Soundbars are incredibly popular today — their sales exceed the rest of the home theater surround sound category combined — because they're affordable, easy to install, take up little space and can drastically improve the sound of your TV. More and more soundbars are also starting to support Dolby Atmos, which is one of the most sought-after features for anybody building a home theater system.
If you don't know, Dolby Atmos is an immersive audio technology. It creates virtual height and side channels that tricks your ears into thinking that sound is coming from all around you — left, right and above — instead of just right in front of you. It basically makes it sound like you're in a movie, rather than just watching it.
There are different levels to Dolby Atmos, of course. A soundbar that supports Dolby Atmos isn't likely to deliver the same immersive experience as a true surround sound system that also supports Dolby Atmos. The cool thing is that most soundbars that support Dolby Atmos are also upgradable. Meaning you can buy companion rear-channel speakers and a subwoofer down the road to enhance the Dolby Atmos experience.
Best All-Around Soundbar
Released in 2020, the Sonos Arc is the company's newest flagship soundbar — and its first that supports Dolby Atmos. You can think of it as a bigger, louder, smarter and overall better version of the Playbar. It's a full 5.0.2 sound system, with five horizontal surround channels (left, center, right, left surround and right surround) and two height channels. You can also pair two of the company’s smaller speakers (Play:1, One or One SL) with the Arc, designate them as rear channels, and create a full Sonos surround sound system. Additionally, Arc is a smart soundbar and you can integrate it with either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, and easily use your voice to adjust volume or stream music from your preferred streaming service.
Best Upgrade Soundbar
The Sennheiser Ambeo is a standalone 5.1.4 soundbar with 13 dedicated drivers — it's a true high-end surround sound system in one enclosure. What makes this 49-inch wide soundbar stand out is the sheer scale of its presentation. It plays cleanly down to 35Hz without a subwoofer, delivers a warm and detailed midrange that excels with both movies and music, and it actually reproduces Atmos-encoded films with a level of immersion that will convince you that there are height and surround channels in your room. It's expensive, for sure, but nothing else sounds like it.
Best Affordable Soundbar System
The Vizio SB36512-F6 is a minimalist-looking 5.1.2 soundbar system, complete with a wireless subwoofer and a pair of rear surrounds, that supports Dolby Atmos. It offers a number of connectivity options, including HDMI in/out (with ARC), coaxial, optical, USB (for .WAV playback) and a 3.5mm analog input jack. And even offers Chromecast built-in and Bluetooth for easy music streaming. If you're looking for an easy-to-install Dolby Atmos system, this is one of the most affordable options out there.
TCL Alto 9+
Best Affordable Soundbar
Released in early 2020, the Alto 9+ is one of the best and cheapest Dolby Atmos systems for people who don't want to deal with rear-channel speakers. It's a simple soundbar-and-wireless-subwoofer combo that still boasts convenient features, such as support for Chromecast and AirPlay 2, that make it great for streaming music and video. There are two main "catches" with the Alto 9+. First, it's specifically designed to work with a Roku smart TV, as you can use your Roku remote to control the soundbar. Second, it's not going to sound as immersive as a larger multi-channel sound system.
The Elevate is one of the most innovative new soundbars because its side-channel speakers actually rotate up when it's playing Dolby Atmos content and then rotate back down (to face you) when playing audio that's not approved for Atmos — it's freaking cool. In addition to that, the Elevate is just a beast of a soundbar. It houses 18 total speakers and comes with a wireless subwoofer. It's a complete 5.1.4 system. Vizio designed it to work perfectly with Vizio's new OLED TVs, but it can really be paired with any new-age TV.
JBL Bar 9.1
The JBL Bar 9.1 is one of the best soundbar systems that the company makes — and its first that supports Dolby Atmos. It's a soundbar-and-subwoofer combo that has a really unique design. Specifically, it has two tiny wireless speakers that attach to the each side of the soundbar to charge; when watching TV, you're meant to detach them and use them as wireless rear-channel speakers. It also packs a number of modern features, including built-in Bluetooth, support for Apple AirPlay 2 and Google Cast, and it'll work with pretty much any new TV thanks to its HDMI ARC or optical connections.
Klipsch Cinema 1200
In the middle of 2021, Klipsch released its first two soundbars that support Dolby Atmos: the Cinema 1200 and the Cinema 800. While the latter is simpler soundbar-and-subwoofer system, the Cinema is a true 5.1.4 surround sound system, complete with a wireless subwoofer and rear-channel speakers. The soundbar and subwoofer are also bigger and more powerful, making it the better option for people with bigger budgets and bigger TVs. It also comes packed with a lot of premium features, including built-in Wi-Fi (and support for Spotify Connect) and support for various voice assistants. It also supports 8K HDR passthrough with Dolby Vision so if you have a really nice TV, this system will work with it.
The Samsung HW-Q80R is a great option for people who want a relatively affordable and simple Dolby Atmos soundbar. It’s a 5.1 system consisting of a soundbar and a powerful wireless 8-inch subwoofer. It has a number of connectivity options, including HDMI ARC, HDMI (2x) and optical, and it supports the most popular HDR formats, including Dolby Vision and HDR10+. As far as music is concerned, the HW-Q80R sounds better than most. It supports FLAC, ALAC, WAV, and ALAC file formats, and it can actually upscale files up to UHQ 32-bit. Integrated Bluetooth and Wi-Fi make playing music from your smartphone or laptop super easy, too. Plain and simple, it’s one of the best Dolby Atmos systems that you can buy for under $1,000. (Additionally, Samsung sells rear channel speakers for the HW-Q80R, in case you want to upgrade down the road.)
Yamaha MusicCast YSP-5600BL
The Yamaha MusicCast YSP-5600BL is a standalone 7.1.2 soundbar that supports Dolby Atmos. It's able to deliver a surprisingly immersive sound all on its own, which is ideal for people who don't want to deal with a multiple speaker setup. It has built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, including support for Yamaha MusicCast, making it easy to stream music and integrate into an existing multi-room sound system. There are two main caveats with this Yamaha soundbar, however. You'll want to invest in a separate wireless subwoofer for much-needed bass. And the soundbar really needs to be wall-mounted for it to sound best.
Definitive Technology Studio 3D Mini
Released in late 2020, the Studio 3D Mini is a beautiful-yet-tiny soundbar system that comes with a wireless subwoofer — it's a great option for people with small TVs or don't want a system that takes up a lot of space. The Studio 3D Mini will work with most modern TVs thanks to its HDMI eARC connection, which supports both immersive sound (Dolby Atmos and DTS:X) and HDR technologies (like Dolby Vision and HDR10). It's compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri, so you can change the volume with your voice (if you have one of those smart speakers). And it supports AirPlay 2 for wireless music streaming.
The Monoprice SB-600 is a 5.1.2 system that costs less than $500, making it one of the most affordable surround sound systems you can buy. It has a host of connectivity options, including coaxial, optical, USB and a 3.5mm line-in jack. It also has built-in Bluetooth for streaming music when not watching TV. It's not the most powerful or most detailed soundbar system on this list, but it's definitely a worthy option for people on a budget.