Want to level up your home cinema audio for a more immersive experience but don't like the idea of drilling holes in your ceiling or turning your living room into the speaker version of Stonehenge? With the help of a Dolby Atmos soundbar, you can enjoy truly absorbing sound with your film screenings from the comfort of your home - without any of the fuss.
A Dolby Atmos soundbar for TV could quite literally take your home theatre to another level without the hassle and cost of a full install. These streamlined speakers can recreate the enveloping, 3D audio experience you'd get at the cinema. Most premium Atmos soundbars use upward-firing drivers to disperse sound vertically and reflect it off your ceiling – giving the effect of having overhead speakers. There are also more accessibly priced models that use processes to create a virtual Atmos experience that can, in some cases, be very effective.
Want to know which Dolby Atmos soundbars will give your TV sound a lift? Below is a rundown of the best Dolby Atmos soundbars that we've tested recently at a range of prices to help you choose the model that's best for you.
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- UK: Bose Smart Soundbar 900
£899£799 at Amazon (save £100) (opens in new tab)
- UK: Sonos Arc
£899£699 at Richer Sounds (save £200) (opens in new tab)
- UK: Sonos Beam (Gen 2)
£449£329 at Sevenoaks (save £100) (opens in new tab)
- UK: Sony HT-A7000
£1299£1099 at Richer Sounds (save £200) (opens in new tab)
- UK: Sony HT-A500
£899£699 at Sevenoaks (opens in new tab)
- US: LG SP8YA
$800$400 at Best Buy (save $400) (opens in new tab)
- US: Sony HT-G700
$599$398 at Amazon (save $201) (opens in new tab)
- US: Samsung Q800A
$900$470 at Walmart (save $430) (opens in new tab)
- The best Dolby Atmos movie scenes to test your speakers
- The best Marvel movies to test your Dolby Atmos soundbar
- How to choose and set up a soundbar
Sony has excellent form with soundbars, and the 2021 What Hi-Fi? Award-winning HT-A7000 is no different. A 7.1.2 slab of sound, this Dolby Atmos soundbar packs in two up-firing speakers, two beam tweeters, five front-facing drivers and a built-in dual subwoofer into a single chassis. Using a combination of driver placement and psychoacoustic techniques, the Sony HT-A700 delivers a broad and high soundstage, whether you’re watching immersive content or not, while retaining musicality, presence and detail.
In terms of height and precision, the performance is similar to that of the Sonos Arc, but the width of the soundstage and its forward projection is more convincing. It’s not the same as having direct audio from the speaker above or the side, but it’s effective and dramatically enticing, enriching the viewing experience. The integrated sub is also particularly impressive with a taut, controlled and powerful performance.
The A7000 is as packed with streaming smarts as it is stuffed with speakers with Spotify Connect, Apple AirPlay 2, Google Chromecast all on board and integration into a multi-room system – with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit and Google Home all supported.
Alongside two HDMI 2.1 pass-through sockets capable of handling 8K@60Hz, 4K@120Hz, and Dolby Vision HDR, there are ports for eARC, analogue and optical audio inputs and USB type-A. There’s also an analogue output for Sony’s Acoustic Center Sync, which lets a compatible Bravia TV become part of the soundbar’s centre channel when the two are connected using the supplied cable.
The Sony HT-A7000 is an outstanding, future-proofed, all-in-one performer with excellent integration if you have a newer Sony Bravia TV.
Read the full review: Sony HT-A7000
Delivering Dolby Atmos from a small chassis is no mean feat but the 2021 What Hi-Fi? Award-winning Sonos Beam Gen 2 achieves a convincing, immersive performance without so much as a vertical speaker in sight. Instead, when watching Atmos content, two of the soundbars five front-facing arrays are dedicated to reproducing overhead and surround sounds. With its hefty processing power, the Sonos Beam Gen 2 uses psychoacoustic HRTF (head-related transfer function) technology to give the impression of height without needing to get vertical.
While genuine overhead sounds are perhaps a stretch too far for this petite performer, its virtual delivery of the Atmos format outstrips any similarly priced soundbar and even a few that are more expensive. The Beam Gen 2 offers an enveloping, spatial soundscape with rich, detailed audio as well as tangible motion and depth.
