The Sennheiser AMBEO soundbar is a 5.1.4 setup with 13 speakers that delivers an impressive immersive experience for a standalone bar. This system has a unique 3D mode that helps sounds come from over and around you, without the need for wireless speakers. The bar gets very loud, but unfortunately, it is a bit on the bass-light side, especially with stereo content. On the other hand, it has a lot of inputs and supports pretty much every audio format.
The AMBEO is Sennheiser’s only soundbar and aims to recreate a home cinema system in a single soundbar, without the need for a wireless subwoofer and satellite speakers. It is a very high-end system and there’s not really any other bar that resembles it. However, its main competitors that offer a similar immersive experience are the Sony HT-ST5000, a full setup of the Bose 700 with a sub and satellites, and a similar setup with the Sonos Playbar.
Your first impression of this bar will be its very large size. It is covered with fabric on the front and the sides, which allows you to see the speakers underneath. Unfortunately, this can get dirty or damaged easily. The top is made of two metal grills on the sides, and good quality plastic in the middle.
The Sennheiser AMBEO soundbar is very large and heavy. Not only will it not fit in between the legs of the stand of a 55" TV, but most likely it will obstruct the bottom view of the screen since it is quite tall. You will be better off either wall mounting both the bar and the TV, or placing it in a separate table slightly lower than the TV table.
There is no separate subwoofer in this setup.
There are no satellites with this soundbar.
The build quality of the soundbar is good. The fabric that covers the front and sides is removable so you can clean it when it gets dirty, or keep it off if you prefer showing off the numerous speakers. It is very heavy, around 50lbs, and feels very robust.
Note: During our testing the bar got hot and started to smell bad with only about 10 minutes of operation. The smell resembled that of a burning plastic/wire and was rather distracting and alarming. Although we completed the tests without any more serious issues, the smell was still apparent at the end. We are not sure if this was just on our bar or if this is normal and whether it will create a problem in the future.
The Sennheiser AMBEO soundbar has a sub-par frequency response with stereo content and with the AMBEO mode disabled. The Low-Frequency Extension does not extend as low as some soundbars with dedicated subs, which indicates that it has trouble accurately reproducing the deep thump and rumble. However, this soundbar still has a good bass performance, but it is audibly lower than the other frequencies at the same volume. The overall sound profile is still fairly neutral but is on the brighter side due to the slightly disappointing bass performance.
When listening to the Sennheiser AMBEO, the stereo soundstage is decent. The bar is pretty big, and the stereo soundstage is about the width of the bar. On the upside, the soundstage is focused rather than diffused, which is good because objects seem to be coming from a more accurate pinpoint location instead of a general area. The soundstage when using the AMBEO 3D mode is quite impressive and performs well with surround content.
This soundbar can get very loud, which is great for a large room or a crowded environment. It performs well at max volume, but there are a bit of pumping and compression artifacts when pushing it to its limits, but only in the bass range. Other than that, the bar performs well across the rest of the range.
The THD performance of the AMBEO is great. At a normal listening volume, there’s a very low amount of THD, which means you get a very accurate, pure and clean sound. Also, there’s not a big jump in THD when pushing the bar to its maximum volume, which is great. Most people shouldn’t hear any harmonic distortion with real-life content on this bar.
Due to its impressive amount of speakers and the 5.1.4 configuration, the Sennheiser AMBEO has a dedicated center channel, which results in a more clear and accurate audio reproduction of the dialog in movies. For surround content, we recommend using the AMBEO 3D mode, otherwise, the bar downmixes everything to 2.0.
The Sennheiser AMBEO soundbar has a good performance with surround content when using the AMBEO 3D mode. Content comes out from the side firing speakers on the bar and provides good overall performance. It has an impressive performance for a phantom localization and sounds seem to be coming from above you, behind you and on the sides, but this won't feel as real as a discrete surround like with tower speakers.
This soundbar supports Atmos, but has sub-par performance due to the up firing speakers located on the bar. This setup still sounds pretty wide thanks to the AMBEO 3D mode, but the localization of objects is a bit diffused when it comes to height. This won’t sound as real as a discrete localization provided by down-firing speakers.
The Sennheiser AMBEO soundbar has a sub-par amount of sound enhancement features, but it does have the most important ones. It has a Room Correction feature, which means that when using the included microphone, the soundbar will apply some sound corrections depending on your room. It also has a dialog enhancement feature with the ‘News’ sound mode, which makes voices clearer and easier to understand. There’s also a full parametric EQ to customize the sound to your liking and the AMBEO 3D mode is truly impressive for surround content.
The Sennheiser AMBEO soundbar has a full set of physical inputs and can easily play the role of a hub between your TV and other devices like game consoles, PCs, Blu-ray player, etc. The Analog Audio in is not really a 3.5mm, but rather an RCA, so you will need an adapter. This bar has also the option to connect to an external subwoofer through the 'SW PRE OUT' port.
The Sennheiser AMBEO soundbar supports eARC. This extended version of ARC allows it to support not only surround sound format, but also the most advanced object-based surround signals, and high-quality lossless formats. These formats are available on streaming platforms like Netflix and on many Blu-ray discs, offering you the most advanced sound experience.
