Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Plus evaluate: you gained’t consider your ears | Digital Traits

Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Plus evaluate: you gained’t consider your ears

MSRP $1,500.00

“With virtualized Dolby Atmos this good, who wants extra audio system?”

Professionals

  • Implausible 3D sound
  • Numerous connections
  • Constructed-in room tuning
  • As much as 4 wi-fi subs/1 wired sub
  • AirPlay/Chromecast/Tidal Join
  • Alexa built-in
  • Dolby Atmos/DTS:X
  • Sony 360/MPEG-H

Cons

  • Nonetheless costly
  • Solely HDMI 2.0a
  • Depends closely on cellular app
  • Bizarre Alexa integration

When Sennheiser’s mighty Ambeo Soundbar debuted in 2018, it caught lots of people off guard. Not solely was it the corporate’s first soundbar — and never solely did it price $2,500,making it one of the vital costly you would purchase — it blew reviewers away with its 3D Dolby Atmos capabilities.

Nonetheless, as spectacular because it was, most pundits puzzled whether or not we’d ever see a smaller, extra accessible model that would nonetheless ship on that Ambeo expertise. It took a number of years, however Sennheiser’s reply is right here, within the type of the smaller and extra reasonably priced (although nonetheless costly) $1,500 Ambeo Soundbar Plus.

Now the one query is whether or not lightning has struck twice — or is that this new Ambeo simply one other Dolby Atmos soundbar?

Accessories: Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Plus.
Simon Cohen / Digital Traits

However earlier than we get into the juicy bits about how this factor sounds, let’s cowl some extra practical floor. Sennheiser deserves main props for its packaging of the Ambeo Soundbar Plus. The whole lot proper all the way down to the protecting wrapper that covers the speaker is constructed from simply recycled paper or cardboard, with the only exception of the black plastic carry deal with.

Inside that field, you’ll discover a energy cable, a premium licensed HDMI cable, a distant management, and a fast begin information.

That’s every thing it’s good to get going, nevertheless it’s not every thing it’s good to know. Be ready to go searching for the total handbook on Sennheiser’s web site if you wish to perceive all the speaker’s settings and features. There are a number of them, and just some are intuitive sufficient to determine by yourself.

Top controls: Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Plus.
Simon Cohen / Digital Traits

The soundbar itself is an understated affair — all black, low-slung, and ringed in acoustically clear, charcoal-colored material. Its comparatively brief peak is the most important visible distinction between the Ambeo Soundbar Plus and its newly renamed huge brother, the large Ambeo Soundbar Max. It’s not nearly aesthetics. At 5.3 inches tall, a number of of us in all probability prevented shopping for the Max as a result of it could have blocked a portion of the underside of their TVs. That ought to not often be a difficulty with the Plus. In case your TV is wall-mounted, the Ambeo Plus can be part of it, however you’ll want to purchase the elective $50 bracket.

You’ll discover contact controls and a large LED strip indicator bar on the highest floor, together with the microphone array that does double responsibility as each Alexa’s ears (elective) and the speaker’s room-calibration sensors.

Input/output ports: Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Plus.
Simon Cohen / Digital Traits

One of many perennial issues we’ve seen with flagship soundbars from firms like Bose, Sonos, and Bowers & Wilkins is an absence of HDMI inputs. All of them use HDMI ARC/eARC to hook up with a TV, however that at all times means giving up one in every of your TV’s valuable few HDMI ports simply so you may have nice sound. The Ambeo Soundbar Plus has no such limitations. Not solely does it provide two HDMI inputs along with its HDMI ARC/eARC port, nevertheless it additionally has discrete inputs for analog and digital optical units

You may join any powered subwoofer to the Ambeo Soundbar — not simply Sennheiser’s.