Not that many soundbars at this price point come with networking capabilities, but this being a Sonos product, the Beam Gen 2’s ability to integrate into a wireless multiroom system is fundamental to its design. This means you can stream to the Beam Gen 2 from a handheld device using Apple AirPlay 2, and Spotify Connect is built-in too. There will also be a forthcoming upgrade to add support for Amazon Music Ultra HD audio, which will give access to lossless 24-bit/48kHz tracks as well as Dolby Atmos Music.
Despite the lack of upward drivers, if space and budget are limited there isn't a better Dolby Atmos soundbar that we'd recommend.
Read the full review: Sonos Beam Gen 2
Soundbars aren't new territory for Sonos, but the 2021 What Hi-Fi? Award-winning Arc is the only soundbar from the brand to deliver Dolby Atmos with verticle speakers. It sits above the Beam (Gen 2) in terms of pricing and is suited to 55in TVs and above, with optional wall mounting fixings available for £79 ($79/AU$99) .
There are touch-sensitive play/pause and volume controls on the bar with LEDs that indicate status and when you're talking to the built-in Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. Connectivity includes AirPlay 2, ethernet and eARC for Dolby Atmos from compatible TVs.
The Sonos Arc uses 11 drivers to create your soundfield, a number of which are upward-firing and angled into your room to bounce sound off your walls and ceiling and give you a more realistic Dolby Atmos effect. It all adds up to one of the most convincing Atmos performances you can get from a soundbar.
You're transported to the heart of the action. Surround effects are expertly placed and there's great dynamism and good weight to the sound too. Tonally, it's nicely balanced if you just want to listen to music, although it could sound a tiny bit more direct. But, there's no doubt this is a hugely impressive Dolby Atmos soundbar for the money.
Read the full review: Sonos Arc
Sennheiser's Ambeo Soundbar is hugely impressive in both senses of the word. It's a beast, standing almost 1.3m wide – that's noticeably larger than the competition. (It's also a lot heavier, which is good intel if you're thinking of lugging it back from the shops on the bus.) But all that extra space has been put to excellent use. While most soundbars rely on an external subwoofer, the Ambeo simply crams in larger, more powerful drivers – and it works a treat.
You can expect spine-tingling 3D audio that sounds totally effortless, sparkling dialogue and plenty of bottom-end grunt. Connectivity is just as impressive, with Bluetooth 4.2 and Chromecast for streaming.
Admittedly its size makes it a little tricky to position. And it doesn't come with a wall mount, so you might need a separate trip to your local hardware store. But once you're squared away the results are breathtaking.
The absolute best-sounding – not to mention most expensive – soundbar we've tested so far, which is why it retained its title once again at the 2021 What Hi-Fi Awards.
Read the full review: Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar
With less pressure and expectation placed upon them, middle children are often those most likely to succeed and outshine their siblings as the brightest of the bunch.
Occasionally we find the same to be true in AV, with cheaper models delivering a better value performance than pricier products, but typically it's the flagship that reigns supreme with the best features, build and tech that a brand has to offer. Which can sometimes make it difficult for cheaper, mid-range models, such as Sony’s HT-A5000 Dolby Atmos soundbar, to stand out.
The Sony HT-A5000 has a lot to offer, with a powerful broad soundstage, robust low-end and excellent connectivity. However, its slightly boxy voices and underwhelming height drivers leave it lagging in direct comparison with the class-leading Sonos Arc.
As a single-box sound solution, the A5000 is still more impressive than many of its competitors. But for several brands, including Sonos, this is where they pitch their flagship products, and as such, the competition is incredibly fierce if you don’t bring your A-game.
Read the full Sony HT-A5000 review
First things first: at 14cm high, the Bluesound Pulse Soundbar+ is a fair bit taller than your average soundbar and, when placed on the same surface as a TV, will almost certainly block part of the screen. Although it comes with detachable kickstand legs, Bluesound really intends for the Soundbar+ to be wall-mounted. There’s a bracket included in the box for this purpose and, to keep the installation tidy, the soundbar can be orientated with the cable cove at either the bottom or the top, with an internal accelerometer automatically sensing which way up the bar is.
But with the added height, the Pulse Soundbar+ can accommodate forward-facing drivers larger in diameter than those in most competing models. So despite only offering virtual Dolby Atmos, the resulting performance is impressively detailed, solid and satisfying.
The Pulse Soundbar+ includes inputs for HDMI eARC, optical, 3.5mm analogue and USB A, as well as an ethernet port and RCA output for an external sub. There’s support for hi-res audio file formats and streaming onboard courtesy of Apple AirPlay, two-way aptX HD Bluetooth (for headphone listening) and the BluOS wireless system that integrates with services including Tidal and Spotify.
