The best Dolby Atmos soundbars of 2024

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When you buy through our links, Business Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn moreThe best Dolby Atmos soundbars feature up-firing speaker drivers to simulate sounds above your head.Ryan Waniata/InsiderThe best Dolby Atmos soundbars can surround you in a dome of 3D audio, delivering an experience that traditional soundbars simply can't match. Dolby's popular spatial audio format is designed to elevate your home theater experience by swirling sound around and above the listening position. Soundbars that support this tech use a mix of targeted speakers and advanced software to bounce audio effects off your ceiling when listening to Dolby Atmos content. After years of testing and living with the best Dolby Atmos soundbars, we've rounded up our top five picks for various budgets and spaces. The Samsung HW-Q990C earns our highest recommendation. It's a premium setup with multiple speakers, delivering a powerful 11.1.4-channel experience. At the other end is Bose's Smart Soundbar 600, a standalone bar that offers immersive performance in a more affordable, pint-sized package.Whether you're just looking to dip your toes in the Atmos water or go all-in on a high-end soundbar system, our well-rounded list has you covered with the top options in multiple categories. And if you're still new to Dolby Atmos, scroll down to browse our list of frequently asked questions to help guide your decision.Our top picks for the best Dolby Atmos soundbarsBest overall: Samsung HW-Q990C - See at AmazonBest midrange system: Vizio Elevate 5.1.4 - See at AmazonBest budget option: Bose Smart Soundbar 600 - See at AmazonBest standalone model: Sonos Arc - See at AmazonBest for gaming: Sony HT-A7000 - See at AmazonBest overallSamsung's HW-Q990C is an easy choice for the best Dolby Atmos soundbar thanks to its immersive audio performance and seamless fluidity. The impressive system features the bar itself, along with two wireless satellites and a wireless subwoofer. Together, these components create an expansive array of 22 speakers, including four up-firing and four side-firing drivers to bounce sound around your listening space. This 11.1.4-channel setup sounds fantastic for everything you listen to, not just Dolby Atmos movies and shows. During our review, we heard remarkable subtlety and detail for dialogue across genres, from sitcoms to prestige dramas. Turning to music reveals rich resonance in midrange instruments like guitar and horns, plenty of thump in the bass register, and lyrical treble above that makes floaty effects and instruments sparkle as intended.Samsung's Q990C includes a soundbar unit (pictured above) as well as two satellite speakers and a wireless subwoofer.Ryan Waniata/InsiderWith four different components, including the bar, subwoofer, and two surround speakers, the system takes some time to set up but is refreshingly simple to navigate. Once connected to your network, you can easily control the bar using the included remote or Samsung's SmartThings app.On the feature front, you get just about the full lot here, with support for multiple formats (including Atmos rival DTS:X), real-time sound optimization, and multiple HDMI inputs with 4K HDR passthrough to connect components like a streaming box or Blu-ray player. The only missing piece is HDMI 2.1 support, which means the system can't pass through advanced gaming features like a 120Hz signal or variable refresh rate (VRR) when paired with a console like a PS5.Buyers should note that Samsung now sells a slightly updated version of this soundbar called the Q990D. The new model is very similar but adds support for HDMI 2.1. We think the Q990C remains a better value for most users since it's often on sale for less, but the Q990D is an excellent alternative if HDMI 2.1 passthrough is an essential feature for you.  Read our Samsung HW-Q990C Soundbar review.Best midrange systemVizio is no stranger to our best soundbar guides thanks to its ability to squeeze out mighty performance from small packages at competitive prices. The Vizio Elevate 5.1.4 system fully embodies this philosophy, with some cool mechanical trickery lumped in for good measure. The Elevate is so named because the bar's front speakers rotate upward when needed to create the "height" element of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X audio tracks and roll forward again for stereo or traditional surround sound mixes. The way Vizio's engineers figure it, why have extra speakers that are only in use with select content? The design pays off with strikingly powerful and cinematic sound and, when called for, stirring spatial audio immersion.The Vizio Elevate soundbar has a rotating speaker driver that can transition from pointing forward to upward.Steven Cohen/InsiderThe Elevate sometimes sounds aggressive in lighter dialogue or brighter music, but there are plenty of ways to configure the sound to taste, including the ability to adjust EQ and individual surround channels. To do so, you'll need to familiarize yourself with Vizio's unique interface, which integrates many controls and even a digital interface into the system's handy remote. Connecting the included subwoofer and surround speakers requires old-school physical wires, which could limit placement options in some setups. That said, most so-called "wireless" subwoofers and surround speakers still require a power outlet, so to some degree, you're trading one constraint for another. If your house doesn't