If you want an immersive theatre experience from the comfort of your home, few products are going to be able to replicate cinema audio better than these soundbars.
Sitting at the very high end of the price spectrum, the Sennheiser Ambeo is a hard device to compete with and a harder device to purchase.
The Sonos Arc is less than half the price of its competitor and may prove more beneficial to a family on a tighter budget.
We will be going over everything they bring to the table in terms of audio, features, and far more. Whether you want to know which produces a fuller sound to how many woofers are stuffed inside the Arc; it will be covered.
By the conclusion of this page, you could sell these things door to door. More importantly, you can make a far more informed decision on which to purchase.
The Sennheiser Ambeo is an expensive soundbar sitting in the mid $2000s at full MSRP. This is a result of a soundbar that spares no expense in what lies under the hood (even if they may mislead customers about what is under the hood).
The audio overall feels like an upgrade from the Arc, though the clunky, burdensome design mixed with the inefficient software and propensity to overheat makes it hard to recommend. The audio is superior, though you are paying $1000 more for slightly improved sound.
The Sonos Arc is a fantastic speaker that is well under half the price of its competitor and sits comfortably under $1,000 even when not on discount. The design is great, it offers several hands-off features that make efficiency a breeze, and the app is far quicker.
You won’t have to worry about overheating, finding a place to sit the Arc, or dealing with the loss of two thousand dollars or more. You will have to deal with audio that isn’t quite as immersive, however. Depending on your living room setup, some consumers should also be wary of the fact that the Arc is not compatible with Bluetooth.
Often times when looking for speakers, you have to measure your expectations due to the technical limitations of cheaper products. Though at the price range these two soundbars sit at, excellence is expected.
In the interest of covering every nook, cranny, and crevice these products have – let’s take a closer look at each.
The Sennheiser Ambeo does a great job with its highs, and the strumming of acoustics and higher-pitched sounds will come in very clearly. The issue is that when you are listening to something with a lower rumble or thump, it will come across as sunnier than it was likely intended to be.
This thing looks like it could deafen a household or two. It comes with six 4-inch woofers all facing forward, and five 1-inch tweeters with three front-facing and two on either side of the device. You also get two top-firing 3.5-inch speakers which are on both ends of the Ambeo’s topside. Sennheiser lists its frequency response at 30Hz to 20kHz (-3 dB).
One of the more ambitious claims from Sennheiser is that the speaker is 5.1.4, which by my count is incorrect. There are two above-ground speakers where audio from altitude can be heard – not four like it is being marketed. There also is no subwoofer, despite it being compatible should you choose to get one. So while it is closer to 5.0.2, it still has a sound that is hard to beat.
The audio is superb, there is no getting around it. Even with the stationary, one-dimensional nature of a soundbar – the action comes from all directions. This is accomplished through a microphone you will use during setup to calibrate the room your Ambeo is in. This process allows it to bounce sound off the walls, windows, and upholstery.
The Ambeo does a good job of picking up the ambiance (fans, background noise, etc) in shows and movies better than the Arc, which has a bigger focus on dialogue. While there will be folks who prefer the more pronounced speech of the Arc, the Ambeo creates a more immersive audio experience where films are concerned.
You get five sound presets to choose from in the Sennheiser Smart Control app; news, music, neutral, movies, and sports. Its bass is palpable for a lone soundbar and can actually get fairly deep, though it won’t replace a subwoofer. The Ambeo 3D Sound is also able to be toggled, which creates 3D audio that also possesses an equalizer. It is also alone in its MPEG-H compatibility, which hints that it will be tech you can hold onto for some time.
The Sonos Arc is a very competent soundbar, especially when considering how much cheaper it runs. For television, the voices come in a bit clearer at the expense of more enveloping background noise.
While the Ambeo produces a fuller sound, most folks would struggle to pick superior audio between the two. Without tampering with the Arc EQ, this will produce a slightly lower, grittier sound with more emphasis on speech.
