Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar Assessment: Atmos Soundbar

The unlucky actuality of quickly advancing TV tech is that as screens have gotten flatter, so has the sound they output. That leaves flatscreen homeowners with a alternative: discover house for a surround-sound setup with cumbersome subwoofer and satellite tv for pc audio system, or flip to single-unit soundbars that may simulate an all-around 5.1 or 7.1 speaker setup with out the necessity for threading wires and putting in wall mounts. And due to the Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar SB01, comfort gained’t value you audio high quality, although it would value you $2,499—a significant worth bounce from related immersion-focused built-in methods just like the $999 Vizio Elevate. That includes 13 drivers and the power to remodel any supply into 3D audio, this thick slab of sound is for individuals who need one of the best soundbar, no matter worth. 

The Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar’s design

Accommodating all these audio system (two firing upward and 11 outward), and the five hundred watts of energy to drive them, requires appreciable dimension and weight. At virtually 41 kilos, 50 inches vast, and greater than 5 inches tall (together with the rubber ft), the AMBEO is significantly bigger than the common soundbar. On the identical tabletop because the TV, the Sennheiser soundbar might block a portion of your display, until the TV is mounted up on a wall or has a height-adjustable stand. 

A small show on the AMBEO’s fabric-covered entrance face reveals fundamental data, akin to enter supply, quantity stage, and connectivity standing when related to Bluetooth 4.2 or when Chromecasting from the iOS or Android Google House app. The brushed steel prime panel has an embedded row of important controls. Whereas, on the again, the Sennheiser AMBEO soundbar has three HDMI inputs for connecting elements like gaming consoles or Blu-ray gamers, together with an HDMI TV eARC (Audio Return Channel) output for two-way connection to appropriate TVs. This implies the AMBEO can move by 4K and HDR (together with Dolby Imaginative and prescient) alerts from elements to the TV. There’s a subwoofer output do you have to want to add one to your system, in addition to an optical enter for digital audio and an RCA audio enter. An Ethernet port is there do you have to desire a wired connection over the built-in WiFi. The Google House app performs Chromecasting and any firmware updates, however there may be additionally a USB port solely for performing firmware updates if wanted.

Getting began with the Sennheiser AMBEO

The simplicity of HDMI eARC connections will strike a wire with anybody who hates wiring sound methods.

In case your main setup is source-soundbar-TV, you’ll discover every little thing you want within the AMBEO field to arrange shortly: an ordinary “figure-8” energy cable and a high-speed HDMI cable for an eARC connection for two-way comms with the TV, plus a distant management. With my Samsung TV related on this means, the TV distant would energy up and down each the TV and the AMBEO, and the TV distant managed the AMBEO’s quantity whereas the TV’s inside audio system had been bypassed. It’s good and easy. Within the uncommon case that you simply don’t have an ARC-compatible TV, you’ll simply want to attach an optical audio cable from the TV to the soundbar. 

Utilizing the ceiling and partitions to mirror sound is vital to the Sennheiser AMBEO soundbar’s capacity to simulate {surround} sound, so the “hardest” a part of organising the soundbar is simply ensuring not one of the audio system, together with the upfiring ones, are obstructed by something. Then, earlier than settling in in your new audio expertise, you’ll need to optimize the AMBEO’s inside settings for the room with the included stand-up calibration microphone. You plug this into the entrance of the soundbar, place the microphone the place you’ll most frequently be whereas listening to the system (beneficial six or extra meters away) and, when prompted from the distant, the AMBEO emits a sequence of loud frequency sweeps to set ranges it saves in inside reminiscence. When completed, simply retailer the microphone someplace so you’ll be able to repeat the method once more when you transfer the AMBEO—or the couch. 

Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar key options

In contrast to numerous A/V firms, Sennheiser involves soundbars from a pro-audio perspective. It’s a long time of engineering studio microphones and audiophile headphones that give the German firm the boldness to ask critical coin for the AMBEO. For comparability, Sonos, a a lot youthful firm that began in multiroom audio methods, asks simply $799 for the Arc, its fidelity-first flagship soundbar with Dolby Atmos and Amazon Alexa. 

Contemplating its worth and the pedigree of the 75-year-old model, the Sennheiser AMBEO soundbar should dwell or die primarily based on its audio high quality and the various methods through which it treats incoming alerts to sound like a 5.1.4 {surround} system (representing two left channels, two proper channels, and a middle channel; a subwoofer; and 4 rear channels). To be able to do that, the soundbar helps all the most important 5.1 and seven.1 {surround} codecs present in legacy films and video games, plus all newer 3D audio ones you’re more likely to come throughout on discs or streaming, together with Dolby Atmos; DTS:X; MPEG-H; and even Sony 360 Actuality Audio (an April 2021 firmware addition, exhibiting Sennheiser’s want to futureproof your sizeable funding). However you gained’t want to fret about codecs for probably the most half past initially organising HDMI units. For instance, after I related a Sony PS4 to the AMBEO and selected the audio settings for the sport console, it knew the soundbar was appropriate with DTS 7.1 and defaulted to that setting. 

Digital actuality

The Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar control panel
A small management panel on prime of the AMBEO enables you to cycle modes, which may also be configured through app.