have a lot of outlets, Vizio's design could even be the friendlier option.On the downside, the Elevate eschews Apple AirPlay support (Chromecast streaming is supported) and has no built-in microphones for integrated digital assistant voice control. But there are still many ways to connect components, including dual HDMI inputs, an analog audio port, and even a USB input for hi-res audio files. Support for DTS:X (among other formats) completes the package for a well-rounded Dolby Atmos system that's big on sound and easy on your wallet.Read our Vizio 5.1.4 Elevate soundbar review.Best budget optionBose's minimalist Smart Soundbar 600 doesn't look like much of a player from the outset, but behind its perforated grille there's some magic going on. The system provides clear and focused sound for everything from music to dialogue, even amid chaotic action scenes. The bar is surprisingly good at providing immersive Dolby Atmos audio from its small frame, using a mix of targeted speakers and excellent software to surround you with subtle effects like buzzing insects or strafing starships.The Smart Soundbar 600 can connect to your local network to mingle with other Bose speakers, letting you create a multi-room audio setup or add auxiliary speakers for a true surround sound configuration. And unlike the similar Sonos Beam, Bose's model employs dedicated up-firing drivers to bounce sound off your ceiling, creating a more effective and expansive Dolby Atmos soundstage.The Bose Smart Soundbar 600 is one of the most compact and affordable soundbars you can buy that still has up-firing Atmos drivers.Ryan WaniataThe 600 is easy to control with your TV remote over HDMI eARC/ARC and includes app support for fine-tuning audio and for streaming music from various services. Wireless playback over Spotify Connect, Apple AirPlay 2, and Bluetooth are also available. Built-in microphones let you control basic playback and smart commands with your voice via integrated Amazon Alexa, and you can get Google Assistant capabilities if you pair the bar with a separate device.Without a wireless subwoofer, the sound signature is light on low-frequency impact, meaning the Smart Soundbar 600 won't be the best option for bass heads or those looking to blast sound across large listening spaces. You can add a separate Bose Bass Module, but that doubles the price of this system. The bar is also limited to just one HDMI and optical port, and it doesn't support Dolby's primary format rival, DTS, though the latter likely won't come up much unless you own a sizable Blu-ray collection.For smaller setups, the Smart Soundbar 600 is a brilliant fit. You won't find a Dolby Atmos bar that matches its mix of poise, clarity, immersion, and style without spending more.Read our Bose Smart Soundbar 600 review.Check out our guide to all of the best budget soundbars.Best standalone modelIf you like the sleek, single-unit design of Bose's Smart Soundbar 600 but want more gravitas and overall immersion, the Sonos Arc is the best Dolby Atmos soundbar for your needs. From the moment you press play, this multi-channel system defies expectations with its warm and detailed sound, impressive immersion, and surprisingly potent bass response from a standalone soundbar. Sonos rolls a clever collection of speakers into this tubular bar, including both up-firing and side-firing drivers, powerful woofers, and precision tweeters. The result is an expansive yet decidedly inviting soundstage with more punch than you'd expect, letting the system flex its skills across different formats and genres with remarkable ease. You can get better performance from more expensive single-unit soundbar models, like the Sennheiser Ambeo Max, but at $2,500, that model is tougher to justify for most buyers.The Sonos Arc delivers impressive performance without a separate subwoofer or surround speakers.Tyler Hayes/Business InsiderAs a Sonos speaker, the Arc isn't just a self-contained soundbar but can also be part of a larger wireless speaker ecosystem. Sonos' app lets you navigate a variety of add-on Sonos speakers either throughout your home or arranged with the bar in a multi-piece surround configuration.With add-on options like the Sonos Era 100, Atmos-blasting Era 300, and powerful Sonos Sub, the Arc can be the centerpiece of a pricey but strikingly immersive system. We sampled a scene from "Top Gun: Maverick" using the Arc, two Era 300s, and a Sub, and it blew us away. Though we still think the Arc offers the best value as a standalone bar, you always have the option to upgrade with extra components later on.  However, Sonos being Sonos, the Arc has some odd quirks for a soundbar in this price range. Sonos makes it easy to play content from many of the best music streaming services and supports Spotify Connect and Apple AirPlay 2, but basic Bluetooth isn't offered. Also notable is the bar's large size (it sits over three inches tall) and lack of physical inputs, with only a single HDMI port for connecting to your TV. Unlike similarly priced rivals from Samsung and LG, the Arc lacks support for DTS:X, Dolby's primary 3D audio rival, but it does support standard DTS 5.1 sound. On the other hand, there are few more malleable systems available, even well above the Arc's price point, as long as you're content to stay firmly grounded within the Sonos family. The Arc is an enticing Atmos accessory that seamlessly integrates with your TV and blows your display's onboard sound away.Read our Sonos Arc review.Best for gamingSony's HT-A7000 is pricey for a soundbar