If you want a more enveloping surround set-up, it can also connect wirelessly, via a dedicated wi-fi module, to a pair of Pulse Flex 2i speakers for surround sound and/or a Pulse Sub+ for extra bass, available for purchase separately.
Available in black or white (though the latter is more expensive), the Bluesound Pulse Soundbar+ is a design-friendly choice with excellent multiroom integration with the Bluesound ecosystem.
Read the full Bluesound Pulse Soundbar+ review
Like the adage of judging a book by its cover, trying to guess what a soundbar sounds like from its appearance would likely prove an unsuccessful endeavour, mainly because the vast majority of these linear home cinema speakers all look pretty much the same.
But after clapping eyes and ears on the elegantly built but cumbersomely named Harman Kardon Citation Multibeam 1100 Dolby Atmos soundbar for the first time, we can’t help but have a small Catchphrase Roy Walker epiphany of, “Say what you see!” after we realise that this streamlined, minimal and tasteful speaker sounds just as it looks.
Sophisticated and unobtrusive, with no rough edges but a tad flat, the Multibeam 1100 puts in a sonic performance that mirrors its sleek exterior. Its presentation of Dolby Atmos is spacious but authentic, and musically it’s one of the more enjoyable soundbars we’ve listened to.
It lacks a properly integrated app interface and, compared to the Sonos Arc, is less dazzling with its height effects and vocals, but even if you’re not a Harman Kardon fan, this soundbar deserves to be on your list.
Read the full Harmon Kardon Citation Multibeam 1100 review
The LG S95QR is LG’s flagship Dolby Atmos soundbar for 2022, boasting a massive 17 drivers in a 9.1.5 configuration; it’s a multi-speaker package comprising a primary soundbar, wireless subwoofer and two wireless rear speakers. It ups the ante on the brand’s previous models with the addition of side-firing drivers on the rears and an upward-firing centre channel that LG claims is a world first.
The main soundbar contains ten drivers, with left and right channels handled by two 20mm silk dome tweeters and two 52 x 99mm woofers. A pair of 50mm drivers on either end of the soundbar deliver surround side effects, while two 63mm units on the top surface supply height effects for immersive sound formats.
A 63mm driver faces forward in the centre, coupled with a 20mm silk dome tweeter on the top surface. Unlike the system’s other height drivers, this tweeter does not produce Atmos effects. Instead, it supplements the traditional front-facing driver for better dispersion and increased dialogue clarity. In a change from previous models, the wireless sub has an upgraded cabinet and a larger 20cm driver, while the rear speakers have a new apex design to distribute sound from its front, side and overhead driver more evenly across a claimed 135-degree space for more forgiving placement.
LG is as ever generous with the connectivity options on its flagship soundbars. The S95QR offers Bluetooth, Spotify Connect, AirPlay 2 and Chromecast onboard. You can control your streaming service, adjust the volume and change sound modes with your voice, thanks to Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa support. There are eARC, optical and USB inputs for hardwired connections and two additional HDMI passthrough ports that support gaming features such as (VRR) and (ALLM). However, 4K HDR signals are only handled at up to 60Hz.
The S95QA not only handles Dolby Atmos and DTS:X immersive sound formats, but it’s LG’s first soundbar to include IMAX Enhanced support, which uses a modified version of DTS: X. If you hate unsightly cables running between your TV and soundbar, you can pair it with the new LG WOWCAST audio dongle (sold separately) to enjoy lossless multi-channel audio wirelessly.
Sonically the LG 95QR isn't musical or strong at delivering overhead effects, but for home theatre, it has a broadly balanced, spacious soundstage that is detailed, cinematic and engaging.
Read the full LG S95QR review
Bowers & Wilkins's first Dolby Atmos soundbar is designed as a stand-alone system that delivers 3.1.2 channels of audio from a single unit, with no optional upgrades for surrounds and sub. Instead, it has dedicated subwoofer drivers on the top face alongside its verticle height drivers.
With an ultra-low low profile build the Panorama 3 stands at only 6.5cm tall, meaning it should sneak under most TVs, but if you prefer wall mounting then a bracket is included in the box.
