Sennheiser AMBEO Mini SB02S and Optional Sub SW02 (AV soundbar review)

The Sennheiser AMBEO Mini and Optional Sub-woofer are part of its new range of AMBEO soundbars – kind of a good, better, and best scenario where this is ‘good’.

But at $1,299.95 for what is essentially a 4.2.0 Dolby Atmos decode and virtual downmix, there must be something special apart from Sennheiser’s sound pedigree. We can report that it delivers good Free-to-Air SDR TV/streaming and music performance for audio and video tracks from a small package.

The better model is the $2399.95 AMBEO Plus with centre-forward-firing, left and right up-firing full range speakers, and more ports, including Wired Sub, AUX-IN L/R, Optical In, Ethernet, HDMI 1 and HDMI 2. It is what I would buy.

Read How to Buy a soundbar that meets your needs (2023 update guide).

Let’s explain Dolby Atmos concerning this soundbar

Dolby Atmos (DA) has up to 128 sound channels where it can place objects as they move left/right, up/down, and around the room. It is called 3D spatial sound and, in theory, covers a 360° ‘dome’ of sound. The Sennheiser Mini decodes the DA metadata and downmixes to its 4.2.0 amp/speakers. Sennheiser calls this virtualised DA and claims it reproduces the equivalent of 7.1.4.

To do this, it must use ‘psychoacoustics’ to trick your ears into hearing 3D spatial (height and surround) sound. In essence, it phases sound across the speaker array. Don’t worry; any DA all-in-one soundbar does this, and it is all about how well it does it. Read our DA tests later.

Summary: It is not a dedicated DA soundbar – that requires a minimum of 5.1.2 or 7.1.4 with dedicated up-firing and rear speakers but, in the right circumstances, can exhibit some DA height and surround.

Australian review: Sennheiser AMBEO Mini SB02S

WebsiteProduct Page and Manual
Price$1299.95 for Black – free delivery and 30-day return $1195.95 for the Sub (black)
FromSennheiser online, Harvey Norman, Officeworks, Qantas Marketplace, Addicted to Audio, Amazon AU
Warranty2-year warranty (exceed)
Made inSwitzerland and Vietnam
CompanySennheiser (Est 1945) is a German privately-held audio company specialising in designing and producing a wide range of high-fidelity products, including microphones, headphones, telephone accessories, and aviation headsets for personal, professional, and business applications.
Sonova Holding, based in Switzerland – a global medical hearing solutions provider, now owns its consumer audio business.
MoreCybershack Sennheiser news and reviews

We use Fail (below expectations), Passable (meets low expectations), Pass (meets expectations), Pass+ (near Exceed but not class-leading) and Exceed (surpasses expectations or is the class leader) against many of the items below. You can click on most images for an enlargement.

First impression – Pass+

Sennheiser has that certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ about its looks and style. It is elegant, yet it is black. It looks classy, yet it is spartan.

The Sennheiser AMBEO Mini is just 70 x 6.9 x 10.1 cm x 3.56kg – an all-in-one soundbar best suited to smaller TVs 55” or below. You could use it on larger TVs, but the Sennheiser AMEBO Plus or Max is better for 55-75” TVs.

It can be wall-mounted (option $79.95) and supports up to four subs – overkill at $1199.95 each.

Remote control – Pass

It has an IR remote. It is well made but lacks a backlight. A Bluetooth connection would have been nice, as the IR 8m maximum distance is about half that (in daylight).

The most confusing is the ‘O’ (2) button, which is for ECO mode or the Action button for Alexa. There is a separate voice mode button (4). Six buttons activate Movie, Music, News, Sports, Neutral, and Adaptive sound modes.

Our advice – HDMI CEC will control the soundbar from the TV remote. Use the App for more complex changes.

Breathing Light Display – confusing

There are 19 variations of white, blue, green, purple, red, and light blue, including flashing, rolling left, rolling right and rolling both ways. Either have the manual pages 13-15 handy, or it is much easier to use the App.

App – Comprehensive – Pass+

The Sennheiser Smart Control App works for most Sennheiser products. Create an account, select privacy settings you can live with, and that is it.

Adding the soundbar is as simple as using Bluetooth to make the initial connection. Then you can set up Wi-Fi.

Calibration – Pass+

It has four mics used for voice control and a three-minute calibration. The Mics analyse your room’s acoustics and optimise its sound performance. If you do this at setup, you don’t need to play with other settings.

While calibration works well, remember that correct placement and viewing/listening distances are critical.

Placement – take care not to overextend its sound envelope – Pass

It is for smaller TVs – 55” and below, although the sound stage is slightly wider than the soundbar.  It must be placed or wall-mounted at least 10cm below the TV.

The optional sub-woofer can be anywhere in the vicinity, but we recommend it on the ground within 2 metres of the soundbar.

The virtual DA sweet spot viewing/listening distance is about 2 meters. Past that, you just have a good soundbar.

