The Sennheiser Ambeo is an Atmos 5.1.4 design utilising 13 high-end drivers.
As TV’s become slimmer the sound quality suffered so much that it has become necessary to add a soundbar, or an alternative style of speaker, to hear what was going on (the ‘what did he say’ syndrome). It is universally accepted that a soundbar will never have the performance characteristics of a well-designed Home Theatre system, but they do have their advantages, the main ones being that they are simple to install and relatively inexpensive. Sit it under the TV, plug it in and the jobs done. Unfortunately this category is now so price competitive that the quality of many soundbars had deteriorated to such an extent that they are little better than the TV’s they are attached to.
Sennheiser is not a company that you associate with speaker manufacturing, so the Sennheiser Ambeo soundbar is something of a surprise. Possibly a bigger surprise is that this, their first attempt, is without doubt one of the best soundbars on the market. Admittedly at $4,000 it is also considerably more expensive than most, but it is refreshing to see that Sennheiser have set out to see how good a soundbar can sound, rather than how cheaply they can build one.
The Sennheiser Ambeo is an Atmos 5.1.4 design utilising 13 high-end drivers. The advantages of Sennheiser’s Ambeo 3D technology is obvious – switch it on and off and the difference is remarkable. Its ability to position sounds around you is uncanny. More importantly it can also be tailored to enhance voice intelligibility, something that is still a failing (surprisingly) of many soundbars.
The current buzz word in our industry is immersive. Companies the world over are pushing the concept of ‘Immersive Audio’, particularly in the Home Theatre field with technologies such as Atmos. This is an extension of Ambisonics, initially developed in the 1970’s as a way of recording and reproducing sound in both the horizontal and vertical planes from a single point source. Sennheiser developed Ambeo (3D audio technology) for their VR microphones to capture the 3D element of what they were recording. This was then rolled out to their headphones and has now been incorporated in the Ambeo soundbar.
Sennheiser’s first attempt, is without doubt one of the best soundbars on the market.
Working with 32-bit processing, the innovative AMBEO 3D technology virtualizes all available content. It uses reflections off the walls to virtually position speakers in the room by calibrating its acoustics based on the room characteristics and the seating position. This results in the listener receiving sound information from all directions.
Normally setting up a soundbar such as this could be challenging but given Sennheiser’s expertise in 3D microphones they have provided a mic with the bar allowing you to calibrate the device, optimising it for your unique listening environment.
The Ambeo Soundbar features built in Google Chromecast, Bluetooth and HDMI eARC/CEC. It also has three HDMI, one optical and an RCA (analogue) input. We understand that Apple Airplay will be added via upgrade at a later stage.
It supports Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and MPEG-H (another 3D audio standard) and using Upmix Technology it can recreate stereo and 5.1 content in 3D. It has five different pre-sets as standard (movie, music, sports, news and neutral) that adjust not only the frequencies but also the 3D sound characteristics.
The other striking feature of this soundbar is its bass capabilities. While the Ambeo has a subwoofer output we believe that many customers will find the addition of a sub to be unnecessary – the Ambeo uses six four-inch long-throw bass drivers delivering a surprisingly impressive amount of bottom end.
We are so impressed with this unit we have given it its own space in our showroom, having set it up in our conference room.
The Ambeo is a big unit, measuring 125.6cm in length, and weighing 18.5kg, but if you have the space to house a Sennheiser Ambeo you will not look back.