Sennheisers debut soundbar, released in 2019, was a niche product for a few reasons. The first was the price. At $2,499.95, it beat the cost of many traditional surround sound systems, including an AV receiver and multiple speakers. But perhaps more important was its size. I say this with love, but Original Ambe Soundbar (now renamed the Ambio Soundbar Max) was a chunky guy, which hardly made it easy for anyone to tuck it in front of their TV.
So although it’s $1,000 cheaper, I think the price may be the second most significant change with Sennheiser’s second soundbar, the $1,499.95 Ambeo Soundbar Plus, which the company sells. Launched today at an event in Berlin, Instead, I think its small size may be more important. It is now just 7 cm tall instead of 13 cm. That means you’ll still have trouble fitting it under a TV like LG’s C series, which has a notoriously short stand, but unlike its predecessor, has a good chance of fitting under a taller model.
Of course, none of this matters if Sennheiser has had to compromise on sound in order to cut dollars off the price of the soundbar and centimeters from its height. But from what I heard about the soundbar today during a couple of listening sessions, it doesn’t sound like it at all.
First, some glasses. The Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Plus has a total of nine drivers: two 4-inch woofers, plus seven full-range aluminum drivers. Two of these drivers are firing upwards so that sound can bounce off the ceiling and work with 3D surround sound formats like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, two fire sideways from the ends of the soundbar and three fire forward. Overall, Sennheiser claims that the soundbar is capable of creating the impression of a 7.1.4 surround sound system.
Note that I say this is only creating an “impression” of this 3D sound, because like its predecessor, Ambeo Plus is virtualizing these channels. It doesn’t support additional speakers acting as dedicated surrounds, as Sennheiser argues, its virtualization technology is good enough that it isn’t needed.
Having had a chance to listen to Soundbar Plus at a performance, I’m inclined to agree. Representatives from Sennheiser rolled through a series of demo videos, including some mixed in Dolby Atmos. The extent to which I could feel the sound coming from all around me was impressive. At some point, the reps turned off Ambio virtualization, and the surround sound effect made the surround sound all the more impressive as opposed to hearing all the sound coming directly from the soundbar.
You’ll need to train this virtualization soundbar to measure your room using its four built-in microphones. It’s a process you’ll have to repeat if you ever move the soundbar between rooms, but considering the impressive results, it sounds well worth it. Ambeo Soundbar Plus is also able to detect what kind of content is being played through it, be it sports, movies or music, for example, and customize its sound accordingly. There are lots of manual controls if you want.
It was a little hard to judge the soundbar’s bass performance. Sennheiser’s performance initially included the soundbar with its three new $699.95 Sennheiser Ambeo Sub Subwoofers (it supports up to four). And as you might expect surrounded by three 8-inch woofers, the effect was impressive, especially with the music tracks offering a real visceral punch of sound with each bass note.
Ditch the optional subwoofers, and it’s hard not to be a little disappointed with what the Ambio Plus can achieve on its own. That’s not to say that it’s bad at bass—it was lovely and current, and it didn’t overpower its reception by becoming loud or heavy. It cannot move air in the same way as a dedicated sub.
Ambeo Soundbar Plus is well stocked with connectivity options. There are a total of three HDMI ports, one eARC for connecting to a TV, and two regular HDMI inputs, along with optical and traditional RCA. There’s also a physical port for connecting a wired sub if you prefer. Wirelessly, you have a choice of several standards, including Bluetooth, AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect, and Chromecast. It also has Alexa built-in and is HomeKit compatible.
With the original Ambeo Soundbar Max, and now the Ambeo Soundbar Plus, it’s clear that Sennheiser wants to broaden the audience for its soundbars from the audiophile high-end to the more mass-market consumer. At $1,499.95, the Ambeo Soundbar Plus still won’t be for everyone, but it could be a more solid bar-shaped alternative to the traditional surround sound speaker setup. At least, it can actually fit under your TV this time.
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