Sennheiser’s AMBEO soundbar is now available in Australia, and is remarkable in a number of ways, being the company’s first ever consumer loudspeaker product, and quite the product at that. Australia joins only Germany, the UK and the US in having the earliest official launch date, with other markets to follow.

We have heard the AMBEO bar three times now — at IFA 2018 in Berlin; at the recent IFA Global Press conference where Dr Andreas Sennheiser (pictured below) announced Sennheiser’s global audio partnership with IFA; and we currently have a final unit under review fornext issue.

What we can tell you already is that this is one remarkable soundbar, achieving a deep and spacious soundfield from its front-only position — no satellite rears, no subwoofer, just the bar.

We asked Uwe Cremering, Sennheiser’s Director of AMBEO Development, how early the decision was made not to have a subwoofer as part of the package.

“I would say two years ago,” he told us. “We said OK, if we do something, then we should aim that we can put everything in one box. We saw other systems in the market with back speakers and subwoofer, but this was actually something which came from the Neumann guys, they said ‘Uwe trust us, we will find a solution that we do not need a subwoofer, because we can go down to 30Hz with just the soundbar’, which is quite deep. Of course, if you have a subwoofer at home, you can connect it, but it’s not needed. And so there was that early point where we said, okay, we have to differentiate this from the market, so we have to make sure that we do not need anything else.”

Uwe describes AMBEO as “a listening experience”, with Sennheiser able to be involved through the chain, from recording of music, sports or VR audio, through the sound mixing, to the final listening experience.

“AMBEO not a codec,” he clarifies, “it is not a dedicated product line, so at the end, it’s a kind of listening experience. We saw immersive audio as a trend in the market and we decided strategically we will invest in 3D audio technology. And at that time it was not clear for us what we do — do we invest in a kind of codec like Dolby or MPEG-H, or do we invest in a dedicated product line, like speakers or speaker-phones? We decided on five business areas where we would like to be active —sports broadcast, augmented reality, virtual reality, listening, and 3D recording. And then we said, okay, what we understand as ‘3D’ is not surround sound, rather it needs a second level of audio information, and we also need some height information. When it comes to the recording side, we want to record the entire 3D environment around you, not just one layer of information. And it became more and more obvious that the codecs on the market, like Dolby Atmos and MPEG-H, are strong enough. Currently, there is no need to invest in a new codec.

The MPEG-H codec is a particularly interesting inclusion. It has been little used on mainstream consumer gear to date, but is part of national standards in China and South Korea (see avhub.com.au/mpegh), and Sennheiser sees it as key to a new era in object-based sports audio recording, a subject which Mr Cremering describes in more detail in our interview, which we’ll publish in full with our review next issue.

Meanwhile the 127cm-long AMBEO soundbar, with its 13 drivers and 5.1.4 configuration, is now (at last!) available in Australia, priced $3999.95, no subwoofer required!

More info: www.sennheiser.com.au