Sennheiser’s Kai Lange on the new Esfera system

Joanne Ruddock speaks to Kai Lange, Esfera product manager for professional wired microphones at Sennheiser, about the many uses for the system.

The Esfera system takes an innovative approach to capturing sound. How did the idea come about?

Actually it was a case of everything falling into place at the right time. Michael Nunan of Canadian broadcaster CTV approached us because he was looking for a microphone solution that would make doing 5.1 sound easier. At the same time, we were in contact with Illusonic who had a new algorithm that was able to convert stereo into 5.1 sound. We found that this was a great match with our high-quality broadcast microphones and seized the opportunity. We discussed the concept with various broadcast customers of ours, and included their feedback and wishes in our system design.

How long did it take to design Esfera?

It was about two years from the first idea to product availability. This included an extensive period of field tests, and special software optimisation to ideally match our microphones.

Other than the technology, what other considerations went into the design?

The Esfera design has been optimised for the main user group – broadcasters. Therefore, the system uses a rack-mount processing unit for the conversion to 5.1 – and not a plug-in, for example. The 19in unit easily integrates into a broadcaster’s workflow and infrastructure. Esfera is a tool that makes 5.1 as easy as possible for them.

How has it been received in the market?

We have received very positive feedback both at trade fairs and from the field, especially from sports broadcasting, be it ball games such as soccer or individual sports such as tennis. We’ve also had requests from completely different user groups, such as theatres that wanted to do a production recording with 5.1 sound, and from film-makers for nature documentaries. They wanted to use the compact stereo mic for on-site recordings and then do the conversion into 5.1 sound back home in their studio. Another spectacular use was a 3D sound recording done by Sennheiser’s international recording applications manager, Gregor Zielinsky. He used two Esfera mics to create a 9.1 immersive sound experience.

The above Q&A was originally published as part of our review of the Esfera system in Audio Media International’s January issue.