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.
Vizio’s SB36512-F6 5.1 soundbar was originally featured in this article, but I’ve removed it because too many customers had issues with firmware updates and HDMI-ARC compatibility.
Don't expect to buy an Atmos soundbar without facing some issues or challenges: It’s new technology.
Good Price: $250 | Great Deal: $200
Anker's budget-Atmos soundbar is easy to set up and plays loudly without distortion, according to several Amazon customers. Some reviewers were disappointed by this soundbar's vertical surround sound effects; others complained that the soundbar has a 2-3 second audio delay while switching inputs.
DTS Virtual:X - An Atmos Alternative
Most Atmos-enabled soundbars sell for $1,000 or more. 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.