What are Ambisonic recordings? What microphones are used to capture these sound effects? What software is needed to use them? Where can you find Ambisonic field recordings?
This month’s series was designed to answer those questions. We’ve learned a lot about Ambisonics during the past month. We began by reviewing the basics. Then, a handful of field recordists generously shared their knowledge with us.
Today’s post summarizes all the info we’ve discovered so far. It includes a list of microphones, software, hardware, and applications for Ambisonics. There are also a few links to existing Ambisonic sounds you can download and try yourself.
- “Explorers of Ambisonics” Articles
- Ambisonic Microphone Options
- Ambisonic Software
- Example Ambisonic Applications
- Ambisonic Field Recordings & Sound FX
- Read More
Explorers of Ambisonics Articles
Here are the articles from this month’s series.
- An Introduction to Ambisonics. A brief overview of Ambisonic field recordings, decoders, and how to use Ambisonic sound fx. Includes advantages and disadvantages of using Ambisonic field recordings.
- Explorers of Ambisonics. Thoughts and observations from sound pros about discovering, recording, and using Ambisonic sound fx:
Ambisonic Microphone Options
Below is a brief list of Ambisonic microphones. Many of the following suggestions have been contributed by the sound pros interviewed during this month.
- Soundfield Microphones
- SoundField ST450 MKii ($7,561.00). The ST450 is arguably the most popular Ambisonic microphone on the market.
- SoundField SPS422B ($5,435.00). A microphone/rack mount processor box combo.
- SoundField SPS200 ($3,567.00). A software-controlled Ambisonic microphone.
- DSF-B MKII ($12,777.00). A more pricey system that includes a microphone and rack mount processors, designed for broadcasters.
- MH Acoustics EigenMike em32 ($20,000). An elite option capable of capturing 48 kHz/24-bit recordings up to the fourth order. This is a spherical microphone with 32 electric capsules that output to FireWire via the EigenMike Interface Box. Also includes a Pelican case, and the EigenStudio software. Windscreen is $700.
- Core Audio TetraMic ($999). A lower-priced option reportedly better suited for recording indoors.
- Sennheiser Ambeo VR 3D ($1,649). Pro microphone heavyweight Senneheiser’s first foray into Ambisonic microphones.
- Embrace Cinema Brahma ($799 – $1,999). Brought to life by a Kickstarter project.
- Zoom H2n ($159). Field recordist John Leonard notes that the H2n “allows you to record in a form that can be decoded for horizontal-only Ambisonic playback.” See his interview for more details. Also learn more on ambisonic.info.
Binaural microphones are often mentioned in the same breath as Ambisonic mics. This is usually because they may be considered for VR, AR, and similar uses. They will not capture Ambisonic field recordings. They cannot be modified to replicate Ambisonic sound recordings, either. However, they are an option for spatial field recording, so I’ll include them here:
Upper-market binaural systems:
- Neumann KU 100 binaural dummy head ($7,999.95).
- Wildtronics Stereo Ambient Array Microphone (SAAM) ($999) – a microphone designed around the shape of the human head that captures field recordings with a binaural response.
- 3Dio Free Space ($499+). This stand-mounted unit comes in three versions (1/8”, XLR, and DPA 4060).
- 3Dio Omni ($2,499+) is a four-sided version of the Free Space, with four sets of ears. It is designed to work with 360 degree video production. Available in standard and DPA 4060 versions.
Lower-cost binaural recording microphones:
- Microphone Madness MM-BSM–9 ($110).
- Sound Professionals SP-TFB–2 ($89).
- Sound Professionals MS-TFB–2 ($149).
- Roland CS-10EM combo ear bud and binaural microphones ($98.49)
Microphones that can be adapted for binaural use:
- DPA 4060 ($949.45) or 4061 ($949.95).
- Soundman OKM II Classic Studio Solo ($129).
- Naiant x-x miniature omnidirectional microphones ($108/pair).
- Core Audio binaural microphone set ($230).
The London Sound Survey has an excellent list of binaural microphone options.
Below are selections of software that can be used with Ambisonic field recordings, binaural sound, and VR.
- TSL Soundfield SurroundZone2 Ambisonic decoder (Free: Mac/Windows, AAX/VST/AU)
- Harpex-B Ambisonic decoder (€498: Mac/Windows/Linux, AAX/VST/AU)
- Wigware Ambisonic decoder (Free: Mac/Windows, VST)
- Blue Ripple Sound O3A decoder. (£199: Mac/Windows, VST)
- VVAudio encoders and decoders:
- ambiX Ambisonic decoder (Free: Mac/Windows/Linux, VST)
- Noisemakers offers a few plug-ins:
- Ambisonic Studio B2X plug-in suite (Free: Mac, VST/AU)
- Ambisonic Toolkit is a JSFX plug-in suite for Reaper.
- Sennheiser AMBEO A-B converter (bottom of page).
- H2n FOA Encoder Package is a first-order Ambisonic encoder for Reaper.
Ambisonic field recordings are often used for 360 video, 3D, and VR projects. These tools help:
- Audioease 360pan and 360monitor Ambisonic processing and monitoring tools with converter plug-ins.
- Facebook 360 Spatial Workstation software suite.
- Sound Particles software designed to generate thousands of sounds in a virtual 3D world.
- Steam Audio is a software kit that helps game audio designers use binaural field recordings to depict a realistic, immersive VR environment using reflections, occlusion, and so on.
View a full list of Ambisonic software.
Other software is being developed to accommodate Ambisonic field recordings. Here are examples:
- Twisted Wave audio editor. Reads and saves Ambisonic B-Format sound files.
- AmbiExplorer android app. Allows exploring Ambisonic B-Format and UHJ audio files.
Example Ambisonic Applications
Here are some sample ways Ambisonic field recordings can be used:
- Oculus Rift (Wikipedia). ($599)
- HTC Vive (Wikipedia). ($799)
- Google DayDream View (Wikipedia). ($79)
- Google Cardboard. ($15)
- Samsung Gear VR. ($79)
Hardware: 360 Cameras
Ambisonic recording is often paired with video. Here are some options for capturing 360 degree video:
Projects: Example Applications
Ambisonic Field Recordings & Sound FX
- Discover a few Ambisonic field recordings on the Harpex website.
- Spheric Collection offers many paid collections of Ambisonic sound effects from a variety of subjects.
- Noisecreations offers the Aura sound library of Ambisonic field recordings ($84).
- Listen to an example of a 360 degree VR orchestra Ambisonic recording.
- Ambisonics on Wikipedia.
- Read A Sound Effect’s Ambisonics primer.
- Learn more about Ambisonics on Ambisonic.net.
- Browse the extensive information on Ambisonic.info.
- Find free software and Ambisonic articles at Daniel Courville’s Ambisonic Studio website.
- Learn about the history of Ambisonic recording from a site about Michael Gerzon.
- The Canadian Electroacoustic Community's magazine eContact shares an introduction to the format on its website.
- Virtual Reality on Wikipedia.
- Augmented Reality on Wikipedia.
- The Google VR Spatial Audio page has an extensive guide on using audio with AR and VR.
- Read a review of the Brahma ambisonic microphone on Pro Tools Expert.
- Tips from a Gearslutz user on integrating Ambisonic recordings in VR with Facebook 360.
Do you have a favourite source of info about Ambisonic field recordings? A link you’d like to share with the community? Include it in the comments below.