No, there are also problems with this. First, it’s only useful for live recording. Any music built up piece by piece simply can’t be done in this way. Neither can movie soundtracks for the most part since they are amongst the most artificially created audio, layered from many different components.

And second, headphones. Generally, binaural recordings delivered via loudspeakers sound fine, but the full effect is delivered only with headphones or earphones. It’s the same problem as 3D TV. You have to use glasses to enjoy it.

Recording

I’ve experimented with binaural recording before. Indeed, some twenty years ago. There’s been nothing stopping someone from doing that with an iPhone. The problem has been assembling suitable omnidirectional, compact microphones and putting them in the right place. What the Ambeo Smart Headset does is make it easy to make binaural recordings.

Ambeo

Indeed, you don’t need anything beyond your phone and the Ambeo. Not even additional software. It will work with any stereo audio software and any video camera software. I used it with the standard Voice Recorder app and the standard Camera App in video mode.

To use, you start the app, and a light glows on the main pod on the Ambeo, showing that it’s in recording mode. A little slide switch allows you to choose between normal recording levels and a muted level for concert recordings. Then you just start the app recording, and the sound is captured from the Ambeo Smart Headset’s microphones.

There’s no fancy processing to get the 3D effect. It’s a result of the way that the recording is captured, and ultimately delivered to the listener’s ears.

It is really wonderfully effective. I’d suggest you listen to this short movie (seven minutes). Filming was almost entirely with iPhones and Ambeo Smart Headsets.

While the gear was low cost, this movie still had an extensive crew. So how about a regular person? I plugged it into an iPhone, went to a nearby road, and filmed the traffic going past with the iPhone camera app. Then I went to a coffee shop and recorded the sound using the iPhone Voice Recorder app. In both cases, playing back the sound created an eerily convincing feeling.

The Ambeo Smart Headset App

The free iOS Ambeo app is admirably clear and provides a sensible set of adjustments. Some of the functions replicate those on the control pod: volume level and switching between noise cancellation, transparent hearing and off, and switching the recording level. There’s also a “Graphic EQ”. In fact, it’s a three position semi-parametric equaliser. There are four presets plus a “Custom” option. You can adjust three frequencies of your choice by up to plus or minus 10 decibels, at least as indicated by the app. (Only semi-parametric, because you can’t adjust the “Q” or width of effect of each band.)

Ambeo

I really doubt that the decibel indication on the EQ section is accurate. I found the most natural listening position was to pull everything above the mid-treble down by an indicated ten decibels. That would normally make things sound utterly dead. Listening to music on the Ambeo, it remained quite bright even in that position. The standard sound was rather too treble-forward for my taste. Dragging those higher frequencies balanced things out nicely. But I’d be surprised if it reduced them by much more than five decibels.

Meanwhile, at the other end, the bass performance was particularly strong, deep, extended and powerful.

The only wrinkle in use was with the control rocker on pod. You use that to switch the noise reduction and “transparent mode” on and off. It was very flaky for the first thirty seconds or so each time I used the headset, but then it would settle down after a while and could be used properly.