When it comes to improving the sound of our flat-panel televisions, sound bars are the most flexible, simple and convenient options to use, offering us greater sound power and ability to work with different digital file formats in one compact and relatively inexpensive device.
In the market there are many brands and models that offer us different functionalities. But now we can classify them into two big groups: Those that support the Dolby Atmos object-based audio system and those that do not. Which one suits me best depending on the use I am going to give it?
What is Dolby Atmos
To begin with, it is important to know what exactly is Dolby Atmosa sound format from cinemas that came to home equipment a few years ago with the intention of bringing the experience of next generation surround sound to our houses.
As we have already seen in depth in this article, Dolby Atmos is the first home theater system that not channel basedbut in audio objects (although there are also basic channels). Any sound heard in a movie scene is an audio object.
During the editing process it is decided what audio objects there will be, what effects such as explosions, screams, gunshots, etc. and where they will move in the scene. The Dolby Atmos system, through a powerful digital signal processor, will determine, in real time, where these audio objects will have to be playedby which speaker and with what volume, regardless of what our configuration is.
In other words, it doesn’t matter if we have a system with 5 or 9 speakers, the audio track will be the same and the DSP (digital sound processor) will be in charge of recreating the effects in our room.
In an ideal world, these extra baffles would have to be installed in the ceiling, although in the sound bar industry they have managed to mount them on the body of the bar or the surround sound speakers that come with some of them.
These upward sloping drivers use the bounces at the top of the room to recreate the surround effects and they need certain conditions of installation and location of the bar to work well.
For example, the ceiling must be smooth (not vaulted or angled), of an acoustically reflective material such as normal plaster, stucco, concrete, or dense wood, and at a height of between 2.4 and 2.7 meters for an optimal result.
When is a bar with Dolby Atmos convenient for me?
Alright, now we know what Dolby Atmos sound system is and I want to buy my new sound bar. Does it need to be compatible with the format? Well the answer is it depends. It mainly depends on the use that we are going to give it on a day-to-day basis and the expectations we have. Let’s look at the most important points and use cases.
To begin with, it should be noted that Dolby Atmos is currently available mainly for two types of content: movies and music. But in both cases we find many restrictions especially if we are not English speakers.
That is to say, although the films that can be seen in theaters are shown in Dolby Atmos in Spanish, the versions that finally reach the domestic market both in streaming services and in optical formats they do not usually present compatibility with this format.
If we just want the bar to see conventional DTT programmingthe television channels of our cable or fiber optic operator, play the console, play videos from platforms such as YouTube and the like, we will not be accessing content recorded in Dolby Atmos and we will not be able to take advantage of the bar at 100%.
If we want the bar to watch modern movies and we don’t care listen to it in original versionthen we can take advantage of our Dolby Atmos bar.
A bar with this surround format is also convenient for us if what we want is to access the growing catalog of music available in Dolby Atmos, which will offer us a greater immersion in the soundstage as if we had the concert in the living room at home.
Since Atmos-compatible bars are usually more technologically advanced modelsboth in terms of sound performance and sound signal processing capabilities, will generally offer higher quality and fidelity in audio with respect to the most basic models, although we do not use the Dolby format.
This situation usually occurs whenever we exceed a price threshold above 500-600 euros. Therefore, if we want a better experience when listening to music or watching movies even if it is in stereo or 5.1, they will generally offer better sound quality.
If what we want is a cheap bar It is best not to bet on a model with Dolby Atmos, since those that are available for less than those 500 euros, except for offers and great discounts, are usually worse than their price equivalents that are not compatible with the format.
It is also not recommended to get a Dolby Atmos sound bar if we do not meet the above requirements in terms of space to install it in the room. That is, if, for example, we have little room in the cabinet and we have to embed it next to the TV or ceilings are too high or lower than recommendedthe bounces of the signal will not be effective and we will not be able to enjoy the surround sound.
Another point to take into account is the electrical consumption. If we are going to have the bar on for many hours a day, in general, models compatible with Atmos, being more powerful and advanced, will have a higher electrical cost to that of the most basic sound bars.
If you want to improve the sound of your TV for little money, you can opt for this sound bar Sharp HT-SB110, a very basic 2.0-type model that comes without an external subwoofer and doesn’t support Atmos, but offers up to 90 watts of power, Bass Boost technology, Virtual 3D, Bluetooth and HDMI connectivity. Its price is 64.20 euros.
Improving the sound of your TV is easy with a bar like the Samsung HW-A450a basic model without Dolby Atmos with separate external subwoofer, power of 300 watts, 2.1 channels and Bluetooth compatibility. Its price today on offer is 148 euros compared to the usual 180 euros.
To improve the standard sound of our televisions, we can opt for a sound bar such as the Samsung HW-Q60T, a 2020 model that supports Dolby Digital 5.1 but not with Dolby Atmos, with Q-Symphony technology, and that it comes with an external wireless subwoofer. Its price is 199 euros, compared to the usual 329 euros.
Sound Bar – Samsung 2020 HW-Q60T, DolbyDigital 5.1, Q Symphony, Wireless Subwoofer, Black
Polk Audio MagniFi Mini
An off-road soundbar is the Polk Audio MagniFi Minia model with wireless subwoofer compatible con Dolby Digital y DTS up to 5.1 channels with simulated surround effects. It has a combined power of 150 watts, HDMI connection, optical digital input for old TVs, analog auxiliary and supports the playback of content from mobile terminals via Bluetooth. Its price today is 279 euros compared to the usual 299 euros.
Polk Audio MagniFi Mini – Wireless Soundbar and Subwoofer, with Google Assistant, Bluetooth, Black
You can improve the standard sound of your TV with this sound bar Sharp HT-SBW460 which comes with 3.1 speaker system, with wireless external subwoofer, virtual surround audio capability, Dolby Atmos soundbluetooth, connectivity HDMI 4K con ARC and sound power of 440 watts. Its price is 384 euros.
Rising more in benefits we have the LG SN7Ya separate wireless subwoofer sound bar that delivers a combined 380 watts of power, compatibility with sound Dolby Atmos, ASC and Bass Blast+ technology. Its price is 499 euros.
The SP8YA soundbar from LG is a 3.1 audio system that has a wireless subwoofer, and a power of up to 440W. In addition, it has WiFi connectivity, and supports HDMI eARC, Bluetooth 5.0 and USB. Along with this, the bar is also compatible with Dolby Atmos y DTS:X, and it is possible to control it with Alexa. We can find it at a price of 539 euros.
Soundbar – LG SP8YA, Hi-Res Audio, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, Black
If the budget is not a problem, we can opt for a model like the Samsung HW-Q950A, a high-end device from 11.1.4 canales which has additional external subwoofer and is compatible with soundtracks Dolby Atmos y DTS:X. It features 4 dedicated channels of Atmos effects and Q-Symphony technology to work alongside compatible Samsung TV speakers for a more compelling soundstage. also comes with two surround back speakers extras included in the kit. Its base price is 849 euros, although until July 31, 2022 the manufacturer gives us an additional refund of 200 euros, so it finally stays in 699 euros.
Samsung HW-Q950A 11.1.4ch Soundbar with Dolby Atmos/DTS:X (2021) with Alexa Built-in – Black
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