LAS VEGAS — Sennheiser has a sterling reputation for its legion of headphones, but the company just showed that it's not afraid to try something new. At CES 2018, the company unveiled its first soundbar: the Ambeo 3D. Although currently just a concept, the company plans to bring it to the mass market sometime this year.
You've got to hand it to Sennheiser: the company never does anything halfway. When I went into the demo room, I saw a relatively large soundbar, packed to the gills with with speakers. The Ambeo 3D soundbar has 13 speakers — two top-mounted, six four-inch woofer and five tweeters. While that might seem like overkill, there's a method to Sennheiser's madness. Branded under the company's Ambeo line, Sennheiser has designed the soundbar to deliver 3D audio.
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Sennheiser achieves this feat by bouncing the audio off the walls in the designated room, then fine-tuning the sound for the optimal listening experience. When the soundbar eventually ships, it will come with a microphone that consumers will set up in the center of the room. The Ambeo soundbar will then play a series of test sounds, which will reflect off the mic and calibrate the audio.
It may sound like a bunch of high-tech mumbo-jumbo, but in practice, the technology is sound (pun definitely intended). During my demo, I heard a number of soundtracks, including a live concert with a full orchestra. With my eyes closed, I felt like I was sitting center stage. The vocalist was clear and precise, and little details like wind chimes were present, even as the much-louder horns started playing.
The company is currently working with Dolby and Fraunhofer to incorporate their advanced technologies into the hardware. That's fine for current and future media, but what about older stuff? Never fear: The Ambeo 3D soundbar will have the ability to upmix older audio content to sound like 3D audio.
I'm excited by the Sennheiser Ambeo 3D soundbar. If it's successful, it can be a viable option for people that don't want — or don't have the room — to set up a full surround sound system. But I'll reserve my final judgment for when the soundbar arrives at our lab later this year (hopefully).