Creating Best-in-class Audio with the upHear Technologies

Talking to Maximilian Voigt, Product Manager Consumer Speakers / Portfolio Management at Sonova about a partnership that ensured great audio quality for their latest Sennheiser flagship products.

When setting out to create best-in-class products, connecting with the best partners is key. This was certainly the case when Sonova looked for technology partnerships for their AMBEO Soundbar range. The products use the upHear Virtualizer and upHear Calibration technologies developed at Fraunhofer IIS and were most definitely a success, setting a new benchmark for immersive audio soundbars. All the more reason to look back on the project and explore what made the cooperation of Fraunhofer IIS and Sonova such a hit.

1. Which challenges did you set out to solve with the creation of the AMBEO soundbar range?

Our goal was to create the best soundbar and, through it, to deliver outstanding immersive sound into all living rooms. We also wanted to get away from space-consuming setups and complex installation processes. For this, we needed a partner with a reputation for developing cutting-edge audio technologies to make sure we delivered a truly immersive experience. As we decided early on that we wanted more than one soundbar in the AMBEO range, our results needed to be scalable, and naturally the sound quality of the flagship AMBEO MAX should be repeated by its midrange and entry level siblings. A smaller footprint does of course have significant advantages: We are proud to say that there is an AMBEO soundbar to deliver great immersive sound for every room and budget size.

2. Why did you choose the upHear product range for your project?

Achieving the best, natural sounding experience was at the core of the entire project. For this, we combined the upHear Virtualizer technology from Fraunhofer IIS with the audio experience of the Sennheiser brand. Together, we created a virtual room in which the audio image appears. At Sennheiser, we have a very clear vision of what we want our devices to sound like. In this case, we wanted the sound to detach from the device while staying true to the original intent of the artists and creators – and all this with a single soundbar, which is very impressive to hear. It was also really important to us to achieve a consistent result with all three products, which was helped by Fraunhofer’s universal software framework that we could adapt to all product versions.

The second important aspect of the development process was calibration. The soundbar with its virtualizer will always interact with the room’s properties, meaning that the sound is to a certain degree dependent on the room. All rooms are different, some being bigger, others more absorbent or reflective. To consistently deliver true Sennheiser sound quality, we needed a solution that ensured the soundbars were working at their best across room layouts and sizes. The upHear team helped deliver a sophisticated calibration mechanism which is intuitive and very effectively optimizes the immersive sound experience for the particular environment.

3. Why was the partnership with Fraunhofer IIS so successful?

The above situation meant that we were working with audio technology experts that did not just deliver a certain product part but had the entire acoustically relevant aspects of the products on their mind and worked toward the same goals. They were happy to adapt to our approaches and workflows. We also realized that we made the right decision to involve the Fraunhofer team from an early project stage to ensure everyone understood the goals, challenges, and most importantly our acoustic vision from the get-go. And finally, it was simply the best possible outcome to go for a single partner, even one team, to tackle this development with us. We could reduce coordination efforts, did not have to deal with compatibility issues, and could be sure that they thought about every contingency just like we did. At the end of the day, Fraunhofer IIS could not only provide the solutions we were looking for but were just as passionate about delivering the best results as we were.

The AMBEO Soundbar Mini is available since September 1.

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