18.01.18

Sennheiser targets home cinemas with 3D audio soundbar

sennheiser AMBEO 3d audio soundbar for home
IMAGE: TECHRADAR

Sennheiser may have been working on tackling 3D audio for over a decade now, yet products such as its VR microphone have been largely focused on the sound recording market – until now. At CES it became clear the manufacturer fully intends to make a play for the home cinema market in 2018.

For those for whom the prospect of enjoying 3D audio at home seems to time-consuming or involving a whole lot of equipment (and wires) they don’t have room (or the patience) for, Sennheiser may have the ideal solution – though we don’t have pricing just yet.

The company may have become a regular on the CES scene, but it seems it’s finally ready to make its ‘AMBEO’ spatial soundscape technology accessible in the home after initially concentrating on developing offerings for the pro market.

In Vegas visitors were treated to a first glimpse of the first speaker product to feature the technology, the AMBEO 3D soundbar – the key selling point being you can now achieve with a soundbar what you previously needed a 9.1 speaker set up for, according to Sennheiser.

The AMBEO 3D soundbar packs 13 speakers total with nine across the front, two angled out from the sides and two angled on the top. A subwoofer option is available though not a necessity due to the soundbar’s low-end range (30Hz).

The final version of the soundbar is expected to feature three HDMI inputs: one HDMI output and inputs for both analog and optical. It will also pack in Bluetooth and WiFi support, as well as onboard voice control.

The soundbar offers compatibility with Dolby Atmos, but perhaps one of the biggest ‘wins’ with the products is the fact that the Sennheiser’s technology can upmix lower quality content to improve how it sounds. I’ve experienced this first-hand, as well as some 3D audio tracks, visiting Sennheiser at an event in 2016, and can confirm the upscaling is not just marketing hype, but delivers on lifting content for a noticeably better audio performance.

Sennheiser says it is currently collaborating with music labels and other audio companies to ramp up the amount of 3D content out there too (and not just for music, but sports as well).

Whilst a prototype was on display at CES 2018, Sennheiser has stated that the everything related to its audio performance is signed off – it’s worth noting the soundbar is fairly sizeable compared to other options, and will likely continue to be with the final product. There’s currently little word on a possible release for the AMBEO soundbar yet, but you can expect to see the product later this year (at a price pitched at the audiophile market).