Most budget soundbars can’t support Dolby Atmos soundtracks, and those that do often struggle to convincingly recreate the cinematic bubble of sounds you’re used to in a theater. Soundbars like the VIZIO 36″ 5.1.2-Channel Soundbar, however, manage to achieve an impressive Atmos sound without screaming through your savings. We’ve tracked down the best “budget” Atmos-compatible soundbars that best straddle the line between quality and affordability.
Best Overall: VIZIO 36″ 5.1.2-Channel Soundbar (SB36512-F6)
The SB36512-F6 is the only soundbar to also justify a place on our best overall Dolby Atmos soundbars list, with specs that almost stack up against devices that cost twice as much or more. Vizio pairs a soundbar with good sound quality with a 6-inch wireless subwoofer and two discrete rear speakers with upward-facing drivers (soundbars without side speakers can only imitate its excellent surround sound). The speakers connect via wires directly to the subwoofer, so make sure you have somewhere to place them in the rear of your living room.
Google Home or Chromecast owners have the added perk of controlling the SB36512-F6 soundbar via Assistant commands. Alexa users, meanwhile, will have to rely on the simple remote control or SmartCast app to access the soundbar’s various features, such as switching between sound configurations for movies, music, or Atmos.
Vizio’s excellent bargain comes with an inevitable cost. Its narrow design cannot achieve the same powerful sound as more expensive Atmos speakers. Even comparably priced non-Atmos speakers can invest more drivers into rich, forward-facing sound. However, that trade-off pays off with better Atmos performance than any other soundbar or speaker in this price range.
- Rear discrete speakers with upward drivers
- Google Assistant, Bluetooth and Chromecast support
- HDMI ARC connection
- Compact design slots under most TVs
- No DTS:X, Alexa or AirPlay
- Subwoofer and speakers wired to one another
VIZIO 36″ 5.1.2-Channel Soundbar (SB36512-F6)
- $496 at Amazon
- $500 at Best Buy
- $498 at Walmart
All-in on Atmos
Vizio’s budget soundbar is the easiest choice for anyone wishing to experience “real” Dolby Atmos at home.
Best Overall Sound: LG SL9YG Soundbar
Our earlier Vizio pick was the best Dolby Atmos soundbar, but the LG SL9YG is the best budget soundbar that just so happens to have Atmos. It lacks discrete speakers for true surround sound, but effectively mimics it with overhead and side-facing channels that bounce sound off the walls to form an artificial sphere.
Based on the size and shape of your room, you can use EQ settings to adjust channels and achieve a more natural sound. However, the SL9YG’s sound quality can suffer if your room doesn’t have a good configuration for echoing sound. You can also buy optional wireless SPK8-S speakers for an extra $200, but the SL9YG is already fairly pricy for a “bargain” soundbar. At that point it makes more sense to invest in a mid-range soundbar option like the Sonos Arc instead.
It thankfully stands on its own without the extra speakers. LG offers an excellent range of sound modes besides Atmos: Night, Movie, Music, Adaptive Sound Control, and DTS:X. You also have several connectivity options, such as HDMI with ARC, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Google Assistant/ Chromecast.
One important negative to note: you’ll want to place the LG SL9YG directly underneath your TV, because mounting it reportedly causes problems with sound quality due to how its drivers are laid out. Once on your wall, your “upper” drivers will point forwards and your forward channels will face diagonally downwards, ruining any chance of a proper Atmos sound.
- Excellent sound quality
- Customizable settings and sound modes
- Google Assistant & Chromecast support
- Wireless subwoofer
- Discrete speakers cost extra
- Wall-mounting messes up the sound
Best Overall Sound
LG SL9YG Soundbar
- $649 from Newegg
- $699 from B&H
All-around strong performance
LG delivers excellent audio regardless of whether the source uses Atmos, DTS:X, or mere stereo.
Best All-in-One Soundbar: Sony HT-G700 Soundbar
Sony took the concept of artificial surround sound to the extreme with its unique HT-G700 soundbar. Out of the box it is merely a 3.1ch device, yet Sony used Audio Enhancement to attempt to produce 7.1.2 surround sound without the usual rear speakers or height drivers. Its proprietary Vertical Surround Engine directs objects of sound straight at you, but processed to sound as if it’s above or behind you.
In practice, the HT-G700’s virtualized surround sound is two steps down from actual surround sound, and one step down
from soundbars like the SL9YG, with actual side-facing and upward-facing drivers but no rear speakers. Still, the HT-G700 is a worthy alternative for some buyers. It’s compact enough to easily fit under most TVs without mounting; it doesn’t require (or even allow) separate speakers, for those who prefer an all-in-one solution; and most importantly, it doesn’t depend on your living room being a certain size or shape for its Atmos sphere to work properly.
Sony also managed to be the first to add eARC functionality to a budget Atmos soundbar. Most use ARC, which efficiently transfers data from your TV to your soundbar via the HDMI port, but can sometimes throttle or compress high-bandwidth audio sources. Yet with “enhanced” ARC support, the soundbar receives the uncompressed signal 100% of the time.
