There’s one part of the home theater equation you might be overlooking… and that’s sound. Combine a beautiful picture with a thundering sound system, and you’ll be that much closer to bringing the movie theater experience home.
Dolby Atmos is one of the best surround sound technologies currently on the market. In this article, we highlight a few of the better soundbars you should look into if you want to bring the power of Dolby Atmos home.
What Is Dolby Atmos?
Dolby has always been a big name in technology at the movie theatre and for home audio/visual enthusiasts. The company is leading the way in HDR TV formats with Dolby Vision. And Dolby Atmos is a big step up in sound technology.
Previously, with a surround sound system, audio was assigned to a specific channel. But Dolby Atmos throws that confinement out the window. All of the different sounds exist as independent objects, meaning the technology can direct audio more precisely in a room.
A big part of the 360-degree sound experience is the upward-firing speakers. Instead of the usual 2.1, 5.1, or 7.1 designation, any soundbar with Atmos will be indicated with a third number, for example, 7.1.2. That last digit lets you know how many speakers point up.
The second part of the equation is finding Dolby Atmos-supported video content and hardware, which both continue to grow. You can find Atmos support in many 4K Blu-Ray players, the Microsoft Xbox One, and some high-end OLED televisions.
The technology is also supported by a number of streaming devices like the Amazon Fire TV Cube and Apple TV 4K, and there’s a growing amount of content available with a Dolby Atmos soundtrack.
A 5.1.2 system, the LG SK10Y Soundbar features hardware design and advanced signal processing technology from high-end manufacturer Meridian Audio. Along with Dolby Atmos, the soundbar can play back lossless stereo audio at up to 24-bit, 192kHz.
Compatible with Google’s Chromecast (see our Chromecast setup guide), you can quickly and easily play audio from apps like Pandora, Spotify, and Deezer on the sound system. Anyone with a device featuring Google Assistant—like the Google Home smart speaker—can also play music, skip tracks, and adjust the sound bar’s volume with a simple voice command.
To take the sound to even better heights, you can also purchase an optional kit that features wireless rear speakers.
Sporting 11 built-in speakers, the Samsung HW-K850 is a 3.1.2 soundbar with 350 total watts of power. Home theater fans can select from six different sound modes for different types of content. Special technology helps to upconvert all audio content to take advantage of the full sound system, including the upward speakers.
Along with connecting wirelessly to the subwoofer, you can optionally connect additional rear wireless speakers for a better experience. There is also built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity to play music from online services or a smartphone.
The Sony ST-5000 is a 7.1.2 soundbar offering a big kick with 800 watts of power. Along with full Dolby Atmos thanks to the two upward-firing speakers, the soundbar also supports the competing DTS:X standard and can play back high-resolution compatible audio.
You’ll have no problem expanding a home theater in the future as the soundbar sports three HDCP HDMI 2.2 inputs and an HDMI output. There is also an optical SPDIF, analog AUX, and USB port.
Sony also offers a number of different enhancements to improve sound quality. A ClearAudio+ mode will automatically adjust sound settings to better suit what you’re listening to. Along with being able to control the soundbar via Google Assistant, you can stream music from another device via Bluetooth or from Spotify and others using Wi-Fi.
There’s no need to worry about a subwoofer with the Yamaha YSP-5600 as it provides 7.1.2 channel sound from a single soundbar. Compatible with both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, the sound beam directed at the ceiling can be adjusted manually or automatically to match your listening position in the room. The included microphone can also optimize the sound for the entire room depending on the reflection locations.
The full 7.1.2 sound experience is one of four different choices you can select from. The others are 5.1 surround mode, a high-quality 2-channel stereo offering, and a single-channel target option.
Using the MusicCast app, users can stream music to the YSP-5600 via Wi-Fi. Anyone with an Amazon Alexa-compatible device, such as the touchscreen-enabled Echo Show (see our comparison of Amazon Echo devices), can control music on the soundbar.
You can also connect using Bluetooth, Apple AirPlay, or Spotify Connect.
The Pioneer Surround Elite FS-EB70 is a 3.1.2 soundbar featuring a separate AV center and wireless subwoofer. All four HDMI inputs are located on the AV center. That allows users to hide away both cables and components while a single power wire feeds to the soundbar itself. Since the soundbar is just 2-inches wide, it can easily be mounted on a wall.
Offering both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, special MCAAC technology measures the acoustic characteristics of your home theater to better calibrate the sound output. The FS-EB70 also makes sure that any effects reflected from the ceiling by the upward-pointing speakers are as clear as possible.
There are a number of other ways to connect to the soundbar. Along with built-in Chromecast, users can stream music from Spotify, Pandora, and other sources. As a nice touch, instead of having to keep track of a remote, you can control the FS-EB70 from anywhere in Wi-Fi range with a smartphone app.
Enjoy the 360-Degree Soundscape
Any one of these Dolby Atmos soundbars can help bring a new and immersive level of sound to your home theater. So why not buy one of these sound bars today, and enjoy the 360-degree soundscape.
And if you’re looking to turn up the sound quality without spending a bundle, these are some of the best soundbars for audiophiles on a budget.