Watermarked1DSCF0437Jon Porter

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

Sennheiser’s debut soundbar, released in 2019, is a niche product for two reasons. The first is price. At $2,499.95, it rivals the price of many traditional surround sound systems with AV receivers and multiple speakers. But perhaps its size matters most. I say this with love, but the original Ambio Soundbar (now renamed the Ambio Soundbar Max) was a chunky boy that wasn’t an easy sell to those who wanted to tuck it discreetly in front of their TV.

Although it’s $1,000 cheaper, I think the price is the only second most important change with Sennheiser’s second soundbar, the $1,499.95 Ambio Soundbar Plus, which the company launched today at an event in Berlin. Instead, I think its reduced size is more important. It is now only 7 cm long, instead of 13 cm. That means you’ll still have trouble fitting it under a TV like LG’s C series, which has a much shorter stand, but unlike its predecessor it has a better chance of fitting into taller models.

Sennheisers more affordable soundbar is still a premium sounding beast

Ambio is the second soundbar in the range.
Photo by John Porter / The Verge

None of that matters, though, if Sennheiser has to compromise on sound to shave dollars off the soundbar’s price and centimeters of height. But from what I heard of the soundbar during a pair of listening sessions today, it doesn’t seem like it at all.

First, some specs. The Sennheiser Ambio Soundbar Plus has a total of nine drivers: two 4-inch woofers, plus seven full-range aluminum drivers. Two of these upward-firing drivers allow sound to bounce off the ceiling and work with 3D surround sound formats such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, two side fires from the ends of the soundbar, and three fire forwards. Overall, Sennheiser claims that the soundbar can create the impression of a 7.1.4 surround sound system.

I say that it is only creating the “impression” of this 3D sound, because, like its predecessor, the Ambeo Plus is virtualizing these channels. It also doesn’t support pairing additional speakers to act as dedicated surrounds, as Sennheiser argues its virtualization technology doesn’t require.

After having a chance to hear the Soundbar Plus at a show, I’m inclined to agree. Sennheiser representatives included a series of demo videos, including some mixed in Dolby Atmos. The way the noise seemed to be coming from all around was impressive. At two points, representatives turned off the Ambio virtualization and made the surround sound effect more impressive, as opposed to hearing all the sounds coming straight from the soundbar.

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At the Ambio Soundbar Plus launch event.
Photo by John Porter / The Verge

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Ambio Soundbar Plus Remote.
Photo by John Porter / The Verge

You have to train this virtualization by using the soundbar’s four built-in microphones to measure your room. It’s a repeatable process if you’ve ever moved the soundbar between rooms, but considering the impressive results, it seems worth it. The Ambeo Soundbar Plus can also detect what content is being played through it, be it sports, movies or music, and optimize its sound accordingly. There are plenty of manual controls if you prefer.

Judging the soundbar’s bass performance is a bit difficult. At the start of Sennheiser’s presentation the soundbar was paired with three of its new $699.95 Sennheiser Ambio subwoofers (it supports up to four). And as you might expect surrounded by three 8-inch woofers, the effect is impressive, with music tracks in particular delivering a real gut punch 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 at bass — it’s lovely and present and doesn’t overstay its welcome by being boomy or overwhelming. It just doesn’t move air like a dedicated sub.

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A group of ports.
Photo by John Porter / The Verge

The Ambeo Soundbar Plus is well stocked with connectivity options. There are a total of three HDMI ports in addition to optical and traditional RCA, one eARC for connecting to a TV, and two regular HDMI inputs. There’s also a physical port for connecting a wired sub if you choose. Wirelessly, you have a choice of several standards including Bluetooth, AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect and Chromecast built in. It has Alexa built-in and HomeKit compatibility.

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

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