The Sennheiser Ambeo Plus is a 7.1.4-channel soundbar, intended to complement the acclaimed but very expensive original Ambeo, which is now called the Ambeo Soundbar Max. The soundbar costs 1,499 euros and can be expanded with no fewer than four wireless subwoofers.
What is the Sennheiser Ambeo Plus?
The Ambeo Plus is not only cheaper than the first Sennheiser soundbar , it is also much more compact. The signboard remains the Ambeo technique to create a surround image by virtualizing phantom speakers. This technology was developed together with the Fraunhofer Institute. Based on an acoustic measurement performed by four microphones in the soundbar, the size, shape and characteristics of the living room are determined. For example, the soundbar can send sound so that it seems that sound effects can be heard above and next to it.
The built-in woofers on the Ambeo Plus can produce basses up to 27 Hz. Even deeper bass (up to 16 Hz, it was said) is possible by adding a sub. Sennheiser does take the unusual step of offering an option to use multiple subwoofers. That is unseen with soundbars. There are currently no plans to offer wireless rear speakers, something you will find with the competition. The 3D sound is delivered via Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, 360 Reality Audio and Mpeg-H Audio. Users can even upmix stereo and 5.1 content to create 3D sound experiences.
Ambeo Self-Calibration reads the acoustic properties of a room and then places seven virtual loudspeakers around the listener, plus four more above his head. The calibration can be started via the Smart Control App, where an equalizer can also be found. The Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Plus uses the AmbeoOS platform. This includes support for common services and standards, such as Apple AirPlay 2, Chromecast built-in , Spotify Connect and TIDAL Connect, and works with Google Assistant, Alexa and Siri.
The new Ambeo Soundbar Plus has a price of 1,499 euros, which makes it a competitor for the top models of LG, Sonos, Samsung and Sony.
Design and connections
Although the Ambeo Plus is a bit more compact than its larger and more expensive brother, it is certainly not a small soundbar. This speaker has the size of a typical flagship soundbar from other brands. It is slightly smaller than the Sonos Arc that we have hanging above it. With regard to the height, placement in front of a television will in many cases become difficult. With its 7 centimeters height, it can quickly end up in front of the infrared sensor or the image. It is therefore wise to hang the soundbar under the TV or to place the television slightly higher.
It is not a very special soundbar in terms of design. The speaker fabric around is what the Ambeo Plus mainly shows, but on top we also see a touch section on which buttons for, among other things, the volume, the microphone (voice control) and the input are placed. The drivers on top of the soundbar are slightly tilted for optimal placement of the audio in the room.
What is also striking is the Ambeo logo on the right side of the front. This lights up when you activate the Ambeo function (more about this later). Fortunately, the brightness can be adjusted in the app, or you can turn it off completely. This also applies to the other illuminated parts of the soundbar. The whole is sleek and neatly finished, which you can of course expect from a premium soundbar.
The Sennheiser Ambeo Plus is richly equipped in terms of connection options. You have access to no fewer than three HDMI 2.0 ports, one of which has an HDMI-eARC output , an optical toslink connection, a USB port, aux connections, and an Ethernet port. You can get started wirelessly with WiFi, Bluetooth, Apple AirPlay and Google Chromecast. Tidal Connect is also supported via the Smart Control app. A subwoofer can be connected via the pre-out or linked wirelessly.
App and calibration
Once you have connected the Sennheiser Ambeo Plus, it is a matter of downloading the Sennheiser Smart Control app, activating Bluetooth and searching for your device. It couldn’t be simpler and faster. Within seconds, the soundbar is added to the app and you can get started. The only point of criticism was the emerging firmware update that took no less than 45 minutes.
It is then important to set the soundbar to your liking and setting options are therefore plentiful, much more than with the average premium soundbar from other brands. It is even too much to list them all here, but browse through the images to see all the options. Important are, among other things, the volume of the center channel, the automatic switching on or off of the soundbar based on the input, and the adjustment of the visible LED lighting.
The home screen contains the most important and directly operable functions. Here you can adjust the volume, select the input, activate Ambeo, choose the audio preset, activate the night mode and activate the Voice Enhancement. All these functions can also be operated via the physical remote control (which is included). With the audio presets, you can press the edit button to adjust the Ambeo effect and/or adjust the equalizer to your liking. First of all, however, it is important to calibrate the soundbar. In other words; adjust the audio reproduction to the acoustics of your room.
You start this by starting the calibration at the bottom of the home screen. The rest is self-explanatory. Unlike Sonos, here you don’t have to use your iPhone and walk around the room. The soundbar plays different sounds and has a microphone that analyzes the room. In the app you can see the progress and it is explained exactly what the soundbar does. The calibration is completed within three minutes and you can really get started.
Music can be listened to via a physically connected source or via various streaming services. These services can be streamed via Airplay or Chromecast, but you can also use Tidal Connect or Spotify Connect. A TV can be connected via HDMI (eARC).
