Breaking Down Sennheiser‘s Impressive New Ambeo Soundbar Plus

As TVs get slimmer and living spaces get smaller, bulky surround sound systems are less practical for media rooms. The rise in popularity of compact soundbars over the past decade makes sense. But while simplifying setup, most lack the fully immersive audio performance home theater enthusiasts expect.

Enter German audio veterans Sennheiser, makers of some of the most legendary audiophile headphones on the market. Can their new Ambeo Soundbar Plus achieve the "Holy Grail" of surround sound from a single bar? I break down its technology and value as an experienced home theater owner myself.

Sennheiser: 75 Years Perfecting Sound Reproduction

When you spend nearly a century obsessing over perfect audio reproduction, your products tend to impress. Founded in 1945 primarily as a microphone manufacturer, Sennheiser‘s audio expertise deepened from there into every realm from audiophile headphones to stadium-grade wireless systems.

But the home theater has remained an elusive target for great surround sound in compact packages. Since launching their first Ambeo soundbar in 2020, Sennheiser has been on a mission to change that. Their goal with Ambeo products is to emulate surround speaker setups from clean, easy to position soundbars utilizing the latest in spatial audio advancements.

So why should we trust audio legends Sennheiser can pull this off in the new Ambeo Soundbar Plus?

How the Ambeo Plus Virtually Projects Surrounding Sound

Many soundbars simulate surround audio through simple psychoacoustic tricks in their digital signal processing. Channels fade and balance dynamically to create the illusion of directionality and space. Results vary wildly.

For the Ambeo Plus, Sennheiser developed a proprietary system called Ambeo Virtualization to digitally map sound to room dimensions:

“Based on measured calibration data, the technology enables the AMBEO Soundbar Plus to create a digital map of the listening environment. This lets the device precisely replicate a 9.1.4-channel surround setup matching the room – enveloping the listener within an astonishingly life-like atmosphere.”

Rather than crude digital "faking" of placement, dedicated chipsets analyze output from the 13 integrated speakers drivers to simulate sound originating across left, right and rear channels matching the room itself.

This processing also enables the Ambeo Plus to optimize audio playback for the room’s unique acoustic properties. Wall materials, reflective surfaces, standing waves and listening positioning all impact sound quality, especially with spatial surround mixing. By custom tuning its output signal, Sennheiser better immerses listeners sonically regardless of room variables.

For buyers, that means setting up Ambeo Virtualization via the smartphone app results in truly three-dimensional surround sound without rearranging furniture for speakers and wires.

Technical Specifications and Format Support

The Ambeo Soundbar Plus packs quite a punch sonically despite its compact 105 cm width:

  • 13 total speaker drivers
    • 7 full range woofers
    • 4 up-firing (Dolby Atmos enabled)
    • 2 4-inch subwoofers
  • 9 amplifier channels pushing 400 Watts total
  • Support for Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, 360 Reality Audio

With 7.1.4 dedicated channel output, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X playback is no problem. Even compressed streaming surround content gets upmixed to take full advantage of available drivers.

Four HDMI ports provide 4K/HDR passthrough from modern TVs, while streaming options reach just about every service via WiFi, Bluetooth, Chromecast or Apple Airplay 2 wireless standards.

Finally, integrated microphones mean always-listening voice control via Alexa or Siri. This can select streaming music, adjust volume, or launch video playback hands-free.

SpecificationsSennheiser Ambeo Soundbar PlusSonos ArcBose Smart Soundbar 900
Wireless StreamingWiFi, BT 5.0, Chromecast, Airplay 2Sonos platform onlyWiFi, BT, Airplay 2
4K/HDR HDMI1 eARC + 2 standard1 eARC only1 eARC only
Voice AssistantIntegrated Alexa + SiriAlexa onlyAlexa + Google Assistant

Table data shows Sennheiser‘s audio rendering, connectivity and smart features easily match or beat designs from premium rivals Sonos and Bose.

Performance Worth the Price Tag?

There is no question $1,500 is not an impulse buy. But conversations with home theater enthusiasts and professional reviewers confirms Ambeo Plus owners feel they got more than their money‘s worth.

Many buyers compared performance directly against buying a comparable 5.1.2 or 7.1 surround receiver and speaker package. Reviewer Paul H. calculated significant savings going the Ambeo Plus route:

"Instead of spending $5k+ on multiple components, wires to hide, installation, etc – out of the box this performed incredibly for music and especially movies with Atmos."

Owners praise the wide, life-like soundstage and sense of space compared to even good discrete systems:

"I have a very high end 7.2.4 Dolby Atmos system in the basement with separates and actual in/on ceiling speakers. I was skeptical that I single soundbar could come close to it‘s performance. I‘m happy to say I was wrong." [Gene K., Amazon reviewer]

One ambeo soundbar plus customer I spoke with upgraded from a $2,500 Denon receiver and 5.1 Polk speaker setup. He explained bass detail and the sheer size of the ambient audio field shocked him – easily matching his old system‘s performance at a fraction of the hassle.

And for streaming music, the wealth of connectivity options and beefy amplification makes the Ambeo Plus a swiss army knife soundbar for room-filling, dynamic sound that beautifully highlights vocals. No matter what you throw at it, this bar handles it with detail and precision.

If delivering seamless, convincing Dolby Atmos immersion from a simple all-in-one system appeals to you, Ambeo Plus buyers widely report outstanding results.

Final Verdict: A New Gold Standard for Premium Soundbars

As an experienced home theater geek myself, I am blown away by what Sennheiser packed into this package. Virtualization and custom tuning features previously required professional acoustic analysis and lots of equipment.

Now with Ambeo innovations, realistic surround sound emulation finally comes in an easy, compact solution. Of course at $1,500 the Ambeo Soundbar Plus still carries a premium cost.

Yet comparing what buyers get out of this bar versus traditional AV gear costing far more, its value proposition holds up. Setting a new high bar for immersive Dolby Atmos performance from an all-in-one soundbar, I expect we will only see more innovation in the space from Sennheiser going forward.

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