Just keep in mind that you’re getting an imitation of Atmos with this soundbar without true surround sound. Regardless, it still presents good sound quality and customization options.
- eARC support for lossless audio
- Works in any room/environment
- Compact design
- Customizable subwoofer bass
- No proper surround sound
- Only 3.1ch for decent price
Best All-in-One Soundbar
Sony HT-G700 Soundbar
- $600 from Amazon
- $600 from Best Buy
- $598 from B&H
Pseudo-Atmos, true convenience
Sony has “enhanced” its 3.1ch speaker to simulate an Atmos sphere of sound that typically requires a full speaker set.
Best for Longevity: Samsung HW-Q70T 3.1.2ch Soundbar
Samsung’s usual business model is to provide a full price range of options in a category like TVs, then add tantalizing new features at each price tier to convince you to go past your budget. This year’s Samsung soundbars are no exception, and only one Atmos-supporting soundbar sits within our desired price range: the HW-Q70T. Even if this model doesn’t hit the specs you’d like, you can thankfully choose to upgrade one major element down the line once you can afford the extra cost rather than feel pressured to pay extra now on a fancier model.
The base 3.1.2-channel HW-Q70T has some strong features in its favor. The Q Symphony functionality will benefit 2020 8K QLED owners by letting you combine TV and soundbar audio. Amazon speaker owners can use Alexa commands to control your soundbar. It allows for an eARC HDMI or Bluetooth connection. However, just as with any soundbar without discrete speakers, it won’t necessarily blow you away with its Atmos performance. Thankfully, you can purchase a compatible SWA-9000S rear speaker set that will upgrade the HW-Q70T to a 5.1.2ch system with true surround sound.
The fact remains, however, that without this upgrade, an Amazon speaker, or a brand-new Samsung TV, you’re simply getting an Atmos and DTS:X-enabled soundbar with no true surround sound or embedded voice commands. Whether or not this is the right speaker for you depends in part on what other types of devices you use daily.
- eARC support for lossless audio
- Upgradable down the line
- Adaptive sound for clearer dialogue
- Not true surround sound out of the box
- Cool features only unlocked for pricier speakers
Best for Longevity
Samsung HW-Q70T 3.1.2ch Soundbar
- $598 from Amazon
- $600 from Best Buy
- $598 from B&H
Most improved player
Samsung’s Ambient Beam tech delivers good Atmos experiences until you can afford to upgrade.
Lowest Price for Atmos: Soundcore Infini Pro Integrated 2.1 Channel Soundbar
While some of our very favorite soundbars fall into the “affordable” price range, none of them support Dolby Atmos simply due to how difficult it is to recreate object-based sounds without expensive drivers built for the task. Only the Soundcore Infini Pro Integrated 2.1 Channel Soundbar, which we recently reviewed, can truly be called “cheap” compared to the rest of the soundbars on this list. However, that lower price tag comes at a cost in other areas.
The Infini Pro doesn’t come with any discrete speakers, nor do you get any voice assistant integration or support. Its Atmos performance also falls well below the immersion of most other Atmos-enabled devices. Our reviewer argued that it was “Atmos Lite”, that it lacked the “nuances” that you get with true surround sound setups due to the Infini Pro’s narrow design and lack of sound verticality.
Not everything about this budget buy is a negative, however. Its 4K passthrough, HDMI ARC, and Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity match the specs of the other products above. One unique difference is the integrated subwoofer, which we found to produce an impressively strong bass — making this a true all-in-one device. Overall, the non-Atmos performance was strong for such a low-priced device. If you consider Atmos to be a novelty and just want good sound first and foremost, the Infini Pro should be a strong contender for your business.
- Actually a bargain price
- Superb sound quality in general
- Strong bass performance
- All-in-one design
- Atmos underwhelms
- No voice support
- No discrete speakers
Lowest Price for Atmos
Soundcore Infini Pro Integrated 2.1 Channel Soundbar
- $200 from Amazon
It’s not all about Atmos
This soundbar will save you money and living room space, but lacks a few key features to make it truly special.
Our list of bargain Atmos soundbars is short because most of them cost at least a thousand dollars, so rest assured that any device on this list will have saved you a decent amount of money. Yet of all of these, two companies ask you to pay extra for discrete speakers, and two more are all-in-one speakers. Only the VIZIO 36″ 5.1.2-Channel Soundbar (SB36512-F6) comes with a full set of speakers that allow for true Dolby Atmos straight out of the box—not a pale imitation.
Compared to the more expensive Dolby Atmos speakers like the excellent Samsung HW-Q90R Soundbar, Vizio obviously falls short in the number of drivers and channels. But outside of that and a few other minor areas — lack of eARC, Alexa support, or pass-through support for very specific video formats like Dolby Vision — the SB36512-F6 doesn’t fall that far behind its much more expensive competition.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Michael Hicks got his tech start in 2016, covering emerging tech like VR and self-driving cars before expanding to all things tech. When he’s not gaming or reading SFF novels, he writes freelance for Android Central and Windows Central.