Henrik Oppermann

Henrik Oppermann of Sonosphere captures immersive nature sounds with an 888 as part of his “quietest rig on Earth.”


Henrik Oppermann, Creative Director at immersive content specialist Sonosphere, has been expanding the company’s immersive sound library of everyday nature sounds using his new 3-D microphone and a Sound Devices 888. 

“Being in lockdown in the countryside of Hessen, Germany, offered me a great opportunity to start capturing natural sounds and extremely fragile soundscapes,” said Opperman. “The rig I’m using is very low noise, which works perfectly for capturing detailed ambiences; something like a forest in the early morning or at night oozes with a multitude of sounds.”

Oppermann’s rig consists of four Sennheiser MKH 800 TWIN studio condenser microphones, which feature a very low inherent noise that prevents the masking of filigree sound structures. This, in turn, ensures the depth of the acoustic can be heard more clearly. 

The microphones are connected to a Sound Devices 888 portable mixer-recorder, which is the company’s newest recorder with the lowest noise preamps to date. 

“The Sound Devices 888 is an incredible device. Not just in terms of its pristine mic preamps and its A/D conversion. The ultra-low noise profile makes it ideal to capture fragile ambiences in 3D where you need a lot of channels. Exactly what I need for my spatial recording techniques.”

“I can’t think of anything that I wouldn’t be able to manage with the 888. It is future-proofed with a flexible backend that is constantly developed to adapt to any new challenges. The fantastic choice to integrate Dante makes it suitable for projects with high channel counts and for anything that is to come in the future.”

Windshields, another important element of the rig, are Baby Ball Gag Windshield by Rycote. 

“This type of set up works incredibly well for recording delicate ambiences without introducing any additional noise disruptions. I call it the quietest rig on Earth.”

The microphone arrangement is loosely based on the ESMA (Equal Segment Microphone Array) technique developed by Hyunkook Lee. This multichannel microphone technique attempts to capture a sound field in a 360-degree sphere without any overlap between the stereophonic recording angle of each pair of adjacent microphones. This, together with the Sennheiser’s AMBEO cube, a larger set-up consisting of nine MKH 800 microphones, were the inspiration behind Oppermann’s rig. 

“Recording anything from black swift birds to bats and infrequent passing cars has been a new experience with this set up. In the current situation, as many of us are going at a much more decelerated pace, many finally have time to appreciate nature with a calm mind, which you have to have to notice all the miniscule sounds that a forest buzzes with.”

“[This microphone setup sounds] absolutely phenomenal. The externalisation effect and depth when you render to binaural or multi-channel speaker systems is just beautiful and has a particularly wide soundstage. The detail you can capture is stunning and that’s what is so special about this rig – the purity of the sound is unprecedented.”

Another advantage is the ability to break the microphone arrangement down to any format, from an A-B Stereo or QUAD recording, to using the microphones in omni, cardioid, or any other kind of polar pattern. 

The post-production process dictates the workflow on set. “In order to know what I’m capturing out there, I need to know how I will be treating it in post. You need to make yourself very familiar with all the tools that are available. Based on that, you can go outside and create 3-D recordings,” says Oppermann. 

Oppermann’s technology of choice is Ambisonics, a full-sphere surround sound and channel-independent format. Using this format, it is possible for the sound sphere to decode the recording into stereo, 5.1, 9.1 or even 22.2 arrangements.  

Oppermann offers a final word of advice on how to capture nature’s wondrous sounds and translate them into real-life immersive listening experiences.

“Do as much research as possible and try to get your hands on an ambisonic microphone, or any kind of microphone rig that you can build yourself,” he concludes. “It’s always a good idea to experiment as much as possible with different recording techniques so you are fully immersed in this world and are familiar with spatial sound. The rest will follow.”

Learn more about Opperman and Sonosphere at www.sonosphere.co.uk.