First of all, I must admit that I have never really been able to listen to the original Ambeo soundbar (now the Ambeo Max) extensively, so I am still relatively blank as far as Ambeo is concerned. Many other soundbars have passed the review here, with the Sonos Arc with Sonos One speakers now as a permanent arrangement. I immediately dive in and am immediately surprised by the Ambeo demos that can be played via the app. I must admit that I was very pleasantly surprised by this. Rather; I’ve never heard anything like that before.
Without surround speakers behind the sofa, without speakers on the sides and without an external subwoofer. The Ambeo Plus sounds with this demo material from Dolby Atmos and DTS: X very convincing. Birds actually appear behind the viewing position and fly all over the room. At no point are we missing a physical speaker here. It’s a dynamic, energetic and vibrant soundstage, exactly what you’d expect from 3D audio. If we switch off the Ambeo function, the sound comes more towards the surround sound that we know from the (stand-alone) premium soundbars. Still very good, with a lot of dynamics and energy, but without that real depth in space, that surrounding audio and especially the movement of audio objects through space. The witchcraft that Sennheiser does with Ambeo certainly pays off and surprises me, even without having turned on a television.
We put it to the test with a number of films and games that have Dolby Atmos (and DTS: X). Was it purely the demo material that is so impressive, or can the Ambeo Plus do this with all content? When we watch movies and games, we retain that very positive feeling for 90 percent. Cars skim through the room, bullets shoot left and right around your ears and a full stadium almost sounds like you’re there. If we put Horizon Forbidden West in the PlayStation 5 again, we imagine ourselves in the world of Aloy again, partly thanks to the sound. Machine combat is powerful, dynamic and above all immersive. The Ambeo Plus is by far more impressive than any other standalone soundbar I’ve heard to date. However, with the Ambeo function activated, because without this option you still sacrifice quite a bit on the deep and lively soundstage. However, it is no problem at all to leave Ambeo on, especially for movies and games. Ambeo actually always makes something beautiful out of it. And the Ambeo function can also be activated when you watch standard 5.1-channel or stereo content. The effect is obviously a little less convincing because the source material is too, buteven then, upmixing has rarely sounded so good.
Is the Ambeo Plus perfect? No, because it lacks that little bit extra that dedicated loudspeakers at the rear and on the ceiling do offer. You can hear that the limit has been reached, especially in the height and right behind the listening position. There the sound is simply less (convincing). If you don’t want extra physical speakers, this won’t diminish your experience in any way, but for those who don’t settle for anything less than 100 percent, this is an important point.
We have not connected an external subwoofer to the Ambeo Plus, but that is not a great loss either. The average movie is played with enough bass to enjoy it and not feel that something is missing in the balance. No, you don’t feel it in your stomach and the couch or chair doesn’t vibrate, but for those who are looking for that extra dimension, there is the option of connecting one or more Ambeo Subs, or even physically connecting another subwoofer. Dialogues and midtones are also convincingly reproduced by the Ambeo Plus. Voices are clearly audible (and configurable via the app), the front soundstage is wide and vibrant, and vocals sound warm and comfortable to listen to.
Finally, we also listen to some music, via both Tidal Connect and Spotify Connect. The soundbar also manages to hold its own very well with music, regardless of the genre. The soundbar reproduces music with great detail and energy, without giving it its own twist. The Ambeo Plus keeps it above all clear and natural. There is also enough bass with music, even if the volume is turned up a bit further. The low tones are delivered with convincing power and precision. Comparing with a real stereo system will be very difficult, especially since I am now using the Bowers & Wilkins 705 S3 have, but that is not what this soundbar is about. It is an all-rounder that can handle both music and movies comfortably, finds the perfect balance and focuses mainly on an immersive experience. By the way, you can also turn on the Ambeo function with music (and set its effect from minimum to maximum). That gives a much more spatial image of the music that certainly has something but mainly depends on personal preference. One thinks that music should be pure stereo, the other thinks it’s spatially beautiful. However, Ambeo also gives a beautiful, spatial effect here.
After playing and experiencing with the Sennheiser Ambeo Plus for just under two weeks, the thing that sticks with you most is the impressive surround experience that Ambeo offers from one elongated soundbar. Sennheiser mainly scores points with that and no other soundbar can match that. Is it exactly like physical speakers? No, you sacrifice too much in terms of height and audio effects directly behind the listening position, but you won’t get much closer to physical speakers. The Ambeo Plus can also convince with its clear but warm dialogues, the powerful bass and (also) for music the wide and lively soundstage. And then we haven’t even mentioned the convenient and effective calibration. If we have to mention a downside, it is the app that crashes every now and then.
1,499 euros is a lot of money for a soundbar, but if you are looking for a pure soundbar that can handle all types of content, offers you a convincing surround experience and comes with a large number of connections and connectivity options, then the Sennheiser Ambeo Plus absolutely recommended.
- Very convincing surround effect
- Ambeo technique is magical
- Wide sound stage
- Large number of connections
- Large number of settings (plus calibration)
- A real all rounder
- Just too high for in front of a TV
- Not cheap
- App crashes every now and then