Connectivity is via a single HDMI eARC port an optical digital input for older TVs. If you use the latter, Bowers & Wilkins has included technology for the soundbar to ‘learn’ key TV remote control commands so that all users can enjoy the same unified experience as those with eARC connections. The Panorama 3 doesn’t have its own dedicated remote, relying on app control, while there’s also Amazon Alexa onboard for hands-free voice commands.
Streaming is well catered for with AirPlay 2, aptX Adaptive Bluetooth and Spotify Connect, while high-resolution listening is supported via the Bowers & Wilkins Music App, which gives listeners access to streaming services including Tidal, Deezer and Qobuz, with the number of supported platforms set to expand later this year.
Despite audio format support including Dolby Atmos in both its Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital Plus versions, this doesn't (at launch) extend to rival immersive codec DTS:X. However, Bowers & Wilkins stress that the Panorama 3 has been designed to be upgraded over time, suggesting that DTS:X support may one day be added. Additionally, multi-room capability is planned for introduction shortly after launch to make it compatible with other Panorama soundbars, Zeppelins and Formation products, though not as part of a multichannel system.
Sonically it has a dynamic and detailed, if not particularly expansive, Dolby Atmos presentation and its built-in low-end, unusual at this price point, adds welcome weight to lively action films and scores.
It can struggle to maintain coherence and clarity when things get busy, and musically, like most soundbars, it puts in only a decent performance.
Read the full Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3 review
If you're on a tight budget, the Sony HT-G700 could be just the ticket. It might not be the most compact bar around, but it's certainly big on sound, big on value and comes with a wireless subwoofer, dedicated HDMI input and support for both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.
Sony’s own Vertical Surround Engine and S-Force Pro Front Surround technologies dish up a convincing Dolby Atmos soundscape while that chunky subwoofer (39cm-tall) adds plenty of heft to big explosions.
Of course, being an entry-level Dolby Atmos soundbar, it doesn't compare to the much pricier Sony HT-ST5000 (above) in terms of clarity. It also lacks music streaming features and voice control.
Still, if you're after a dedicated bit of home cinema kit on a budget, the powerful-sounding HT-700 serves up a seriously cinematic performance at a nice price.
Read the full review: Sony HT-G700
Produced by hi-fi brand Devialet, the Dione is a premium one-box Dolby Atmos soundbar with no options to add an external sub or rear speakers, instead relying on eight long-throw mid-woofers to deliver an impressively extended bass performance and two side-firing drivers for surround effects.
At just 77mm tall (or deep in its wall positioning), the Dione is slim and smart with removable grey fabric grilles, capacitive playback controls, and a tactile anodised aluminium finish. Its centre speaker sits in a rotational 'orb' that can be manually twisted to change its position. This is because the Dione is designed to operate in two orientations, horizontally on a flat surface or flipped around with its top panel facing outwards and hung on a wall. Hardware fixings are included in the box, as is a handy cardboard template.
In total, there are nine 41mm aluminium drivers, and depending on your chosen orientation, you will either have five or three facing you, while the eight woofers will either point front and back or upward and downwards. But whichever way you spin it (and the in-built gyroscope will let you know), it’s always a 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos configuration. While it performs well in both positions, the location of the drivers means that users should be considerate about placement.
For such a high-end product, the Dione’s choice of sources is a little on the sparse side. Hardwired connections comprise a single eARC/ARC HDMI and an optical input in a recess at the rear alongside an ethernet port. And for streaming, there’s Bluetooth 5 and wi-fi for AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect and UPnP up to 24bit/96kHz.
With Dolby Atmos content, the Dione has a firm grip and very capable low-end but isn't particularly immersive. Occasionally it over embellishes quieter sounds, but it's quick and responsive, with impressive tonal transparency and minimal distortion across the frequency spectrum, marking it out as a particularly musical soundbar.
Read the full Devialet Dione review
Bose's aesthetic sensibilities mean that the Smart Soundbar 900 has a more modern and refined appearance than most of its competition, with a wraparound metal grille and polished, impact-resistant tempered glass top.
Underneath the bodywork, Bose's first Dolby Atmos soundbar sports has nine channels of amplification. As well as the pair of height drivers, there's one centre tweeter flanked by four racetrack transducers. Despite the appearance of its completely wrap-around grille, there are no side-firing drivers. Instead, two further transducers are positioned at the far left and right that use Bose's PhaseGuide technology, which gives the impression of placing certain sounds at either side of the listening position.
