Dolby Atmos Soundbars: Everything You Need To Know

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Atmos and DTS:X surround soundbars are here to stay, offering a powerful cinematic experience in a concise package.

With CES 2017 fading in the rearview like the last rays of a dying sunset, we’re left with countless new tech trends to ponder. One of the most interesting in the home theater landscape is the explosion of the Dolby Atmos soundbar, debut models of which have begun to pop up from virtually every major brand.

If you’ve shopped for audio at all in recent years you’ve likely heard the name Atmos, but what exactly are Atmos soundbars? How do they compare to the cinema version of Atmos or regular surround systems for that matter? Most importantly, should you buy one? Follow us below as we delve into the rise of the Dolby Atmos soundbar.

What is Dolby Atmos?

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of Atmos soundbars, a little background. (If you’re already familiar with the basics of Atmos, please skip ahead.) Dolby Atmos (and its counterpart DTS:X) is an end-to-end surround sound technology allowing audio mixers to control every bit of cinematic sound — from a buzzing bee to a fighter jet — as an individual sound object which can be traced throughout a collection of surround speakers. In a movie theater, this allows engineers to move “sound objects” independently across dozens of speakers, including those mounted overhead, to immerse the moviegoer in a hemispheric globe of sound.

In a home theater, Atmos and DTS:X are scaled down to match the tools at hand, topping out at 11 individual speaker channels, and two bass channels. The most basic configuration (and the most common in Atmos soundbars) is 5.1.2, which involves a typical 5.1 setup (left, center, right, and two surrounds), along with two height speakers, which can be mounted overhead, or angled up from ground level to bounce sound down from the ceiling.

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