The much anticipated Sennheiser Ambeo 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos soundbar is here. Sennheiser’s sound pedigree has brought Dolby Atmos to life, perhaps as no other has.
Ambeo is Sennheiser’s take on 3D sound. And to do it properly the Sennheiser Ambeo 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos soundbar has 13 speakers, 250W RMS, Dual Core ARM processor, two dual-core SHARC DSPs and a room calibration microphone.
At $3,999 this all-in-one soundbar is not for everyone. Sound quality and pedigree aside you can get lots of 5.1.2 and even 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos soundbars for well under half that price. But it
What makes the Sennheiser Ambeo 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos soundbar special?
GadgetGuy attended the launch and along with other audiophiles, listened! It certainly sounds great, and our AV expert Thomas Bartlett will be fully reviewing it soon.
Soundbars are a compromise – except Sennheiser does not know the meaning of the word.
There is a certain convenience of a smaller integrated unit over a separate dedicated Dolby Atmos AV receiver. I mean who has the space for up to 12 separate speakers for 7.1.4 – front left, right, centre, front upwards (or downwards if ceiling mounted) firing left and right, mid left and right, rear left and right, rear upwards (downwards) firing and a sub-woofer. That is neither an easy to set-up nor easy to tune
Sennheiser has included 6 x 4″ long throw woofers (cellulose sandwich cone), 5 x 1″ tweeter (aluminium dome tweeter) and 2 x 3.5″ full range driver (top-firing) speakers.
The real frequency response (versus marketing hype of many others) is 30Hz to 20Hz, and if you really want headbanging bass, then you can add a separate sub and play with crossover frequencies to your heart’s content.
Soundbars are a carry home item – well yes, but no
To fit everything in Sennheiser created a ‘beauty and the beast’ – 1265 x 135 x 171 mm x 18.5kg all-in-one. Yes you can fit it in your luxury SUV.
It can be wall mounted (brackets $99), and Sennheiser has placed all ports for that orientation.
Set up is out-of-the-box – plonk it below the TV and connect HDMI
Well no. Sennheiser developed a calibration mic to tune the sound to your room.
And rather than one or two HDMI 1.4 that a typical soundbar has, it has
- 3 x HDMI In (v.2.0a), 1 x HDMI Out (v.2.1 eARC for Dolby Vision and Atmos passthrough)
- Optical (192kHz)
- Stereo RCA
- Wi-Fi AC 2×2 MIMO
- Bluetooth 4.2 LE (AAC and SBC codecs), NFC pairing
- Chromecast/UPnP streaming.
Soundbars are for thumping, bass-oriented TV
As a concession, it does have a separate sub-woofer pre-out, but I doubt that you will need that. Bass does creep in at around 30Hz and is solid from there – impressive.
And Sennheiser could not abandon its sound heritage. No Sennheiser had to include a truck load of decoders
- LPCM 2 Channel, LPCM 5.1 Channel, LPCM 7.1 Channel
- Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus
- Dolby True HD
- Dolby Atmos – Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos – Dolby Digital Plus
- DTS-ES Discrete 6.1, DTS-ES Matrix 6.1
- DTS 96/24
- DTS-HD LBR
- DSD, MPEG-H
- MP3/4, AAC, WAV, FLAC, AIFF, ALAC, OGG
It also features upmix technology to recreate stereo and 5.1 content as immersive 3D sound.
It also adds easy pre-sets for Movie, Music, Sports, News, Neutral, AMBEO off/on (Light, Standard, Boost). And it has a Sennheiser Smart Control App for iOS or Android app to do so much more.
Sennheiser says it will continue to add features via OTA software updates.
OK if you put it that way, it is not your average soundbar
I have yet to find any competitor that has even half of these specs – but I will keep looking. And as sound masters, Sennheiser has used its proprietary AMBEO virtualisation technology to create what is arguably the best 3D sound that can be reproduced by a single device.
Oh, and its Google Home compatible.
Remember that Dolby Atmos has lots of physically separate speakers around the room and on the ceiling – 12 for 7.1.4 and 10 for 5.1.4.
Ambeo speakers use the science of Psychoacoustics – the study of sound perception and audiology – how humans perceive various sounds.
The sound processor can use the 13 speakers to make the listener feel they hear sound from left, right, overhead and more. The calibration microphone measures the room acoustics and then tunes the Ambeo soundbar to cover the listening space. It works – you really can hear moving, spatial sound.
It is not for everyone – the effect is best in up to 5-metre square shaped lounge rooms.
GadgetGuy’s take – anything but average
I guess if you are spending $5-10,000 on a great Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos OLED TV then another $3999 is not going to be a concern. Especially as it offers so much more as the centre of an entertainment hub.
It does offer so much more that it is worth the extra if you can use all its features.
Interested? Read the manual here – not the glossy brochures.
You can see it at Sennheiser’s Sydney flagship store in the beautiful art deco “Money Box” building at 5 Martin Place, Sydney CBD. Or it will be at selected audio specialists as well – it’s unlikely you will see this at an electronics retailer.