that doesn't include satellite speakers or a subwoofer, but its singular design is also what makes it so impressive. This elegantly styled slab of sound offers the best virtual surround sound we've heard at this class and well above, providing immersion that's nearly as convincing as similarly priced multi-speaker soundbars. As a Sony bar, it's also particularly handy for gaming, especially if you own a PS5.With Sony's reputation in the space, it's no surprise that the HT-A7000 sounds great for music, with clear and full audio across registers and notably robust bass response. It even has an analog port among its many inputs, an increasingly rare inclusion for soundbars, letting you plug in legacy audio devices like a powered turntable.The bar's loaded input section includes dual HDMI 2.1 ports with passthrough support for VRR (Variable Refresh Rate), ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode), and a 4K/120Hz signal. This lets you plug in gaming consoles like a PS5 and Xbox Series X without sacrificing any features, saving your TV's onboard inputs for other outboard devices. PlayStation 5 users also get support for passing through unique features like Auto Tone HDR Mapping and Auto Genre Picture Mode when paired with a compatible Sony TV. Sony's HT-A7000 is one of the only soundbar systems with full HDMI 2.1 passthrough support to pair with a PS5 or Xbox Series X.Steven Cohen/InsiderSupport for multiple hi-res audio formats and streaming over Spotify Connect, Chromecast, Apple AirPlay 2, and Bluetooth make it easy to play virtually anything in your collection. Along with Dolby Atmos, you'll also get support for DTS:X and Sony's music-focused 360 Reality Audio. Like other 3D sound formats, 360 Reality Audio creates an immersive dome of sound, and you can find several albums mixed in the format on services like Amazon Music Unlimited and Tidal.Like many soundbars, Sony also lets you add a wireless subwoofer and/or surround speakers later, though they add a significant investment on top of the bar's already high price. But if you can afford it, the results are mightily impressive and really help to expand the system's soundstage. With all its modern amenities, the HT-A7000's app is surprisingly limited. It is designed more as an add-on to the old-school on-screen interface that pops up on your TV. Since the bar doesn't have built-in microphones, you'll also have to add a smart speaker to access digital assistants like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. It's clear that Sony's focus here is squarely on home theater applications over smarts, but the upshot is premium performance and many ways to play.Sony will release a new flagship soundbar, the Bar 9, later this year to replace the HT-A7000. The Bar 9 has a more compact design and two additional speaker drivers built-in, but its launch price is about $400 more than what the HT-A7000 currently sells for. For now, we think the HT-A7000 remains the better value of the two.  How we test Dolby Atmos soundbarsWe evaluate several key factors through hands-on testing when choosing the best Dolby Atmos soundbars.Ryan Waniata/InsiderWe tested for various factors to find the best Dolby Atmos soundbars, including general sound performance, virtual surround and spatial audio immersion, format support, connection options, smart features, and general value. We also evaluate usability factors like ease of setup, size (does the bar block your TV screen?), and aesthetics. The best Dolby Atmos soundbars should look stylish and modern without calling undue attention. For instance, a white soundbar might look great in the light of day but could be distracting when the lights go down for movie night.For Dolby Atmos bars, we explore a wide variety of content. We evaluate basics like dialogue clarity, as well as overhead immersion, bass, midrange, and treble registers, including how well the bar transitions between each. We also test Dolby Atmos content from various sources, including Blu-rays, streaming services, and Dolby Atmos demo discs, the latter of which help to isolate key strengths and weaknesses. We live with these bars for multiple days, playing all our media on them. We also listen to a wide selection of music genres and formats, including applicable sources like WiFi, Bluetooth, and, whenever possible, analog sources like turntables.What to look for in a Dolby Atmos soundbarSupport for DTS:X, a rival format similar to Atmos, is a nice bonus to look for when shopping for a soundbar.Ryan Waniata/InsiderMany factors make for a good Dolby Atmos soundbar, but few are more important than dedicated Dolby Atmos up-firing speaker drivers. While that may sound obvious, plenty of so-called Dolby Atmos soundbars can decode the format but don't include up-firing drivers. Without them, soundbars have difficulty delivering convincing 3D audio and overhead effects. With this in mind, we've only included models with true up-firing drivers in our guide to the best Dolby Atmos soundbars.However, it's not just the height element that provides good Dolby Atmos performance. Side-firing speakers and, whenever possible, separate rear satellite speakers help a soundbar deliver not only convincing Dolby Atmos immersion but also convincing surround sound for traditional film and TV soundtracks.You'll also want to pay attention to other factors, from support for competing 3D audio formats like DTS:X to conveniences like WiFi for high-resolution audio streaming.  