The Arc has 11 Class-D amplifiers across its layout which include 8 woofers and 3 silk-dome tweeters. Two woofers are positioned in an upwards direction, a woofer on both ends, and the last four woofers are found along the front, with the three tweeters accompanying them. Sonos doesn’t list a frequency response; its bass is fairly good though lacks the thump of a separately sold subwoofer and the highs come in clear and crisp.
This device offers the same three-dimensional sound that the Ambeo does, even if it comes under a different name. You will hear the churn of a lawnmower engine, the skittering of insects, and the humming of neon lights as if the sound were behind you. This is accomplished through the Trueplay feature (as well as Dolby Atmos) that gets an idea of the acoustics in your Arc’s environment.
There are two different sound-adjusting features outside of the equalizer found in the Sonos app.
The first is Speech Enhancement which allows for better voice quality and clarity, which can be found in the app. The second is Night Sound, a feature that should be standard on all soundbars. This turns down the intensity of guns firing, helicopters, and car crashes while cranking up the volume of people speaking. Essentially, it makes the television audio a lot less jarring to your housemates.
Verdict – The Sonos Arc is a fantastic soundbar in terms of its audio quality, the Ambeo is just better. The extra effort put in with the Ambeo is hard to notice, though it is there. The environment sounds more palpable, the audio feels far more immersive and the highs are delightfully crisp.
For those of the opinion that a price tag is a reliable clue towards the quality of a product, this category may change your mind.
Soundbars are always a nice touch to an entertainment system if you can fit them. Several of these products are large, awkward, and cumbersome, however. Because of this, it is important to know just what you are in store for when you purchase one.
If you want to mount either speaker to the wall, you will need to purchase the wall mount separately.
The Sennheiser Ambeo is an expensive, visually pleasing product. With that said, the design of this thing feels like it was an afterthought. It is incredibly dense and clunky at roughly 50 x 5.5 x 6.5 inches and weighs forty pounds. So not only is it incredibly dense, but it’s also very awkward to carry.
Keep a healthy distance between this soundbar, your television, other objects, and heat sources.
The soundbar is close to six inches in height (not including its depth) and gets so hot it can damage your television. The manual speaks to needing about 10 centimeters (four inches) of space or more between your television and soundbar. The device does have an “OVERHEAT” status on the LED menu that will pop up if the soundbar gets too hot.
You should avoid putting it near anything else that produces a high amount of heat. Additionally, using it as a surface to put things on is likely to cause overheating.
While the design may look like a rectangle in product pictures, it’s actually more like a trapezoid. This is due to both ends of the back of the speaker being a few inches longer than the front. The Ambeo feels solid, expensive, and durable despite its plastic exterior. In Sennheiser’s defense, you would need a forklift to carry this thing if it had a metal shell.
There is a control panel on the top of the product towards the center. From left to right you get a mute button, volume up/volume down, AMBEO (turns on 3D sound), multi-function button, pairing button, and finally the power button. You also get a scratch-resistant LED menu at the bottom of the front of the device.
A high point of the Sennheiser Ambeo is its lengthy group of connections. Going through these you have 3 HDMI inputs and an HDMI output, a USB-B input, optical input, two auxiliary inputs, and an RCA input. You also will find a reset button and WiFi setup button on the bottom of the device. Additionally, the LED screen at the bottom gives you different status updates depending on how your Ambeo is performing.
The Sonos Arc is by no means small, but more manageable to contend with than the Ambeo. Out of the box, it sits around 45 x 4.5 x 3.5 inches and weighs just under 14 pounds. While you won’t be moving the soundbar around much after its initial installation, it won’t take up as much room in front of your television. This soundbar is far less likely to overheat than the Ambeo, so you have fewer concerns when placing it near your TV.
The Sonos Arc comes in either black or white.
The exterior is a matte finish with a subtle Sonos logo on the front of the device. Similar to the rest of the product, the control panel is understated and blends seamlessly into the rest of the bar. You get volume controls, play/pause, and the option to skip tracks if you are playing tunes. We will get into voice controls further down, though the microphone option for this feature can be toggled on the top right corner of the device.
