Best Dolby Atmos soundbars of 2022

Credit: Revised/Jackson Ruckar

The system creates a clear and immersive experience for music as well as film and TV content.

Vizio Elevate wide left side

Credit: Revised/Jackson Ruckar

How we tested Dolby Atmos soundbars

The testers

The staff reviewed spent years evaluating soundbars — from simple 2.1-channel value models to the huskiest Dolby Atmos bars — to narrow down the choices and find the best soundbars for every buyer. Our soundbar tests are led by Review’s experienced team of home theater and technology experts, including Lee Neikirk, Nick Woodard and Ryan Waniata, and backed by a rigorous rubric of test data to ensure exactness.

The tests

For years, Reviewed has been listening, loving, and discussing standalone soundbars, soundbar/sub combos, and a few boxed home theater products to find the best soundbars you can buy.

Testing primarily involves using them like any consumer, using each bar as an audio substitute for a TV (via an HDMI ARC or optical connection), testing its streaming and Bluetooth functions, and analyzing its sound modes, voice amplification modes and its individual modes. proprietary features.

We also perform back-to-back analysis of sources such as Netflix/Blu-ray movies, surround sound and Dolby Atmos demo discs to ensure accurate height speakers and object-based 3D sound mixes, Spotify via Bluetooth and /or Wi-Fi. , and occasionally, 3.5mm auxiliary and USB audio sources.

Although the best soundbars all have different combinations of external speakers, tweeters, woofers, and subwoofers, audio quality was generally respectable in most cases, regardless of genre and source. Performance features like surround sound speakers and, of course, the ability of Dolby Atmos/DTS:X height speakers to create an effective 3D sound dome top our list, as do factors like than user-friendliness and above all value.

Other factors that set soundbars apart in similar price ranges include setup and operating pain points, design aesthetics, and overall responsiveness, where everyday rubber meets the road, so to speak.

What to know about buying Dolby Atmos soundbars

In short, the purpose of a Dolby Atmos soundbar is either to replace a home theater speaker system with something less obtrusive, or, more simply, to replace your TV’s built-in speakers with something which takes advantage of today’s 3D audio formats. Dolby Atmos (and DTS:X) soundbars are designed to deliver a more immersive and cinematic audio experience, by adding height channels that bounce sound off your ceiling to create a vertical sonic element along the horizontal . Their efficiency and ease of integration into an average home are extremely important factors.

Soundbars aren’t your only option for improving your living room/home theater sound, but they are by far the most affordable and convenient. If you don’t have the ability to build a dedicated home theater room, or just don’t want to shell out the considerable funds needed to install a complete surround system with a receiver and speakers mounted in your home, a Dolby Atmos Soundbar is a way to dramatically improve your audio experience.

What determines a Dolby Atmos/DTS:X or Surround soundbar?

Soundbars that support true surround sound may offer separate “satellite” speakers that can be placed behind you in a multi-channel setup. There are also bars that offer “virtual surround” that use digital processing and acoustic trickery to make it sound like there are speakers all around the room, but, usually, the more speakers that “surround” you, the better the effect. In some cases, such as with bars from Sonos, Sony and Bose, satellite surround speakers can even be added later for an additional cost.

The soundbars on this list support 3D audio formats such as Dolby Atmos and the less common DTS:X to go one step further, usually adding up-firing speakers in the bar and potentially in the surround speakers (2 or 4), which can cause the sound to bounce. the ceiling so that it seems to come from above. The goal? Immerse yourself in a hemispherical sound globe.

Although they only reach their full potential when fed with content mixed in 3D audio formats such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, these soundbars deliver the most immersive sound field, bringing you even closer to what you will experience in a high quality cinema. It’s also important to note that some soundbars may be Dolby Atmos or DTS:X compatible, without offering up-firing or surround speakers, which means 3D audio is virtualized with digital signal processing or even a waveguide technology with varying degrees of efficiency. Again, dedicated speakers for each audio channel provide the best experience

Either way, you’ll pay a premium for this technology, and if you want the best experience, you’ll likely have more speakers to spread around your TV room, so those tradeoffs should be considered before you do your choice. Those who don’t want to deal with separate surround speakers may be better off with single-bar solutions such as the Sony HT-A7000 or Sonos Arc (although, again, you can add surround speakers to those). later bars for a fee).

HDMI ARC and HDMI eARC connection explained

HDMI ARC and HDMI eARC are the soundbar’s preferred connection options, not only because these connections allow newer televisions (circa 2017 and newer) to pass advanced audio formats like Dolby Atmos, but also because they usually allow you to control the power and volume of the soundbar. with your television remote control, without having to program said remote control. (To do this, you may need to enable HDMI CEC in your TV settings.)

The optical audio connection that also comes standard on virtually all soundbars can carry 2.1 and 5.1 channel surround sound, but that’s where it ends. For more advanced soundbars with Dolby Atmos (which typically includes up-firing speakers), you’ll need to use HDMI ARC or eARC to pass those high-bandwidth formats.

Almost all modern Dolby Atmos soundbars have an HDMI eARC connection rather than HDMI ARC. As noted in our HDMI ARC and eARC guide, eARC stands for “Enhanced Audio Return Channel” and is designed to deliver high quality uncompressed audio from your TV (including the highest quality Dolby Atmos) as well as to resolve any synchronization issues between the video on the screen and the audio from the soundbar. As HDMI eARC becomes more and more common, it’s important to note its most important functions: allowing transmission of high-resolution audio from any device plugged into your TV, as well as fixing any synchronization issues. that may occur between the soundbar and TV.

One last note. As alluded to above, Dolby Atmos comes in two main flavors, one of which is higher bandwidth and as such higher quality. For more on how it works (and what it means for your system), check out our Dolby Atmos guide. Otherwise, if you want the best audio quality possible (including the best possible Dolby Atmos), you’ll want to look for soundbars with decoding for the highest quality formats like Dolby TrueHD and, for DTS content, DTS- HD Master Audio (the latter is only available via physical media).

What to look for in a soundbar

The main things to look for when buying a soundbar are the price, sound outputand connectivity, the latter two usually being directly related to the former. If you don’t want to shell out the extra money for Dolby Atmos, satellite surround speakers and/or a huge range of decoding/pass-thru options for advanced or lossless audio modes, you can check out our list. versatile from the best soundbars for every budget to other options.

Tweeters refer to smaller speakers (drivers) assigned to the high, mid, and high (treble) frequencies of the audio spectrum. Woofers and subwoofers refer to the loudspeakers (drivers) assigned respectively to the mid and low/sub-bass frequencies of the audio spectrum.

What about a subwoofer?

Soundbars that offer what’s known as a 2.1-channel setup or higher usually include a separate subwoofer to handle low frequencies (which makes up the “.1” in the equation). Others may simply have a dedicated subwoofer “channel” with larger speakers built into the bar itself to handle low frequencies. This is, in almost all cases, not as effective as a separate subwoofer. A soundbar without a subwoofer or with built-in woofers, rather than a separate cabinet, may even be preferred in small apartments.

That said, if you’re looking for cinematic rumble, whether for movies, TV, or video games, you’ll seriously want to consider a soundbar that includes a separate subwoofer. This will dramatically improve action scenes and other dramatic moments, while helping the thinner bars fill in some of the gaps in the frequency spectrum created by their smaller drivers. There are a few cases where low-frequency sound is handled well without a subwoofer, such as in Sonos’ Arc soundbar or Sony’s HT-A7000, but for the most part you’ll need a subwoofer to add power. cinematographic.


Other Dolby Atmos soundbars we’ve tested

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