Differential near infrared sensors recently sparked a growing interest as a promising measuring modality for brain computer interfacing. In our study we present the design and characterization of novel, differential functional NIRS sensors, intended to record hemodynamic changes of the human motor cortex in the hand-area during motor imagery tasks. We report on the spatial characterization of a portable, multi-channel NIRS system with one module consisting of two central light emitting diodes (LED) (770 nm and 850 nm) and four symmetric pairs of radially aligned photodiodes (PD) resembling a plus symbol. The other sensor module features four similar, differential light paths crossing in the center of a star. Characterization was performed on a concentric, double beaker phantom, featuring a PBS/intralipid/blood mixture (97/1/2%). In extension of previous work, the inner, oxygenated beaker was covered by neoprene sleeves with holes of various sizes, thus giving an estimate on the spatial limits of the NIRS sensor’s measurement volume. The star shaped sensor module formed a diffuse focus of approximately 3 cm in diameter at 1.4 cm depth, whereas the plus shaped arrangement suggested a concentric ring of four separate regions of interest, overall larger than 6 cm. The systems measurement sensitivity could be improved by removing ambient light from the sensing photodiodes by optical filtering. Altogether, we conclude that both our novel fNIRS design as well as its electronics perform well in the double-layered oxygenation phantom and are thus suitable for in-vivo testing.