Speakers – Pass+

It has a total of 250W RMS over six speakers/amplifiers for (technically) 4.2.0 sound. The soundbar frequency response is 43Hz-20kHz (tested – Pass)

  • Front-firing 1.6” Left/Right full-range (2.X.X)
  • Angled side-firing 1.6” Left/Right full-range (2.X.X) – creates a wider sound stage but needs Psychoacoustics to do more.
  • Up-firing 4” Left/Right Woofer – (X.2.X) – These are 43-180Hz (approx.) and not DA up-firing speakers.

Optional Sub SW02 for Mini and Plus $1199.95

This is an 8” 350W true sub-woofer that has a 27-80Hz frequency response. It adds low-bass and reinforces the soundbar bass before it cuts over.

It can be power-hungry, using up to 500W for movies, but usually ambles along at 20-50W.  

It is a solid 7.7 x 36.9 x 27.4 cm x 8.2kg. Interestingly, the soundbar can support four sub-woofers, but as you will see under Sound, that would be completely overkill.

Sound presets (not used for Dolby Atmos content)

  • Adaptive: Automatically adapts to the content. It is pretty good and is the recommended setting.
  • Music: Optimised for 2.0 stereo
  • Movie:  Uses AMBEO upmix for up to 5.1 virtual surround.
  • News: Focus on voice recessing bass and treble.
  • Neutral: Reproduces the audio content unchanged (used for testing)
  • Sports: A balance between the announcer and field sounds.
  • Custom: use the EQ as you see fit.

Virtual Dolby Atmos uses metadata only and ignores any of the above settings or calibrations.

Night Mode – Pass

More Sennheiser DSP magic. It compresses bass to avoid heavy thumps for listening at night.

Voice Enhancement – Pass+

It focuses on 1-4kHz for dialogue and voice clarity and cuts all bass and treble. It is good for the hearing impaired but not recommended for general TV use.

How does it sound? Exceed

Our test uses a white noise generator to test the absolute maximum native frequency response of the speakers. The presets and EQ cannot increase but can recess frequencies to give it different signatures. Read How to Tell if You Have Good Music (sound signature is the key).

We tested with and without the sub-woofer. From about 100Hz to 20kHz, the soundbar frequency response is identical.

The soundbar starts building bass from 50Hz (mid) to 100Hz (high), where it levels off (flat) to 6kHz, dips slightly to avoid any treble harshness, and is flat then to 20kHz. You can see a slight dip at 180-200Hz, where the inbuilt woofers cut over to the four full-range speakers take over.

With a usable 83dB volume and an almost neutral sound signature – it is perfect for TV sound enhancement.

The Sub-woofer adds substantial low bass from about 30Hz and builds quickly to near flat at 50Hz, which supplements the soundbar bass to 80Hz before cutting over. This adds the room-shaking bass you can feel. Our advice is that you don’t need the sub if you are watching Free-to-Air and SDR streaming.

Overall, the sound is refined, and you get nice bass, solid mid, right through to that feeling of being there (airy treble).

Dolby Atmos content (DA) – Passable

Before asking why DA is just a Passable, read Five Tips for Better TV Sound – Dolby Atmos for Beginners (2023 soundbar guide). This also applies to DTS:X content.

In essence, this is a six-speaker/amp all-in-one soundbar. It can decode DA, DTS:X and Sony 360 Reality Audio metadata and downmix to its speakers. But it does not have dedicated up-firing front speakers, forward-firing rear speakers and optionally up-firing rear speakers to create a true DA immersive envelope.

Sennheiser claims it is virtual 7.1.4 based on DSP algorithms (Digital Sound Processing co-developed with Fraunhofer IIS Germany) that simulate height and surround effects. Here is why we think the 7.1.4 claim is a bit of a stretch.

Left/Right angled side-firing and up-firing depend on Psychoacoustics – adjacent hard walls and a ceiling to bounce sound to the seating position. In reality, so few homes have the right psychoacoustics that any effect is rare or so front-centric that you must sit on the soundbar to experience it.

The Sennheiser AMBEO Mini tries hard – perhaps harder than most virtual all-in-one soundbars – but the height effect is only to the top of the TV screen. It is very forward-centric and is lost at about two metres from the soundbar.

There are no optional rear speakers. If more DA effect is important, look at the AMBEO Plus.

What is AMBEO?

With Free-to-Air TV 2.0 stereo and streaming up to PCM/DD 5.1, the soundbar becomes a 4.2 (plus optional sub-woofer). It can (but does not have to) use AMBEO upscaling.

AMBEO is Sennheiser’s immersive audio digital signal processor (DSP). It takes any 2.0 up to 5.1 input and does some AMBEO magic to render and upmix up to 5.1 sound. It does not process Dolby Atmos, DTS:X or Sony 360 Reality Audio metadata streams.

Presets include Off, Light, Regular, or Boost. Use Off for music. Use Regular if you like faux quadrophonic music audio and Boost for Dolby Digital movies up to 5.1.

Some audiophiles eschew AMBEO upmix. But equally, some say (and we agree) that the spatial information is buried in the audio stream anyway, and it creates a pretty good approximation, again, if you have the right Psychoacoustics.

