Best Dolby Atmos soundbars Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s guide to the best Dolby Atmos soundbars that you can buy in 2021...
Home cinema technology has come a long way in recent years, and with the help of a Dolby Atmos soundbar, it is now possible to enjoy immersive film screenings without turning your living room into the speaker version of Stonehenge.
A Dolby Atmos soundbar could quite literally take your TV's audio 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. The result is that objects on your screen, such as circling helicopters or pouring rain, can be heard all around you.
In the last couple of years, a slew of Dolby Atmos soundbars have hit the market, 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.
You don't have to look far to find Dolby Atmos content, either. Besides 4K Blu-ray discs, Amazon Prime Video, 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...
Soundbars aren't new territory for Sonos, but the Arc is its first Dolby Atmos soundbar. It replaces the Playbar and Playbase and sits above the Sonos Beam in terms of pricing. A good partner for 55in TVs and above, the Arc can be placed straight on your furniture or wall-mounted with the optional £69/$79/AU$99 mount.
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
Sony's HT-ST5000 is a true game-changer: if you're looking for epic Dolby Atmos sound from a compact set-up, you've found it in this 2019 What Hi-Fi? Award winner.
A separate subwoofer and two upward-firing drivers create cinematic sound on a grand scale, pairing a superb sense of height with plenty of depth and power. But despite its titanic arrangement and high level of sophistication, it's compact and easy to get up and running - the perfect marriage of performance and convenience.
Movies aside, it makes an excellent wireless speaker thanks to its punchy dynamics. Features include Chromecast compatibility and Sony's hi-res audio upscaling technology, which promises better sound from lower-quality files. You can't polish a Bublé, but at least you can improve the sound quality.
It might be on the pricey side, but this Sony soundbar delivers five-star sound quality that makes it worth every penny. And if you shop around, you should find it for a few hundred less than its original launch price. Happy days.
Read the full review: Sony HT-ST5000
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. And because of that you won't be surprised to know it's a 2019 What Hi-Fi? winner.
Read the full review: Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar
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
Yamaha was one of the first brands to bring out a Dolby Atmos soundbar, so this is now the granddaddy of the group. It's aged like a fine wine, though, and is still one of the best Dolby Atmos soundbars out there.
The YSP-5600 uses a grand total of 46 speakers to simulate 3D sound equivalent to 7.1.2 channels, creating a gigantic soundfield that deftly distributes audio with outstanding accuracy.
Yamaha offers the option of a wireless subwoofer but it’s not really needed. If there's one thing this soundbar doesn’t lack, it is power. It's not exactly svelte but you can expect to be rewarded with gutsy low-end performance and subtle dynamics – even when you crank it up. There’s a nice spread of connectivity and Yamaha’s excellent MusicCast app makes it easy to stream from a smartphone and indeed to other compatible products in a multi-room set up.
Since its launch, competition has got a whole lot hotter, but the YSP-5600 has stood the test of time and still performs admirably.
Read the full review: Yamaha YSP-5600
This sensibly-priced Dolby Atmos soundbar is a good choice for those who want to enjoy audio fireworks without decimating their bank account. Sony has done things a little differently here since there are no dedicated upward-firing drivers. Instead, the bar creates 7.1.2 surround sound using clever psychoacoustic technologies. The effect works beautifully, enveloping you in three-dimensional sound.
So is this a 'true' Dolby Atmos soundbar? Purists might quibble with the definition. Let's call it 'Dolby Atmos lite'. It might not be as immersive as the Sennheiser Ambeo or pricier Sony above, but it's hugely convincing, tonally refined and a whole lot more wallet-friendly.
Calibration is a doddle, too, while connectivity and features are spot on. Spotify and Chromecast are present and correct, and you can expect higher-quality Bluetooth playback thanks to Sony's LDAC technology.
If you don't have the funds or space for the more expensive Sony or Sennheiser, this Sony HT-ZF9 is a great option.
Read the full review: Sony HT-ZF9
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
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