Why has Sennheiser determined now could be the time to department out from headphones and professional comms merchandise and ship a Dolby Atmos soundbar? Why is it so huge? Why is it so costly? Shouldn’t you spend this form of cash on an precise Dolby Atmos system if that’s the sound you’re after? And, as soon as once more, why is it so huge?
There are quick solutions, however the place’s the enjoyable in that? The lengthy solutions are just under…
Design and construct: Carry That Weight
Where do you stand on Brutalism? It’s a stark, geometric design language, for certain – and it’s to not everybody’s style. But it’s the very first thing that sprang to thoughts after I first heaved the madly massive (12.5cm x 126.5cm x 17cm, h x w x d), madly heavy (18.5kg) Ambeo Soundbar from its packaging. It’s a fully uncompromising, unapologetic piece of purposeful design. It appears like a giant, purposeful soundbar, one which’s been on the steroids. The reality it’s solely accessible in fundamental black does nothing to scale back the impression of bulk.
So any potential proprietor goes to wish a) a giant TV to place the Sennheiser beneath, in any other case it’s going to look a bit daft, b) a number of house for the Sennheiser to do its Dolby Atmos factor (extra on that beneath) and c) a correct brick wall on which to mount its bigness.
(Despite delivering the costliest soundbar the market has ever seen, Sennheiser one way or the other has come to the conclusion that charging one other £50 for a wall-bracket is OK.)
As far as construct high quality goes, there’s equally little to debate. The Ambeo Soundbar is constructed to final – it feels prefer it might survive any variety of family catastrophes (the almost certainly of which, let’s face it, is its 18.5kg weight towing it off a plasterboard partition wall and onto the ground).
Features: Lucky 13
Part of the rationale the Ambeo Soundbar is such a whopper is that Sennheiser was decided it ought to supply full-on dwelling cinema rumble and scale with out the necessity for a separate subwoofer. As a consequence, the Ambeo Soundbar encompasses a complete of 13 speaker drivers – eight of that are far bigger than these in any soundbar different.
To replicate a Dolby Atmos 5.1.Four presentation (5 audio system in a surround-sound circle, a subwoofer, and 4 overhead channels bringing true three-dimensionality to the sound), Sennheiser has organized 9 drivers throughout the entrance of the Soundbar. Six of them are 10cm mid/bass drivers, the opposite three 25mm aluminium dome tweeters. There are two extra tweeters, one in every of the angled aspect panels, after which on the edges of the highest panel there are a few 9cm full-range drivers firing upwards to offer peak to the sound.
This is why the Ambeo Soundbar wants house to do its factor. Positioning it beneath a floor will stop the upward-firing drivers from creating the impression of peak that’s so essential to the Dolby Atmos impact.
(The Sennheiser can even cope with soundtracks mastered in DTS’s rival object-based 3D audio codec, DTS:X. This additionally depends on the upward-facing drivers to work at its greatest.)
It additionally wants a little bit of house on account of the 500 watts of Class D amplification that’s powering the 13 drivers. Class D is environment friendly, however 500 watts of it creates considerable warmth – so the vents on prime of the Ambeo Soundbar can’t be lined or blocked.
There are greater than sufficient methods of getting content material into the Sennheiser. There are 4 HDMI sockets, one with eARC and all in a position to cope with 4K and HDR (together with top-of-the-shop Dolby Vision), so it’s doable to get cutting-edge audio and video high quality utilizing only a single connection to your TV’s HDMI ARC socket (offered you’ve an Amazon Prime Video or Netflix subscription and fireplace up a few of their HDR/Dolby Atmos content material). In addition there’s Wi-Fi and an Ethernet socket, a digital optical enter and analogue stereo RCAs, Chromecast and Bluetooth 4.2 (with NFC pairing). If you possibly can’t discover a manner of getting sound from the Sennheiser, you’re simply not making an attempt.
Interface: Don’t Speak
On the entrance of the bar there’s a neat little show. It’s high-res and crisp, and breaks up the swathe of black material a little bit.
On prime of the bar are bodily buttons for the standard controls, and these are duplicated on the distant management. It’s fairly a pleasant, weighty handset, a lot nicer than the plasticky clickers some options include. The button you’re most desirous about is marked ‘Ambeo’ – this engages all of the Sennheiser’s fearsome processing powers to ship a 3D sound.
It’s additionally doable to regulate the Ambeo Soundbar utilizing Sennheiser’s Smart Control app (iOS and Android). It’s sensibly laid out, simple to make use of and extra secure than some others I might point out.
There’s no voice management, although, which can disappoint those that like shouting at their electronics. The remainder of us will make different preparations.
Performance: Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
There’s a predictably huge calibration microphone within the Sennheiser’s packaging. Set the highest of it to head-height, plug it into the Ambeo’s fascia, and a speedy sequence of check tones are fired in all instructions. The Sennheiser optimises itself to its setting rapidly and precisely. And then, properly, pin your ears again.
The sheer scale of the Ambeo Soundbar’s presentation is outstanding. The stage is extensive, and extends to nearly alongside your seated place. And much more remarkably, it reaches manner up excessive, seeming to position sound nearly immediately above. As an indication of processing prowess, it’s a extra convincing facsimile of Dolby Atmos than some other soundbar can generate.
Netflix’s Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle is a hit-and-miss little bit of film-making, however its Dolby Atmos soundtrack (and HDR image) make it very helpful – and the Sennheiser completely goes to city with the audio.
It’s not simply the dimensions of the soundstage, the best way it spreads out in each path, that impresses. The separation, house and wide-open character of the stage means results will be simply situated on it, and there’s a lot elbow room that the whole lot occurs in its personal distinct pocket of house.
There’s brilliance to metallic clashes on the prime of the frequency vary, actual texture and character to the various actorly voices occupying the midrange, and – precisely as Sennhesier meant – a lot punch, substance and impetus to the low frequencies that nobody of their proper thoughts goes to want for a subwoofer. The frequency info is balanced expertly, built-in easily and served up with such reserves of energy that even the most important dynamic upheavals are handled effortlessly.
The Sennheiser can do the vast majority of this good work with much less promising soundtracks, too. No matter if it’s the common 5.1 soundtrack to O Brother, Where Art Thou? and even the stereo sound of Performance, partaking the ‘Ambeo’ setting ends in a tall, extensive however comparatively delicate 3D impact. It’s arduous to consider content material past Newsnight that wouldn’t profit from being Sennheiser Ambeo’d.
Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar verdict
No different soundbar at present accessible can do what the Ambeo can. Not with the solidity and confidence of the Sennheiser. That’s why, in addition to being the most important and the costliest, it’s the very best you should purchase.