As you'd expect from Bose, there are plenty of connectivity options and features on board with a single HDMI eARC port, an optical in, ethernet and a USB socket. For streaming, there's wi-fi, Bluetooth 4.2, Spotify Connect and AirPlay 2. Moreover, from January 2022, there will also be Chromecast onboard by way of a retroactive firmware update. There's also support for both Amazon’s Alexa and Google assistants. The onboard Alexa lets users make and receive intercom calls to other Bose smart products and Amazon Echo devices or make hands-free calls to anyone from within your contacts list.
The Bose Smart Soundbar 900 is an entertaining, feature-packed, sophisticated-looking Dolby Atmos soundbar. With an impressively wide soundfield, clear forward projection and bright character, many listeners will likely be very pleased with its responsive and cinematic performance. However, it can be inconsistent in its effectiveness and occasionally adds its own organisational structure and tonal colour to content, particularly noticeable when listening to music.
While it doesn't have the height, transparency, musicality, and dynamics of the similarly priced Sonos Arc, for those already invested in the Bose ecosystem, the Smart Soundbar 900 would be a smart choice.
Read the full Bose Smart Soundbar 900 review
Up until recently, LG's soundbars have proven to be a bit of a mixed bag, but the company has redeemed itself with its 2021 line-up and the SP8YA is no exception.
This Dolby Atmos soundbar with a wireless sub is bang smack in the middle of the range in terms of price and size but retains the connectivity features of the higher-end models. There's eARC, plus another HDMI 2.1 input with 4K Dolby Vision and HDR10 pass-through as well as an optical input and a USB port. Streaming is well catered for too. Alongside Bluetooth and wi-fi, there’s Chromecast and Apple Airplay 2, and if you have access to hi-res content, you’ll be pleased to know the soundbar can handle audio of up to 24-bit/192kHz quality.
Sonically this 3.1.2 package also punches above its weight with a broad, vibrant soundstage that can easily match the cinematic scale of larger screens. It can also be easily upgraded to 5.1.2 by the addition of the SPK8 2.0 surround kit for around £130 ($180, AU$249).
There are better performers in terms of height available, like the Sonos Arc, and the low end is a little loose and undefined but for those looking for a reasonably priced Dolby Atmos soundbar with a high tech spec and a detailed, room-filling sound, the SP8YA is worth considering.
Read the full review: LG SP8YA
With a generous 22 drivers delivering 11.1.4 surround sound, the HW-Q950A offers the greatest number of channels of any soundbar on the market right now, as well as 3D audio format support from both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.
The Q950A has two HDMI inputs and one output (with support for eARC), an optical-in and the power socket while the soundbar’s microphone allows for commands to the built-in Amazon Alexa voice assistant and can also be used to monitor background levels, as the Q950A has a nifty feature to boost the centre channel for more transparent dialogue if ambient noise increases - though we doubt you’ll feel the need to use it.
At 130cm long, the main unit of the HW-Q950A isn’t tiny, but it’s nevertheless shorter than many other flagship Dolby Atmos models available at the moment. Inside the left, centre and right channels alongside a pair each of upward-firing, surround and wide surround drivers. The separate sub houses a single 8-inch speaker while the wireless surround units each contain three drivers - one facing towards the front of the room, one upwards and the last one towards the listening position.
And if you happen to own a 2021 Samsung TV, you can further enhance the driver count by using a Samsung feature called ‘Q-Sybmphony’ that allows the TV's internal speakers to work in conjunction with the soundbar package to add more height and space to the soundfield.
With plenty of sonic vigour, features and speakers, the Q950A offers a potent listening experience. While it’s not the most nuanced or spacious performer, those looking to splash out on a Dolby Atmos soundbar that can deliver big, punchy audio and supremely clear vocals will likely not be disappointed by the Q950A.
Read the full review Samsung HW-Q950A review
The SP11RA is a big investment in terms of money and space with a separate sub and two surround speakers, not to mention that the main soundbar clocks in at 144cm long. However, it’s still a more convenient and less overwhelming undertaking than building a true home cinema system, particularly one that could hope to match the LG’s 7.1.4 channels of excellent Dolby Atmos action.
So what's underneath all the black brushed metal? The main bar has three front-facing channels, two ‘surround’ channels at either end of the bar and on the top surface are a pair of upward-firing height speakers. The wireless sub houses an 18cm driver and rear port, while the rears each have a front and upward-firing driver.
