Upgrade your home entertainment experience with our pick of the best Dolby Atmos soundbars money can buy
Soundbars have become one of the biggest home entertainment success stories of our times, and the best Dolby Atmos soundbars are the pinnacle of what the industry has to offer.
Years of TV manufacturers prioritising picture quality and fancy slim designs over audio quality have seen people turn to soundbars, and even now that TV makers are taking sound seriously again, soundbars are still selling like hotcakes.
The fastest-growing feature in the soundbar world is Dolby Atmos support. This so-called “object-based” sound format creates a three-dimensional audio environment around the listener into which sound effects are placed, rather than sounds just being steered to different speakers as happens with regular sound formats.
While Dolby Atmos was initially designed for the film and, later, TV worlds, it’s also now made a significant move into music, with services such as Tidal and Amazon Music offering a fast-growing range of tracks and albums mixed in Dolby Atmos’s surround sound format.
With all this in mind, we’ve put together our choice of the best Dolby Atmos soundbars you can currently buy across a wide range of price points. Below the list of entries you’ll find a detailed buying guide arming you with all the information you’ll need to choose an Atmos soundbar.
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How we test the best Dolby Atmos soundbars
Dolby Atmos soundbars are tested in a very similar manner to how we test other soundbars but extra attention is paid to how they perform when fed material with a soundtrack that supports the popular object-based audio format.
This means that every aspect of the soundbar is analysed closely, from the materials used in its construction to the quality of audio it delivers at various volume levels. Measurements are taken to determine the size and weight of the soundbar before setting it up, after which we play a huge variety of content through the bar to evaluate its sonic capabilities.
We ensure that the content used during testing is eclectic enough to evaluate audio performance across the frequency spectrum and across a wide variety of genres. This sees us use everything from TV game shows, podcasts, and pop and rock playlists on Spotify to the latest Hollywood blockbusters.
We also make sure that we test every audio format a soundbar supports. For instance, if a soundbar supports Atmos and DTS:X over an HDMI connection, aptX over Bluetooth and AirPlay 2 over Wi-Fi, we’ll feed it audio from compatible sources to compare sound quality across each one of them.
A number of streaming services support Dolby Atmos, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+ and Disney Plus, and it’s these, plus 4K Blu-rays with Atmos soundtracks, that we use to assess a soundbar’s Atmos abilities. Because a central part of Atmos sound is the use of height channels, we try to ensure Atmos soundbars are tested in rooms with ceilings around 3m in height so that height effects have maximum impact.
Many Atmos soundbars also offer voice controls courtesy of a specific smart assistant, and these assistants are put through their paces using various basic and more complex commands. Muli-room and multi-speaker integration are not uncommon either, and we’ll always endeavour to check how easy it is to fit an Atmos soundbar into an existing setup during our testing process.
The best Dolby Atmos soundbars to buy in 2023
1. Samsung HW-Q990B: The best Dolby Atmos soundbar for films
Price when reviewed: £1,699 | Check price at John Lewis
Samsung’s HW-Q990B pushes the definition of a soundbar to its limit in a very good way. Instead of just a single bar, the Q990B package also includes a substantial wireless subwoofer and two wireless rear speakers.
The rear speakers carry three channels each: one regular forward-firing driver, one side-firing driver, and one driver firing upwards. These channels join centre, front left, front right, side left, side right, forward side left, forward side right and two up-firing drivers in the main soundbar to deliver a real 11.1.4 channel count that’s unmatched by any other soundbar brand.
This helps the Q990B create the most convincing Dolby Atmos sound stage we’ve heard from a soundbar. A full Dolby Atmos experience requires the creation of a three-dimensional hemisphere of sound around the listener’s seating position, so that you experience sound to your sides, behind you and above you as well as in front of you. The Q990B does this more seamlessly, powerfully and accurately than many separates systems we’ve heard, while simultaneously giving you the sort of convenience and compactness associated only a soundbar can provide.
Read our Samsung HW-Q990B review for more details
Key specs – Elements: Soundbar, two wireless rear speakers, wireless subwoofer; Channel configuration: 11.1.4; Stated power: 656W; Connections: 2 x HDMI inputs, 1 x HDMI output, optical digital audio input, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi; HDMI passthrough support: Dolby Vision, HDR10+, 4K at 60Hz, HDR10+; HDMI ARC/eARC support: eARC; Dimensions (WDH): Main bar – 1,232 x 138 x 70mm, Subwoofer – 220 x 410 x 413mm, Rears – 130 x 140 x 201mm each; Weight: Soundbar – 7.7kg, Subwoofer – 11.7kg, Rears – 3.4kg each
2. Devialet Dione: The Best Dolby Atmos soundbar for design
Price when reviewed: £2,000 | Check price at Selfridges
The single-bar Devialet Dione looks like no other soundbar we’ve ever seen. Its design serves a unique practical purpose too, helping the Dione serve up one of the most powerful, detailed, dynamic and uniquely flexible audio performances we’ve heard from a single-component soundbar.
