Sensaphonics recently announced that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has granted a patent for its 3D Active Ambient IEM System. The patent application was originally filed more than five years ago and includes a total of 50 specific claims for the 3D system. Despite a balky economy, annual sales of the Sensaphonics 3D system nearly doubled in 2011.



“It took a long time, but we are thrilled to finally have formal notification of patent protection for the 3D Active Ambient,” says Michael Santucci, founder and president of Sensaphonics. “The mere fact that no one else has released a competitive product since its introduction in 2005 shows just how much of a challenge it was to design.”


The 3D Active Ambient incorporates a suite of technologies to achieve its goal of safely providing natural ambient sound in a sealed in-ear system. The system starts with a pair of custom IEMs, then adds embedded miniature microphones in the earpieces to pick up ambient sound, routing that binaural signal to a bodypack, where it is combined with the monitor mix at the wearer’s desired level. This allows the musician to hear full-range ambient sound with accurate tone and directionality, with both earphones inserted.


“Obviously, it’s very gratifying to see this kind of growth,” notes Santucci. “Developing the 3D was a huge commitment for us, and you never know if the market will accept your vision. But when you can make artists like Steven Tyler, Dave Matthews, and Stevie Wonder happy, you know you’re doing something right.” 


It is not just artists. SPL blogger and sound guy for a big, loud rock band Darth Fader purchased the 3D system some time ago and uses it to protect his hearing and still accurately mix a show in a loud room.


The patent for the 3D Active Ambient covers all three primary challenges addressed in the development of the product. First, the ambient microphones need to handle sustained levels of 140 dB SPL without overload or distortion. The second critical aspect was that the ambience sound real and natural, which required both full audio bandwidth and proper placement of the embedded microphones. Finally, the system had to offer user-friendly control of the mix of ambience and monitor signals. 


It would not be a stretch to say that you may see this technology in other products down the road. With formal patent protection in place, Sensaphonics is open to licensing its 3D Active Ambient technology to appropriate partners.