However let’s not heap an excessive amount of reward on Sennheiser for this. All soundbars ought to have no less than a single HDMI enter. It’s additionally value noting that these two HDMI inputs solely help HDMI 2.0a, which signifies that if you wish to do 4K gaming at 120Hz, variable refresh fee (VRR), or 8K, you’ll should plug straight into your TV. Assuming, that’s, your TV’s ARC/eARC port isn’t the one port that may deal with these HDMI 2.1 options.

Nonetheless, the Ambeo Soundbar Plus’s ports will fortunately passthrough 4K at 60Hz and all HDR flavors together with Dolby Imaginative and prescient, so your entire non-gaming, non-8K wants are met.

If you wish to plug a streaming stick into one in every of these HDMI ports, there’s a conveniently situated USB-A port for energy. You too can use it for handbook firmware updates, however that’s all it does.

My favourite function, nonetheless, is the subwoofer pre-out. Sennheiser’s new $700 Ambeo Sub can connect with the Ambeo Soundbar Plus wirelessly — in truth, you may join as much as 4 Ambeo Subs wirelessly in order for you — however each the soundbar and the sub additionally provide RCA jacks for wired connections.

This implies you may join any powered subwoofer to the Ambeo Soundbar — not simply Sennheiser’s. You may’t do this with Bose, Sony, Sonos, or the overwhelming majority of different soundbars.

As with most high-end soundbars, organising the Ambeo is finished by way of an app in your smartphone. It’s quick and simple because of the intuitive, step-by-step interface of Sennheiser’s Sensible Management software program. It will get the bar linked to your Wi-Fi (or you need to use Ethernet for those who occur to have a cable close to your TV), performs the room calibration utilizing the onboard mics, after which guides you thru the elective steps for utilizing Alexa as a voice assistant and utilizing Google’s Chromecast built-in.

Should you don’t have already got a wise speaker in your TV room, you may wish to benefit from Alexa, however don’t skip the Chromecast setup. Whether or not you’ve gotten an iPhone or an Android system, Chromecast is a more sensible choice than each Bluetooth and Apple AirPlay for audio streaming in case your app helps it. For CD-quality tracks, there’s no actual profit, however for those who’ve bought entry to lossless, hi-res audio from streaming providers like Apple Music, Amazon Music, Qobuz, or Deezer, Chromecast will protect all of that further element.

The app is by far the best solution to entry the Ambeo’s features and settings, however right here’s a professional tip: for those who don’t wish to use it, otherwise you don’t personal a tool that’s appropriate with Sennheiser’s app, the soundbar additionally has an internet interface you may entry by way of a browser.

Remote control held in hand: Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Plus.
Simon Cohen / Digital Traits

If you would like, you may management the Ambeo Soundbar Plus simply through the use of the app, however there’s additionally an included distant. It’s an unusually sturdy accent. Most soundbar remotes (if the speaker comes with a distant in any respect) really feel low cost, however this one has actual heft to it. Sadly there’s no backlight, so it’s possible you’ll battle to make use of it in the dead of night.

You might also battle with the way in which Sennheiser has chosen to implement quantity muting. As an alternative of a devoted mute button, muting is managed by way of the “O” multifunction button, which, given its place on the distant and its icon, might simply be mistaken for an influence button.

The Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Plus is the Penn & Teller of the Dolby Atmos Soundbar world.

In case your audio is coming out of your TV or one of many soundbar inputs, a single press of that button mutes the audio. Nonetheless, for those who’re streaming from Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or Spotify/Tidal Join, the only press acts as a pause (press it once more to play).

OK, to date so good. It’s a bit uncommon, however when you get used to it, it really works effectively. However that’s the management scheme for those who aren’t utilizing the Soundbar Plus as an Alexa good speaker. Should you select to activate Amazon’s voice assistant, the multifunction button goes by a metamorphosis, whereby a single press prompts Alexa, and if you wish to use the button’s earlier muting and playback options, these now require three-second-long presses. I don’t learn about you, however I simply don’t have the persistence to attend three seconds to manage quantity or playback.

