Published On: December 17, 2021

Best Dolby Atmos Soundbar: Atmos Doing the Utmost

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  • Luke writes about AV gear and has contributed to the MasterSwitch

  • I’m an AV enthusiast, equipment reviewer, photographer, videographer and drone pilot. I’m also a THX-trained video calibrator with extensive experience reviewing consumer displays including TVS, projectors, monitors and smartphones.  I have a keen interest in audio as well as video and founded plus run the largest home audio Facebook group, Audiophiles on a Budget—with over 60K members. For fun, I like riding a OneWheel around Philly while capturing cool images and videos to submit to Google Maps.

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Published On: December 17, 2021

Best Dolby Atmos Soundbar: Atmos Doing the Utmost

A Dolby Atmos soundbar will literally elevate your listening experience by adding height to the surround-sound mix.

Soundbars don’t just make your TV louder. With a Dolby Atmos compatible soundbar, you immerse yourself in a big cinema experience from the comfort of your couch. Dolby Atmos is positional sound software that mimics a movie theater’s surround sound experience. Atmos is becoming increasingly more available on household devices, but what’s more exciting is that many popular streaming services like Netflix, Tidal, Prime Video, and Apple Music keep offering more and more Dolby Atmos content.

Before you buy your next soundbar, if you seek a true home cinema experience, make sure it’s equipped with Atmos. This will keep your home audio on the cutting edge and your media sounding superb. If you have not heard what a good Atmos soundbar system can do, you're likely in for a big surprise. The technology packed into these systems delivers remarkable amounts of surround-sound immersion. They deliver a listening experience that is truly surprising for such compact and easy-to-install systems.


Virtual versus Up-Firing Speaker Atmos

Not all Atmos soundbars utilize the same technology. Some soundbars, especially on the more affordable end of the price spectrum, utilize virtual Atmos. With this approach, there is no up-firing speaker, instead digital processing creates the illusion of height (and other surround-sound parameters).

The more sophisticated Atmos soundbars feature physical upfiring drivers for the elevation channels, with the most advanced systems featuring four height channels by incorporating Atmos into the surround speakers, and not just the main soundbar.

Just knowing you need an Atmos soundbar isn’t enough; you need to know which one is the right fit for you. Luckily, we’ve made a shortlist of the best Dolby Atmos soundbars on the market right now.

Why you should trust me:

I’m a professional writer and technophile who loves sharing his knowledge, experience, and unasked opinions. I’m a huge nerd in my free time (all the time) and enjoy reading epic fantasy, playing Dungeons & Dragons, visiting new restaurants, and drinking weird beers with weirder friends.

Our Top Pick Dolby Atmos Soundbars:

• Editor's Choice: Samsung HW-Q950A

• Best Design: Sonos Arc

• Bang for the Buck: Vizio M51ax-J6 M-Series

• Best All-In-One: Sony HT-A5000

• Best Compact Soundbar: LG Eclair QP5


Editor's Choice

Samsung HW-Q950A 11.1.4ch Soundbar with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X

If the HW-Q950A were ice cream, it would be French Vanilla. Generically good, it might at first seem unexciting, but its role isn’t to stand out on its own; its role is to elevate everything around it. But then, you notice it's an exquisite rendition of French Vanilla. Maybe the best you've ever had! It makes your home audio sing, literally, and is a "jack of all trades" juggernaut.

The HW-Q950A’s technology is advanced while remaining blessedly accessible. Its smart eq function—which uses speakers to hear its own output and adjust its settings to improve its own sound—means you don’t need to be an audio engineer to get the most out of this product. It also has a very sweet wireless sub and duo-satellite combo that looks sleek and well put together. Though its price may seem high at first glance, what you get for your money makes it well worth it. The value, sound, and features are all here, and when we crunched the numbers, the HW-Q950A climbed to the top of our list. If you are already entrenched in the Samsung Ecosystem and have a compatible Samsung TV and smartphone, you unlock the SpaceFit Sound+ and Tap-To-Play features that add a caramel swirl to this delicious French Vanilla.

