Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Review Page 2

The early bass rumbling preceding the arrival of Thanos in New York City resonated throughout my listening room. Did it shake the floors? Not in my concrete house, but it was certainly the most LFE I've gotten out of a soundbar, and even more than I've heard from some dedicated, albeit small, subwoofers.

Infinity War's battle in NYC scene also has pronounced surround with a good amount of effects coming from the virtual rear surrounds. Even subtle effects were scrumptious on the Ambeo. When Thanos gets transported to the Arctic tundra, the cold wind whipped behind and over me with a crisp, clean sound devoid of any of the phasing artifacts sometimes evident with synthesized surround algorithms. Impressive.


I replayed all of these scenes with the Ambeo 3D Boost mode and the effects were significantly heightened. It was fun for an SFX extravaganza like Infinity War, but that setting would be too much for films with more conservative sound design. The beauty of the Ambeo soundbar is that all of its 3D modes are easily selectable, and with the right source material, all can sound terrific.

To see how the Ambeo handled simple movie dialogue, I watched Clouds of Sils Maria, with Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart. The heavy accents and soft-spoken conversations in this movie are challenging for some sound systems. Kristen Stewart isn't the most boisterous of actresses, yet her voice managed to be clearly audible through the Ambeo, even when she was whispering. I did notice a bit of lag between sound and image when viewing this movie. Sennheiser's Smart Control App has settings for each input that let you add an audio delay ranging from 1ms to 100ms. Using this, latency can be minimized when using HDMI eARC and connecting sources directly to the soundbar.


Music Performance
To test the Ambeo's handling of music, I first turned to Beyoncé's Homecoming, a concert video extravaganza from her 2018 Coachella performance celebrating Beyoncé's heritage, HBCUs, and her triumphant return to the stage. "I Still Care" masterfully combines Beyoncé's powerful vocals with a pounding tom-tom drum track. Most songs in Homecoming are backed by a full marching band that provides a deep, massive drum sound. "Run the World (Girls)" is driven by pounding bass and deep synths, but again, Beyoncé's voice soared with a clarity that I have rarely heard on soundbars with smaller speakers. The Ambeo's larger drivers really allowed the vocals to stand out in the extremely complicated mix. Likewise, each instrumental part was clearly defined from the others. When audio gear is doing a great job, you just want to keep listening, and that's exactly what I did, staying until the end of the show for the Destiny's Child reunion with its crystal-clear three-part harmony.

One goal of my evaluation was to hear how the Ambeo soundbar handled basic stereo music. Short answer: superbly. I cued up "Hurt Somebody" by Noah Kahan and Julia Michaels, a song that opens with a center-panned lead vocal and acoustic guitar spread across the stereo soundstage. The guitar sounded natural and accurate on the Ambeo, with just a hint of finger noise sliding on the strings, while the rasp in Kahan's vocals was clean and precise.


The soundbar really shined when the drums in "Hurt Somebody" kicked in with Julia Michaels' voice in the third verse. The unique, "loose" sonic details of this kick drum can be lost on inferior systems, but the Ambeo captured the low-end of this song precisely, with realistic and controlled bass extension. The reverb and echo on Michaels' voice has a nice bit of "air" in the upper treble, without a hint of sibilance even at louder listening levels. In a later chorus when Michaels and Kahan are both singing without a backing chorus, their voices remained clean and distinct, and they were firmly planted in the center of the stereo image. When the background vocals joined in on the next stanza, they were spread wide across the soundstage.

To sum things up, the Ambeo's Music mode overall provides a natural and accurate listening experience. With 3D processing activated, the soundstage gets greatly expanded as the top-firing speakers are engaged, with imaging spread wide across the front of the listening space instead of being locked to the left and right speakers. The effect creates an evenly distributed wall of sound, yet one with very precise imaging.

If a soundbar has poor basic sound quality, all the cool processing in the world won't make things right. Fortunately, Sennheiser's Ambeo has excellent essential sound quality, delivering clean, natural reproduction with a solid low end. And the soundbar's 3D processing turns out to be a thick layer of icing on an already delicious cake. More than once during my audition I did a quick double-take to make sure I hadn't accidentally turned on the actual surround speakers in my home theater. I can pay no greater compliment to the Ambeo than that.

Sennheiser's soundbar makes no compromises. And given its cost, it shouldn't. It is an expensive but elegant solution that delivers convincing surround sound from above and around without speakers, wires, or a complicated setup. With its own calibration algorithm in a proper room, it can deliver all the benefits of Dolby Atmos or DTS:X without the hassles of a true surround system. Bottom line: the Ambeo is a soundbar designed for audiophiles and for-anyone who enjoys a killer movie experience.


Olaf the Snowman's picture

One box solution for a relatively affordable price :-) .........

Olaf the Snowman's picture

May be LS can tell us how 'The Dark Side of the Moon' by Pink Floyd sounds like in the 2-channel stereo and surround sound mix sounds like on the Ambeo Soundbar? :-) ..........