Back when I was still living in Los Angeles, I had a 5.1 speaker system, along with a stereo surround amplifier. It served me well for several years, and even once made a neighbor angry while I was watching the White House get destroyed in Independence Day with the volume up just a little too much. Okay, a lot much. But hey, you want the room to shake during a scene like that!
As much as I enjoyed my setup, the entire system took up a lot of space, and there were numerous wires to connect. Not to mention that, as I was renting an apartment, I couldn’t run any wires through the walls. I had to do my best to hide the wires running from the amplifier to the rear speakers, and I’m the first to admit that my best wasn’t great.
Fast forward to moving back to the San Francisco Bay Area. Because of my current living situation, I didn’t have room for the same audio setup I’d used previously. Using just the speakers on my television was a non-starter. With how slim current televisions are, it’s difficult to get very good sound quality.
I decided to purchase a Yamaha soundbar that had gotten pretty good reviews online. It fit into my new space well, and was definitely a big step up from the television’s speakers. I was content.
That is, until Sennheiser, a German audio technology company, sent me their AMBEO Soundbar | Plus and AMBEO Sub. And my home cinematic experience changed forever.
What Is the AMBEO Soundbar | Plus and AMBEO Sub?
The AMBEO Soundbar | Plus is a self-calibrating, 7.1.4 channel home theater system, while the AMBEO Sub is a self-calibrating 8″ subwoofer with 350W amplifier that connects wirelessly with the soundbar. The AMBEO Soundbar | Plus retails for $1,499.95, but is currently available for $1,299.95 on the Sennheiser website or from the Sennheiser Consumer Audio Store on Amazon. The MSRP of the AMBEO Sub is $699.95, but has been reduced to $599.95 at Sennheiser or via Amazon.
AMBEO Soundbar | Plus Key Specifications
- Amplifier: 9x class D amplifiers
- Total audio power: 400W (RMS)
- Total number of speakers: 9
- Audio processing: Quad Core 1,8GhZ SOC
- Woofers: 2x 4″ Cellulose Cone Driver
Full range:7x 2″ Aluminum Cone Fullrange Driver
Frequency response: 38Hz – 20 Kh
AMBEO Sub Key Specifications
- Amplifier: 1x class D amplifier
- Total audio power: 350W (RMS)
- Audio processing: Dual Core SOC
- Voltage range: 100–240V ~50/60Hz
- Woofers: 1x Long throw 8″ Cellulose Cone Driver
- Frequency response: 27Hz – 80Hz
Unboxing the AMBEO Soundbar | Plus and AMBEO Sub
Befitting a high-end audio product, both the AMBEO Soundbar | Plus and AMBEO Sub come nestled in protective packaging. Not only is the soundbar held firmly in place by thick, moulded cardboard, but it’s wrapped in a smooth, heavy paper. This paper is a nice step up from the ubiquitous plastic bags you’ll find with most other electronics.
This level of care extends to the AMBEO sub. Inside of its box, there is a cardboard insert with handles. You can use that insert to easily lift the almost 20lb sub out of the box.
The AMBEO Soundbar | Plus comes with the following:
- AMBEO Soundbar | Plus
- Remote control including lithium battery
- Premium high-speed HDMI® cable
- Power cord
- Instruction manual
- Quick quide
- Safety guide and compliance sheet
The AMBEO Sub comes with a bit less, as it connects wirelessly to the soundbar:
- AMBEO Sub
- Power cord
- Instruction manual
- Quick guide
- Safety guide and compliance sheet
Setting Up the AMBEO Soundbar | Plus and AMBEO Sub
Setting up both the Soundbar | Plus and Sub are quick and easy. There are multiple inputs available on the back of the soundbar, to allow for a variety of different connections. I simply ran the high-speed HDMI cable between the eARC inputs on my television and the AMBEO Soundbar | Plus. For those of you not familiar with eARC, it’s the most recent HDMI 2.1 specification, and allows you to send higher quality audio from your television to the soundbar.
Next was time to connect the sub. While this can be done manually via the setup button on the soundbar, you can also connect them via the Smart Control App, which is a free download available on both iTunes and Google Play. You can actually connect up to four AMBEO Subs wirelessly to the soundbar, though for some reason, Sennheiser only sent me one…
Once connected to the Wi-Fi, I was able to effortlessly detect and connect the AMBEO Sub. I was also given alerts that there were firmware updates available for both the soundbar and sub, and was able to download and install those via the Smart Control App.
While you can start using the AMBEO Soundbar | Plus pretty much straight out of the box, you’ll really want to take an important extra step first. The soundbar has 4 built-in, far field high-precision microphones which are used to calibrate the soundbar for optimal sound for the layout of your room. Like pairing the sub, this is a process that can be done manually on the soundbar, but is much easier and straightforward using the app.
The AMBEO Sub conveniently calibrates right along with the Soundbar | Plus.
Any time that you move furniture about in your home theater room, you’ll want to re-run the calibration process. Thankfully, it only takes a few minutes. After the calibration is done, you’re all set to go.
Using the AMBEO Soundbar | Plus and AMBEO Sub
The AMBEO Soundbar | Plus and AMBEO Sub both automatically power on when you turn on your television, and similarly will turn off automatically. I started off my experience with the soundbar by playing some of the demo tracks included on the Smart Control App. One of these was particularly impressive, and it felt like I was in the middle of a rainforest. However, I wanted to see how the AMBEO Soundbar | Plus performed in a more “real world” test.
