Hands on: Sennheiser Ambeo 3D Soundbar review

The headphone giant turns its talents to a soundbar

What is a hands on review?

Early Verdict

While known best for its headphones, Sennheiser’s debut soundbar proves that providing great audio is definitely a transferable skill. The Ambeo 3D Soundbar sounds absolutely terrific, and its use of four, rather than two, height channels pushes the boundaries of what Dolby Atmos soundbars are capable of.

For

  • Wider Atmos soundstage
  • Powerful bass response

Against

  • Expensive
  • Big and chunky

As it turns out, when you’re good at audio, you’re good at audio. It doesn’t matter whether you specialize in headphones, or microphones – if a company knows its way around getting the most from a set of drivers and mics, then it can pretty much deal with any form-factor. 

In this case, the company is Sennheiser, a brand that (on the consumer side at least) has historically pushed the limits of what headphones are capable of. These are the minds behind such audiophile monsters such as the $55,000 Orpheus and $1,600 HD 800 headphones.

But times are changing for the company, and its focus is expanding. The Ambeo 3D Soundbar feels like a bold step forward for the company. It’s the first consumer piece of home cinema tech the company has put out, and it offers a whopping 5.1.4 channel configuration. 

Image credit: TechRadar

Image credit: TechRadar

Design and performance

The Sennheiser Ambeo is a monster- both in terms of looks and performance. It's massive and chunky in size and that's mostly due to the 13 drivers it packs. Don't expect it to easily fit your current living room setup- you'll need a lot of space and an approval from your better half to install the Ambeo.

There is only one color available at the moment which is black that stretches across the 13 drivers (six woofers, five tweeters, and two top-firing speakers) and the back with a small LCD screen in the center showing the current input. 

Image credit: TechRadar

Image credit: TechRadar

We were treated to a variety of Dolby Atmos demos that we’ve heard on competing Soundbars before and never, ever has a soundbar sounded as immersive and with that level of bass. It's the kind of sound you expect from a multi-speaker setup.

The reason for that is that the Ambeo 3D Soundbar has four height channels as opposed to the standard two found in most Atmos-equipped soundbars. Those extra two channels are put to work creating sound that appears to be coming from both above and behind you, and in our demos we could absolutely hear sound coming from those directions. 

Image credit: TechRadar

Image credit: TechRadar

With such a complex array of channels, setting the soundbar up for the specifics of your room could be a challenge. Thankfully, Sennheiser is planning on including a microphone in with every soundbar that you’ll be able to use to calibrate it. 

The plan is to have you place this microphone where you’d usually listen to your soundbar from, where it will then pick up a variety of test noises and use these to optimize the speaker for your unique listening environment. 

Coming to connectivity, the Ambeo 3D Soundbar features built in Google Chromecast, Bluetooth and HDMI eARC/CEC. You also have three additional HDMI inputs, an optical audio port, and an AUX (RCA) input. We asked about AirPlay and Sennhesier is awaiting certification from Apple to support that.

As far as support for audio standards is concerned; it will support Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and MPEG-H (another 3D audio standard). Using Upmix Technology, the Soundbar can also recreate stereo and 5.1 content in 3D. 

Out of the box, the Sennheiser Ambeo 3D Soundbar will feature five different presets (movie, music, sports, news and neutral) that adjust not only the frequencies but also the 3D sound characteristics. 

Image credit: TechRadar

Image credit: TechRadar

Early verdict

Priced at 2,499 EUR, the Sennheiser Ambeo 3D soundbar is an enormously promising first-effort from the premium headphone brand. Its audio presentation is bold, expressive, and spacious, and the Atmos delivery is among the best we’ve heard from a soundbar. 

We just need more details before we can pass judgement fully, but with a release planned at some point in 2019, hopefully we’ll have answers to our questions sooner rather than later. 

What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.