With the Sennheiser Ambeo SB-01, Sennheiser creates the 3D audio world of tomorrow today! The so-called immersive audio is a “cousin” of Atmos and DTS: X and extends to music the idea of sound at a 360˚ angle. The idea is very old, known as Ambisonics, and today it is again of interest to designers.
There is already software on the market that gives the holographic audio experience (eg Auro 3D) for those who listen to their computer source, something Sony is preparing with its own 360 Reality Audio, but Sennheiser does it all more consumer and “vertical”, having developed its own immersive technology.
It has special microphones and headphones with the innovative AMBEO system for sound that “embraces” us from all directions and now the platform is expanded to include its new member – a sound bar. And what a sound bar! Huge and very expensive, the AMBEO Soundbar SB-01 is a complete audio and video signal management center with three HDMI inputs and network connection.
It is practically equivalent to a multi-channel system of discrete units with nine speakers plus subwoofers, four of which transmit height information. The decoding of the new Atmos, DTS: X formats with HDR pass through, even the new MPEG-H is in its specifications, the communication with the TV is done at eARC level, while it does not leave out the streaming either thanks to its integration Chromecast and UPnP function.
Its weaknesses are few, its virtues are many, but the biggest obstacle is the high selling price that classifies it in the high-end category. Owners of large TVs who do not want a living room full of speakers and cables but love big, cinematic sound, will find in AMBEO exactly what they are looking for.
To enable 3D audio rendering, the sound bar uses a powerful digital processing engine, with three dual-core DSPs and 13 speakers, both upfiring, driven by Class D amplifiers with a total power of 250Wrms (500W peak).
It must be set up in the space with the help of the provided microphone, in order to “learn” its reflections and behavior and if we ever move it, we must rearrange it. On the one hand, it utilizes the multi-channel information of the soundtracks to give a complete surround feeling, with emphasis on the height information that the new formats give us, working at level 5.1.4.
The. On the other hand, thanks to smart algorithms, it can and does convert at these levels a simple two-channel or classic 5.1 multi-channel signal, so you can always enjoy the 3D sound offered by the AMBEO platform.
These are not simple surround simulations but in essence a new way of listening, which many will like more than direct playback. The system is turned off at the touch of a button to judge for yourself whether or not your favorite music program is corrupted. However, we left it in its place!
Sennheiser Ambeo SB-01 MARKS YOU
When you lift the Sennheiser Ambeo SB-01 you understand that something serious is happening in there. The heavy weight should be attributed to the magnets of the eight cone loudspeakers (six 4-inch mid-woofers and two 3.5-inch wide-range speakers), all with processed paper bulkheads, and even the 1-inch tweezers with aluminum domes and placed in large dispersions.
A tweeter is placed in the center of the long front for clear dialogues, two at the ends and two more at the sloping sides of the sound bar.
Strictly controlled high-frequency scattering is necessary for the processing system to work properly, as space information “marks” the listener, either directly or through reflections, with specific angles of radiation.
Despite the plastic construction material with aluminum additions at the top, the robustness of the construction is unquestionable. All these speakers “test” its durability as the charging that is followed is closed type and it is certain that it gathers enough mass at the critical points.
However, for the response to 30Hz – which seems to correspond to reality – the regulation through DSP also plays a big role, which expands the range of the low to a greater extent in relation to e.g. with the least intrusive on Naim Mu-so bass .
The final feel justifies the manufacturer, with low to excellently distinct LFE information, great volume and impeccable control. We really do not find the reason for adding an external subwoofer except for very large spaces.
The ergonomics are good, although some of the audio tuning functions require the special Sennheiser application to be activated, which requires our Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) connection to the soundbar.
Also, the large size and weight set their own requirements for the shelf where we will put it, while for the room calibration system to work properly, there are some rules for installation and it is good that the side walls do not have excessive absorption.
Operation is easy from the keypad, oled screen and full remote control, although it does not reach the comfort of operation through the application. If nothing else, it is nice to light the big logo e.g. of the DTS: X on the screen marking its movie profile as an AV processor.
The brightness of both the screen and the Sennheiser Ambeo SB-01 name on the right of the front panel can be annoying and to adjust them, you should refer to the application, where you will find two brightness levels plus the automatic one, which adjusts it automatically based on the level of our space.
