While some in the movie look towards 8K video and beyond, most of us would just like better sound, although a full-fat home theater setup isn’t viable for many of us with smaller homes who don’t want wires and speakers everywhere. But without a proper home theater system, how will you get the whole experience of Dolby Atmos and other 3D codecs that make movies so immersive these days?
Sennheiser thinks it has the answer in the form of the brand new AMBEO Mini, a fun-size soundbar designed for most of us who don’t have massive homes or bottomless pockets. This all-new soundbar is the third model in the Sennheiser AMBEO range and follows on from the AMBEO Max and AMBEO Plus. Sennheiser has been making soundbars since 2019 and the company’s engineers have taken to the format like the proverbial duck to water.
The new AMBEO Mini measures just 700mm long and is small enough to fit comfortably in front of a 40-inch screen. That said, it can partner with much larger TVs because, despite its compact footprint, it has a loud voice and ticks almost every box you want ticking if you’re buying a new soundbar.
As well as having an eARC HDMI input, the AMBEO Mini offers Apple AirPlay 2, Google Chromecast, and Bluetooth. It even has Alexa Built-in, so you can ask it to do Alexa tasks directly. The microphones built into the Mini can be disabled using a touch control if you get itchy about that kind of thing. In addition, the Mini works with OK Google and Apple’s Siri. It’s quite the multitasker.
Six drivers are built into the AMBEO Mini: two 4-inch woofers and four full range 40mm drivers. Clever virtualization algorithms enable the AMBEO Mini to produce 7.1.4 virtual sound, more than any other soundbar currently on the market. It can be controlled using the excellent Sennheiser Control app or the high-quality remote control that ships with the Mini.
The AMBEO’s sound can also be controlled using your TV remote if connected via HDMI CEC. A point to note here is that there is only one HDMI input. Although this should be adequate for most people’s needs, it’s worth pointing out to those who like to connect a Blu-ray or PlayStations via a soundbar rather than the TV.
Although the Mini has two woofers built in, taking the frequency down to 43Hz, you can give the Mini even more oomph by attaching up to four of the superb Sennheiser AMBEO wireless subwoofer. Believe me when I say it’s worth getting the sub as that low-level grunt and growl goes down to 27Hz, bringing any movie to life and making streamed music and spatial audio a real treat.
So how does a compact soundbar generate sufficient sound to mimic a 7.1.4 home theater system? The answer is, as it mostly is these days, algorithms. The AMBEO Mini uses beamforming to throw out sound so that helicopters in a movie sound as if they are flying over your head.
The AMBEO Mini produces rear speaker effects that sound almost like you have installed rear speakers. The effect is impressive, although maybe not as impressive as a costly full-fat home theater system. However, suppose you always wanted better movie sound with that home theater experience but can’t bear the thought of all those extra speakers and cables around your living room. In that case, the Sennheiser AMBEO Mini is the next best way.
Setting up the AMBEO Mini is very easy. There’s no Ethernet port so the Mini connects to the network using 2.4 or 5GHz Wi-Fi. It’s a seamless process and only needs to be done once. Sennheiser has also included a self-calibration routine that tests the acoustics of your room and adjusts the soundbar’s output by measuring how long sound takes to bounce back from the room’s walls, corners and ceiling. It takes hardly any time to complete and does a great job reproducing a spatial sound. The Mini can support Dolby Atmos, DTS X, and 360˚ Reality 3D codecs and even has illuminated indicators to tell you which 3D codec is being used.
Touch controls on top of the Mini enable quick volume adjustments etc, but you can also use your iOS or Android phone running the Sennheiser Smart Control app or the supplied remote. LEDs on top of the soundbar can be easily seen from the couch, so there’s no having to get up to look for status lights.
As well as the automated sounds, Sennheiser has programmed presets for the sound levels you might want, depending on whether you are watching sports or music. There’s also a speech clarity setting that can boost vocals and you can even adjust the volume of the center speaker to provide more clarity over the surround sound effects. It’s all very clever and infinitely customizable.
The voice clarity function works brilliantly and boosts the midrange without reducing the bass response. And for those who like to watch movies late at night, there is a Night Mode that cuts the bass boom down so you won’t wake the rest of the house.
The sound from the AMBEO Mini is superbly impressive and pumps out a natural cinematic effect. It’s one of the best visualizations of Dolby Atmos that I have ever heard from a soundbar. That’s even more impressive when you realize this little 700mm soundbar has 250W of Class D amplification. It’s a piece of acoustic engineering genius. Fair play to Sennheiser, the company’s engineers have nailed the perfect surround sound effect from a soundbar.
The all-around build quality of the Mini is up there with the best equipment Sennheiser has produced. No corners have been cut and I love the backlit AMBEO logo and the illuminated codec indicators on the top of the soundbar. A lot of thought has gone into the AMBEO Mini and I wouldn’t be surprised if it picked up many awards. The AMBEO offers the price, size and performance most of us want from a soundbar.
Verdict: The Sennheiser AMBEO Mini is a superb piece of kit. I spent two weeks with a loan unit to write my review. During that time, I’ve never watched so many movies and box sets and never enjoyed them so much. This is a superb piece of audio engineering. For those without room or money for a massive home theater system, the AMBEO Mini with the Sennheiser wireless subwoofer is the perfect setup for under $1,500. At just 700mm long, the AMBEO Mini is compact enough to use in a bedroom or the kitchen. Support for Apple AirPlay 2 and Chromecast lets the Mini slip into a multi-room audio setup perfectly. It even supports Spotify and Tidal Direct, two essential boxes ticked, right there. There’s little to criticize about the AMBEO Mini other than, perhaps, I would have liked to see a second HDMI port. If you buy yourself a Sennheiser AMBEO Mini soundbar and wireless subwoofer, you won’t regret it.
Pricing & Availability: The Sennheiser AMBEO Mini soundbar will be available from September 1 and retails for $799 / £699 / €799. Sennheiser’s AMBEO Wireless Subwoofer is also available now and cost $699.95 / £699 / €749.
More info: www.sennheiser.com
- Woofers: 2 x 4-inch cellulose cone driver.
- Full range drivers: 4 x 1.6-inch cellulose cone.
- Frequency response: 43Hz – 20kHz.
- Amplifier 6 x Class D.
- Power: 250W (RMS).
- Audio processor: Quad-core 1.8GHz SoC.
- Connectivity: Chromecast built-in, uPnP, Apple AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect.
- Input: 1 x HDMI 2.1 eARC.
- Alexa built-in: Yes.
- Works with OK Google: Yes.
- Remote: Yes.
- App control: Yes.
- Wi-Fi: 2.4 and 5GHz IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax.
- Bluetooth: 5.0 BLE
- Codecs: AAC, SBC.
- Dimensions (LxDxH): 700 x 100 x65mm.
- Weight: 3,300g.