The Best Cheap Dolby Atmos Soundbars of 2019
Dolby Atmos is an audio-mixing technology that allows sound designers to "place" a sound anywhere in a room, including overhead.
An Atmos-enabled soundbar can simulate a full surround-sound system by using audio processing and acoustic reflections (instead of in-ceiling speakers). But, to get the full impact of these "360-degree" sound effects, you'll need content that is encoded with a Dolby Atmos soundtrack.
Blu-ray owners have access the to the largest library of Dolby Atmos-mixed soundtracks. Unfortunately, there aren't many Atmos-mixed movies and TV shows available to stream on Netflix or Amazon Prime. (Yet.)
Just because a soundbar is capable of playing Dolby Atmos soundtracks doesn't mean that it sounds better than a non-Atmos soundbar. Atmos is a new technology that still commands a premium price. On the other hand, you can score a well-reviewed soundbar for around $100.
Here are the best-reviewed Dolby Atmos-enabled soundbars that have sold for $500 or less:
Atmos soundbars disappoint or frustrate customers for many reasons:
Many smart TVs are incapable of sending an Atmos signal to the soundbar;
Overhead sound effects only work well on certain types of ceilings;
Some soundbars have compatibility issues with popular devices like the Apple TV; and
Netflix's most expensive streaming plan is the only one capable of outputting Atmos soundtracks.
Don't expect to buy an Atmos soundbar without facing some issues or challenges: It’s new technology.
Good Price: $430 | Great Deal: $305
Vizio's entry-level Atmos soundbar delivers rich and immersive sound, good bass and clear dialogue, according to reviewers on Amazon and Best Buy. That said, plenty of happy customers offer caveats about compatibility issues and quirks with HDMI-ARC, Chromecast and Xbox One. Be ready to tinker and adjust.
DTS Virtual:X - An Atmos Alternative
Most Atmos-enabled soundbars sell for $1,000 or more. Aside from Vizio's SB36512-F6 soundbar (above), the other Atmos soundbars selling for less than $500 are models with terrible reviews being sold for closeout prices. That said, there is an alternative:
DTS Virtual:X is a type of audio processing that, like Dolby Atmos, aims to create three-dimensional sound.
Yamaha's well-reviewed YAS-207BL soundbar supports Virtual:X (it requires a firmware update). The soundbar often sells for between $200 and $300. Amazon customers say that Yamaha’s soundbar is great at higher volumes, but doesn't sound nearly as good at lower volumes.