What Hi-Fi? Awards 2021: a Dolby Atmos full house in the soundbar category

WHF Awards 2021
(Image credit: Future)

When it comes to NBA players, catwalk models and the soundbars category of the What Hi-Fi? Awards, it seems height really does matter. This year, for the first time ever, all of our Best Buy winners are Dolby Atmos-enabled, meaning that no matter what your budget and room size, there’s an immersive, height-inclusive sound solution to suit your living space.  

Last year, Sonos was the brand to beat with both its Beam and Arc soundbars taking away the top prizes in their respective price bands. And it remains so. 

Unbeaten in the budget category for the past three years, Sonos’s Beam has now been dethroned... by its own successor. The recently released Sonos Beam (Gen 2) has knocked its forebear off the top spot with the addition of (excellent) virtual Dolby Atmos sound, not to mention improved tonal range and dynamics. And yes, it still offers the same ease of use and intelligent features that the brand is renowned for.

Launched just last year, the company's pricier model, the Sonos Arc, remains one of our top picks after winning our Product of the Year – the highest recognition in the What Hi-Fi? Awards – in 2020. 

Its true Dolby Atmos performance is still above and beyond anything we've heard for the same money over the past year, even taking into account its recent price increase. It's simple to set up, slots into the Sonos ecosystem as well as you'd expect, and delivers detailed, dramatic audio for a high but very reasonable price.

While Sonos once again dominates in the two lowest price bands, there is a welcome newcomer further up. 

Sony's all-singing-all-dancing HT-A7000 makes a considerable impact with its impressive delivery of 7.1.2 channels of powerful sound from a singular bar. Packed with next-gen features and streaming options, the A7000 is an incredibly competent, future-proofed performer that sets a new benchmark for Dolby Atmos soundbars under £1500 (around $2000, AU$2750).

And at the very top end of the price spectrum, the breathtaking and weighty Sennheiser Ambeo remains unmovable. 

This chunky soundbar has a robust sonic quality to match its stature, conjuring up convincing Dolby Atmos surround sound and plenty of low end, proving you can have both without the need to cram your living room with multiple speakers.

Now, only one of these Best Buy winners will win our enviable Product of the Year trophy when those special awards are announced on 3rd November, so don't forget to keep your eyes on What Hi-Fi? that evening.


Read our Sennheiser Ambeo review

See all 109 What Hi-Fi? 2021 Best Buy Awards winners

Our pick of the best soundbars 2021

Mary is a staff writer at What Hi-Fi? and has over a decade of experience working as a sound engineer mixing live events, music and theatre. Her mixing credits include productions at The National Theatre and in the West End, as well as original musicals composed by Mark Knopfler, Tori Amos, Guy Chambers, Howard Goodall and Dan Gillespie Sells.