Back on the offensive after a hiatus, Sennheiser has launched not one but two Ambeo soundbars in the course of the last two months and the Ambeo Soundbar Mini is the smallest, sitting under the Soundbar Plus we reviewed (insert link) last month. It’s noticeably smaller, almost half the size in fact of the Ambeo Soundbar Plus, with fewer drivers and most importantly, no upward-firing drivers for the Ambeo virtualization. So what’s the deal?
Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Mini review
Maximum surround in minimum price
+ ₹69,990 (Ambeo sub)
Carved out of the same flat-ish mould of the bigger models, the Mini feels dense and very well built indeed. The lack of any colour options means that you can only have this in various kinds of black textures, mesh grille and matte or glossy plastic trim bits. An illuminated Ambeo logo on the bottom right corner reminds you that you’ve bought into some serious technology. Or have you? Well, the driver count is down to six from nine on the Ambeo Plus and this is most felt in the solid plastic panel up top, where the top-firing drivers would normally reside.
Capacitive controls and status lights aside, the top panel is devoid of any speaker drivers. Around the back, a simplistic connectivity suite includes a USB port, a power socket and a lone HDMI eARC port. Connection to the sub is wireless in this case and is a seamless affair. Sennheiser’s Smart Control app is extremely adept at setting things up on its own, using the built-in microphones from the soundbar to calibrate your room and set channel levels and virtualization algorithms according to your space. It takes into account the size of the room, the amount of absorption and reflectivity and the distance between the soundbar and the ceiling and walls. In less than 5 minutes, you’re ready to load your favourite movie and let it rip!
If you are the micromanager kind, the Smart Control app also provides you with granular control of centre and subwoofer level, lip sync, different DSP modes, night mode, voice enhancement and various system settings, including firmware updates. So yeah, it’s almost mandatory that you install the app before embarking on the setup process. Thankfully, Sennheiser sells the same 8in subwoofer unit with the Ambeo Soundbar Mini as it does with the Soundbar Plus and it is a fairly capable, sealed design. Placement in relation to the Soundbar Mini will be crucial in how well you can get the system to sound like a single unit, as opposed to a symphony of separate speaker boxes.
For a baguette-sized soundbar, the Ambeo Mini manages to conjure up a remarkably big sound, thanks to its generous 250W of power and 7.1.4 channel virtual immersive audio. It gets loud without any strain or distortion and the bass is always full of heft and ease, with enough headroom left in the can. Where it does start showing its compromises is in dynamic contrast and overall width of the soundstage. While the vocal clarity is great and you won’t have any issues with speech intelligibility, the dynamics sound flat and compressed, unlike the Ambeo Plus which does a much better job at channel separation and wider dynamic range. The opening NASCAR sequence from F9 (Fast & the Furious franchise) sounded exciting and even alluded to overhead speakers once in a while, suggesting that the Ambeo virtualization does indeed work even without physical top-firing speakers. But the effect is harder to appreciate here than on the Plus and it sounds like it’s trying too hard to create that immersion. It’s the tonality of the Ambeo Mini that sounds leaner and brighter compared to its bigger siblings. Of course, it’s all relative to price and the more affordable price tag (and size) of the Mini makes it perfectly suited for bedrooms or small living rooms.
Music playback is where the size of the Mini becomes most audible though, with 2-channel stereo content sounding audibly one-dimensional. Make no mistake, it’s a clean reproduction with the Ambeo virtualisation working well to create height and space in the instruments, but the whole of it lacks “body” and never lets you forget where the sound is emanating from. Especially when you compare it to a dedicated stereo system in the same price bracket. Bass, for example, lacks the speed and transient response that an HQ rendition of Billie Jean demands. Ironically, the immersiveness it displays in movies just doesn’t cut it for music. As a party system or background music system, it does an exceptional job of of filling up the room with enough energy and bass volume, but don’t expect to lose yourself in the music like you would when seated in the middle of two audiophile-grade bookshelf speakers.
Where the Ambeo Soundbar Mini scores big though is convenience and wireless connectivity, supporting everything from AirPlay 2, Chromecast, and Bluetooth to Tidal and Spotify Connect. On the automation side, it supports Apple Homekit, Google and Alexa, again having you covered no matter what tech you’ve invested in.
As a soundbar to augment your TV or UST projector sound in a small room, the Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Mini makes a compelling case with its sense of scale and vocal clarity. It could be better when it comes to integration with the subwoofer and being more dynamically involving. For its asking price, a movie lover should be able to justify it with its clean output and ease of set-up, but if you’re a part-time music lover, you can get a more soulful presentation going the separates route of amplifier+speakers+streamer in the same price.
Adds another layer of fun factor to movie watching but feels pricey relative to its talents.
|Power:||250W (Ambeo Mini) 350W (subwoofer)|
|Drivers:||4 x full-range, 2 x woofers|
|Subwoofer:||1 x 8in|
|Frequency Response:||43Hz - 20kHz|
|Connectivity:||USB, HDMI 2.1, Bluetooth, AirPlay, Chromecast|
|Dimensions (WHD):||27.6 x 2.6 x 3.9|