Oh, we’ve reviewed so many earphones here. But the Sennheiser Ambeo Smart Headset is something very different. It’s not just for listening, although it allows that. It’s mostly for recording. Recording in a very special way.
The Sennheiser Ambeo Smart Headset is a wired earbud set for listening to music from an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch. And it’s also a set of high-quality stereo microphones for recording sound to an iPad, iPod or iPod Touch. The special way I mentioned is what’s called “binaural” recording. That’s a fascinating subject, and I’ll return to it shortly.
So, wired. Since iPhones don’t have analogue connections any more, it’s Lightning connector only. The cable feeds into a relatively large pod – it measures 72mm by 22mm by 9mm and weighs 12.6 grams – which houses the controls, the Digital to Analogue converter (for sound playback) and Analogue to Digital converter (for recording).
Sennheiser and Apogee
Now, the Ambeo is being sold here by Sennheiser, and the box is labelled for that brand, acknowledging only that it’s “Powered by Apogee”. Apogee is a company best known for making digital products for professional recording: DACs and ADCs and mixers and such. Apogee calls the Ambeo Smart Headset a co-development between it and Sennheiser. At least in the US, Apogee also sells the Ambeo direct. I figure that the DAC and ADC used by the Ambeo would largely be Apogee’s work.
From the top of this pod are two cables leading to the earpieces. These feature wrap-around hooks for the user’s ears. The earpieces use silicone tips – Sennheiser provides three different sizes. On the outside of the earpieces are grilles covering electret microphones. They’re for the binaural recording. Given Sennheiser’s lineage and the quality of its devices, I’d expect that it is responsible for the microphones and transducers in the earpieces.
On the right-hand cable there’s another small pod. This is to house the small microphone used for hands-free phone operation. The Ambeo is powered by the iPhone but Sennheiser says that it “will not … have a major impact on battery life.”
The Ambeo comes with a soft, cloth pouch for holding the headset when it’s not in use.