Season 3 of The Mandalorian had just launched on the same day that I hooked up the AMBEO Soundbar | Plus, so that seemed as good of a place to start as any. Dialogue came through crisply and clearly. As this is a television show, the sound design isn’t as intricate as you’ll find in a movie. The audio was certainly the best I’d heard for the series, especially during the (spoiler alert) chase and battle with the pirates.
For the bulk of my testing, I turned to some of the many recommendations from audiophiles for various 4K movies to show off your home theater.
Blade Runner 2049
Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 4K Blu-Ray is considered by many to be a reference disc both visually and aurally. The movie won Oscars for both Sound Editing and Sound Mixing, and all of that is on display here. The sound helped pull me into the movie in a way that hadn’t happened since I originally saw the film in the theater. From the visceral combat with Sapper Morton, to the haunting flight to Las Vegas, every bit of audio is pitch-perfect and immersive.
While I obviously can’t reproduce that sense of immersion that you get from the AMBEO Soundbar | Plus in print, listening to this video will give you a better idea of how the audio works with the soundbar:
With the Wachowski’s The Matrix, I began with the very opening of the film. The AMBEO Soundbar | Plus really showed off just how well it can “place” sound. There’s a flashing cursor in the upper left corner of a computer screen, and you can hear it blinking up in the corner, while Trinity’s voice comes from down and center. And when the viewpoint moves through the screen and into the Matrix, you feel like you’re pulled along for the ride.
I then switched to the scene where Trinity and Neo come to rescue Morpheus. There’s a lot going on in the scene, from the techno music, to the gunfire, to the use of “bullet time” when Neo dodges the Agent’s shots. This is a scene where the audio got a little muddy on my old soundbar, but the AMBEO handles it flawlessly.
This comic book movie has a great soundtrack and a lot of action. I watched the big freeway scene, which starts with Deadpool listening to Salt-N-Pepa and talking to the audience, before jumping down through the sunroof of a car with “maximum effort” and kicking off an amazing action sequence. In that sequence, the sound helps the viewer keep track of the frenetic action.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Watching the opening of The Fellowship of the Ring, the AMBEO Soundbar | Plus impresses on the listener just how visceral the battle is against Sauron and his Orcs. You feel like you’re right in the middle of the melee when the two forces clash, and each blow of Sauron’s mace shakes the room.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
I skipped the very opening sequence of this excellent James Gunn film and went straight to the title sequence with the titular Guardians. The frenetic action is constantly moving from character to character, and the three-dimensionality of the sound from the AMBEO soundbar really helps to follow along. There’s a lot going on with the audio, too, from Mr. Blue Sky playing in the background, to all of the dialogue and sound effects as the Guardians battle the space monster, to Groot’s many antics during the battle. Everything comes through in a very well-balanced soundtrack.
Speaking of songs, it’s very easy to sync the AMBEO Soundbar | Plus with a bluetooth device. I played several different tracks on my iPhone, from Nicki Minaj’ Anaconda to the Black Eyed Peas’ Pump It, and I felt like I was right in a recording studio. I cranked up the sound (though still well below what the soundbar was capable of) and there was no distortion whatsoever.
Customizing the Sound
The AMBEO Soundbar | Plus provides you with several options to change the audio output. You can make these changes on the Smart Control App, by using the remote control, or directly on the controls on the soundbar.
Much like with the display on many HDTV’s, you can select settings based on the type of content you’re listening to. I admittedly did find it a little difficult with my untrained ear to really discern how the audio changes based on which of those settings you select.
Where I definitely was able to hear the difference was when I tried a couple of the extra listening modes. The “Night” mode dampens down the bass significantly, for when you’re not trying to wake up family or your neighbors. And the “Voice” mode emphasizes the dialogue, bringing it to the forefront. I have tried a voice enhancement mode with a different soundbar, and with that one, it made the voices sound very processed and artificial. With the Voice mode of the AMBEO Soundbar | Plus, the voices sound very natural.
The AMBEO Soundbar | Plus and AMBEO Sub – Final Thoughts
I have to admit, I was absolutely wowed by the sound output on the AMBEO Soundbar | Plus and AMBEO Sub. I was watching movies that I was familiar with, yet the experience became much more immediate and visceral with this soundbar than in previous home viewings with my old one.
There is an amazingly immersive quality to the audio, which can pull you right into the action. Granted, there are no rear speakers, so you can’t quite get the feeling of sound coming from directly behind you. But that being said, there is a real depth to the soundstage, and the accurate placement of audio cues enhances the cinematic feel.
What’s impressive is the engineering that went into getting sound this good out of a relatively small soundbar and subwoofer. The AMBEO Soundbar | Plus fits just under the bottom of the screen of my LG OLED TV, and I’m using the standard stand that comes with the television. Meanwhile, the AMBEO Sub is small enough to tuck away almost anywhere.
What’s mind-boggling to me is that the AMBEO Soundbar | Plus isn’t even Sennheiser’s top of the line soundbar. That distinction belongs to the AMBEO Soundbar | Max, which has even more power, as well as larger speakers. Still, given how fantastic the sound is with the AMBEO Soundbar | Plus, I have a hard time imagining it getting much better with the Max.
As I’m sure you can guess, I highly recommend the AMBEO Soundbar | Plus and AMBEO Sub. It’s a compact home theater sound system that produces audio so much greater than its size would suggest, and is a great fit in any size room. Yes, there are less expensive options out there. But once you’ve heard what the AMBEO Soundbar | Plus can do, you’d be hard pressed to settle for less.
For more information on the AMBEO Soundbar | Plus and AMBEO Sub, head over to the Sennheiser website.
Sennheiser provided a unit for evaluation, but had no input in this review. As an Amazon associate, I may earn a small commission on qualified purchases.