We're pleased to report that all those drivers aren't going to waste; the SP11RA is a big improvement from previous LG models. It’s got a nimble and detailed top end and is easy to listen to, creating an even, immersive listening experience. While you may have to give up some space to house it, its connectivity spec is one of the most comprehensive and future-proofed we’ve seen.
Read the full review: LG SP11RA
Very few soundbar packages have a sub that can perform as well as Samsung's Q800A with a muscular, room-filling sound and a gut-busting bass, all contained within a relatively small unit.
As for the main unit, it houses three forward-facing channels, and on the top are two upward-facing tweeters that provide height channels for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X formats. The whole system offers a capable 3.2.1 channels of articulate, cinematic sound. There's also the option to add Samsung's compatible upward-firing surrounds (SWA-9500S) to boost the Q800A to a mighty 5.1.4 system.
And if you happen to own a 2021 Samsung TV, you can enhance the Q800A's sonic performance by using a new feature called ‘Q-Sybmphony’ that allows the TV's internal speakers to work in conjunction with the soundbar package to add more height and space to the soundfield.
Not only does the Q800A offer powerful overall performance, but it also has a broad feature set. Alongside two HDMI ports (one equipped with eARC) and an optical input, there’s Bluetooth and, once connected to wi-fi, you can stream via Spotify Connect and AirPlay 2, all of which can be controlled by the built-in Amazon Alexa voice assistant.
The Q800A is priced to compete directly with the Sonos Arc, and although the latter is crisper and more precise when handling height elements, the Samsung offers a present and compelling listen as well as an epic sense of scale at the low end of the sonic spectrum, which no solo soundbar could ever hope to match.
Read the full review: Samsung HW-Q800A
Majority might not be a particularly well-known name, but the British brand has been producing affordable AV equipment for a decade and offers a three-year warranty on all of its products, with free shipping to the UK from its website and worldwide via its Amazon storefront.
It's flagship soundbar is the Sierra Plus, handles 2.1.2 channels of sound with Dolby Atmos decoding for less than the price of many standard non-Atmos soundbars.
While it doesn't have wi-fi connectivity this budget bar does feature Bluetooth for music streaming and hard-wired inputs for HDMI ARC, optical, mini-jack and USB. Handily it also gives users two additional HDMI 4K HDR passthrough ports to directly connect external devices such as a games console or Blu-ray player, reducing the number of cables you need to run to your TV.
As the Sierra Plus has ARC, as opposed to eARC, it can only decode Dolby Atmos in its lossy Dolby Digital Plus format. However no streaming service currently offers Dolby Atmos content in lossless True HD, so unless you also plan to connect a 4K Blu-ray player into your TV and then pass the sound out to the soundbar, this should be no great loss.
It’s not the most detailed performer, with a vague separate sub and height effects that won't make you duck and cover, but sonically it delivers an engaging, enjoyable home cinema sound with a broad soundstage and clear dialogue. An easy upgrade to your TVs speakers.
Read the full review: Majority Sierra Plus
Better known for their gaming headsets, Creative's SXFI Carrier Dolby Atmos soundbar has some unique features, including audio processing that simulates 3D surround sound not through the soundbar’s speakers but on a pair of headphones that can be plugged into the Carrier via a mini-jack on the front.
Its gaming credentials extend to its impressive connectivity. In addition to eARC, there are two further HDMI 2.1 ports capable of passing through 4K@120Hz or 8K@30Hz (in 4:2:0 colour format) as well as HDR with Dolby Vision, HDR10 and HDR10+, and support for performance-enhancing gaming features including ALLM and VRR.
There’s also a USB audio output specifically intended for an SXFI Bluetooth transmitter to connect a compatible pair of Creative's own low latency wireless headphones, and in the UK, a pair of SXFI Theater headphones are sometimes included as part of the purchase price.
The soundbar can also receive audio wirelessly through Bluetooth 5.0 but disappointingly, for a soundbar at this price, it doesn't include wi-fi connectivity. However, you could always inexpensively add casting functionality by using a streaming stick in one of the HDMI ports.
Inside, the soundbar comprises seven drivers in a 5.1.2 configuration with three front-facing tweeters, a pair of steeply raked height woofers that disperse sound upwards and forwards, and at the extreme ends sit two side-firing racetrack-style mid-woofers. Each driver has its DSP-controlled amplifier, with a total RMS power of 450W, including the sub.
