Many dream of having a cinema room in the home, pairing a projector with dozens of wall-mounted speakers that put the local multiplex to shame. However, unless you’ve got a forgiving partner and a substantial bank balance, chances are you’ll have to settle for something a little more practical.
Fortunately, putting together a great home cinema needn’t be complicated. A Dolby Atmos soundbar is a great way to get a cinema-like experience at home, all while keeping your living looking like a living room and your bank balance intact.
What is Dolby Atmos?
Atmos audio has additional height channels. Traditional surround sound positions elements of a movie mix around you, but Atmos can make passing helicopters and superheroes seem as though they’re flying over your head.
This used to require speakers mounted in the ceiling, but Dolby Atmos soundbars use either upward-firing drivers to bounce the sound off the ceiling or psychoacoustic processing that produces a similar effect from even fewer speakers.
Some Dolby Atmos soundbars create a convincing 3D soundstage with a series of drivers on a central bar that sits under your TV. However, some come with separate wireless rear surround units, or the option to add them. This gives you even better surround imaging, without the need to run cabling around your walls or under the carpet.
Many Dolby Atmos soundbars also have wireless subwoofers. Bass speakers like these are the largest of all, but as low frequencies aren’t too picky about positioning, you can hide the sub behind a sofa and still get cinematic bass.
Tempted? Here are some of the best Dolby Atmos soundbar setups to consider.
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The Sony HT-ZF9 is the first Dolby Atmos soundbar that uses clever psychoacoustic processing to recreate the experience of dedicated height channel drivers. Sony calls this tech “Virtual Surround Engine.”
There are three active drivers across the front and the package includes a wireless subwoofer that, at just 19cm wide, is easy to fit into most rooms. It has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for music streaming and multi-room support via Sony’s own software platform.
Add the Sony SAZ9RCEK rear speaker package for an even more involving soundstage.
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LG makes use of all available space in the LG SK9Y. It features upward-facing drivers for Dolby Atmos height channels and three front units for the stereo and central channels. And another pair on the sides for expanded sound width and overall scale. There’s a wireless subwoofer too.
While the base combo of bar and sub sounds excellent, you can add a pair of LG SPK8 satellite speakers (£169.99) for better rear object imaging. These speakers use their own wireless connector box to avoid unsightly speaker cables.
The LG SK9Y has Chromecast baked-in and can be controlled using Google Assistant on your phone or through a compatible smart speaker. The LG SK9Y sounds great at high volumes, but there’s also a Night mode that regulates the volume of loud parts in movie to avoid waking the kids or annoying the neighbours.
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Here’s one to consider if you don’t want to compromise on sound quality. The Sony HT-ST5000 delivers weighty bass, an immersive soundstage and great detail in a very convenient form.
Sony’s S-Force PRO Front Surround tech bounces sound off your ceiling to give that unmistakable Dolby Atmos “height” to movie soundtracks.
The Sony HT-ST5000 can act like a home cinema receiver too. It has three HDMI inputs, and a front display to let you choose between sources from your sofa. You don’t need additional rear speakers here, as the bar alone renders stunning surround.
Samsung harman/kardon HW-N950
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Designed in partnership with harman/kardon, the Samsung HW-N950 surround system is the perfect mix of hardware and software. There are no fewer than 17 drivers in this soundbar and speaker package, which is designed to deliver the most precise surround sound imaging possible.
The main bar has mid and tweeter drivers on its front, sides and top. Unlike most packages, the rear speakers are included as standard and they have upward-facing drivers, too, creating a complete above-head plane of sound.
The Samsung harman/kardon HW-N950 has both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and is part of the Samsung SmartThings smart home platform.
- Brought to you In Partnership With Currys PC World. Buy headphones, hi-fi and more at Currys.co.uk (opens in new tab).