Sennheiser adds more mics to Bluetooth mobile headset

By Doug Mohney

In announcing its new mobile headset, Sennheiser followed the finest traditions of the technology industry by adding more. The PRESENCE mobile headset has three microphones -- an impressive number when most hardware vendors are getting around to adding two microphones to smartphones, tablets and laptops.

The more microphones the better because they enable multiple points to pull in and process sound. With multiple microphones, it is easier to detect a user's voice and isolate it from background noise along with conducting echo cancellation.

Sennheiser boasts two new trademarked features leveraging all those microphones, SpeakFocus and Windsafe.  SpeakFocus filters out background noise to enable phone calls in noisy environments. WindSafe reduces wind noise, choosing the best mix of the three microphones to balance and enhance the voice of the user.

The PRESENCE solution includes a headset and a USB dongle for a plug and play experience with computers, so a user can seamlessly switch between a mobile phone and a soft client application.  Incorporating Bluetooth 4.0, the headset has a range of up to 82 feet depending on the environment and device it is being used with.  The battery is good for up to 10 hours of talk time.

Quality doesn't come cheap.  The Sennheiser PRESENCE is priced at $179.95. When compared to the company's elite IE 800 Dynamic Ear Phones listing at $999.95, PRESENCE is a bargain of sorts. Other companies that use three microphones in their Bluetooth headsets include Motorola, Nokia (Now a Microsoft company) and Plantronics.

Within the mobile world, most medium to high-end handsets include two microphones for noise cancellation and filtering. Apple highlighted the incorporation three microphones into the IPhone 5 when it was released last year.  Newer tablets, such as the Google Nexus 7, feature two microphones as well as dual speakers to enable better voice communications and deliver a spatial sound experience.

Ultrabooks also have gone the dual microphone route over the past year, with ASUS, Dell, and Lenovo adding in the feature. Intel and Microsoft have both provided design guidelines to integrate microphone arrays into new devices  to improve voice quality.

More microphones in more devices is continued good news and growth to companies such as Akustica, Invensense, and Wolfson Microelectronics.  A single silicon microphone will cost less than a dollar -- typically around 70 to 80 cents in large quantities -- so being able to double and triple microphone usage in consumer devices is a good thing for producers as well as consumers.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

Contributing Editor

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