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The best Dolby Atmos soundbar for 2021

Cinematic audio is available on TV-friendly speakers, but having a Dolby logo doesn't guarantee great sound. Here are the Atmos soundbars we like best.

HDMI? Bluetooth? Wireless subwoofers? Of all of the features potentially available on a soundbar, one of the biggest is for Dolby Atmos audio. Like the competing DTS:X audio format, Atmos differs from traditional surround by adding the dimension of height to your movies and music.

The best Dolby Atmos soundbars used to cost an arm and a leg. These days, Dolby Atmos audio is much more affordable thanks to relatively inexpensive systems such as the Vizio SB36512-F6 ($489 at Amazon). Compared with a traditional Atmos receiver and surround sound system speakers, they're much more compact and easier to set up, though they don't provide quite the same level of performance.

The Vizio SB36512-F6 is the best Dolby Atmos soundbar for the money and a great place to start. But there are benefits to the more expensive models, such as improved sound quality and even voice assistants Alexa and Google Assistant onboard. For example, the $800 Sonos Arc is an all-in-one soundbar that offers exquisite build quality, great sound and excellent multiroom audio capabilities.

It's worth noting that there are plenty of simulated Dolby Atmos soundbars now on the market -- they can process Atmos and lack upfiring speakers -- but they can't properly express the height dimension. Even the best systems I've heard, such as the Sony HT-G700, are outperformed by even the Vizio when it comes to placing objects in three-dimensional space around you. There's no substitute for real physical speakers.

These are our favorite Atmos soundbar options from $300 and up, periodically updated as we review new products.

Read more: Best soundbar for 2021

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you want the full Atmos surround sound experience, then you can get an entire soundbar setup for less than the price of an Atmos receiver. This Vizio soundbar, the SB36512-F6, offers excellent movie sound and discreet design. The budget sound system is also the best value for money and CNET's Editors' Choice. While the Vizio SB36512-F6 is now end of life it is still available for sale.

Read our Vizio SB36512-F6 review.

 

Ty Pendlebury

If you want the best Dolby Atmos sound from a single bar, but balk at paying $1,000 or more, the Sonos Arc is for you. It's a bit quirky, as you'll need a 2019-onwards 4K TV to make the most of it, and yet it still performs better than most. The Arc offers a bunch of great features too, including a choice of voice assistant and Sonos' excellent streaming architecture.

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

If you like a bit of "high tech" in your tech then look to the Vizio Elevate. This is a 5.1.2  soundbar system which uses motorized drivers to switch between Atmos and normal surround modes. It's not just a gimmick, it also sounds good! The soundbar also includes everything you want from a modern soundbar including multiple HDMI inputs and Wi-Fi music streaming.

Read our Vizio Elevate P514A-H6 review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you have a bit more money to spend on high-resolution audio but want as few boxes as possible, then the Sony HT-ST5000 with true Dolby Atmos technology and a wireless subwoofer is a decent buy. While it has real height speakers It has some of the best virtual surround sound from a single bar that we've heard under $2,000. It also offers plenty of HDMI input options -- something cheaper bars lack.

Read our Sony HT-ST5000 review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Want the ultimate Atmos audio home theater experience with just a single box? It may be a grand more than the Sony but the Sennheiser Ambeo standalone soundbar offers the best immersive sound we've ever heard. Google Chromecast and Bluetooth connectivity are built in for a seamless experience. The Ambeo's lack of a subwoofer, while still sounding full, should be especially attractive to apartment dwellers.

Read our Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar review.

 

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