Spotify Connect and Apple AirPlay 2 support are nice perks, too, as is a dedicated mobile app to adjust sound settings and controls.The best Dolby Atmos soundbars will include an HDMI ARC connection, while newer ones will have HDMI eARC, designed to provide improved bandwidth and efficiency for HDMI eARC-ready TVs (which include many of the best TVs released over the last few years). If you have multiple devices to connect to your TV, spare HDMI pass-through ports are handy, as are ports for legacy devices like optical and analog. If you're a gamer, you may want a soundbar that supports HDMI 2.1 with features like VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) and ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode).Finally, if smart home features are important to you, you'll want to look for a bar that offers built-in support for Amazon Alexa and/or Google Assistant via onboard microphones.Dolby Atmos soundbar FAQsSome Dolby Atmos soundbars include separate subwoofers and satellite speakers to provide a more convincing sense of surround sound.Ryan Waniata/InsiderWhat is Dolby Atmos?Dolby Atmos is a 3D sound format incorporating object-based audio mixing, ground-level surround sound channels, and height elements. When Dolby Atmos-supported content is played through a Dolby Atmos device, the resulting soundstage provides a sense of immersion and realism designed to mimic how we hear sound in real life, with effects coming from the front, side, rear, and overhead.In addition to height channels, Dolby Atmos mixes use "sound objects" that allow sound mixers to move singular effects like a buzzing insect or strafing jet in a three-dimensional plane. This type of sound mixing helps to create a more natural sense of movement and immersion than traditional surround sound techniques.Dolby Atmos devices and sources are designated with an additional number in their surround sound channel listing. So, instead of a 5.1-channel surround sound configuration, you might see 5.1.2 or 5.1.4-channel audio (and so on). In the examples provided, the ".2" or ".4" represent two and four dedicated Dolby Atmos height channels, respectively.Dolby Atmos is best represented in movie theaters, where dozens of speakers can be placed around and above the listener to reproduce sound objects across an expansive three-dimensional plane. Atmos speaker systems are more compact for home theaters, often incorporating two or four height speakers that can be mounted on a wall or ceiling. Meanwhile, Dolby Atmos soundbars generally use virtual height channels or up-firing speakers that bounce sound off your ceiling and back down. While less effective than ceiling-mounted speakers, up-firing drivers can still work well when properly utilized.For more information about Dolby Atmos, check out our complete "What is Dolby Atmos?" guide.Where can I find Dolby Atmos content?Dolby Atmos movies, TV shows, and music are available through various sources. Many of the best streaming services offer titles with Dolby Atmos mixes, including Netflix, Disney Plus, and Paramount Plus. Dolby Atmos is also a popular format on Blu-ray and 4K Blu-ray releases. Dolby Atmos music is available through platforms like Amazon Music Unlimited, Apple Music, and Tidal.What is DTS:X?DTS:X is a rival audio format that uses techniques similar to Dolby Atmos, such as object-based sound with height elements for three-dimensional immersion when listening to DTS:X-supported content. Unlike Dolby Atmos, DTS:X is largely confined to physical mediums, namely Blu-ray discs, and isn't supported by many streaming services.This may be changing, however, as Disney Plus launched DTS:X sound support on select Marvel Cinematic Universe and concert movies in May 2024. Disney is calling the update "IMAX signature sound by DTS." The format is still harder to find and may only be available for devices that support IMAX Enhanced content.For most applications, DTS:X is essentially tied to Blu-ray discs and is not nearly as widespread as Dolby Atmos.Are Dolby Atmos soundbars better than TV speakers?In a word, yes. While the increasing proliferation of multi-channel, multi-speaker sound systems in premium TVs has improved their performance, physics still plays a factor. Even the best 4K TVs use small speaker drivers to keep their screens thin (and prices down), while soundbars, especially well-engineered models, can utilize larger and more efficient speakers and acoustically superior cabinets. This results in better clarity, dimension, and power than TVs alone.Do I need a subwoofer?As noted above, physics is always an obstacle when reproducing powerful, high-quality sound from small speakers. This is most evident in the lower bass frequencies. Generally, the bigger the speaker, the better it can reproduce powerful and convincing bass that's also musical and agile enough to support high-quality music, movies, and TV sound.That's why many soundbars include a dedicated subwoofer. Even a smaller subwoofer cabinet can usually outdo a soundbar without a subwoofer, though some exceptions exist. Check out our guide to the best soundbars with subwoofers for our top recommendations. If you'd rather go without a subwoofer due to space or noise concerns but still want some cinematic punch, we recommend looking for a larger soundbar with its own dedicated woofers built in. The Sonos Arc and Sony HT-A7000 are both capable of reproducing convincing bass on their own. In addition, both options allow you to add a proprietary subwoofer later if needed.Read the original article on Business Insider

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