Typically when it comes to home theater gear, people tend to fall into one of two camps. Either they adopt a ‘whatever works’ mentality where any TV and/or speaker setup will do as long as they can watch their show, or it’s an all-out, ‘creme de la creme’ mindset which results in people painstakingly assembling their home theater with cutting-edge components such as OLED TVs and surround-sound speakers that will cost them many thousands of dollars in the end. But on the audio side of things, Dolby Atmos soundbars have arrived and they’re making high-end audio cheaper and more accessible than ever before.
If you’ve never experienced Dolby Atmos, it is maybe the most convincing iteration of in-home surround sound that has come about yet. A traditional Dolby Atmos setup will provide audio that doesn’t just feel immersive to the front, back, left and right of you, but also above you. To accomplish this, you need speakers that are arranged vertically (read: on the ceiling) throughout the room. The entire process of installing a relatively simple 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos system (five horizontal surround speakers, one subwoofer, 4 vertical surround speakers) in the home could get so time-consuming and/or expensive that most people won’t even attempt it.
But thanks to breakthroughs in digital audio technologies, Dolby Atmos soundbars have enabled people to experience convincing 3D surround sound without having to do much more than setting up four speakers in their living room.
With that in mind, pulling from a criterion that includes overall audio quality, versatility, connectivity, and design, we’ve rounded up some of the best Dolby Atmos soundbars that are currently available. Take a look.
1. Sonos Arc
BEST DOLBY ATMOS SOUNDBAR OVERALL
The Sonos Arc isn’t the cheapest Dolby Atmos soundbar on this list, nor is it the one that’s going to top the list when it comes to specs. But what sets the Arc apart from the competition is its flexibility. Its audio components, consisting of 11 tweeters and woofers that are strong enough for the soundbar to provide quality 5.0.2 surround sound on their own.
If you are willing to pay a premium later on, you can also pair this with a sub and two Sonos One speakers for a true 7.1.2 surround-sound experience. Thanks to Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa integration, this soundbar can also serve as the hands-free smart hub in your living room. And of course, you get all the benefits of Sonos’ whole-home streaming platform, which is still the best multi-room streaming audio technology around.
2. JBL Bar 9.1
Like the Sonos Arc, the JBL Bar 9.1 provides some unique versatility options which make it one of the best Dolby Atmos soundbars, albeit in completely different ways than the Arc. At first glance, the JBL Bar 9.1’s complete package consists of a soundbar and a sub that can produce virtual 5.1.4 surround sound. But the outer ends of the soundbar actually detach and can become true rear satellite speakers, which can enhance your experience if you have the right space for it. While we think the Sonos Arc ultimately has more potential as a soundbar when you consider the all-around feature set, the JBL Bar 9.1 is an amazing option for anyone who is mainly focused on a soundbar for movie-watching purposes and wants excellent Dolby Atmos performance for less than $1,000.
3. Vizio SB36512-F6
BEST BUDGET OPTION
As mentioned above, Vizio still excels at producing quality budget offerings, and when it comes to the best Dolby Atmos soundbars the Vizio SB36512-F6 soundbar is no exception. This audio bundle combines a nine-driver soundbar with a sub and two rear satellite speakers to give you the full Atmos effect for less than $300. In addition, you have a full array of options for connecting to this soundbar, which includes Bluetooth, optical, coaxial/SPDIF, USB, HDMI and 3.5mm AUX.
4. Samsung HW-Q950T
If you already own a Samsung Q80 or Q90 TV, then the Samsung HW-Q950T soundbar could be an excellent Dolby Atmos soundbar for you thanks to the unique ways in which a 7.1.2 soundbar links up with some specific Samsung TVs. When these devices are paired together the speakers of the TV work as part of the soundbar’s complete Q Symphony system, in turn providing more depth and immersion to the audio around you. Furthermore, this soundbar also has the ability to connect to other TVs via WiFi, eliminating the need to fuss with unnecessary wires if your TV is wall mounted. In terms of pure performance, this is one of the best-sounding Dolby Atmos soundbars you’re likely to find, but it absolutely won’t come cheap, as it ranks among some of the most expensive soundbars on this list.
5. Vizio Elevate
Vizio’s bread and butter has always been to find ways to bring cutting-edge technologies to consumers at reasonable price points, but in recent years, the company has also proved it has products that can compete on the high end. When it comes to the best Dolby Atmos soundbars, the Vizio Elevate slots in with other premium soundbars, thanks to the 18 drivers contained in this soundbar (four of which are upward-firing).
But what really makes this soundbar stand out is the fact that its outermost speakers can automatically rotate so that they either fire upwards (for maximum Dolby Atmos effect) or outwards towards you (for standard 5.1 audio, or music listening). This may not have all of the connectivity, voice assistant and streaming options as the Sonos Arc, but for a little extra money, you do get a subwoofer and two satellites included in the package, which would cost nearly $2,000 if you wanted to do the same with the Sonos Arc.
6. Sony HT-ST5000
We already know Sony makes some of the best noise-canceling headphones, wireless earbuds and portable Bluetooth speakers, so it should come as no surprise that the iconic Japanese company can also make one of the best Dolby Atmos soundbars. Like other top picks, the Sony HT-ST5000 packages a subwoofer with its soundbar to deliver 7.1.2 surround sound. A total of 12 woofers and tweeters join forces to beam virtual surround sound in front of you and above you, thanks to the two upward-firing drivers. To sweeten the deal, this soundbar also comes with Chromecast, Spotify Connect, Bluetooth and Google Assistant functionality, which means you can have full control over your smart home while streaming your favorite TV and music services directly from the Dolby Atmos soundbar.
7. Sennheiser Ambeo
BEST STANDALONE OPTION
If you really want a self-contained Dolby Atmos soundbar that requires no extra components and makes few compromises when it comes to performance, the Sennheiser Ambeo is the only way to go. Powered by 13 discrete drivers and capable of 5.1.4 surround sound, the Ambeo serves up 30 Hz bass without a subwoofer and comes with automatic room calibration that was developed in conjunction with the legendary Fraunhofer Institute. Furthermore, this soundbar comes complete with WiFi, Bluetooth, Chromecast and HDMI, giving you plenty of connection options. That said, because this is meant to function on its own, it’s a little chunkier than your average soundbar, and because you’re getting top-shelf Sennheiser audio technology here, you’re also going to pay a steep premium for this Dolby Atmos Soundbar.
8. Sony HT-G700
BEST FAUX DOLBY ATMOS SOUNDBAR
While all of the soundbars mentioned up until this point feature upward-firing speakers that get you closer to true Dolby Atmos sound than a standard soundbar, there are a few soundbars out there that can take a Dolby Atmos audio track and provide something close to the real thing despite lacking those vertically oriented drivers. One of these soundbars is the Sony HT-G700, which is a $500 soundbar that technically offers 3.1 surround sound. But thanks to patented Sony technologies such as S Force Pro, Vertical Sound Engine and Immersive Audio Enhancer, this little soundbar can provide virtual 7.1.2 audio. This is definitely a budget option as far as the best Dolby Atmos soundbars go, but if you’re a minimalist when it comes to your home theater gear, this could be a perfect fit.