The three Full HDMI In ports support the most advanced sound formats. You can playback surround sound and object-based formats like Dolby Atmos, or lossless formats like PCM 5.1. Most of these formats are found on movies either through a streaming platform or a Blu-ray.
Using the Optical Audio In, you can enjoy surround sound in Dolby Digital or DTS formats. Content with these audio formats is usually available from streaming channels and Blu-ray discs.
The bar can connect to most modern devices using Bluetooth, and can also connect to your Wi-Fi where you can cast content to it. Unfortunately, the bar lacks Apple AirPlay capability, and this might disappoint some Apple users.
If you use the bar as a hub, it will passthrough chroma 4:4:4 from your PC or console to your TV. This means that text will look very clear on your 4k TV.
Although there is no subwoofer in this bar, you can connect an external subwoofer using the 'SW PRE OUT' port found on this bar.
The interface consists of a set of controls at the top and a screen in the lower middle of the front face. The screen is very nice and clear and is one the best of all the bars we've tested so far.
The control buttons on top of the bar are quite self-explanatory. The 'dot' button is a multi-function button, that controls media playback, and when pressed at the same time as the 'SOURCE' it acts as a Bluetooth pairing button. The button marked 'AMBEO' enables the Ambeo feature which must be enabled for the bar to act a 5.1.4. Otherwise, the bar downmixes the formats to 2.0.
The remote control has a nice size and can control most features of the bar, but not all. It too has an 'AMBEO' button that is necessary for advanced audio format playback, like object-based Dolby Atmos. You will also find some preset buttons that can serve you well since you only have access to the EQ from the app.
The app that connects to this bar can replace the remote, and also perform some extra actions that the remote can't perform, like Dynamic Range Compression.
After 20 minutes of inactivity, the bar will enter a standby mode. Also, thanks to the CEC support, compatible TV remotes can control some basic functions, like the volume of the soundbar.
The Sennheiser AMBEO soundbar is a very unique product. This stand-alone bar has 13 speakers and tries to do it all in a single 5.1.4 unit. It does a decent job with most content and gives an impressive and immersive listening experience when using the AMBEO mode. However, this is the biggest and heaviest bar we've reviewed so far, so it might be hard for some people to fit it in their home theater setup. See our recommendations for the best soundbars, the best Dolby Atmos soundbars, and the best soundbars 5.1.
The Samsung HW-Q90R is a better soundbar system than the Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar. The AMBEO is a system that tries to do it all with only a stand-alone bar, but doesn't quite excellent at being versatile like the Q90R does. The stereo audio quality of the Q90R is noticeably better, just like the Atmos performance thanks to the up-firing speakers on the bar and the satellites. On the other hand, the surround AMBEO mode of the Sennheiser soundbar is quite impressive for a stand-alone bar and adds to the immersive listening experience.
The Bose Soundbar 700 is slightly better than the Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar. The Sennheiser sounds pretty bad without its AMBEO mode, and the Bose 700 has a good neutral sound profile. The soundstage is also great and quite wide. On the other hand, the AMBEO mode of the Sennheiser bar is impressive and very immersive with surround content. However, you can easily add a sub and satellites to the Soundbar 700 to enhance your listening experience.
The Samsung HW-Q80R is a better soundbar sytem than the Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar. It has a noticeably better performance with stereo content, but won't have the immersive feel with surround content that the AMBEO provides, especially with the unique AMBEO surround mode. On the other hand, it's possible to get rear satellites for the Q80R to help with the surround performance too.
The Vizio SB36512-F6 is a better performing soundbar than the Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar. It has a better stereo frequency response performance and has a dedicated sub and surround speakers, while the AMBEO is just a bar that tries to do it all. On the other hand, the AMBEO does have a virtual surround mode that is quite impressive for a stand-alone bar. It's also better-built, although very large and heavy.
Decent for mixed usage. This soundbar has a unique 3D mode that greatly improves the surround performance, which is great for movies. Its overall sound profile is pretty accurate, but it is lacking a bit in the bass range. While the bar still produces a good amount of bass, it is audibly lower than other frequencies at the same volume, which gives it a disappointing feel on stereo bass-heavy content like some music genres. On the upside, it has a room correction feature that adapts to your room and the reproduction of voices in accurate and clear.
Good for dialog. The AMBEO has a good overall sound profile with accurate mid-range performance, resulting in an accurate reproduction of voices with content like audiobooks, podcasts, or voices in TV shows. It lacks a bit of bass, but this shouldn’t be too bad for this use. On the upside, the bar can get very loud and has a few features like a dialog enhancement and a night mode for a better listening experience. You’re also able to stream content wirelessly via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and use its built-in Chromecast.
Okay for music. The stereo frequency response of this soundbar without the AMBEO mode is quite disappointing due to the noticeable lower volume of the bass. However, it performs quite well on music genres that don’t have that much bass. Also, it has a room correction feature to tweak out its sound quality depending on your room. The soundstage is decent and the bar performs well at max volume, which is pretty loud.
Decent for movies. When using the AMBEO 3D mode, this soundbar is quite impressive and offers an immersive listening experience with movies thanks to the high number of speakers and the support for Atmos content. It performs well with surround sound movies overall and you’ll have the impression that the objects are localized around and over you, which is impressive for a stand-alone bar.