At the heart of the Dione’s appeal – literally – is the ORB. This extraordinary sphere nestles within a beautifully designed valley in the soundbar’s centre and serves as the soundbar’s centre channel, with its unique design serving two important purposes. First, it enables the speaker to deliver a wider, more open centre channel sound than most regular rectangular, forward-facing-only centre drivers can. Second, the ORB can be rotated around so that the soundbar can deliver the same sound experience when used in a desktop or wall-hanging configuration.
It’s kind of genius really, especially as this truly unique design trick is backed up by outstandingly powerful, detailed, well-projected and bass-rich Dolby Atmos sound playback.
Read our Devialet Dione review for more details
Key specs – Elements: Soundbar; Channel configuration: 5.1.2; Stated power: 450W RMS; Connections: 1 x HDMI port, optical digital audio input, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi; HDMI passthrough support: N/A; HDMI ARC/eARC support: eARC; Dimensions (WDH): 1,200 x 165 x 77mm; Weight: 12kg
3. Creative Stage 360: Best budget Dolby Atmos soundbar
Price when reviewed: £200 | Check price at Amazon
It’s rare enough to find a soundbar as affordable as the Creative Stage 360 supporting Dolby Atmos playback. It’s even rarer to find such affordable soundbars capable of actually delivering a satisfying Dolby Atmos experience. The Creative Stage 360, though, is very much the exception that proves the rule.
It ships with a substantial subwoofer alongside the relatively compact main soundbar and supports Atmos from its 2.1-channel setup using Virtual Atmos processing. The resulting audio experience is no match for the other options on this list but is very impressive given the low cost of entry. The bar delivers startling amounts of volume and dispersion for the money without suffering distortion or harshness, while the subwoofer chips in heavier bass – again without distortion – than most similarly priced soundbars can muster.
There are a couple of niggles, most notably the lack of any analogue inputs and how long it takes to boot up when you turn it on. These are tiny gripes, though, against all the good stuff it does for so little money.
Read our Creative Stage 360 review for more details
Key specs – Elements: Soundbar, subwoofer; Channel configuration: 2.1 (with Virtual Atmos processing); Stated power: 120W RMS; Connections: 2 x HDMI inputs, 1 x HDMI output, optical digital audio input, Bluetooth; HDMI passthrough support: 4K/60; HDMI ARC/eARC support: ARC; Dimensions (WDH): Soundbar – 565 x 75 x 88mm, Subwoofer – 115 x 422 x 250mm; Weight: N/A
4. Harman Kardon Citation Multibeam 1100: Best standalone all-rounder
Price when reviewed: £800 | Check price at Harman Kardon
Some soundbars are capable of being exceptional hi-fis as well as thumping movie machines, and the Harman Kardon Citation Multibeam 1100 is a particularly fine example of this.
With film soundtracks, its impressive combination of 630W of power, 11 separate drivers and proprietary Multibeam technology for firing beams of sound all around your living space produces a much more detailed and immersive sound stage than you hear from the vast majority of its single-bar rivals. Its twin up-firing drivers ensure there’s an effective sense of height to go with the well-staged horizontal soundstage elements too, while bass is so smooth, deep, and crackle-free that you sometimes find yourself looking around for a subwoofer that isn’t there.
Switching to music, the Multibeam 1100 brilliantly rebalances and reorganises its complex configuration into something that handles tunes of all sorts beautifully. Vocals are immaculately staged, bass sounds tight and well timed, trebles are clean and involving without becoming harsh or shrill, and the mid-range sounds open, warm and inviting.
Throw in a premium high-resolution, richly coloured LED touchscreen control/display and an elegantly understated design, and the Multibeam 1100’s price starts to look quite the bargain.
Read our full Harman Kardon Citation Multibeam 1100 review for more details
Key specs – Elements: Soundbar only (though optional rears and subwoofer can be added); Channel configuration: Multibeam surround effect, with two up-firing drivers included; Stated power: 630W RMS; Connections: 1 x HDMI input, 1 x HDMI output, optical digital audio input, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi; HDMI passthrough support: 4K/60, Dolby Vision, HDR10+; HDMI ARC/eARC support: eARC; Dimensions (WDH): 1,150 x 65 x 130mm; Weight: 4.6kg
5. Sonos Beam (Gen 2): Best Dolby Atmos soundbar for multiroom setups
Price when reviewed: £449 | Check price at Amazon
The second-gen Beam adds Dolby Atmos support to the already winning proposition of its predecessor with surprisingly great results. Why do we say surprising? Because it doesn’t actually add any speakers or drivers to the previous version, despite that version not supporting Dolby Atmos.
