Is A Dolby Atmos soundbar worth it? That is the million-dollar question that we are looking at today. It is kind of crazy to think that I am old enough to remember a time when Dolby Stereo was the big thing. Well, now Dolby Atmos is the thing that people are talking about and it is something that more and more soundbars are looking to incorporate and we are having a look at what this is and if it is worth it.
Cinema Sound With Dolby Atmos
Look, if you want a cheaper soundbar like you would find in our Top 6 Best Soundbars for turntable Under 300 Bucks worth your money in 2021, you are not going to get Dolby Atmos with a soundbar like that. The whole idea of what Dolby Atmos is offering is to bring the cinema experience home when it comes to your audio.
Modern TVs are awesome and with something epic like this SAMSUNG 85-Inch Class Crystal UHD AU8000 Series – 4K UHD HDR Smart TV which is massive. It is only natural you would want an amazing sound to go along with that incredible image. I have said it a million times, but modern TVs are greatly lacking in the sound department and there is not a TV on this Earth that can claim to offer cinema quality sound with its speakers. If you want sound close to what you get in a modern theatre, you need Dolby Atmos!
How Does Dolby Atmos Work?
Many average soundbars these days offer some kind of combination of a left and right speaker with a center one or a subwoofer.
Take a look at this Hisense HS214 Soundbar 2.1 With Built in SubWoofer | Less than $100 video and you can see what a basic 2.1 soundbar setup is all about. The next step up from something like this would be a 5.1 system. Here you get your left and right speakers, a center speaker, two rear speakers, and a subwoofer.
This Samsung HW-Q67CT 38.6″ 7.1 Channel Home Theater Sound System is an example of a 7.1 surround sound system and a pretty damn good one at that. Many people wanting a home theatre setup will have a system like this and be cool with it.
For years that was all you needed to have a cinema style sound, but then Dolby Atmos became a thing and changed the game. There are two ways that Dolby Atmos changes the sound. First of all, is with ceiling speakers that provide you with vertical sound. Speakers that are actually in the ceiling that fire sound down towards you. This makes it so the sound well and truly “surrounds” you. The other way that Dolby Atmos changes the game is with how it treats sound as “objects” this is hard to explain, but it basically means that the sound is much more realistic and sound is not just tied to a specific speaker. Sound no longer just jumps from one speaker to the next to emulate the sound moving, it now moves much more naturally.
Have a look at this WHAT IS DOLBY ATMOS? | Home Theater Explained video which explains a little more about how Dolby Atmos works.
How Does Dolby Atmos Work In A Soundbar?
Ok, so I just told you that the way Dolby Atmos works is that it “surrounds” you with the sound. So, you may be looking at a soundbar like the Sonos Arc which claims to offer Dolby Atmos, and wondering just how the heck this works without a bunch of extra speakers. Now, you can buy a full Dolby Atmos setup with vertical speakers and the whole shebang! However, many people these days just want a soundbar and not speakers all over the room. It is one thing to have speakers all over the place in a home theatre, but in the living room, it may be a bit much. As a soundbar like the Sonos Arc I just mentioned is lacking those extra speakers, it makes up for this with some very clever use of drivers that drive the sound upwards to emulate Dolby Atmos. It is a very smart effect and I would wager that the majority of people out there would not even notice the difference.
Recently I had a lot of fun putting together this The 5 best Dolby Atmos soundbars worth the money article. I will say that while they all cannot match a full cinema setup, they come damn close and I would have a hard time going back to using a soundbar that does not offer Dolby Atmos in all honesty with you.
Is A Dolby Atmos Soundbar Worth It?
Ok, so we come back to the question we asked at the very start of this article, is a Dolby Atmos Soundbar worth it? I have to say that yes it is. You may think that you have to spend a ton of money and some of these are very expensive. The thing with a Dolby Atmos soundbar is that it is just the same as any other type when it comes to money. At the moment, there are Dolby Atmos soundbars for every budget. If you are low on funds, you can get this TCL ALTO 8I which is at the lower end of the Dolby Atmos club, but it does only cost around 150 bucks! If you were going to spend that on a soundbar anyway, you might as well go for the one that offers Dolby Atmos. Granted, it may not be the best Dolby Atmos, but it still technically offers it.
If you want as close to that cinema sound as possible then you are going to have to pay for it. The Bose Smart Soundbar 900 is a very recent (well as of writing) Dolby Atmos soundbar that is absolutely spectacular. This offers as close as you can get when it comes to cinema quality Dolby Atmos in the comfort of your own home from a soundbar and without the need for a whole bunch of other speakers. The thing is, this also is going to cost you the better part of 900 bucks! That is a hell of a price difference going from 150 bucks for the TCL to 900 for the Bose!
I for one think that in 2021, a soundbar is an essential purchase. As I always say, modern TV speakers are just not good enough and there are soundbars out there at every end of the pricing spectrum. That now rings true for Dolby Atmos soundbars too and I would be way more likely to suggest getting a soundbar that has Dolby Atmos than one which does not.