Category Archives: Binaural

DPA 4560 CORE Binaural Headset Microphone—A Real-World Review

In 1992, Denmark’s distinguished measurement equipment manufacturer Brüel & Kjaer spun off its specialist pro audio division. At that point, the sales and service of the B&K Series 4000 microphones were outsourced to Morten Støve and Ole Brøsted Sørensen, two former employees. Shortly afterward, they went on to form Danish Pro Audio (DPA), which launched its first product, a series of compact cardioid and omnidirectional condenser mics, in 1994. Since then, DPA has established itself as a leading manufacturer of high-quality condenser microphones for professional applications in studio, film & video, broadcast and sound reinforcement.

My first DPA purchase was a pair of 4061 Miniature Omnidirectional Microphones which I fell in love with after reviewing them nearly 20 years ago. Since the 4060 and 4061 share identical capsules but have slightly different sensitivities, I was very pleased to discover that the DPA 4560 CORE Binaural Headset Microphone (4560) was based around the current version of the 4060, now called the 4060 CORE Miniature Omnidirectional Microphone.

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The 4560 is a handpicked stereo pair (sensitivity within ±1.5 dB) of 4060 CORE microphones uniquely mounted on a pair of earhooks (from DPA’s 4266 Flex headset). The headset is ergonomically designed for easy adjustment and a comfortable fit. It is adjustable to fit any head shape and ear size and from more than a few feet, is virtually invisible. Included with the 4560 is a pair of foam windscreens that both secure the microphone’s position in the ear and provide wind noise damping. Since the 4560 terminates in DPA MicroDot connectors, it can be easily utilized with DPA’s standard XLR adapters along with high-end mic preamps, but it also works with the MMA-A Digital Audio Interface. This creates a compact and completely mobile binaural kit as once the 4560 CORE BHM is connected to the MMA-A’s MicroDot connectors, the MMA-A can then be connected directly to an iOS device or the USB port on a Windows or Mac PC. iOS operation is via the free DPA MAA-A app. The app includes gain control, HP filter activation, and the ability to store settings into one of four presets. There are also three recording Mode options (Mono, Stereo or Dual), but recording binaural requires the interface to be set to stereo.

Binaural recording is centered on the principle of placing microphones on an artificial head or an actual human’s head with the mics positioned either just outside the ear canals or at the bottom of the ear canal in close proximity to the eardrum. The recording technique facilitates extremely accurate sound reproduction through headphones, giving the listener the sense of actually being in the space where the recording was made. Creating binaural recordings has traditionally been quite expensive as dummy heads configured for binaural recording typically cost several thousands of dollars, and recording has to be done utilizing expensive low-noise mic preamps along with a professional recording medium. The 4560 is affordable ($1,100) and yields stunning results that will no-doubt rival the results from a binaural recording configuration that costs several thousand dollars.

Binaural recording captures the Head-Related Transfer Function (HRTF) which expresses how much the influence of the head, ears and torso affect the transmission of a soundwave from a sound source to the eardrums. Ear shape and size, head shape and size, and the distance between the ears are just some of the factors that contribute to the HTRF. This means that the most accurate binaural recordings will always be made using the listener’s head, not someone else’s head or a dummy head. That said, any binaural recording will typically create a more encompassing and 3D listening experience for everyone, even if the HRTF isn’t their own.

The applications for binaural recordings are endless and include capturing sound effects and location ambience for theatrical podcasts, capturing sound effects and/or soundscapes for film, TV, video games and VR, and capturing musical performances for headphone playback.

I’m a bit of an ambience fanatic, so I couldn’t wait to take the 4560 into the world to capture some audio. I found the headset a bit clumsy and slow to properly fit the first couple of times I put it on, but once I became used to the placement and fit, taking it on and off became second nature and took virtually no time.

The majority of my 4560 recording was done utilizing the MAA-A interface and iOS app, and everything worked like a charm. Capturing everything from the sound of traffic at a busy intersection to birds in a park to a winter thunderstorm (yeah, I live in Nashville, so it rains here even in the middle of the winter!) was flawless. I even snuck the headset into a symphony performance, where I wonderfully recorded a 62-piece orchestra at 24-bit/96 kHz.

While binaural recordings are designed for headphone listening, an inverted HRTF can be utilized to convert the binaural recording into a stereo recording perfectly suited for loudspeaker playback. DPA recommends a simple (+2 dB low shelf @ 480 Hz, -11dB bell, Q=1 @ 4 kHz, +8dB, Q=2 @8 kHz) curve to utilize a binaural recording for stereo playback. Of course, every HRTF is unique, so this curve becomes a starting point and adjustments should be made from this point according to acoustical analysis and/or taste. I used the 4560 to record an acoustic guitar in the studio and then applied the HRTF “decoder curve” to the recorded audio to use it in a track I was engineering, and it worked perfectly. I should also point out that users utilizing the 4560 CORE BHM for scientific purposes will want to incorporate the DPA DWA4060 calibrator inserts so the microphones can be perfectly calibrated.

In true DPA fashion, the DPA 4560 CORE Binaural Headset Microphone is a spectacular device that is fun to use, but more importantly, it wonderfully captures audio without compromise. Anyone interested in binaural or portable hi-resolution recording should give it top consideration.

