Tag: sennheiser

I’m not the gaming guy here at Reckoner, that’s purely Raj’s domain. Why then did I ask Sennheiser to review the GSP 670 Wireless Gaming headset? I’ve been on the hunt for a nice stereo headset to use with my iPhone to make phone calls on and this bad boy looked like it would kick arse at the job – well, you’d hope so considering the RRP of $499.95!

The GSP 670 looks like the perfect fit for my needs:

Stereo headset – I don’t like hearing background noise whilst on a phone call. With a single ear piece my other ear picks up too much noise and it bothers me.

Boom mic – People not being able to hear me properly is the big reason why I hate using AirPods for phone calls (maybe the Pros are better, but I wouldn’t know as I hate in-ear headphones!). Having a boom mic puts the mic near my mouth so whoever I’m talking to can hear me perfectly.

Bluetooth – all my phone calls happen on an iPhone and they don’t have headphone sockets.

Comfortable – there’s some really lightweight shitty ones out there that are just crap to wear on long conference calls and don’t do enough to block out background noise on my end so I can hear what people are telling me.

It’s way harder than it seems to get a headset that meets all 4 requirements and I wasn’t going to drop $500 on the GSP 670 as I’m not that desperate to find a solution. So I asked Sennheiser to take the GSP 670 for a test drive instead (a perk of the job!).

Comfort – these are not light headphones and are quite bulky. Despite that I wore them for hours with no complaints. Soft ear pads, a not too tight headband and great background noise rejection thanks to the ear cups that cover my entire ear.

Connectivity – you can go wired (micro USB to USB) or wireless using either the USB dongle Sennheiser include, which is supposed to be lower latency than Bluetooth or just use Bluetooth. It also works on the PS4 if you’re a console gamer. The fancy Sennheiser app doesn’t work on the Mac but that’s ok as nobody games on a Mac. Interestingly, battery life is longer over Bluetooth than the USB dongle.

Audio quality – as I’ve said before in many other audio related reviews, I am not an audiophile and have pretty low standards for sound quality. With that considered, the GSP 670 sounds very nice and I would happily use it to listen to music as my sole pair of headphones.

Microphone quality – here’s a sample of me talking in a quiet room, recorded over Bluetooth with my Mac. Dunno if it’s “broadcast” quality like Sennheiser reckon, but you could use it for Twitch just fine I reckon, but probably not podcasting. Here’s a sample of an audio recording over USB. Doesn’t sound much different to the Bluetooth sample to my ears.

Speed of connection – when someone calls me on the iPhone, I want to be able to pick up the headphones, chuck em on my head, answer the call and talk right away. The good news is that the GSP 670 remains connected to my Bluetooth devices and I can answer the call from a button on the headset itself. The iPhone’s internal speaker even rings if the GSP 670 is connected but I’m not wearing them. Excellent.

Ease of use – when a call comes in, I don’t want to be fumbling around to answer it! Luckily the GSP 670 behaves well. It’s good at remaining connected to Bluetooth hosts even if there’s been no activity for a few hours (e.g: overnight). It’s got a cool feature where you can flip the mic boom up to mute things. Just be careful to bring it back down low enough to re-engage the mic.

Multiple simultaneous connections – The GSP 670 can also be connected to multiple devices at once. Right now I’ve got it connected to my Mac over Bluetooth listening to some music and an iPhone. If a call comes in on my iPhone it’ll stop the music, ring and I can answer using a button on the headphones. When the call is over it’ll start playing music again. Exactly how I want it to work. It would be nice if I could pair a 3rd device (my Android phone), but that’s asking too much.

Battery life – had no issues with the GSP 670 lasting for a few days with some phone calls and music listening. Plugging it in overnight every two or three days would suit my use case fine.

$500 is a lot to pay for a phone headset. Shit, $500 is a lot to pay for a gaming headset in my opinion, but if you want a stereo headset with a boom mic and Bluetooth that’s also comfortable, there’s not much else on the market.

Gaming, great. Music, great. Phone calls, great – you won’t get a more versatile pair of cans than the GSP 670. The only thing I’d want to see Sennheiser add to the GSP 670 considering the price point is some form of noise cancellation. That would make the GSP 670 the ultimate all-rounder.

Throughout my esteemed career reviewing tech gadgets the past decade, I’ve never been given a soundbar to check out. If I asked for one I probably could have got one sent to me, but I just didn’t really care about soundbars – that was until Sennheiser decided to get in on the action with the AMBEO. As a fan of Sennheiser headphones and microphones, I figured it was worth dipping my toes into the soundbar scene with what Sennheiser is offering.

