Dolby Atmos Vs traditional 5.1 system?


Novice Member
I'm completely new to Dolby Atmos and have always used a traditional 5.1 system, and not even particularly high end ones. Mainly just used Dolby Digital. From what I understand a modern DA soundbar projects sound in such a way that it reflects off the ceiling to make it sound like it's coming from behind you?
In that case what kind of money do you have to spend to get a DA system which produces convincing surround sound similar or better than what even a basic 5.1 traditional setup can do.
Since it's difficult to find an environment where DA can properly be demonstrated prior to purchase I'm more curious than anything just how much better and more dynamic a DA system can be. Considering the price range is huge, I'd imagine cheaper DA soundbars just don't have the power needed to make the sound reflect from surfaces in a convincing way
You're mixing things up a bit. Concretely, a standalone soundbar works with side-firing speakers which will make the sound bounce off the walls to create the illusion of having side and rear speakers. Then you have the up-firing speakers which, just like traditional HT up-firing speakers, will make the sound bounce on the ceiling to make it seem like it's coming from above.

Absolutely no standalone soundbar can produce convincing rear effects, because there are limits to what virtualization can do. If you want to have decent rear effects, you need to buy a soundbar with a pair of wireless rear speakers. Note that those may not even be more expensive as a good rear virtualization is sometimes a lot more costly than having dedicated speaker which will require a lot less work.

Now, even with rear speakers a soundbar will still never reach the immersion level of a good 5.1 kit on the horizontal axis due to the small size and quality of the speakers but also the fact that the soundbar's L/R channels are not far enough from the other, unlike traditional HT speakers which are physically on the left and right of your TV.

If you want to most convincing and immersive sound, you can get the Samsung HW-Q990B for $1599 (although Samsung products go on sale very frequently, you can already find it in some places for $1299). It doesn't have the best musical quality but for immersion it is clearly a leader. For musical quality some soundbars will be better like the Devialet Dione (one of the best standalone soundbars, great audio quality but extremely expensive at $2199 IIRC and of course a lot less convincing on the surround side of things). Sonos also has great products, very expensive for what they are but many people find them to have better musical quality (not immersion) than the Samsung.

So globally a full-size home theater will always be better, a soundbar is by design a compromise between its simplicity/size/price, and audio quality. For the same amount of money depending on where you live (i.e. in the US) you could get a really nice HT that will be a lot better than any soundbar + rear + sub, but you'll get all the hassle that comes with it (running cables in the room, lot bigger, longer setup, etc.)

Hope that helps :)


Active Member
if you mean DA system as Dolby Atmos. then the best solution is an av receiver with speakers at specific angles from the main listening position. only ceiling based speakers are effective in providing the dolby atmos surround sound experience to the fullest.
the upfiring part you mentioned is mostly a gimmick and soundwaves bouncing around the room is ineffective compared to a traditional av receiver with speakers. i tried a 5.1 virtual soundbar myself in my bedroom and it only was 2 channels at best.

my recommendation is av receiver with speakers and I cannot under any circumstances support or suggest soundbars in any shape or form.


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