Its Atmos delivery is of the “virtual” variety and the Beam 2’s performance in this regard sees it stand out from the crowd. The Beam delivers five “arrays” of sound, covering the front left/right soundstage, the rear left/right soundstage, height channels and the centre channel. All of which you feel you can hear when playing Dolby Atmos movies or music tracks.
Impressive sound quality is only part of the Beam 2’s charms – it’s pretty as a picture and can be added effortlessly to one of Sonos’s legendary wider multiroom music systems. The ease with which Sonos speakers talk to each other also means you can easily turn the Beam Gen 2 into a true surround-sound system by adding two Sonos Ones as rear speakers. Provided you can live with the system’s limited physical connectivity, the Beam Gen 2 can’t be beaten for the price.
Read our Sonos Beam 2 review for more details
Key specs – Elements: Soundbar only (though optional rears can be added); Channel configuration: One centre tweeter with four elliptical mid-woofers; Stated power: N/A; Connections: 1 x HDMI input, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, HDMI to optical digital audio adaptor included; HDMI passthrough support: N/A; HDMI ARC/eARC support: eARC; Dimensions (WDH): 651 x 68 x 100mm; Weight: 2.88kg
How to choose the best Dolby Atmos soundbar for you
While it’s great news that there’s a huge range of Atmos soundbar options out there vying for your attention, it also makes tracking down your ideal option more difficult. So here are a few tips on what to look for and think about when trying to home in on the Atmos soundbar that suits your specific needs the best.
How much should you spend?
Soundbars come in all shapes and sizes and can cost anywhere from £30 to thousands of pounds. Options that support Dolby Atmos are typically more expensive than those that don’t, however, so you’re looking at a minimum spend of around £200. Bear in mind while settling on a budget that with soundbars (as with most things), spending more usually gets you better quality.
How big is your TV?
If you’ve only got a fairly small TV it probably won’t make sense to partner it with a really big soundbar. Partly because it won’t look right, partly because it may raise issues with fitting the soundbar under the screen (especially if you need to place it between a pair of TV feet), and partly because it may be too powerful for your potentially relatively small living room. Pick a Dolby Atmos soundbar that matches your TV; most work best with 55in sets.
READ NEXT: The best TVs to buy for every budget
How big is your room?
Connected to the previous point, if your living room is particularly small, a very large and powerful soundbar may be overwhelming, or you’ll find yourself only using a small fraction of its capabilities, meaning you won’t be getting good value for money. On the other hand, if you’ve got a big living room you don’t want a small soundbar that doesn’t have the power to project its sound far enough to fill the space.
Should you buy an all-in-one Atmos soundbar or a modular system?
How much space you have will also likely dictate whether you go for an all-in-one Atmos soundbar that crams multiple audio channels into one structure or a system that incorporates a discrete subwoofer and rear speakers. The latter option results in a more immersive experience and convincing sense of sonic envelopment, but typically costs more and means you’ll need to find room for the additional speakers.
READ NEXT: Our favourite subwoofers
What inputs do you need?
Write a list of what sources you want your soundbar to work with, and start thinking about what this means for the connections your soundbar needs. Soundbar connection options include HDMI ports, optical digital audio inputs, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi networks, but not all soundbars support all of these options. So make sure any soundbar you buy carries the specific connections you need for your sources.
Things are complicated on the HDMI front by two things: HDMI passthrough and ARC. If you want to loop an HDMI-based source through a soundbar, so that it strips the sound out for playback before passing the video on to your TV, you’ll need at least one HDMI input and one HDMI output. Some premium soundbars offer two HDMI inputs so you can loop two devices through them.
Note, too, that even if a soundbar carries an HDMI loop through, it may not support all the video features you want. For instance, some soundbar HDMI passthroughs won’t support Dolby Vision HDR or HDR10+ HDR, while most won’t support the 4K/120Hz feeds now output by the latest games consoles and premium PCs.
This is where ARC (Audio Return Channel) support can be helpful. This lets you pass sound from your TV to your soundbar using the TV’s ARC-capable HDMI port (assuming it has one). This way you can connect all your sources directly to your TV, and have the sound that’s output to your soundbar change depending on which TV input you’re watching.
While ARC can support output of Dolby Atmos (and the rival DTS:X) sound formats, it can only deliver these formats in a compressed form. Your TV’s and soundbar’s HDMIs will both need to support the newer, higher bandwidth eARC form of ARC technology to pass lossless Dolby Atmos soundtracks to the soundbar.
Your TV will also need to actually support Dolby Atmos and DTS:X passthrough as designated features for them to pass through one or both of these formats to your soundbar correctly via ARC.
One last thing to note about ARC is that it can cause audio delay issues with some setups so that voices don’t sync up with lip movements in the picture. As a result, if you’re thinking of using the ARC system it’s not a bad idea to think about getting a soundbar with at least a single HDMI passthrough as a backup, or else make sure that your TV or video sources have options for adjusting audio delay.