Sennheiser already makes some of the most popular headphones currently on the market, but now the company is ready to enter the exciting world of home audio. At CES 2018 in Las Vegas, the audio specialist is showing off a prototype of its very first soundbar, and it could represent a new standard for the product category.
Soundbars have grown in market share year-on-year to become amongst the most popular option for consumers looking to upgrade their home audio. They’re compact, simple to install, and relatively affordable. Most high-end soundbars also deliver good quality audio, negating the need for multiple speakers around the room and miles of cables.
Sennheiser’s first soundbar is only at prototype stage for CES 2018, meaning things could change slightly between now and the launch. What shouldn’t change is the make-up behind the speaker, which includes 13 drivers – six 4in woofers, five tweeters, and two top-firing speakers. That’s more than one can expect from even the best Dolby Atmos soundbars, with the highly-rated Sony HT-ST5000 where there only seven, and even more than the highly-capable Sonos Playbar, which boasts nine.
Those 13 drivers should give the Sennheiser soundbar punchy performance, but that won’t be the only thing that sets it apart from its competitors. That’s because Sennheiser will put the soundbar under its Ambeo brand, which delivers a similar technology to Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. Unsurprisingly, this soundbar doesn’t appear to have native support for Dolby Atmos, although it should technically be able to deliver the same effect thanks to the top-firing speakers.
The design of Sennheiser’s soundbar has yet to be finalised, which shouldn’t be surprising given the device currently looks like a mishmash of speakers. While its design is likely to get better closer to release, you can still expect this to be a lot bulkier than what is offered by Samsung’s ultra-thin soundbars, that’s simply because Sennheiser has to house those 13 drivers somewhere…
Consumer tech publication, The Verge, has already had the opportunity to hear Sennheiser’s new soundbar, with it noting that “as Sennheiser flipped between its soundbar and audio from an actual surround sound setup, it was sometimes hard to tell the difference.” It was also noted that “Sennheiser’s first soundbar sounded way better than any soundbar ought to.”
Despite impressive first impressions, 3D surround sound coming from a soundbar is hardly new. LG, Samsung, Sony and Yamaha are just amongst a few names who have already launched models, although they all use different methods to achieve the effect. Sennheiser says that its model can measure how sound bounces back from the walls and ceilings to fine-tune playback so the sound reaches your ears as intended. That’s perfect for small, square rooms, without any crevices, but probably won’t be as ideal in large, awkward-shaped rooms with lots of furniture.
Regardless of whether or not it sounds as good as it supposedly did in the demo, Sennheiser is known for good quality commercial audio, and that should be the benchmark at which this soundbar is compared. That benchmark should also lead to a premium price tag, however, so it could still be more cost effective to simply install a dedicated Dolby Atmos or DTS:X system.