Sennheiser 13-Driver Soundbar Leverages Ambeo 3D Technology
Two years ago at the Consumer Electronics Show, premium headphone manufacturer, Sennheiser released a 3D audio platform that created detailed spacial soundstages to compliment VR content. In a nutshell, it was 3D audio for a 3D world and its official name would be Ambeo.
With roughly seven years of development under their belt, Sennheiser brought the prototype, a 13-driver soundbar that not only utilized the Ambeo tech but acted as a receiver as well, to the CES show floor in Las Vegas. Their biggest pull is that you only need the one soundbar to create a 3D atmosphere, bass included, instead of a typical 9.1 setup.
While the prototyped looked very early, the sound was actually pretty accurate at creating noise around the room. Across the front are nine speakers, two more angled at 45-degrees, and another two more facing upwards. Sennheiser claims the 30Hz is a low enough range to ditch your current subwoofer, and while impressive, is probably not true in all cases. Three HDMI ports help push out content and the soundbar will ship with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and voice control. That makes the overall appearance of the soundbar pretty big but would actually be pretty small compared to similar setups and the space those speakers take up.
What makes the Amebo 3D speaker special is that it is, thankfully, compatible with Dolby Atmos right of the box. However, Sennheiser said that non-3D content can be optimized to play nice as well. It's not exactly the eerieness of a voice coming out of a far speaker over your shoulder, but it's easy to give that up when you consider the space and money you can save with the soundbar.
During the demo, Sennheiser switched between a 9.1.2 setup and the soundbar, but I kind of wish they didn't tell me which was which. There was a noticeable dropoff to the soundbar, but that's just because the setup is inherently different. The demo, up until that point, had been pretty good at convincing me the benefits of the soundbar were nearly limitless. The head-to-head challenge made it feel a little underwhelming. But again, the advantage is that you get a ton of options in just one box, and they have an unconfirmed price of about $2,500, or about "half of what the other guys are doing." It's a pretty good price-tag considering their $2,499 open-back HD 820's they displayed as well.