It also features some useful LEDs to give you a better idea of the status of Wifi, volume, and more. While it may seem superfluous at first, this feature gets pretty in-depth and can actually tip you off to several errors or issues with your device, should they come up.
Finally, we have to discuss the connections or lack thereof. It comes with an HDMI port, an Ethernet Port, the main power input, and a join button where more connections should be. While this isn’t a deal breaker, it would be nice to have a little more to offer from such a high-end device.
Verdict – Due to the concerns with the overall bulk and high levels of heat from the Ambeo, we will lean more towards the ARC in design. With that said, the extensive group of ports on the Ambeo is a nice touch.
These two devices differ the most in their list of features. While the Ambeo has more connections than most people will ever likely need, Sonos has more voice assistant compatibility and a far speedier app.
To get a better idea of which features better fit your lifestyle, let’s take a detailed look at both soundbars.
The Ambeo has a small list of features that may not offer everything one would need from a soundbar. To start with, it is compatible with Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, MPEG-H, Apple Airplay, Spotify, Tidal, and Bluetooth 4.2.
On the front of the soundbar is an LED screen that will alert you when the television speakers are left on, the Ambeo is overheating, and when there is an error present. The brightness of the Ambeo screen can be modified through the app.
Speaking of, the Sennheiser Smart Control app is where most of the features will be available. The Sennheiser soundbar comes with an adjustable equalizer along with a few notable presets, neutral, sports, movies, news, and music. You can also utilize a sound check feature that fits the audio to your personalized hearing or even the acoustics of your room.
The App maintains an average rating of 2.3 on Google and 2.9 on the App store, which is bad. The first thing to point out is that the app is so slow some customers thought their app was unresponsive. The design of the app is visually pleasing though highly inefficient and prone to glitches. While Sennheiser undoubtedly puts out some of the best audio products on the market, they have dragged their feet on the software side of things.
The Sonos Arc really showed up where its features were concerned.
The first thing to separate it is its convenient and effective vocal controls that can be turned on and off through the app and on the speaker. You can change tracks, request music from five different audio streaming services, adjust settings, and more. The Arc is not compatible with Bluetooth.
With the vocal controls, you also get access to Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa to further automate your routine. It is compatible with Apple Airplay 2 as well, so Apple users can play music directly to their soundbar. You also get access to Dolby Atmos through Dolby Digital Plus and TrueHD.
Through the app, you get access to an equalizer that allows you to adjust bass, volume, and treble. Additionally, you are able to toggle Speech Enhancement which allows the dialogue in your show or movie to come through more clearly. If you have roommates or kids, you can switch on Night Sound which will dampen the louder noises and bring up the decibel level of whispers, creaks, and other quiet activities.
The Sonos app maintains a 4.2 rating on Google and 4.7 on the App store, though this doesn’t tell the full story. As of the date of this article, Sonos released a new update that seemed to cause a good deal of issues with the Android app, specifically. This has resulted in issues connecting devices over Wifi, which also results in inconsistent connections.
With that being said, the app is far faster and more efficient than the Sennheiser alternative. While the equalizer may be helpful from time to time, both apps will receive little use outside of the occasional firmware update.
Verdict – The additional audio features and efficiency of the Sonos app have us leaning in the direction of the Arc.
There is no excuse for poor audio when it comes to upgrading to a soundbar.
While you won’t get a built-in subwoofer cramping up the inside of any of these devices – they are able to recreate audio as faithfully as one speaker can. While the Ambeo has better sound overall, many consumers would be forgiven for pocketing the $1,000-$1,500 and upgrading their Arc with a few additional speakers.
Regardless of which product you choose, both are very well received and would work well in any home.
The biggest concern will be the propensity for the Ambeo to overheat, especially considering that the device costs more than most people’s yearly property taxes. Though if you keep that two-year warranty close by, we don’t see why either product is a bad choice. Unless you are feeling the financial heat of the holidays, in which case run the opposite direction of these enticing soundbars.