The Creative Carrier can handle audio up to 24-bit/192kHz and not only supports Dolby Atmos in its lossless True HD format but was developed in association with Dolby itself. Sonically the Creative SXFI Carrier has notable width and does a decent job of producing some sense of height and movement, but its agile low-end extension is its main strength delivering plenty of dramatic weight.
Read the full Creative SXFI Carrier review
How to choose the best soundbar for you
A slew of Dolby Atmos soundbars have hit the market in the last couple of years, and there's now a range of models to suit most budgets. The more you spend, the more features you tend to get and the more driver units the soundbars tend to use; hence, most of our entries tend to be pricier than ordinary soundbars. In our experience, spending more also means you should get more convincing home cinema sound. That said, if you are looking for a model at the more affordable end of the market, our best budget soundbars page is here to help. If you'd like more advice, then head on over to our dedicated guide on how to choose and set up a soundbar.
Before you buy, there are some things to bear in mind. Consider the dimensions of your TV to work out just how big your new soundbar needs to be. Also, check the height – if you need to place the soundbar in front of your TV, you don't want it obscuring half the picture, and if it has upward-firing drivers, they need a clear line of sight to your ceiling to be effective.
It's important to note that not all Dolby Atmos soundbars have upward-firing drivers. Some decode the format and present it virtually using DSP processing to create an illusion of a 3D soundstage. The performance of virtual Atmos models varies, and while genuine height effects are certainly beyond their scope, there's more to Atmos than just the Y-axis. In some cases, a high-quality virtual Dolby Atmos soundbar can deliver more immersive and engaging sound than a mediocre model with verticle speakers.
Whenever a soundbar does have height drivers, it's important to remember that you'll get better results if you have low ceilings to bounce the sound off and that the top of the soundbar needs to be uncovered and placed clear of the TV screen.
Typically soundbars are a single long speaker with several drivers inside, but some come with external subwoofers for extra low-end extension and rear speakers for surround sound effects. Some Atmos soundbars even have upward-firing drivers on the satellite speakers. If floor-shaking bass and encompassing sound are high on your priority list, then these are models you'll want to consider.
Moving on to features and connectivity, Dolby Atmos soundbars will all boast either ARC or eARC-enabled HDMI ports necessary to handle multichannel audio formats and also allowing you to control the volume of your soundbar with your existing remote control. It's worth considering if having a separate physical remote for the soundbar is important to you or if you're comfortable with controlling settings from a smartphone app.
Most Dolby Atmos soundbars have some options for wireless music playback with wifi streaming via services such as Airplay 2, Spotify Connect and Chromecast, as well as Bluetooth connectivity. Some also have microphones with voice assistant functionality or compatibility. If you have external devices such as games consoles or a 4K Blu-ray player, keep an eye out for additional HDMI passthrough ports that could make your setup more flexible.
If the highest-quality 3D sound is important to you, you'll want to make sure both your TV and potential soundbar support Dolby TrueHD and eARC. Some Dolby Atmos Soundbars will only have ARC, and while that can handle Dolby Atmos, it can only do so in its lossy Dolby Digital Plus form. In contrast, Dolby TrueHD can deliver full-fat Dolby Atmos in all its lossless glory.
You don't have to look far to find Dolby Atmos content. Besides 4K Blu-ray discs, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, Netflix and Disney+ offer plenty of Atmos movies and TV shows. Ready to boost your binge-watching with the best Atmos soundbar? Let's take a look at the options...
How we test Dolby Atmos soundbars
We have state-of-the-art testing facilities in London, Reading and Bath, where our team of experienced, in-house reviewers test the majority of hi-fi and AV kit that passes through our door.
Each Dolby Atmos soundbar we test is paired with an appropriate reference TV and is directly compared to the best in its price and features class – whether that's the current What Hi-Fi? award winner or a few of the latest models we've been impressed by in recent reviews. What Hi-Fi? is all about comparative testing, and we keep class-leading products in our stockrooms so we can easily compare new products to ones we know and love.
We are always impartial and do our best to make sure we're hearing every product at its very best, so we'll try plenty of different styles of films and TV shows that show what each soundbar is capable of with both advanced and standard audio formats. We'll check all the features onboard including music playback with a variety of genres and allow for plenty of listening time as well as running them in before we begin reviewing.
All review verdicts are agreed upon by the team rather than an individual reviewer to eliminate any personal preference and to make sure we're being as thorough as possible, too. There's no input from PR companies or our sales team when it comes to the verdict, with What Hi-Fi? proud of having delivered honest, unbiased reviews for decades.