An Atmos Combo Made in Heaven
Back at CES2019, I witnessed Sennheiser Ambeo soundbar which to my pleasant surprise totally replicated a 7.1.4 sonic configuration very extremely convincingly even with no subwoofer attached at all. Sound bounced all over the place distinctly from above and behind me. Something that no other single-soundbar can do even at this very moment I’m writing this article. Heck, not only I’m fooled with the Ambeo audio trickery; even when tested with animals, they also think the sound come from all around them, and their ears are more acute than any human.
The only drawback of the originally is surprisingly not the C$4,000 price but its size. It is chonky to say the least with weight exceeding 40 lbs. No wonder that Sennheiser finally renamed it to Ambeo Max when they release the little brother of that soundbar.
Yes, now you can get the smaller brother of Ambeo Max called Ambeo Plus. It is much smaller at less than half the weight and around only 30 % in total enclosure volume. The Ambeo Plus is very manageable and can easily be situated in front of my TV without blocking it. But the Ambeo Plus still has an astonishing ability to fill a room with sound despite its much smaller footprint. There is a distinct difference between the Ambeo processing setting being on and off, and it really depends on personal preference as to whether you’ll want to use it. But then again, if you bought the Ambeo, why would you turn off the Ambeo setting anyway? The Ambeo setting allows for a much broader soundstage – while it can sacrifice precision for dialogue in dialogue heavy programs such as the news or narrated documentaries, the negative effect is minimal. Furthermore, if your main viewing programs are news and narrated documentaries, you won’t be buying a soundbar to begin with anyway.
Housed within the enclosure are nine speakers, comprising seven full-range aluminum drivers and dual 10 cm subwoofers. Two of the full-range drivers and both subwoofers face upwards to reflect sound for overhead immersive audio, and another two drivers point diagonally outwards on the corners of the soundbar to create a wider spread of sound. Playing anything in Dolby Atmos, the Ambeo is totally in its element providing grand and spacious soundstages to match the epic scenes on screen.
Another pleasant surprise, an Atmos demo included as part of the Sennheiser Smart Control App really highlights the capabilities of this soundbar, proving its worth when it comes to height, width, envelopment and clarity. It’s a short test that showcases the Ambeo’s capability, and I recommend taking a look when you first set the soundbar up as it’s both a great way to become acquainted with it and a flashy and impressive first taste of its Atmos potential. Or if you were me, use it to demo the Ambeo Plus to everyone who visits my house.
Now, because the enclosure is much smaller than the now-called Ambeo Max, having a subwoofer is nearly a necessity. The Sennheiser subwoofer for Ambeo can be used both on Ambeo Max and Ambeo Plus sundbars. Interestingly enough, you can really go crazy and set up to four (yes, FOUR) subwoofers if you inclined to.
There is practically no drawback for this unit itself other than the HDMI. For the asking price, I expect HDMI 2.1 switcher instead of the supplied HDMI 2.0. On the other hand, I also don’t see this as a problem at all as you can use your own TV’s input for anything that require HDMI 2.1 and simply run eARC for the Ambeo Plus.
All in all, at C$2,000 for the Ambeo Plus and C$1,000 for the subwoofer, you still pay C$1,000 less than Ambeo Max without a subwoofer and you will get a very close second to the absolute best single-piece soundbar available on the market.