If you are looking for an immersive sound while watching movies or playing games on your TV, the built-in speakers of the TV simply don't cut it anymore. Adding a soundbar to your setup is one of the best ways to get an immersive experience. The experience doubles when the soundbar supports Dolby Atmos. These audio devices with Dolby Atmos ensure better quality audio from TV speakers for an immersive experience - like you're living the visuals and not just watching it.
However, the word 'affordable' tends to have a different meaning when we talk about soundbars with Dolby Atmos. A reasonable unit price starts at around $200-250 and goes upwards of $1,500, such as the Bang & Olufsen Beosound Stage.
In this post, we will focus on the ones which cost less than $500 and yet deliver a great experience. So, without further ado, let's get started. But before that,
By default, you'd usually use a 5.1 channel stereo system to create an immersive soundstage. All the units or satellites are generally placed around the main sitting area to deliver the surround sound effect.
However, this system has some limitations. For one, this setup not only needs more work but also requires plenty of space. Dolby Atmos tries to recreate this 3D audio immersive experience like a typical 5.1 or 7.1 channel setup digitally.
Usually, a soundbar packs a couple of front-facing speakers for clearer vocals (and dialogs) and a couple of upward-firing speakers to bounce the ceiling's sound. Simultaneously, some soundbars also pack left and right channels to give you a 360-degree sound. In a conventional setup, all these are achieved via dedicated speakers or channels.
A speaker or a soundbar attempts to decode the object-based Dolby Atmos audio to give you a wider and bigger soundstage, which would eventually mean an immersive sound experience.
The Soundcore from Anker is a 2.1 channel soundbar that prides itself on delivering loud and clear audio for its price. It bundles two midrange drivers, two tweeters, and two woofers, and all of these combine to give you a decent surround sound, which is punctuated by just the right amount of bass. That makes it perfect both for watching TV shows or for playing a bunch of casual games. Apart from Dolby Atmos, you will also find support for Dolby Vision.
It comes with several options to connect. You will find the standard HDMI connector at the back, followed by the humble 3.5mm audio jack, USB 3.0 port. What's more, it supports Bluetooth 5.0, and you can connect wirelessly to the soundbar either from your phone or tablet. What's more, the HDMI connector supports ARC.
The Infini Pro is good enough for small rooms to medium-sized rooms, thanks to the 60W woofer and tweeter. And the enveloping effect is convincing.
However, it's a little lacking when it comes to the upward-firing speakers, thus robbing you of the fully immersive 360-degree sound. That comes into the picture, especially if your house has a tall ceiling.
Other than that, you can take your pick from four sound modes—Music, Movie, Voice, and Surround.
Sony's HT-G700 soundbar brings three audio technologies in one soundbar. This soundbar brings Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and Sony's own Immersive AE to the table to simulate a surround sound experience. The latter allows you to mix audio to 7.1.2 or 5.1 audio. This soundbar has a peak power of 400W and can produce some decent 360-degree sound.
It has three channels to simulate 3D surround sound. However, it lacks a physical upward-firing driver. Instead, the dimension of height is achieved by virtual 3D solutions. And, this solution is less than impressive in real life. It leaves a lot to be desired.
When it comes to the connection front, the HT-G700 presents the usual flavors. There are two HDMI ports, a USB port, and a Toslink optical digital input. On top of that, you can also play audio wirelessly using the built-in Bluetooth connection. Furthermore, one of the HDMI supports eARC. The addition of eARC means you can experience lossless audio formats such as DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD.
Being an affordable option means you will lose out on some features. In this case, it's Wi-Fi, Apple AirPlay, and Chromecast. The absence of Wi-Fi means you can't stream songs directly through the soundbar. At the same time, it doesn't support Google Assistant or Alexa voice commands.
If you can extend your budget to around $600, you can check out the Sony HT-Z9F. It delivers clear and crisp dialogue and music along with immersive sound effects.
Another Sony product with Dolby Atmos support is the HT-X9000F. This is a full 2.1-channel soundbar and shares some great features with Sony's flagship soundbar—the HT-Z9F—mentioned above. Compared to the HT-G700, this one does a better job in simulating 360-degree surround sound. While the peak power of 300 watts is good enough for small to medium-sized rooms, the bass can be underwhelming.
Similar to the soundbar above, the HT-X9000F also simulates the Dolby Atmos experience via the Sony's new Vertical Surround Engine. It attempts to create a virtual vertical firing speaker to give you an enveloping effect, and thankfully, the effect is convincing.
Apart from the above, there are a couple of special modes—Cinema, Music, Game, News, and Sports, among others. The Sports mode and the News mode help deliver a clear voice, while the game mode emphasizes the sense of distance and motion through well-established points.
When it comes to the connection, the HT-X9000F has almost the same shortcomings as the HT-G700. There's no Wi-Fi or ethernet port, though you can connect wirelessly over Bluetooth. Apart from a single USB port, there is a duo of HDMI ports, out of which one supports HDMI ARC.
When it comes to affordable soundbars, the Vizio SB36512-F6 is perhaps one of the most popular ones out there for its immersive and large soundstage. Unlike the two soundbars above, this one has three forward-firing drivers and two vertical-firing drivers. This setup does its best to provide you with an impressive 360-degree surround sound, and that is synonymous with Dolby Atmos.
The front presence is considerably bigger, and so is the height presence, provided your house's ceiling isn't too high. If your media room is an average-sized room with standard height, the odds are that you will be impressed. Vocals are clear, and the subwoofer amps the bass just right.
Apart from supporting Dolby Atmos, the SB36512-F6 also supports other formats like Dolby Digital and DTS. However, it doesn't support DTS:X.
When it comes to connection, you will find HDMI options with ARC, USB, 3.5mm audio input, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Chromecast.
If you are looking for a soundbar that can plow through both movies and games, then you can't go wrong with the Samsung HW-Q70R. It has a big and wide soundstage and delivers the immersive experience you'd expect from a Dolby Atmos system. It's also a 3.1.2-channel speaker and has three forward-firing speakers, a pair of upward-firing speakers, and an 8-inch side-firing driver. And did we tell you that it also has support for DTS:X and pass-through 4K HDR video?
While the speakers at the center translate into crisp and clear voice and dialogue, the upward-firing speakers do their best to bounce the sound off from the ceiling. Again, the ceiling shouldn't be too high. Overall, the soundbar has a peak power of 330W.
Unlike the ones above, Samsung does away with the clichéd sound modes. Instead, it packs four modes—Standard, Game Pro, Surround, and Adaptive Sound. The latter does the magic and blends the music and the sound as per the content you are watching. Sadly, there's no dedicated mode for music. On the bright side, the system switches back to the Game Pro mode connected to a gaming console.
When it comes to connectivity, it bundles a single HDMI input. No HDMI eARC here. You will get support for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Last but not least, the Samsung HW-Q70R supports several lossless audio formats including AAC, WAV, and FLAC
Users browsing from the United Kingdom can also check out the new Sharp HT-SBW800.
You can build goodbye to flat soundstages with these soundbars and instead welcome object-based audio to the plate. So, which of the Dolby Atmos compatible movies will you watch first? How about a re-run of Our Planet or a peek into The Irishman?
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