I’m additionally confused by the way in which the soundbar gives visible suggestions. That top-mounted LED strip is kind of the versatile indicator, with a wide range of colours and animations for issues like quantity, mode, muting, and so forth. However due to its place — set towards the again edge — it’s possible you’ll not be capable to see it in any respect. Ideally, it ought to be entrance and middle, situated the place the Sennheiser phrase mark seems, proper beneath the grille — the precise place Sennheiser positioned the OLED show on the Soundbar Max.

The speaker can also affirm when it’s receiving Dolby Atmos or DTS:X indicators, however these tiny indicators are even tougher to see. They sit on the highest floor, behind the raised entrance fringe of the grille, which obscures them until you’re trying down at them. The Ambeo mode indicator, nonetheless, could be very straightforward to see: it sits within the lower-right entrance nook.

The included quick-start information affords a information to many of those options — for those who can decipher the Ikea-esque pictograms necessitated by the multi-anguage nature of the pamphlet. However to grasp and use the Ambeo’s deeper options, you’ll completely have to seek the advice of the total directions. Since Sennheiser doesn’t embody them within the field or hyperlink to them from the Sensible Management app, listed here are hyperlinks to the downloadable model and the web-based model.

In front of TV: Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Plus.
Simon Cohen / Digital Traits

Now, let’s discuss in regards to the sound. General, the Ambeo Soundbar Plus is a sonic delight. There’s sufficient energy on faucet to envelop even the biggest of rooms. In actual fact, it will probably get so loud, for those who’re in a smaller to medium-sized room, watch out — we’re speaking probably dangerous ranges on the higher finish of the vary.

The dual built-in subwoofers aren’t any match for devoted subs, however they’re nearly as good or higher at delivering low-end bass as some other single soundbar I’ve heard, with the doable exception of the Bang & Olufsen Beosound Stage and the Ambeo Soundbar Max.

Sennheiser was type sufficient to lend me an Ambeo wi-fi sub to attempt with the brand new bar, and as you’d anticipate, it supplied loads of cinematic rumble. However until you wish to benefit from that wi-fi connection or the Ambeo’s skill to handle 4 of those unhealthy boys concurrently, you may be higher off spending that Ambeo Sub cash ($700) on a wired sub of your selecting.

Top drivers close-up of Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Plus.
Simon Cohen / Digital Traits

Good Dolby Atmos soundbars have top-notch acoustic parts (the drivers, amplifiers, and so forth.), and a ample variety of drivers to undertaking sound round a room. Nice Dolby Atmos soundbars, then again, even have the sort of software program — or digital sign processing (DSP) if you wish to get technical about it — that may give an oblong field of drivers the power to idiot your ears into considering you’ve bought a room filled with audio system. And the Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Plus is the Penn & Teller of the Dolby Atmos Soundbar world.

Aside from the Ambeo Soundbar Max, I don’t assume you will get a extra immersive audio expertise from a single speaker than the Ambeo Soundbar Plus. It’s definitely true whenever you feed it multichannel object-based encompass sound codecs like Dolby Atmos or DTS:X, however it may be simply as thrilling when listening to five.1, 7.1, and even good ol’ two-channel stereo.

The key sauce is Sennheiser’s Ambeo mode, which supercharges 3D codecs and “upscales” non-3D codecs. Utilizing the data gathered in the course of the room calibration step, it makes an attempt to position so-called phantom audio system round your room in a 7.1.4 configuration (entrance, encompass, rear, peak, and a subwoofer). It really works brilliantly.

Angled view of Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Plus.
Simon Cohen / Digital Traits

Two of my favourite latest Atmos torture checks — the preliminary sandworm sequence from Denis Villeneuve’s Dune and the Aston Martin chase/shootout sequence from No Time To Die — handed with flying colours. The eerie whispering voices younger Paul Atreides experiences as he’s engulfed in a spice-saturated sand cloud, float across the room like disembodied ghosts. And because the digicam pulls again on a cornered James Bond, it passes by a set of three tolling bells (don’t ask for whom the bell tolls), which dutifully transfer from both facet of you to the entrance of the room, echoing overhead as they go.

