CES 2017 was a dual trend year in the sound bar world: Dolby Atmos and mini sound bars are going to take the market by storm in 2017. Dolby Atmos is an immersive sound technology that simulates 360 degrees of sound. The sound bars feature drivers pointing in different directions, including upward. The upward speakers bounce sound waves off the ceiling to simulate the sound coming from above and behind you. This immersive sound bar technology is taking over 7.1 home theater speaker systems with one simple sound bar solution.
LG rolled out the SJ9 Dolby Atmos Sound Bar this year at CES. It features two left and right facing speakers, three front speakers and two speakers pointing upward as well as a wireless subwoofer. Our firsthand demo with the product was impressive to say the least. In an audio simulation of a rainstorm, it sounded as though we were in the middle of the downpour. It was a unique listening experience; we found it hard to believe that only one sound bar and a subwoofer are needed for the full surround sound experience.
Kazuo Hirai, CEO of Sony, made it clear during the Sony press conference at CES that the company is taking as many steps as possible to be relevant in the TV and sound bar world. The HT-ST5000 is Sony’s take on the Dolby Atmos sound bar trend. The sound bar features multiple drivers that fire in different directions for three-dimensional sound. It offers 4K support as well as multiple inputs such as HDMI and analog inputs.
The new MS750 sound bar from Samsung, as expected, also joined in on the parade of Dolby Atmos sound bars. The difference between the MS750 and the LG and Sony sound bars is the lack of an additional subwoofer. The woofer is built right into the bar, narrowing the sound system down to one component. In our experience, it can be difficult to maintain powerful bass without a separate subwoofer, but only time will tell how the move will affect the new MS750 from Samsung.
Mini sound bars are an immerging trend. With bedroom viewing and apartment living in mind, mini sound bars could be the new solution to compact surround sound. At CES 2017, a handful of different manufacturers unveiled their mini sound bar products.
The Polk Magnifi Mini sound bar wasn’t unveiled at CES this year – it became available late last year. The sound bar is only 13.5 inches across and 3 inches tall, but it includes more drivers than most normal-size sound bars. The sound bar is small, but it still comes with a wireless subwoofer for big bass production. It has HDMI, optical and aux inputs on the back of it as well. It is everything you want in a sound bar, except this one can fit on your nightstand.
The SJ7 is a different take on the mini sound bar experience. It is actually two mini sound bars that work in unison. When placed together and with the setting on sound bar mode, it looks like a normal-size sound bar. When you turn the sound bar to rear speaker mode, you can split the sound bar up and use the separate devices as rear left and right speakers for your home entertainment center. There is also a portable mode so you can use them as battery-powered wireless speaker, even though they are bigger than conventional wireless speakers. The LG SJ7 is one of a kind.
Philips joined the mini sound bar trend with the Fidelio B1 Nano Cinema Speaker. This speaker is slim and sleek. It is only 16 inches across and 2 inches tall. The speaker features four total drivers – two in the front and one on each side. It features Bluetooth connectivity and can plug into your TV with HDMI connections. The Fidelio will surface in the U.S. in late April or May.
Be on the lookout for Dolby Atmos and mini sound bars in 2017. Dolby Atmos sound bars are the top of the line of sound technology, so expect to pay top dollar. Mini sound bars will be a great solution for compact and affordable sound in 2017.