic mic capsule that utilizes four condenser microphones to deliver immersive 360 audio recordings. A built-in accelerometer helps ensure the capsule is always perfectly aligned, while the on-board Ambisonic decoder automatically handles the necessary conversions, saving you time in post-production”.
- For Zoom H8 Handy Recorder
- Four Onboard Condenser Microphones
- Delivers Immersive 360° Audio
- Integrated Ambisonic Decoder
- Built-In Accelerometer for Alignment
- Interchangeable Capsule Design
If you need an all-in-one option with versatility and size, then the H3-VR by ZoomCorp is perfect. This fully portable recorder with full-sphere surround sound and built-in Ambisonics mic array offer 360° audio capture, onboard Ambisonics A-to-B conversion, and real-time stereo/binaural monitoring. It can be powered via Two AA batteries or a USB connection.
“The H3-VR’s 4-capsule Ambisonic mic captures precise 360-degree VR audio recordings up to 24 bit/96 kHz. And without ever connecting to a computer, the onboard decoder allows you to export Ambisonics B-format files directly. The H3-VR also records stereo binaural WAV files up to 24 bit/48 kHz. Stereo binaural provides a hyper-realistic spatial recording that enhances 2D productions with 3D audio.”
Less than 5″ x 3″ makes its size discreet and perfect for run-and-gun setups or live streams. Supporting real-time headphone monitoring, A clear Onboard LCD, Separate 3.5mm headphone and line outputs and can fully be controlled via the H3-VR Control app for full access on levels and gain on each channel.
- For Video, Audio, VR & AR Production
- Ambisonics, Binaural & Stereo Modes
- Export to 5.1 Surround via Computer
- Ambisonics Array with Four Microphones
- On-Board Ambisonics A-to-B Conversion
- Up to 24-Bit / 96 kHz Resolution
- Built-In Slate Function
- 3.5mm Output with Binaural Monitoring
- Record to microSD Card or Stream via USB
- Automatic Mic Position Detection
Ambisonic Sound Effects Library
Let’s not beat around the bush. These microphones are incredibly pricey, and the production aspect of capturing ambisonic audio is just one hurdle; the post-production aspect is also a challenge. Thankfully, Shutterstock has you covered to avoid this pitfall.
Shutterstock has the first Metaverse-ready SFX library filled to the brim with SFX tracks presented in ambisonic, stereo, and 5.1 formats. All of the immersive sound effect tracks can be used in a variety of projects like VR, game streaming, game development, immersive films, ads, documentaries, and more.
Feature image via RØDE.
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