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Hands-On

Hands On: Sennheiser's Lightning-connected, binaural Ambeo Smart Headset

Sennheiser's Ambeo Smart Headset promises to go beyond most Lightning headphones by offering not just noise cancellation but binaural recording.

Sennheiser Ambeo



If you're not particular, the Ambeo is about a simple as any other headphones — you can just plug them into an iPhone or iPad's Lightning port and be ready to go. We would suggest downloading the company's iOS app however, since the headset's EQ settings are set to be perfectly flat by default, and most people will want more bass.

Ambeo iOS app



In our initial testing audio seems to be extremely crisp and clear, but where it really begins to come into its own is noise cancellation. Active noise cancellation is what you'll probably use most of the time — this reduces (though doesn't eliminate) any persistent background noise, such as traffic, wind, or jet engines.

Sennheiser also offers something called "Transparent Hearing," which will mix headset output with ambient sound. If need be you can choose to reduce or amplify iOS output, though only at preset levels.

Perhaps the neatest feature of the Ambeo is its binaural recording, even if its practicality is limited. As a quick primer, binaural recording captures audio in 3D — which means that when you listen to media in that format you'll hear it as if you were there, assuming you're wearing a good pair of headphones.

Sennheiser Ambeo



The Ambeo uses two microphones on the outside of each earpiece, and when played back on the same headphones, even a simple street-side recording was extremely immersive.



You'll note that if you try to play the same file back on a pair of desktop speakers, the results are pretty underwhelming — it sounds extremely quiet with little discernible separation. It's still somewhat quiet with headphones, but significantly clearer and exactly as if you were really there, with sounds at the right volume, location, and distance.

Keep following AppleInsider for more details in our full review.