Sennheiser’s Ambeo has “13 high-end drivers” that “delivers a 5.1.4 sound experience” and is Dolby Atmos certified. It’s a beefy boy too, weighing almost 19kg and measuring close to 1.3m wide. You might need two people to unbox it! You can wallmount the Ambeo with an optional wall mounting bracket. Definitely need two people for that job!

Feature wise it’s got 3x 4K HDMI 2.0 inputs, HDMI 2.1 eARC output, every audio codec you could think of and 802.11ac wi-fi/Ethernet connectivity. Disappointingly the Ambeo does not support AirPlay 2 or Spotify Connect, just Bluetooth and Chromecast. Even with Bluetooth it only supports AAC or SBC codecs, not the superior aptX or LDAC. For iOS users, the only way to send music to the Ambeo wirelessly is either lossy AAC Bluetooth or via an app that has Chromecast support.

Setup and calibration is easy (a mic is included in the box for calibration) and I was up and running in just a few minutes. To get Sennheiser’s Android/iOS app going you need to first pair the device to the Ambeo over Bluetooth (also a piece of piss). Then the Sennheiser app can “find” it and tell you to install the Google Home app so the Ambeo becomes available for Chromecast stuff. Oh and it’s Chromecast audio only, not video.

The Ambeo’s remote feels sturdy in the hand and has rubber grips on the base so it won’t slide off any surface, but the button placement is poorly designed. It’s not as bad as the Apple TV remote (the height of remote control hubris), but countless times I held it the wrong way around or got the source and volume buttons mixed up. You may not actually need to use the remote much as it supports ARC so you should be able to use your TV’s remote to control volume and switch sources, but my ancient TV doesn’t support ARC very well.

There’s a smartphone app that can act as a quasi-remote, but it’s pretty useless. It takes ages to connect and loses connection randomly. However, if you want to adjust the EQ on any of the audio presets, the smartphone app is the only way to do it. It’s also the only way to apply software updates to the Ambeo, so you’re gonna want it installed on your smartphone despite it’s suckiness.

So cut the shit, how’s it sound mate? It sounds awesome – for a set of stereo speakers. I’ve listened to a lot of “all-in-one” speakers over the years that are geared towards music and the Ambeo is the best I’ve ever heard. It’s incredibly clear and crisp, with thumping bass. I’m listening to some music on it right now as I write this and thoroughly enjoy the audio. Well done Sennheiser.

Surround sound however, I was totally unimpressed with. My living room setup is just a cheap Onkyo TX-SR373 5.1 amp and some Accusound speakers & sub, but it gets the job done. When playing the Dolby Atmos demonstration Blu-Ray disc there was lots of swirling, zooming and flying audio, it was cool. Playing the same demo videos with the Ambeo connected was disappointing. There was a slight feeling of immersion, but it all took place far away from the rear or top of my head. All the action was happening where the soundbar was located.

I scratched my head wondering why there’s so little rear audio action. I calibrated it again, with the mic sitting at exactly in the middle of the speaker, about 3 meters away, at ear level where I sit on the couch. Still nothing. I double checked my output sources (Apple TV & Xiaomi Mi Box S) were actually giving out a 5.1 or 7.1 signal and according to the Sennheiser app they were. Perhaps it’s my living room setup, which is a very common open-plan style arrangement. So I took it in my study (4-walled room) and was still not feeling the immersive audio promised.

Other reviewers are full of praise about the Ambeo’s surround qualities. Digital Trends: “Effects like a fluttering bird circling my ears or a leaf floating around my head buzzed shockingly close from the sides and even back, while overhead effects like a tropical rainstorm were almost scary realistic” and Home Theater Review.com: “As the helicopter turns around, I could pinpoint the sound of the helicopter come from above and behind me as it flew back the way it came”.

I didn’t experience any of that. Sure, I could detect the sound moving around the speaker itself, but certainly not over my head of behind me. Either those reviewers are seriously embellishing or I’m a dumb deaf idiot.

Like I said at the start, I’ve never reviewed soundbars before so I don’t know if this is expected behaviour and I’m being too harsh or the Ambeo simply isn’t delivering, but either way, if I spent four grand on this beast expecting half decent surround sound, I’d returning it. It’s too expensive as a simple stereo soundbar and not good enough as a surround soundbar. There simply wasn’t enough action in the rear sound stage. Based on my experience with the Sennheiser Ambeo, I would strongly recommend anyone after a true surround sound experience think hard about using a soundbar at all.