What we LOVED:

  • Balanced audiophile quality sound right out the box. It is balanced and bright and sounds so clear right out of the box. It is tuned for high fidelity. Be warned; even though it comes with a sub, it’s not the bassiest system on the block. However with a subwoofer volume control right on the remote, you can tune that to taste.
  • Built-in Voice assistant. Sometimes you want to know the weather or listen to your favourite album or podcast without leaving your blanket cocoon; Alexa is there to help with that.
  • Active Voice Amplifier (AVA). The scriptwriter in me makes me one of those psychos who watches everything with subtitles. Having software that makes dialogue clearer is * chef’s kiss* perfect.
  • Bluetooth and Apple AirPlay. Easy Bluetooth pairing for wireless listening. Also, AirPlay for all the apples in the orchard.
  • SpaceFit Sound+ and Tap-to-Play. These exclusive features make it an even better buy for those with a compatible Samsung TV or mobile device.

Best Design

Sonos Arc Wireless Sound Bar with Dolby Atmos, Apple AirPlay 2, and Built-in Voice Assistant (White)

The Sonos Arc is best alliterated as exciting, exemplary, and excellently executed. That may sound extreme, but after hearing a single example, you will exclaim the exact same thing. For a standalone soundbar, this thing stands above the others with its sound. Enough writing like a sus Dr. Suess; even though it’s a standalone, the Arc boasts a formidable low end. The bass sounds rich and full without the shaking sub, making this an excellent option for apartment dwellers or people who share space. The positioning is superb and it’s wild how loud and clear your movies and music will sound.

Let’s talk wireless and smart features because every Sonos is chock-full with enough playback options to satisfy just about anyone:

  • Google Assistant
  • Alexa
  • AppleAir Play 2
  • Spotify Connect

Welcome to the peak of modern design. The Arc’s options have options. The only thing that’s missing is Bluetooth—which is a surprise until you find out it streams over your WiFi instead. Also, being leading-edge isn’t always easy: Both Atmos and the Sonos Arc are new tech, which means if you’re rocking an older TV, you’ll need to upgrade to a model equipped with eARC to unlock the full 3D immersive functionality.

What we liked:

  • Modern Connection options. Sonos wanted everyone to be able to connect with any device. That’s why they included WiFi streaming, Google Assitant, Alexa, and AppleAirplay 2.
  • Speech Enhancement. Like the Samsung HW, the ARC gives you the ability to boost dialogue in movies. If you’re a Peaky Blinders fan, you’ll know how important it is to hear Tommy’s whispers and Arthur’s yelling equally.
  • Upgradable if you want the whole package. While it’s our favorite standalone soundbar, and the best looking with the finest build quality as well, you can easily upgrade it with a pair of Sonos One SLs and a Sonos SUB. The result is not "cheap" by any means but elevates overall system performance to another level. This is the option for those who want to have their cake, and then get another cake, and then get the third cake, and eat all three together like a sandwich!

Bang for Buck

VIZIO - 5.1-Channel M-Series Soundbar with Wireless Subwoofer, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X - Dark Charcoal

While we only just finished gushing over the standalone Sonos Arc, 5.1 setups have our heart. There’s nothing like a good 5.1 to turn your living room into your private cinema, and no soundbar system does it better for less money than the Vizio M-Series M51ax.

Out of the box, the M-Series has a clear neutral sound. Vizio's been in the soundbar business for a long time and knows how to make a good one. If you have a profile in mind, the EQ presets are much better than expected and let you take control of what you’re hearing. The dedicated satellites provide excellent positional sound, and the wireless subwoofer makes sure the low-end is always rich and robust. And that’s all before Atmos. Atmos takes this setup from good to great. We have to admit it doesn’t handle the feature as well as the Samsung HW-Q950A does, but you cannot ask for more at a third of the price.

If you’ve blown your budget on a new TV and need to upgrade its audio on a budget, don’t sleep on the Vizio M-Series 5.1. Its price might make you think you’re dreaming, but its specs, quality, and audio will wake your sleepy a** up.

What we liked:

  • What you get for what you pay is all-important for a budget buy. In the value domain, Vizio is king. 5.1, with great sound and modern features for only $350, is mindboggling.
  • EQs: Usually, preset EQs are garbage and should be left on the curb. But Vizio’s are usable and give a great system some added oomph.
  • Sound positioning: Budget soundbars usually only make the TV louder and less tinny. But this system goes beyond that simple task and provides remarkable depth and positioning. It’s not just louder; it’s more immersive. It’s not going toe-to-toe with the premium systems, but it will KO anything in its weight class and compare it to your TV’s default audio… No contest.

5.1.2 Channel Home Theater Soundbar With Dolby Atmos And DTS:X

LG 3.1.2 ch Eclair Sound Bar with Dolby Atmos

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