DPA Microphones •

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Innovations: 3DME Music Enhancement System from ASI Audio x Sensaphonics

I never set out to be a manufacturer. At my core, I’m an audiologist. My professional goals have always been tied to hearing health. As a musician, I knew the entire industry was at risk, so it was natural for me to focus my practice on the music industry. One opportunity led to another, and Sensaphonics evolved into one of the very first manufacturers of custom earphones.

Many have noted the potential for IEMs to help musicians hear their mix clearly and at safer levels … “with proper use.” As a manufacturer, I’ve designed many products with that in mind, but the bottom line is, live music tends to be loud. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I love loud music, too!

Over the years, I’ve had tremendous success educating the industry on hearing health and designing innovative IEM products like the 3D Active Ambient system (U.S. Patent 8,160,261). By embedding a binaural microphone system in high-isolation earpieces, musicians gained access to the stage sound they were missing, eliminating the dangerous practice of one-in/one-out monitoring. It was unique and expensive, but it worked.

The 3DME Music Enhancement system integrates patented Active Ambient IEMs with sound sculpting tools via a free smartphone app.

While many other IEM companies engaged in a seemingly endless battle for the highest driver counts, Sensaphonics remained focused on making the 3D system both more powerful and more affordable. It was a frustrating battle until 2018, when a chance meeting brought me together with CEO Jim Harris of Think-A-Move, a manufacturing company focused on headset products used in high-noise applications. After a few conversations, it was clear that our expertise and perspectives were ideal complements to each other. We joined forces to form a new company, ASI Audio.

Our shared vision was to create an entirely new approach to in-ear monitoring, using the Active Ambient technology platform. Our concept, called Music Enhancement, is embodied in our flagship product, 3DME.

Music Enhancement represents a new way of thinking about in-ear monitoring. 3DME is loaded with innovations and improvements, many of which have never been found in any IEM design. But the real beauty of this product is the way its features work together, making 3DME an ideal product on stage and off, for amplified groups or orchestras, and for music lovers as well, whether in the audience, at home or on the go.

Making this happen required redesigning the 3D Active Ambient system from the ground up. The ambient earphones are now universal fit (though there is a custom option), with new drivers and an upgraded MEMS microphone system. As a result, the IEMs themselves sound as great as ever, yet are more robust and less expensive than any previous 3D system.

Sensaphonics Debuts D2 Dual Dynamic IEMs, May 7, 2018

The system’s IEMs provide controlled 3D ambience with full earphone isolation. The IEMs include embedded binaural microphones, full-range drivers and eartips for maximum sound isolation.

The 3DME system’s bodypack mixer has been similarly uplifted. It’s now lighter in weight, smaller in size and rechargeable. Its only external controls are simple up/down buttons for ambience level, yet its capabilities have been expanded with the addition of a data output for its 7-band equalizer and other onboard tools.

The challenge was to provide new, expanded capabilities, but without making the system difficult or burdensome to use. In serving the music industry for over 30 years, one key thing I’ve learned is the importance of helping artists to focus on their performance, not their equipment.

We needed a way to implement personal control without making it confusing or complex. 3DME achieves that with another innovation in the world of IEMs: the ASI Audio app.

Using a smartphone or tablet, the app makes it easy to use the sound sculpting tools within the bodypack mixer. Input levels are adjustable. The limiter threshold can be set to ensure safe listening. And then there’s the 7-band EQ, which allows you to literally dial in your personal sound signature. All these settings can be done in stereo, or via separate left- and right-channel controls.

Innovations: Helping Hearing-Impaired Musicians – A Sensaphonics-Led Hybrid Path Back to the Stage, by Jack Kotney, Aug. 27, 2014

ASI Audio 3DME Bodypack
The system’s bodypack is wired to the IEMs to combine monitor mix with ambient sound. Its patented active signal processing achieves capture of distortion-free ambience up to 135 dB SPL.

The idea is to wear your 3DME earphones with the bodypack mixer plugged into your smartphone, which is used to customize your settings. Once you have the sound you want, your setup is saved to the bodypack mixer. Simply disconnect your smartphone or tablet, and your system is ready to rock, automatically saving your settings as the default for your next session. You can also save your settings into a library of personal presets within the app for easy recall.

This puts immense power into the hands of the user. On stage, you’ve got your monitor mix (usually through a wireless bodypack receiver), augmented by 3D ambience at your preferred level.

3DME is just as useful for orchestral and other acoustic musicians who have no monitor mix. For them, it acts as a variable hearing protection system with custom EQ. I’ve seen career classical musicians using 3DME literally moved to tears at being able to hear the orchestra the way they remember it from their youth.

Fitz & The Tantrums’ Monitor Engineer Aaron Las Turns to Sensaphonics IEMs, July 2, 2014

3DME is a powerful tool offstage as well. Portable device listeners gain situational awareness of the sounds around them, and can control its level and tweak its EQ. Frankly, the applications are nearly endless.

It is said that true innovation lies in combining existing ideas in new and interesting ways that satisfy needs and meet new requirements. By adding app-driven sound tools to the unique technology of Active Ambient IEMs, I’m convinced that ASI Audio has achieved exactly that with 3DME Music Enhancement.

Michael Santucci, Au.D., is co-founder and chairman of ASI Audio.

ASI Audio 3DME •

This article originally appeared in the February 2020 issue of Pro Sound News. Innovations is a monthly column in which different pro audio manufacturers are invited to discuss the thought process behind creating their products of note.

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