Arrange through room correction, the Sennheiser AMBEO soundbar pumped out detailed, clear audio with glorious definition and separation within the mid- and high-frequency ranges. It additionally had a really satisfying bass response, reaching all the way down to a thumping 30Hz whereas sustaining a pure tonality. Nonetheless, when you’re an actual bass addict who must really feel the sort of guttural quivering inside that you simply solely get from giant loudspeakers or subwoofer-reinforced methods, the AMBEO can’t fairly evaluate to that feeling. 

For about two weeks, I ran almost each piece of visible and audio media I performed by the AMBEO, together with the Netflix “Military of the Lifeless” film with Dolby Atmos sound, the PS4 “Center Earth: Shadow of Battle” sport in DTS 7.1 sound, and a number of Twenty first-century music with which I’m intimately acquainted, together with hip-hop, pop, and a variety of digital music akin to dubstep, home, and indie-dance. With movie, the dialogue was extra intelligible, sustaining its presence at the same time as dynamic atmospheres stretched throughout the room. Video games exhibited related spatial depths, however the digital world felt much more visceral with the AMBEO’s 13 drivers sending sounds flying in all instructions. 

The AMBEO handled rumbling sound results and bass-heavy music equally effectively—presenting loads of low-end with out distracting from or distorting the general audio. Taking part in the squelching symphonics of Daft Punk’s “TRON: Legacy Reconfigured” on the AMBEO, both from the Bluetooth connection or from streaming apps on the TV or PS4, was an actual pleasure. The soundbar takes two-channel music and parcels it out throughout its 13 audio system in sudden and pleasant methods. I shortly most popular music by AMBEO virtualization over my devoted stereo audio system positioned on either side of the lounge. 

The soundbar’s sound presets and three “AMBEO” 3D sound modes additionally made for some attention-grabbing listening experimentation, the place not one of the settings actually sounded dangerous, simply completely different. The presets—Motion pictures, Music, Information, Sports activities, and Impartial—are pointers for the fabric you’re listening to, however I tended to desire the dynamic and vibrant unfold of the Music preset even for Motion pictures. Nonetheless, the Motion pictures setting did have a tendency to emphasise dialogue extra, which may be useful throughout cacophonous motion flicks. 

The Sennheiser AMBEO’s 3D modes are the place the soundbar actually reveals off all of its immersive magic. They are often off or on in one in every of three settings: Gentle, Customary, and Increase, which decide the depth of the soundbar’s capacity to “upmix” a stereo sound into the phantasm of {surround}. Film and TV present audio appears to occupy an area from a couple of ft on both aspect of the soundbar and even a few ft above it because of the top-firing audio system. Totally different parts of music appear to bounce throughout with audible width. However, and it might sound humorous to say this about digitally separated sounds. 

Whereas every setting has its deserves, 3D sound is the secret right here, so I’m keen on the Increase setting, which reworked acquainted songs in attention-grabbing methods, usually feeling as if musical parts had been stretched throughout a large stage. Although when you’re used to listening to music in a sure means, Customary and Increase might sound considerably unnatural.

A ’forged of characters

The built-in equalizer, which you’ll be able to modify by a companion iOS and Android app, let me crank up the bass for slightly further oomph and to discover a customized sound for my tastes. That is frankly a low-rated app for quite a few causes, and the Android app on my Motorola G Stylus cellphone wouldn’t hook up with the AMBEO, though it was acknowledged and dealing to Chromecast by the Google House app. Nonetheless, the iOS app on an iPad did join and it was well worth the problem ultimately to get the graphic equalizer and the simpler toggling of AMBEO 3D sound modes. From the app you too can energy the AMBEO on/off, choose its enter supply, and management the quantity, though with a finicky contact slider that makes refined changes not really easy. 

Sennheiser additionally gives Google Chromecasting by the AMBEO. Setting this up failed a number of occasions, however after some dizzying rounds of rebooting the soundbar and the cellphone, it did join for profitable Chromecasting over WiFi. Nonetheless, Google House famous, “This system [the AMBEO] just isn’t optimized for casting,” and when Chromecasting from the cellphone, the quantity was considerably quieter than when paired over Bluetooth. 

So, who should purchase the Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar?

Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar on a counter top
The Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar helps convey house a widescreen expertise…in an equally expansive physique.

While you need a sturdy, luxurious sound for house theater viewing but additionally need the simplicity of an all-in-one soundbar, Sennheiser’s AMBEO Soundbar SB01 succeeds. Its cell app-based performance nonetheless may use some work, however that’s a minor element of the AMBEO setup. Not solely would the Sennheiser soundbar be a surround-sound improve from TV audio system or different soundbars, however it might simply function the first music speaker for any room through which you place it. There are numerous all-in-ones that value much less and take up much less house, however for one of the best multidimensional soundbar expertise with out sacrificing constancy, the AMBEO has set a excessive bar.

Markkus Rovito has written about professional audio, music know-how, and shopper electronics for the reason that flip of the millennium, together with stints at Digital Musician, Most PC, DJ Tech Instruments, and Remix. He’s his personal favourite DJ and would moderately be making beats for nickels.

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