Finally, running Chromecast streaming services and running as a server will require third-party applications, with the only real drawback being the lack of support for AirPlay.
What we would like from Sennheiser’s impressive sound bar is some larger doses of lifestyle in appearance. It looks a bit faceless for its price, for the benefit of course of the discretion that is required for such a large chassis size.
But it would not be a bad idea for the user to be able to change covers to give it a little color that will break the monotony of black.
The supplied microphone with the metal base has a large height for proper placement in the listening position. The process is mandatory for the system to work as designed and is very easy.
Just plug in the microphone and press the AMBEO button, leaving the room and then follow the on-screen instructions (standby, confirmation). Do not register it, because if you change its position or add a subwoofer you will have to count again!
Without AMBEO, its charm quickly recedes and the sound scene becomes flat without much space detail. With AMBEO in the driver’s seat, simply select… speeds from the list of sound profiles.
The movie gives the biggest scene opening and great detail in the focus and movement of effects and dialogues, setting up an enviable multi-channel field equal to the discrete units, with some preference in the horizontal level (in our space).
The sounds come from the side and from above with excellent clarity and location in the space, however in our well-dressed space there was not much action behind the listening position, ie sounds that would come from the surround channels. The music position is equally successful, both tonically and spatially, transforming the two channels into something new and very promising.
The music remains focused and focused, with the tonality and rhythm that you remember from simple two-channel systems, but it has gained tremendous depth, height and air between the instruments and thus sounds more comfortable, dynamic and clear, throughout the range.
Thanks to the wide arrangement of the speakers, the width of the stage is also satisfying and finally the Sennheiser Ambeo SB-01 takes you to a new way of listening to music, more visual if you want, without altering in the least the emotional effect of the music.
Forget sweet spot and stillness in the listening position, here everything remains unshakable and you think that you can touch the images of the instruments, even when you walk in front of the sound bar. Such 3D is not possible with the old, good stereo…
The Sennheiser Ambeo SB-01 finally spoils you with its performance and the unique holographic clarity and dynamic immediacy it gives, without ever sounding “processed” or imperfect.
It passes like a chameleon from the home cinema to the two channels, highlighting the atmosphere in the movies and the music in a completely convincing way even for the most demanding.
We can only justify its high price as it is a transparent sound system with tremendous capabilities, which we will not make difficult even if we connect our turntable to it!
Sennheiser Ambeo SB-01 Tips:
Calibration poses some requirements when installing the bulky sound bar. The distances from the side walls and the ceiling should be from 1 to 5 meters, as symmetrical as possible and with limited absorption on the sound-reflecting surfaces. There is also an optional wall stand, if you do not have the right shelf for the 18.5 kg AMBEO SB-01.
If you add an external active subwoofer, you will have to re-calibrate with the supplied microphone, setting off its own filter with the volume in the middle. The measuring system calculates cut-off points and relative level. If you remove it, it will automatically return to the previous measurement, if any, while from the Sennheiser application you can choose between measurements with / without subwoofer. Repeat the measurement when changing positions on the AMBEO or subwoofer or when making significant changes to the listening area.
In addition to the Google Play app, there are countless smartphone applications that offer Chromecast support, through which you gain access to streaming services and server function e.g. BubbleUPNp. Of course they “see” it in the list of available devices and applications of each service, e.g. Spotify, where you have a subscription. These streaming sources (DLNA, Chromecast) are not selected by the t / h but are automatically detected by the sound bar. Sennheiser Smart Control app is essential for the settings, which are much more than the sound bar panel or the t / h.
Sennheiser Ambeo SB-01: Specifications:
TYPE: Sennheiser Ambeo SB-01 5.1.4 channel soundbar, with 4K HDR pass through and
HDR streaming : DOLBY VISION
PROCESSINGS: room calibration, 4-band EQ and 3 AMBEO rhythms (app only), 5 sound profiles, night mode
Sennheiser’s first sound bar Sennheiser Ambeo SB-01 shakes the waters of high fidelity with the AMBEO system, which introduces us to the deep waters of 3D / immersive audio. It is a complete center of audio and video signals, which knows from HDR and pitch channels and has the power to fill a living room with quality sound.