Are you ready for a new soundbar? Better yet, are you ready for a new Dolby Atmos soundbar? If so, you're in luck, because there are plenty of very exciting-looking models on the way in 2023.
If you own a decent TV, one of the best ways to upgrade your movie, TV show and gaming experience is to stop using those TV speakers for the sound. The almost-always tiny speakers of a modern TV simply aren't up to the task of delivering full-bodied, exciting or engaging audio.
Of course, if you want the full home cinema experience, an AV amplifier and speaker package is the way to go, but for many people, that sort of setup just isn't an option. That's where the Dolby Atmos soundbar comes in.
Convinced? You could simply choose a current model from our list of the best soundbars available right now. After all, every model has been carefully selected after extensive, comparative testing in our dedicated labs.
But what if there's something even better on the horizon? Is it worth waiting? We can't pass judgement on a new soundbar until it's been fully tested, but it's fair to say that some very interesting new models have already been announced for release soon, so read on the learn all about the coolest 2023 Dolby Atmos soundbars...
Why pick a Dolby Atmos soundbar?
Even the very best TV speakers are invariably less sonically capable than a decent soundbar, and most TV speakers – even those built into fairly premium TVs – are passable at best. Adding a soundbar is almost always a quick, easy and substantial upgrade. In many cases, it's pretty cost-effective, too, though you can spend a lot on a soundbar if you want to.
The big feature to look out for if it's a cinematic sound experience that you're after, is Dolby Atmos. This is a form of 3D audio (also sometimes referred to as spatial audio) that basically tries to fill your room with sound and place sound effects precisely within this three-dimensional soundstage.
In order to fill your room with sound, Atmos soundbars often fire audio forwards, to the sides and upwards, but some also come with satellite speakers than can be placed to the sides or behind the seating position for a more enveloping experience. Some also come with a subwoofer for extra bass or can have one added.
There are other forms of spatial audio, but right now, Dolby Atmos is the most popular, most mainstream implementation of spatial audio. Based on our extensive experience reviewing products with the tech, we can confirm that whether you're gaming or watching a movie, Dolby Atmos can radically improve the experience.
So, if you're in the soundbar market, buying one that supports Atmos is often a good idea. And that brings us to our round-up of the Dolby Atmos soundbars to look out for in 2023.
A long time ago, Nakamichi made one of the most iconic hi-fi products ever, the Dragon cassette deck, and today, the brand is calling back to that legacy with this wild 21-channel Dragon soundbar.
This soundbar sits somewhere between a traditional soundbar and a full-fat speaker system. That's because the Dragon isn't just a soundbar: it's actually a huge soundbar, a pair of rear surround speakers, and two subwoofers.
In total, the Dragon boasts 31 different drivers that deliver 21 channels of audio in an 11.4.6 configuration that, of course, supports Dolby Atmos alongside DTS:X Pro. According to Nakamichi, this is the first plug-and-play soundbar that supports the Atmos code designed to enable support for more than 7.1.4 channels.
We were treated to a demonstration of the Dragon's power during CES 2023 and described it in our hands-on as "a plug-and-play beast that can make one heck of a roar", though we won't be providing a full verdict on the system until we've had it in our test labs for a full review.
Of course, a system this size and this tech-heavy doesn't come cheap, and the Dragon is set to cost $3500 (around £2830 / AU$5000) when it launches later this year. If that price tag doesn't put you off, you can head over to the Nakamichi site to sign up to be notified when the Dragon becomes available for purchase. We recommend that you wait until we've fully tested it before handing over any money, though.
JBL Bar 1300
If you like audio kit, you'll be well aware of the JBL name. This is a brand with a reputation for seriously high-end audio kit, from the L100 Classic speakers to the Synthesis SDR-35 AV amplifier, but that also produces a vast range of more affordable devices such as headphones, wireless speakers and soundbars.
It is, of course, soundbars that we're interested in here, and the newly announced JBL Bar 1300 has caught our eye.
The Bar 1300 is the latest in a soundbar sub-genre that has wireless speakers that can be attached to the main bar or detached and placed to the sides or rear of the seating position for a more surrounding experience. It comes with a wireless subwoofer, too, and has 15 channels of audio overall.
Inside the Bar 1300 are six upward-firing drivers, JBL's MultiBeam tech, and in the detachable speakers are rechargeable batteries alongside Bluetooth for wireless pairing. It supports Dolby Atmos, of course, but also DTS:X. AirPlay 2, Alexa Multi-Room Music and Chromecast are all on board.
It's similar to the JBL Bar 9.1, which also had detachable speakers, but the Bar 1300 packs in more audio channels than ever before. Hopefully, it will also sound better, as the Bar 9.1 received a somewhat disappointing 3-star rating after our extensive testing.
We'll deliver our verdict on the JBL Bar 1300 once it's had its own full test in our dedicated labs. Only then will we be able to conclude whether it's worth the £1300 / $1555 / AU$2300 price tag.
LG's C-series TVs are comfortably the most popular OLED TVs out there, but it's fair to say that they don't sound amazing. In our extensive C2 review, we stated that the TV "while decent-sounding, is more easily upgraded [by a soundbar] than might be expected of a TV costing as much as it does".
LG would obviously prefer that those adding a soundbar did so using one of its own models, and to that end has created the new SC9 model, which is designed to be the perfect aesthetic and sonic partner for the C2 and new C3.
The SC9 comes with a custom bracket it can be mounted directly to the TV, essentially replacing the TV's original pedestal stand for placement on top of a TV unit or hanging neatly below it if wall-mounting. The mount is even designed to perfectly position the soundbar so that the sound from the three upward-firing drivers isn't blocked by the bottom lip of the TV.
Dolby Atmos is on board, of course, but so is DTS:X. And if you partner the SC9 with a new LG TV, you can also take advantage of a feature called Wow Orchestra, which synchronises the soundbar's drivers with those of the TV for a potentially bigger, more spacious sound. This feature sounds very similar to Samsung's Q-Symphony, and it will be interesting to thoroughly test it and establish whether it delivers actual improvements over using the soundbar's speakers alone.
Another neat bit of symbiosis allows the SC9 to connect to some of LG's TVs using a feature called Wowcast, which is essentially wireless transmission of audio. While a soundbar is usually placed very close to a TV, we can imagine that some people will still appreciate the option to do away with the cable between the two. Those who are less cable-averse can of course use HDMI eARC instead.
Pricing and availability haven't been announced yet for the SC9, but we can see it being popular with LG OLED owners, of which there are loads. Here's hoping LG has put as much thought into its sound as it clearly has the design and feature set. We'll of course wait until we can fully, comparatively test the soundbar before delivering our verdict.
Samsung's new flagship soundbar, the HW-990C, offers up 11.1.4 channels of sound alongside Samsung's Q-Symphony 3.0 tech, which is designed to "precisely direct individual audio elements" by way of using the soundbar and your Samsung TV's speakers. With both TV speakers and the soundbar in play, Samsung says that Q-Symphony can leverage up to 22 channels of audio in total.
With the Q990C itself, you're getting the bar, a pair of surround speakers, and a wireless subwoofer. Dolby Atmos is supported (the 'bar wouldn't be on this list if it didn't), and the system can be controlled via wi-fi, which is really no less than you'd expect from a Samsung flagship.
Details on pricing and availability are so far unconfirmed but expect news imminently. We will, as ever, perform a full, comparative test before delivering our verdict.
Here's our list of the best Dolby Atmos soundbars around
As well as our list of the best soundbars out now
And these are our favourite products from CES 2023