These are the results that make Dolby Atmos so pleasurable, and why you want a extremely succesful soundbar to listen to them. Simply as importantly, the dialogue stays clear and distinct, a crucial check for any TV speaker.

If there’s one factor that would make the Ambeo Soundbar Plus even higher, it could be if Sennheiser provided a set of matching wi-fi encompass audio system. Sony, Bose, and Sonos have this as an choice, and LG, Samsung, and Vizio bundle their flagship soundbars with them.

I’m not saying that the Ambeo system wants them, however there’s a pure restrict to simply how a lot of a real, 360-degree sound discipline could be generated by virtualization alone.

As a expertise, Ambeo isn’t distinctive. Sony does one thing very related on its $1,300 HT-A7000 by way of that speaker’s Immersive AE (IAE) mode. I believe Ambeo is superior, no less than for films and TV content material. In terms of music, IAE affords a extra pure sound. If at any level you don’t like what the Ambeo processing is doing, you may disable it with a single button press on the distant.

However this brings us to a key differentiator between the Ambeo Soundbar Plus and many of the competitors: EQ settings. Most soundbars provide “modes” — consider them as presets designed that can assist you get probably the most out of particular sorts of content material. On the Ambeo, they’re Impartial, Film, Music, Information, Sports activities, and Adaptive. The primary 5 are self-explanatory, whereas the sixth is an autopilot mode that reacts to no matter you’re listening to.

On different audio system, the modes are static. You both like what they do to the sound otherwise you don’t. Sennheiser makes no such assumptions about its tuning. Every mode enables you to tweak its particular sound signature with a four-band EQ, plus you may determine how sturdy the Ambeo impact ought to be when Ambeo mode is engaged: gentle, common, or increase.

Logo close-up of Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Plus.
Simon Cohen / Digital Traits

Higher nonetheless, the soundbar will keep in mind which of those modes you final used on an input-by-input foundation. So for those who principally watch sports activities by way of your TV, films by way of your streaming stick, and music by way of the optical port, you may set these preferences as soon as, after which overlook about them.

On the music facet of the equation, the Ambeo Soundbar Plus is a stable performer. As with most soundbars, it gained’t substitute a devoted set of high-quality stereo audio system. As an alternative, consider it as a extra immersive solution to expertise two-channel sound and a good way to expertise multichannel music like Dolby Atmos Music.

That is when these deeper Ambeo and EQ-based settings actually turn out to be useful. Enhance-level Ambeo is method an excessive amount of — it will probably trigger some actually disagreeable peakiness within the greater frequencies. However gentle stage could be very pleasurable, and with some EQ experimentation, I believe you’ll be capable to get issues dialed in simply the way in which you want them.

Front, right view of Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Plus.
Simon Cohen / Digital Traits

I’m rather less enthusiastic in regards to the music administration facet of issues. The speaker has no scarcity of connection and format selections: AirPlay, Chromecast built-in, Bluetooth, Tidal and Spotify Join, and Sony’s 360 Actuality Audio (360RA) — not unhealthy in any respect. So long as you’re content material to make use of third-party streaming music apps in your smartphone, possibly that’s sufficient.

However until you utilize Google Dwelling or Amazon Alexa, there’s no built-in solution to do multiroom audio. The Sensible Join app has no choice for accessing your private music library, and the Bluetooth connection is proscribed to SBC and AAC codecs.

The Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Plus may not be as expandable as Sonos or Bose, it may not possess Sony’s help for superior gaming and 8K content material, and it suffers from a number of usability points. Nevertheless it delivers a fully astonishing immersive 3D efficiency, it has loads of connectivity choices, and it’s one of many few soundbars that allows you to select your individual subwoofer.

If you wish to set up a single speaker that can blow your thoughts with out blowing out your checking account, that is your subsequent soundbar.

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