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 house owners with a selection: discover area 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 because of the Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar SB01, comfort received’t price you audio high quality, although it should price you $2,499—a serious value leap from related immersion-focused built-in methods just like the $999 Vizio Elevate. That includes 13 drivers and the flexibility to rework any source into 3D audio, this thick slab of sound is for individuals who need the most effective soundbar, no matter value. 

The Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar’s design

Accommodating all these audio system (two firing upward and 11 outward), and the 500 watts of energy to drive them, requires appreciable measurement and weight. At nearly 41 kilos, 50 inches huge, and greater than 5 inches tall (together with the rubber toes), the AMBEO is significantly bigger than the typical soundbar. On the identical tabletop because the TV, the Sennheiser soundbar might block a portion of your display, except 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 exhibits fundamental information, similar to enter source, quantity stage, and connectivity standing when linked to Bluetooth 4.2 or when Chromecasting from the iOS or Android Google Dwelling app. The brushed metallic high panel has an embedded row of important controls. Whereas, on the again, the Sennheiser AMBEO soundbar has three HDMI inputs for connecting parts like gaming consoles or Blu-ray gamers, together with an HDMI TV eARC (Audio Return Channel) output for two-way connection to suitable TVs. This implies the AMBEO can go by way of 4K and HDR (together with Dolby Imaginative and prescient) indicators from parts 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 want a wired connection over the built-in WiFi. The Google Dwelling app performs Chromecasting and any firmware updates, however there’s 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 twine with anybody who hates wiring sound methods.

In case your main setup is source-soundbar-TV, you’ll discover all the pieces you want within the AMBEO field to arrange shortly: a normal “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 linked on this manner, 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 inner 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 replicate sound is essential to the Sennheiser AMBEO soundbar’s skill to simulate {surround} sound, so the “hardest” a part of establishing 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 inner 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 (really helpful six or extra meters away) and, when prompted from the distant, the AMBEO emits a collection of loud frequency sweeps to set ranges it saves in inner 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 a variety of 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 arrogance 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 value and the pedigree of the 75-year-old model, the Sennheiser AMBEO soundbar should reside or die primarily based on its audio high quality and the various methods by which it treats incoming indicators to sound like a 5.1.Four {surround} system (representing two left channels, two proper channels, and a middle channel; a subwoofer; and 4 rear channels). With the intention to do that, the soundbar helps all the most important 5.1 and seven.1 {surround} codecs present in legacy motion pictures and video games, plus all newer 3D audio ones you’re prone 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 need to futureproof your sizeable funding). However you received’t want to fret about codecs for essentially the most half past initially establishing HDMI units. For instance, after I linked a Sony PS4 to the AMBEO and selected the audio settings for the sport console, it knew the soundbar was suitable with DTS 7.1 and defaulted to that setting. 

Digital actuality

The Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar control panel
A small management panel on high of the AMBEO permits you to cycle modes, which will 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 right down to a thumping 30Hz whereas sustaining a pure tonality. Nevertheless, when you’re an actual bass addict who must really feel the type 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 practically every bit of visible and audio media I performed by way of the AMBEO, together with the Netflix “Military of the Useless” film with Dolby Atmos sound, the PS4 “Center Earth: Shadow of Struggle” recreation in DTS 7.1 sound, and a number of 21st-century music with which I’m intimately acquainted, together with hip-hop, pop, and a variety of digital music similar to dubstep, home, and indie-dance. With movie, the dialogue was extra intelligible, sustaining its presence whilst 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 nicely—presenting loads of low-end with out distracting from or distorting the general audio. Enjoying 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 surprising and pleasant methods. I shortly most well-liked music by way of 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 unhealthy, simply completely different. The presets—Films, Music, Information, Sports activities, and Impartial—are pointers for the fabric you’re listening to, however I tended to want the dynamic and vibrant unfold of the Music preset even for Films. Nevertheless, the Films setting did have a tendency to emphasise dialogue extra, which could be useful throughout cacophonous motion flicks. 

The Sennheiser AMBEO’s 3D modes are the place the soundbar actually exhibits off all of its immersive magic. They are often off or on in one among three settings: Gentle, Commonplace, and Enhance, which decide the depth of the soundbar’s skill to “upmix” a stereo sound into the phantasm of {surround}. Film and TV present audio appears to occupy an area from just a few toes on both aspect of the soundbar and even a few toes above it as a result of top-firing audio system. Totally different components of music appear to bop 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 Enhance setting, which reworked acquainted songs in attention-grabbing methods, typically feeling as if musical components had been stretched throughout a large stage. Although when you’re used to listening to music in a sure manner, Commonplace and Enhance might sound considerably unnatural.

A ’solid of characters

The built-in equalizer, which you’ll be able to modify by way of a companion iOS and Android app, let me crank up the bass for just a little further oomph and to discover a personalised sound for my tastes. That is frankly a low-rated app for a lot of causes, and the Android app on my Motorola G Stylus telephone wouldn’t hook up with the AMBEO, though it was acknowledged and dealing to Chromecast by way of the Google Dwelling app. Nevertheless, the iOS app on an iPad did join and it was definitely worth the trouble ultimately to get the graphic equalizer and the better toggling of AMBEO 3D sound modes. From the app you may as well energy the AMBEO on/off, choose its enter source, and management the quantity, though with a finicky contact slider that makes refined changes not really easy. 

Sennheiser additionally gives Google Chromecasting by way of the AMBEO. Setting this up failed a number of instances, however after some dizzying rounds of rebooting the soundbar and the telephone, it did join for profitable Chromecasting over WiFi. Nevertheless, Google Dwelling famous, “This gadget [the AMBEO] shouldn’t be optimized for casting,” and when Chromecasting from the telephone, 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 deliver dwelling a widescreen expertise…in an equally expansive physique.

Once you desire a sturdy, luxurious sound for dwelling 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 might use some work, however that’s a minor part 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 by which you place it. There are numerous all-in-ones that price much less and take up much less area, however for the most effective 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 client electronics because the 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 fairly be making beats for nickels.

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