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Sennheiser Ambeo Plus Review: The New Reference Standard for 3D Soundbars

As an audio engineer and home theater enthusiast, I‘ve long been fascinated by the rapid advancements in immersive 3D sound technology over the past decade. What once required a dedicated room filled with strategically placed speakers can now be achieved with a single soundbar thanks to clever acoustic design and digital signal processing.

Sennheiser has been at the forefront of this 3D audio revolution with their AMBEO technology. First introduced in the Ambeo Max soundbar in 2019, it utilizes a unique combination of front, side, and top-firing speakers plus advanced virtualization to create a convincing surround sound experience from a single unit.

Now, Sennheiser is bringing this technology to a wider audience with the release of the Ambeo Plus soundbar. At $1,499, it‘s still firmly in the premium price bracket. But compared to the $2,499 Ambeo Max, it represents a more accessible way to experience the impressive capabilities of AMBEO 3D sound.

I spent several weeks putting the Ambeo Plus through its paces, testing its performance with a wide variety of content from movies and TV shows to music and video games. And I can say unequivocally that it is one of the most impressive pieces of home audio gear I‘ve experienced, setting a new reference standard for immersive sound from a single speaker.

Under the Hood: Cutting-Edge Acoustic Engineering

To understand why the Ambeo Plus sounds so good, we need to take a closer look at the technology inside. Like its bigger sibling the Ambeo Max, it utilizes a multi-speaker array to bounce sound off the walls and ceiling, creating a larger, three-dimensional soundstage.

Specifically, the Ambeo Plus contains:

  • 3 front-firing speakers (left, center, right)
  • 2 side-firing speakers (surround left, surround right)
  • 2 upward-firing speakers (height left, height right)
  • 2 integrated subwoofers

All of this is powered by a beefy 400 watt amplification system with a frequency response of 30 Hz to 20 kHz. The speakers utilize a combination of cellulose and aluminum drivers fine-tuned by Sennheiser‘s acoustic engineers to ensure pristine clarity across the frequency spectrum.

But the secret sauce is really Sennheiser‘s 3D audio processing powered by the Fraunhofer Cingo algorithm. It takes the input signal, whether Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, or standard surround sound, and applies a virtualization filter to make the audio sound like it‘s coming from all around you. Sennheiser has also developed its own upmixing technology called AMBEO 3D, which can turn standard stereo content into immersive 3D sound.

The effect is nothing short of breathtaking, and to my ears outperforms other 3D audio solutions like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X virtualization. There‘s a palpable sense of spaciousness, with sound extending far beyond the physical boundaries of the soundbar. And the placement of effects like overhead planes or the sound of rain is startlingly convincing.

Sennheiser‘s Maximilian Voigt explained their approach in an interview with Digital Trends: "We‘re not trying to replace a full multi-speaker setup, but rather replicate the spatial audio experience as closely as possible from a single device. A tremendous amount of research has gone into our virtualization technology to model how sound reflects in different acoustic environments."

Measurements & Specs

For the audio geeks out there, here are some key technical details on the Ambeo Plus‘ capabilities:

  • Frequency response: 30 Hz – 20 kHz
  • Amplification: 400W total power
    • 150W subwoofers
    • 50W x 5 main speakers
  • Wireless connectivity:
    • Bluetooth 5.0 (SBC, AAC, aptX)
    • Wi-Fi (Chromecast, Apple AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect)
  • Audio formats:
    • Dolby Atmos
    • DTS:X
    • MPEG-H
    • Dolby TrueHD
    • Dolby Digital Plus
  • Room calibration: Automated with included microphone
  • Dimensions: 41.4" x 4.8" x 3"
  • Weight: 40.8 lbs

Ambeo Plus vs the Competition

Of course, Sennheiser isn‘t the only player in the high-end soundbar space. So how does the Ambeo Plus stack up against other popular models? Here‘s a quick comparison:

Model Price Channels Sub Amplification Wireless Dimensions
Sennheiser Ambeo Plus $1,499 5.1.2 Built-in (x2) 400W BT, Wi-Fi 41.4" x 4.8" x 3"
Sennheiser Ambeo Max $2,499 5.1.4 Built-in 500W BT, Wi-Fi 49.8" x 6.8" x 5.3"
Sony HT-ST5000 $1,498 7.1.2 Built-in 800W BT, Wi-Fi 46.5" x 3.1" x 5.7"
Samsung HW-Q950T $1,397 9.1.4 Wireless (x2) 546W BT, Wi-Fi 48.3" x 2.4" x 5.4"
LG SN11RG $1,096 7.1.4 Wireless 770W BT, Wi-Fi 56.8" x 2.5" x 5.8"

As you can see, the Ambeo Plus sits around the middle of the pack in terms of price while offering very competitive specs. The Sony HT-ST5000 probably comes closest in terms of a single-unit 3D audio solution. And while it boasts impressive 800W amplification and slightly more surround channels, I found the Ambeo Plus to edge it out in terms of 3D immersion and overall sound quality.

The Samsung and LG options provide the convenience of wireless surrounds and more total power. But they also require extra speakers to achieve their full channel counts. For those looking to minimize cable clutter and boxes, the Ambeo Plus is hard to beat.

Other reviews have been similarly glowing. Wired called it "the Mount Everest of soundbars" while Digital Trends said "it doesn‘t just raise the bar for single-speaker home theater sound systems—it changes the game entirely."

3D Audio in Action

To really showcase the Ambeo Plus‘ capabilities, I tested it with a variety of content mastered for 3D audio formats. And simply put, it consistently wowed me.

Watching action scenes in movies like Mad Max: Fury Road or Midway, the sound of vehicles panning overhead was eerily realistic. You could close your eyes and point to exactly where each one was positioned in 3D space. Even in quieter scenes, there was an extra sense of depth and ambience, making it feel like you were really there in the room with the characters.

The Ambeo Plus also excels for gaming. Playing Gears 5 and Call of Duty: Warzone on my Xbox Series X, the 3D audio made it much easier to pinpoint the direction of enemy footsteps and gunfire. It provided a genuine competitive advantage beyond just enhancing the cinematic experience.

But one of the most impressive demos was actually with music. Listening to Hans Zimmer‘s Live in Prague Blu-ray, which was recorded in Dolby Atmos, I was completely transported. The sense of space and dynamics was breathtaking, from the delicate placement of certain instruments to the grandiosity of the full orchestra.

Some other music and movies that really shined with the Ambeo Plus:

  • Kraftwerk‘s 3-D The Catalogue
  • Booka Shade‘s Dear Future Self mixed in Sony 360 Reality Audio
  • The Matrix in Dolby Atmos
  • Ford v Ferrari in DTS:X
  • Blade Runner 2049 in Dolby Atmos

The Verdict

The Sennheiser Ambeo Plus represents the pinnacle of 3D audio technology in a single-unit soundbar. With incredibly immersive sound, automated room calibration, and enough amplification to rattle the walls, it delivers a home theater experience that will satisfy even the pickiest audiophiles.

Yes, $1,499 is undoubtedly a lot to spend on a soundbar. You can find very good options from brands like Samsung, Vizio, and Sonos for significantly less if you don‘t need the absolute cutting-edge in 3D sound. And those willing to invest in a traditional multi-speaker setup can probably achieve even better results for a similar cost.

But for anyone seeking uncompromising 3D sound with minimal fuss and wires, the Ambeo Plus is the new king. It takes movie nights, gaming sessions, and listening to immersive audio to a whole new level. And with support for all the major 3D formats plus Sennheiser‘s own AMBEO 3D up-mixing, it‘s impressively future-proofed.

As 3D audio content continues to proliferate, from music platforms like Amazon and Tidal offering Dolby Atmos tracks to Disney+ and HBO Max streaming movies and shows with Atmos sound, demand for Atmos-enabled soundbars is only going to grow. And the Ambeo Plus is perfectly positioned to serve that demand.

If you have the budget and are yearning for a taste of the future of home audio, I can‘t recommend the Ambeo Plus highly enough. It‘s the soundbar to beat for pure sonic thrills.