Best Dolby Atmos soundbar for 2023
When it comes to soundbars, there are plenty of features you’ll want to look out for, but by far the most popular and requested by CNET readers is Dolby Atmos audio. As DTS:XDolby Atmos differs from standard surround sound by adding height to your music and movies for more dynamic, immersive sound and a better listening experience. The best Dolby Atmos soundbar options are capable of delivering exceptional audio quality that fills your room.
Dolby Atmos soundbars are now more affordable than ever, especially compared to a traditional Atmos receiver and surround speakers. These soundbars are also more compact and easier to install than a home theater systemthe trade-off being that they cannot provide the same level of performance.
THE Vizio M512a is my favorite Dolby Atmos soundbar for under $500 – it offers both dedicated height channels and surround speakers, and great sound to boot. Some price competitors – such as the Sonos Beam Gen 2 And Sony HT-G700 — can only offer simulated height speakers, while you can hear the difference than the dedicated height speakers of the Bose Smart Soundbar 600 TO DO.
While you can easily stop at the $500 mark, the more expensive models have their upsides: improved sound quality, music streaming, and voice assistants like Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. For example, the $900 Sonos Bow is an all-in-one soundbar that offers great sound, exquisite build quality and excellent multiroom capabilities.
If you want a soundbar with Dolby Atmos audio, read on. These are my favorite Atmos soundbar options from $400 and up, periodically updated as I review new products. Attention: Some of these products are currently out of stock, so check back to see if a specific model is back in stock.
The Vizio M512a improves on its predecessor in almost every way: it looks better, it sounds better, and it’s easier to use. While it retains Bluetooth capability, it loses the ability to stream over Wi-Fi. If you’re looking for the most cost-effective way to add Dolby Atmos to your TV, this is the one.
Read our Vizio M512a-H6 review.
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The Polk Signa S4 is the cheapest soundbar with Dolby Atmos on board, but it doesn’t sacrifice performance to bring that price down. It’s a 3.1.2 channel soundbar with a host of useful sound modes and Bluetooth streaming. The wireless soundbar and dedicated heights help it deliver Atmos soundtracks, and it sounds great with music, too.
Read our Polk Signa S4 review.
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If you like a bit of “high tech” in your tech, check out the Vizio Elevate. It’s a 5.1.4 soundbar system that uses motorized drivers to switch between Atmos and normal surround sound. It’s not just a gimmick – it sounds great too! Plus, the Elevate includes everything you’d expect from a modern soundbar, including multiple HDMI inputs and Wi-Fi music streaming.
Read our Vizio Elevate P514A-H6 review.
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Many companies have tried to create a compact, affordable soundbar that can also play Atmos, but arguably only one company has succeeded so far. The Bose Smart Soundbar 600 soundbar offers dedicated overhead speakers in a compact soundbar, and its sound quality is top-notch. The speaker also adds multiroom music and the Alexa voice assistant.
Read our Bose 600 smart soundbar review.
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If you want the best Dolby Atmos sound from a single bar but are reluctant to pay $1,000 or more, the Sonos Arc is for you. This soundbar is a little weird, as you’ll need a 2019 or newer 4K TV to get the most out of it, and yet it still performs better than most. The Arc also offers a bunch of great features, including a choice of voice assistant and Sonos’ excellent streaming architecture.
Read our Sonos Arc review.
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Want the ultimate Atmos audio home theater sound system experience with just one box? It might be a lot more than the Sony, but the Sennheiser Ambeo Max standalone soundbar delivers the best immersive sound we’ve ever heard. It includes both Google Chromecast built-in and Bluetooth for streaming connectivity. The Ambeo is able to sound full without a subwoofer, which should be particularly appealing to apartment dwellers.
Read our Sennheiser Ambeo soundbar review.
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how i test
At CNET, I test audio gear ranging from compact soundbars to surround sound speaker systems, but regardless of the device, my methodology is largely the same. I always compare products with one or more reference devices that offer the best performance at a similar price.
When it comes to soundbars, I want to see how well a system works with music as well as movies, since most people will want to do both. I watch from a handful of test scenes from 4K Blu-ray or streamed from a 4K streaming service (Vudu, for example) and evaluate things like bass performance and clarity of dialogues. I also use a number of test music tracks and evaluate any streaming features such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. It’s the systems that can work well with both types of entertainment that inevitably score the best.
Other soundbars I’ve tested
I tested the following soundbars in the CNET Audio Lab against similarly priced models. Each if these soundbars are worthy in their own way, but aren’t quite as recommendable as our top picks.
- Sonos Beam Gen 2 ($499) The Beam may only offer simulated speakers, but it’s the best simulated Atmos I’ve ever heard. The Sonos Beam offers plenty of features too, while the Bose Soundbar 600 and Vizio M512a-H6 offer even better Atmos performance for the same price. Read CNET’s review of the Sonos Beam Gen 2.
- Bose 900 Smart Soundbar ($899): This is a great Bose soundbar, and it pairs well with the CalmComfort headphones for nighttime listening, but it’s just not as robust as the Sonos Bow. Read CNET’s review of the Bose 600 smart soundbar
- LG QP5 Lightning ($599): Very cute and minimalistic system that provides true Dolby Atmos from two boxes. However, I found its performance to be no match for the $500-$600 asking price with surprisingly overly bright sound. Read GameSpot’s first take.
- Panorama Bowers & Wilkins 3 ($999): An excellent soundbar with HDMI connectivity and multiroom music streaming. Although the music is where this soundbar shines, the system costs more than the Arc and the peripherals are expensive.
- Sennheiser Ambeo Plus ($1,500): A scaled-down version of the $2,500 Sennheiser Ambeo Max that offers many of the same features, including Chromecast built-in and voice assistance. I found the sound to be enveloping and the music to be more nuanced than some of the cheaper bars. Still, at its $1,500 retail price, it’s not quite $600 better than the Sonos Arc, and surround sound isn’t as compelling as the Max. Read CNET’s first take of the Sennheiser Ambeo Plus.
Check out my soundbar buying guide to learn more about features and things to consider when looking for a new system.
Do I need HDMI 2.1 to listen to Atmos?
Dolby Atmos can be played over a normal HDMI ARC connection with streaming services that use the Dolby Digital Plus codec, and when it works, it’s brilliant. If you want the full Dolby Atmos experience, you may need to upgrade to a new TV with an HDMI 2.1 port, as it will allow higher quality Atmos streams from Blu-ray players and game consoles.
Is a Dolby Atmos soundbar worth paying extra for?
If you’re a gamer or love watching the latest blockbusters, then yes, a Dolby Atmos soundbar is worth paying the extra for. But you need to make sure you have a TV with an HDMI ARC port (for Dolby Digital Plus) and a Dolby Atmos compatible source such as Xbox Series X or the latest Roku streamers.
Which connection is best for a Dolby Atmos soundbar?
The short answer is HDMI. The long answer is that there are two ways to fit Atmos into one of these speakers – the first, and best, is to have a TV with an eARC (HDMI 2.1) port. This port is a feature of many new TVs and allows Atmos information to be transmitted from your TV (via smart apps or other connected device) to an external speaker. Normal HDMI ARC will work for some streaming services that offer Dolby Atmos.
On the other hand, if you have an older TV and an Atmos source such as a Blu-ray player, you’ll need a soundbar with multiple HDMI ports. The Vizio M512a lets you connect external devices directly via HDMI.
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