Best Surround Sound Soundbars 2023 for Dolby Atmos
Best Dolby Atmos Soundbars 2023
With all streaming services supporting 4K and multiple HDR formats, which most new LED and OLED TVs feature, they are now focussing on improving the audio experience.
All streaming services support various forms of surround sound, 5.1 is the standard, but that’s old-fashioned nowadays.
What is Dolby Atmos?
The new go-to surround sound format is Dolby Atmos, which adds two additional speakers higher up, which allows the sounds to be interpreted as three-dimensional objects in a much more natural way.
Dolby Atmos typically has two front-height channels, but more advanced systems can add them to the rear as well.
Which streaming services support Dolby Atmos?
Currently, Netflix has either Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 or Dolby Atmos. Apple TV can do PCM Multichannel (up to 7.1), Dolby Digital 5.1, or Stereo.
Disney+ plans to take things to the next level by adding IMAX signature sound by DTS to select Marvel films and more in 2023. This is in addition to the IMAX Expanded Aspect Ratio they have already rolled out, which reduces the black bars in certain scenes.
The IMAX signature sound has a bit of a vague description stating it will enable an elevated end-to-end experience specially calibrated to provide fans at home with IMAX-quality pictures and sound.
However, the DTS that underpins this technology is well established. DTS has a wide range of technologies going up to DTS-HD Master Audio which supports a virtually unlimited number of surround sound channels and lossless 24-bit, 192 kHz audio.
However, with all these fancy sound formats, how do you enjoy them without investing in an overly complex (and expensive) multi-speaker and AV receiver?
Surround Sound Soundbars
Thankfully, there are a growing number of soundbars that support a lot of these advanced sound formats.
Different brands achieve this in different ways. Some companies have dedicated rear speakers and a subwoofer, while others contain all the speakers within the soundbar. Most of these will attempt to virtualise the surround in some way; it is not as effective as having seven (or more) speakers and subwoofer woofer dotted around your home, but it is much more convenient.
For the best performance, the price of these soundbars can get expensive, but they are a worthwhile investment if you have spent a lot of money on a large TV and want a quality home cinema experience.
The best surround sound soundbars with Dolby Atmos & more
James, at Mighty Gadget has compiled a list of the best surround sound soundbars on the market.
Sonos Beam Gen 2 – £425
The Beam Gen 2 is probably one of the best semi-affordable options that support Dolby Atmos. However, you will need to pair it up with rear speakers if you want to enjoy the surround sound experience properly.
Beam Gen 2 supports stereo PCM, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos (both the Digital+ and TrueHD versions), multichannel PCM and Dolby Multichannel PCM. Decoding for DTS digital surround will be later, but there will be no DTS:X.
The Beam has a single eARC port which allows it to receive the highest-quality audio formats.
Samsung HW-Q800B – 5.1.2 channel – £749
The Samsung HW-Q800B is not exactly cheap, but it is one of the most affordable options that claim to support full surround sound with Dolby Atmos. The speaker configuration is 5.1.2, and you have Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.
Similar to the Sonos Beam, there is a single eARC HDMI port.
There is also the Samsung HW-Q930B, priced at £949. This is the next model up. The main advantage is that you get two dedicated rear channels which have two up-firing and four side-firing speakers. This claims to have a 9.1.4-channel sound which should give you a sense of height from the rear channels.
LG Soundbar S80QR – 5.1.3 channel – £999
The LG S80QR has a bit of an odd surround sound design with a 5.1.3 channel arrangement. The soundbar sits at the front which has three upwards-firing channels. The central upwards channel is a world first for soundbars.
It is then paired with dedicated rear speakers, which have a dedicated receiver which then connects wirelessly to the soundbar.
This supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X to recreate the 3D effect of sound from above. It then has Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio, and more, covering almost any need. It is also certified for IMAX Enhanced, which LG states will provide deeper bass and more dynamic sound for edge-of-seat sonic thrills.
This then has two HDMI ports, one with eARC and one input for another device. Sadly, the input HDMI is not HDMI 2.1, so the soundbar does not support 4K at 120Hz on its input port.
Sony HT-A7000 – 7.1.2 channel – £1099
This is an all-in-one soundbar that claims to do 7.1.2. It has two up-firing speakers, two beam tweeters and five front speakers. There’s also a built-in dual subwoofer for added bass.
Sony calls their virtual surround 360 Spatial Sound, which is a similar technology to the spatial sound that’s used on the PS5.
You can upgrade this system for better performance. There is an optional SA-SW3 or SA-SW5 subwoofer. Then for the rear, you have the optional SA-RS3S or SA-RS5S wireless rear speakers.
Sound support includes Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, Dolby TrueHD, DTS HD Master Audio and many more.
There are two HDMI ports. Both are HDMI 2.1, with one having eARC. This means you can use the input port for a PS5, Xbox Series X, or gaming PC and enjoy 4K 120Hz.
Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar Plus – 7.1.4 – £1299
The Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar Plus is the only all-in-one 7.1.4 channel soundbar on the market. If you don’t want the inconvenience of multiple speakers and a subwoofer, this is the best way to enjoy surround sound formats.
With it being all in one, the surround sound is virtualised, but it is highly effective. You may not be able to pinpoint the exact location of the sound, but it is impressive how the sound seems to come at you from multiple directions.
You can also expand the system with any subwoofer using the RCA out or the dedicated wireless Sennheiser sub.
Audio compatibility includes Atmos, DTS:X and more.
This has three HDMI ports, but only the eARC port is HDMI 2.1; the other two are HDMI 2.0a, therefore not compatible with 4K 120Hz.
The Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar MAX is also worth considering. It has a superior speaker design with 13 speakers in total but only has one HDMI port which supports eARC. It has been out for a few years now, but it is their flagship product and is priced accordingly at £1800.
Samsung HW-Q990B Soundbar – 11.1.4 channel – £1299
The Samsung HW-Q990B is the same price as the Sennheiser AMBEO Plus, but it takes a different approach.
You have the soundbar, two dedicated rears and a subwoofer. There are a total of 22 speakers plus the wireless sub, which allows this to achieve an 11.1.4 channel sound. You’d struggle to do that with separates!
It is basically an upgraded HW-Q930B. The rear speakers are the same design, with two up-firing and four side-firing speakers. The soundbar then has the usual left, centre, and right speakers. Then two up-firing speakers. It then improves surround sound performance with two side-firing speakers and two angled speakers, which they claim to be able to direct the sound in from the side of your listening position.
Sound support includes Atmos, Dolby MAT, Dolby Digital Plus, and Dolby True HD.
You have three HDMI ports. One HDMI 2.1 eARC, but the other two lack support for 4K 120Hz and variable refresh rate signals.