Best Dolby Atmos soundbars Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s guide to the best Dolby Atmos soundbars that you can buy in 2020
How? In short, Dolby Atmos soundbars attempt to mimic the kind of immersive, 3D audio experience you'd get at the cinema. Most premium Atmos soundbars use upward-firing drivers to disperse sound overhead – giving the effect of having speakers in your ceiling. The result is that objects on 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 get and the more driver units the soundbars tend to use. In our experience, this means you should also get more convincing home cinema sound.
You don't have to look far to find Dolby Atmos content, either. 4K Blu-ray discs aside, Amazon Video and Netflix offer plenty of Atmos-enabled movies and TV shows on demand. Ready to boost your binge-watching with the best Atmos soundbar? Let's take a look at the options...
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 upfiring 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
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
Samsung's premium home cinema offering boasts no fewer than 18 speakers spread across a soundbar, wireless subwoofer and two rear wireless speakers (both with upfiring drivers). The result is a stylish system that simulates Dolby Atmos' 7.1.4 channels and delivers a big front soundstage.
When it comes to extra features, this model has the competition licked. As well as wi-fi and HDMI with 4K passthrough, it supports hi-res audio and Amazon Alexa voice control. Take that, rivals.
The main attraction, though, is its ability to generate a convincing sense of depth that combines a well-balanced sound with solid bass. The result is a thoroughly convincing performance, guaranteed to really immerse you in whatever you're watching (or listening to).
It might lack a little dynamic range, but it's still good value for money, and it puts on an impressive surround sound show. For the money, you can't really argue.
Read the full review: Samsung HW-N950
Yamaha was one of the first brands to bring out a Dolby Atmos soundbar, so this is now the grandaddy of the group. It's aged like a fine wine, though, and still impresses.
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 it's 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