The Sonos Beam has been our top pick for compact soundbars for a while now. It offers a lot in a small package and the second-gen version also supports more immersive Dolby Atmos audio. The Beam doesn’t have any upfiring drivers though, so the impact of that spatial sound is limited. That’s not an issue with the Ambeo Soundbar Mini ($799.95), Sennheiser’s smallest soundbar yet to feature its impressive Ambeo 3D audio technology. It cranks out more sonic oomph with dual upfiring woofers on top of all of its virtualization tricks, in a unit roughly the same size as the Beam. The bigger sound comes at a significantly higher price, though.
While the overall shape of the Ambeo Soundbar Mini is similar to the Sonos Beam, there are differences in the details. Most notably, Sennheiser has opted for illuminated (dimmable) Ambeo branding on the front right corner. The top panel of the mini also slopes back to front and the sides are wrapped in a fabric all the way around. Up top, there are controls for volume, playback, Bluetooth, input selection and muting the microphone. There’s also a white light that gets longer from left to right as you increase the volume.
Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Mini
- Compact design
- Excellent clarity
- Great bass
- Easy setup
- No bundled sub
- Ambeo effect is limited
- One HDMI port
The Ambeo Mini is about an inch and a half wider than the Beam at around 27.25 inches, but the height and depth are nearly identical. Not that you’ll be moving the speaker around much, but the Mini is also almost a pound heavier than its primary competition. Still, this is a compact unit that’s perfectly sized for smaller living rooms and spaces where you don’t have the real estate for a bigger soundbar.
Inside, there are four 1.6-inch full-range drivers. Two of them are front facing while two more are at the ends, angled slightly outward. A pair of four-inch woofers are positioned near the middle of the soundbar, but they face upward. Sennheiser has also included six class D amplifiers capable of 250 watts of power. Four far-field microphones handle the room calibration and you’ll need to make sure they’re unmuted before that process can be completed.
It’s impressive what Sennheiser has managed to get out of a small speaker. When listening to music, there’s great bass that provides plenty of low-end thump to the driving drum beats of TesseracT’s prog metal and the hip-hop musings of Kaytraminé. Even if a soundbar has woofers, most of the living room speakers can’t muster enough bass for them to be useful as a music setup without an additional sub. That’s not the case here. Still, you’ll want to consider an Ambeo Sub if you’re planning to use it in a medium-to-large room as the bass tends to get lost in bigger spaces. The Mini also supports Sony’s 360 Reality Audio and MPEG-H if you’re into them, but the Ambeo does a great job upscaling stereo content.
The Ambeo Soundbar Mini’s key feature is Sennheiser’s 3D audio tech. It has been a staple of the company’s soundbars since the first Ambeo model in 2019. Both of the larger, pricier Sennheiser soundbars have more drivers, including two upfiring units in addition to the two upwards facing woofers inside the Ambeo Soundbar Plus. The Mini does a solid job with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X content, but the effect isn’t as enveloping since it’s more reliant on virtualization. I particularly enjoyed the immersive, directional audio in quidditch matches during my annual fall viewing of the Harry Potter series.This soundbar still gives you a 7.1.4 setup after the room calibration places virtual speakers around. That’s the same channel layout as the Plus, though that bigger unit has seven total drivers and two woofers for a fuller sound and more immersive experience.
Software and features
Like a lot of smaller soundbars these days, the Ambeo Mini connects to your TV via HDMI eARC. It supports HDMI 2.1, which is the latest spec that allows higher resolution (up to 10K) and higher frame rates (up to 120fps) thanks to increased bandwidth. Most new TVs have at least one HDMI 2.1 port and both PS5 and Xbox Series X support it.
All of the settings for the Ambeo Soundbar Mini are accessible in Sennheiser’s Smart Control app. This includes the initial setup and room calibration, the latter of which takes about three minutes to complete. First, you have the ability to change the sources between HDMI, Bluetooth or Spotify Connect. There’s a volume slider here too and just below reside the Ambeo 3D audio on/off buttons. The company offers a few sound presets next, with Adaptive, Music, Movie, News, Neutral and Sports as the choices. During my tests, I found Adaptive best suited for most viewing and listening, so I kept it locked there. Lastly, the app’s main interface provides access to Night Mode and Voice Enhancement features should you need those.
There’s a more detailed settings menu, but I’ll only point out one item. Under both Audio and System is where you’ll need to go to add an Ambeo Subwoofer to the Mini (the same stuff is available from both places). Once you do, you’ll have the ability to adjust the additional speaker’s volume and enable a tool called Phase 180. This balances out the low-end from the sub when it’s positioned close to the soundbar. Sennheiser says otherwise the bass can have a hollow character and this helps correct that. You’ll also need to recalibrate the system once you add a sub, which you can do from this menu.
The Mini runs Sennheiser’s Ambeo OS, which allows a whole host of connectivity options. You’ll primarily connect via Wi-Fi, but as I’ve already mentioned Bluetooth is here as well. Wi-Fi gives you the choice of Apple AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect and Tidal Connect, in addition to Alexa built-in and Google Chromecast. The wireless connectivity allows you to easily use the Mini as part of a multiroom setup too. I was able to select it and a HomePod from the connections menu in Apple Music with no additional setup required. The company promises “a future-proof experience” thanks to “regular” Ambeo OS updates as well.
As you’ve probably guessed, the Ambeo Mini’s primary competition is the Sonos Beam. The second-generation version of which debuted in 2021, most notably delivering Dolby Atmos and a new cover. While the speaker sounds great and does an admirable job with Atmos, it doesn’t have any upfiring drivers, so the effect of the immersive audio is limited. However, Sonos still achieves a level of immersiveness through some virtualization tricks with extra height and surround channels. Plus, it’s $300 cheaper than the Mini, even after Sonos raised the price to $499. You’ll probably want a sub for the Beam too, which is another $429 or $799 depending on which model you choose (there is a Beam and Sub Mini bundle that saves you $45).
If you’re sold on the Ambeo tech no matter the cost, the Plus and Max soundbars are worth a look. Sennheiser has dropped the prices since their debuts as the Plus is now $1,119.95 and the Max is $1,999.95. Like the Mini, neither of those come with an Ambeo Sub which is an additional $599.95 and the only one these soundbars are compatible with. There’s no denying these Ambeo models can muster some amazing audio, but you’ll pay a premium for the tech.
With its smallest soundbar yet, Sennheiser continues to show how good its 3D audio tech is. The Ambeo Soundbar Mini offers impressive sound in a small package, including great low-end thump without a dedicated wireless sub. It does an admirable job with Dolby Atmos content, though the Mini does its best work in smaller rooms. There’s no denying this is a very good home entertainment speaker for the size, but the company makes you pay dearly for its fancy technology.
This post originally appeared on TechToday.