Sennheiser’s more affordable soundbar is still a premium-sounding beast

Sennheiser’s first soundbar, released in 2019, was a niche product for several reasons. The first was the price. At $2,499.95, it rivaled the cost of many traditional surround sound systems consisting of AV receivers and multiple speakers. But perhaps more important was its size. I say this with love, but the original Ambeo soundbar (which has now been renamed Ambeo Soundbar Max) was a big boy, which didn’t make it an easy sell for those looking to place it discreetly in front their TV.

So even though it’s $1,000 cheaper, I think the price is perhaps only the second biggest change with Sennheiser’s second soundbar, the Ambeo Plus soundbar at $1,499, $95, which the company launched today at an event in Berlin. Instead, I think its reduced size could be more important. It is now only 7 centimeters high instead of 13 centimeters. That means you’ll still struggle to fit it under a TV like LG’s C-Series, which has a notoriously short stand, but it has a decent chance of fitting under larger models, unlike its predecessor.

The second soundbar in the Ambeo range.
Photo by Jon Porter/The Verge

Of course, none of this matters if Sennheiser had to compromise on sound to reduce the price of the soundbar and the inches from its height. But from what I’ve heard about the soundbar today in two listening sessions, that doesn’t seem to be the case at all.

First, some specs. The Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Plus has a total of nine drivers: two 4-inch woofers, plus seven full-range aluminum drivers. Two of these speakers fire upwards to allow sound to bounce off the ceiling and work with 3D surround sound formats such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, two fire sideways from the ends of the soundbar and three pull forward. All in all, Sennheiser claims that the soundbar is capable of creating the impression of a 7.1.4 surround sound system.

Note that I say it only creates the “impression” of that 3D sound, because, like its predecessor, the Ambeo Plus virtualizes those channels. It doesn’t even support pairing additional speakers to act as dedicated speakers, as Sennheiser claims its virtualization tech is good enough not to need them.

After having had the chance to listen to the Soundbar Plus in demonstration, I am inclined to agree. Sennheiser representatives went through a series of demonstration videos, some of which were mixed in Dolby Atmos. The extent to which I felt the sound was coming from all around me was impressive. At a few points, reps disabled Ambeo virtualization, and the contrast of hearing all the sound coming directly from the soundbar made the surround sound effect even more impressive.

Sennheiser's more affordable soundbar is still a premium-sounding beast

The Ambeo Soundbar Plus at its launch event.
Photo by Jon Porter/The Verge

Sennheiser's more affordable soundbar is still a premium-sounding beast

The Ambeo Soundbar Plus remote control.
Photo by Jon Porter/The Verge

You need to train this virtualization by having the soundbar use its four built-in microphones to meter your room. It’s a process you have to repeat if you ever move the soundbar between rooms, but considering the impressive results, it seems worth the effort. The Ambeo Soundbar Plus is also able to detect the type of content playing on it, be it sports, movies or music, for example, and optimize its sound accordingly. There are plenty of manual controls if you prefer.

The soundbar’s bass performance was a little harder to judge. Sennheiser’s demo originally paired the soundbar with three of its new $699.95 Sennheiser Ambeo Sub subwoofers (it supports a maximum of four). And as you’d expect from being surrounded by three 8-inch woofers, the effect was impressive, with music tracks in particular delivering a real punch of sound with every bass note.

Strip away the optional subwoofers, and it’s hard not to be a little disappointed with what the Ambeo Plus can achieve on its own. That’s not to say it’s bad on bass – it was nice and present, and it didn’t overstay its welcome by becoming booming or overwhelming. It just can’t move air the way a dedicated sub can.

Sennheiser's more affordable soundbar is still a premium-sounding beast

A multitude of ports.
Photo by Jon Porter/The Verge

The Ambeo Soundbar Plus is well stocked with connectivity options. There are a total of three HDMI ports, an eARC for connecting to a TV and two regular HDMI inputs, as well as optical and traditional RCAs. There’s also a physical port for connecting a wired sub, if desired. Wirelessly, there are a number of standards to choose from, including Bluetooth, AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect and Chromecast built-in. It also has Alexa built-in and is HomeKit compatible.

With the original Ambeo Soundbar Max, and now the Ambeo Soundbar Plus, it’s clear that Sennheiser wants to broaden the audience for its soundbars from the high-end audiophile to a much more mainstream consumer. At $1,499.95, the Ambeo Soundbar Plus still won’t be for everyone, but it could be another compelling bar-shaped alternative to a traditional surround speaker setup. At the very least, it might actually fit under your TV this time around.


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