Ports/Inputs – Pass

  • HDMI 2.1 eARC (no passthrough) – see HDMI Decoder below.
  • USB 5V/1A/5W (for updates only – not audio)
  • Bluetooth (BT) 5.2 BLE – Codecs SBC, AAC (no high res)
  • Wi-Fi 6 AX for multi-room music, but we recommend using the 2.4Ghz channel for music.

BT is not for high-res music but can use AMBEO to faux upscale. It also supports music clients, including Spotify, Tidal Connect, Apple AirPlay 2, and Google Chromecast.

Wi-Fi can use the inbuilt clients, stream high-res 2.0 (if you have the correct streaming subscription) and be part of a multi-room speaker setup.

HDMI Decoder – Pass

HDMI is the only way to get the full sound gamut. You need a TV with Dolby Vision and Atmos support and HDMI 2.1 eARC (you can use this with 2.0 but may get compressed DA). HDMI 2.1 carries:

  • PCM 2.0 to 7.1
  • Dolby Digital to 7.1
  • Dolby Atmos to 7.1.4
  • DTS ES to 6.1
  • DTS:X and MPEG-H to 7.1.4
  • Sony 360 Reality Audio

Voice Control – Pass

Amazon Alexa (built-in), Google Assistant (needs a smart speaker), or Siri via Apple HomeKit (and an iPhone).

Voice commands are limited to Find a song (from the default music client), volume and track controls.

Energy use – Pass

Maximum 576W but in use seldom exceeded 200W. Standby is .5W or 1.9W with Wi-Fi.

CyberShack’s view – Sennheiser AMBEO Mini SB02S and Optional Sub SW02 are for Sennheiser lovers

I am an unabashed Sennheiser lover – I have been since the 80s when my group of companies included a theatrical staging company. It was expensive but excellent gear then, more so now.

The Sennheiser AMBEO Mini has many great points and will vastly improve your TV viewing and multi-room audio experience. But it is a faux DA soundbar that likely won’t deliver a real DA experience.

Don’t get me wrong – if you have a room with hard side walls within a couple of metres on each side of the soundbar, the angled side-firing speakers will give you some surround sound. But 3D height is not enough to bounce off the ceiling.

Sennheiser AMBEO Mini competition

Sennheiser Mini is comparable to the $699 Sonos Beam Gen 2 – quality Dolby Atmos compatible soundbar or the $799.95 Bose Smart Soundbar 600 – adds Dolby Atmos decode to your TV. Both can have optional sub-woofers (same) and rear speakers (Sennheiser cannot).

If you are not a brand snob, look closely at the JBL 2023 soundbar range – 5 new Bar models with Dolby Atmos. In particular, the $749.95 Bar 500 with Sub is a functionally equivalent. And it is true DA with up-firing speakers starts at $999.95 and goes to $1999.95 for a spectacular 650W, 11.1.4 for a true DA experience.

The LG 2023 Soundbar range – WoW intelligent sound is worth looking at, but you cannot surpass the $1999 S95QR 9.1.5 for a true DA experience.

Sennheiser AMBEO Mini Rating

It presents a conundrum because you must value the Sennheiser brand and technology (earns points) and rate it for what it calls a virtual DA 7.1.4 soundbar (loses points). The rating is for an all-in-one soundbar 4.2.0 with virtual DA and assumes a more intimate viewing space than a large open-plan Aussie loungeroom.

  • Features: 85 – Decodes DA/DTS: X/Sony 360 Reality audio metadata, AMBEO upscale for PCM/DD to 5.1, comprehensive App, and hearing-impaired clear voice settings.
  • Value: 80 – It gets points for the name and technology. But the Sonos Beam is half the price for similar specs, and the fabulous Sonos Arc 5.0.2 is $1499 for far higher specs. If you want to spend $1299, the $999.95 JBL Bar 800 5.1.2 or $1499.95 JBL Bar 1000 7.1.4 would be the choice.
  • Performance: 85 – It is flawless as an SDR Free-to-Air and HDR DD 5.1 streaming soundbar, although 55” TVs are about as large as I would go. As a virtual DA 7.1.4, it is only good with the right psychoacoustics, or you get front-centric sound in about a 2m envelope.
  • Ease of Use: 85 – The app makes it easy, but the 19 variations of the light bar are challenging.
  • Design: 90 – Understated, over-engineered and undeniable quality.

Sennheiser AMBEO Mini SB02S and Optional Sub SW02

$1299.95 for the soundbar and $1195.95 for the Sub.







Ease of USe





  • Excellent style and quality finish
  • Good App makes setup easy
  • You don’t need the sub-woofer for TV and DD 5.1 streaming
  • Immeasurably improves FTA 2.0 and DD 5.1 sound


  • No all-in-one can virtualise Dolby Atmos without the proper psychoacoustics
  • No up-firing speakers for DA and DTS:X
  • <55” TV is about the right size
  • Virtualised DA is within two meters – it is very front-centric and lacks 3D height
  • If price is your measure, why are considering Sennheiser?