From Atmos to WiSA: These are the coolest soundbars of CES 2019

CES 2019 has been a bit of an odd year for audio, especially when it comes to soundbars. In fact, two of the biggest soundbar companies in the business, Samsung and Sony, didn’t even bring a single bar. That’s OK though, as there were still a ton of intriguing new soundbars floating around the show and we’ve rounded up our favorites so you can see what’s coming in the new year.

Here are the coolest, most interesting, and most badass bars of CES 2019.

Harman Kardon Citation Bar

jbl harman 2019 lineup ces harmon kardon citation 9
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

Part of Harman Kardon’s new Citation series, this intriguing little bar is anything but affordable, landing at a gulp-inducing $1,000 price point for just a 3.0 configuration, as in without even the inclusion of a wireless subwoofer. That said, this system has some very cool tricks up its sleeve for the more affluent among us, not the least of which is a WiSA transmitter, which, in theory, should allow the unit to connect to any WiSA wireless speakers (of which we expect to see a lot this year) for a full wireless surround sound package.

That’s not all the Citation Bar has going for it, either. It also offers Google Chromecast streaming, Google Assistant, 3 HDMI inputs (and 1 HDMI ARC output) and even a touchscreen on top to dig into the settings. Oh, and the soundbar also sounds pretty good, too, rocking out powerful action in our quick demo. Harman Kardon’s Citation series is going to be an intriguing new collection to contend with in 2019, and this bar will be one of the most versatile on the market.

LG SL9YG 4.1.2 Dolby Atmos soundbar

Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

Dolby Atmos has taken on some intriguing applications in the latest iterations we’ve seen at the show. Many companies have begun incorporating the height channels that help give Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and other 3D-surround options that extra element of vertical immersion, but the bars don’t always come with full surround sound to complete the hemisphere of sound we normally associate with Atmos and co. LG’s SL9YG is one such bar, offering a 4.1.2 channel configuration.

One of the most interesting things about this system is how you set it up. The bar can be set on a stand with the height channels facing up at the ceiling, but it can also be mounted on the wall with the height channels facing forward. There’s a gyroscope system inside the bar that is designed to adjust the front-facing channels. We’re still not totally sure how this will work, but it’s an interesting form factor that makes this bar stand out. The bar also has other modern features, including Google Assistant, with mics built into the remote and the bar itself. We’re interested to get more time with this bar, in either configuration, to see how it sounds in practice.

Klipsch Bar 54A

Klipsch 2019 sound bars
Klipsch 2019 sound bars Dan Baker/Digital Trends

Klipsch wasn’t kidding around when it comes to CES 2019. Apart from its awesome new WiSA speakers, and its sexy new T5 true wireless earphones (still a fair way from making it to market), the company brought a massive pack of soundbars, five in all. The captain of the ship as it were is the company’s absolutely beefy new Dolby Atmos soundbar, the Klipsch Bar 54A. As the name implies, this brute of a bar is a full 54 inches wide, so we hope you’ve got the console space if you’re thinking of opting in.

There’s also a massive 10-inch sub in the package, so we expect this thing to bring the noise in a big way. The system also comes loaded with features, including Google Assistant, Alexa, and Airplay 2, checking just about all the boxes you should need. At $1,800 it’s one of the priciest soundbars on the block, but we’re hoping it brings the performance to match.

Vizio 36-inch 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos soundbar

Vizio Dolby Atmos Soundbar
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

On the other end of the Atmos spectrum is Vizio’s slim and tight, 36-inch Dolby Atmos bar. Don’t let its size fool you, this bar is pretty powerful for its form factor and brings discrete surround alongside all four Dolby Atmos height channels that added up to some impressive immersion in our short demo. As we’d expect from Vizio, the system is loaded with features, too, including Chromecast Wi-Fi streaming, Bluetooth streaming, and Google Assistant support.

Vizio has been focusing on accessibility with its Atmos bars (no surprise for those familiar with the brand), coming in at price points that shatter the competition and still offer impressive performance, evidenced in its 46-inch 5.1.4 bar from 2018, which costs just $1,000. We don’t know the price points yet for any of Vizio’s new soundbars, but we expect this smaller model to come to play, priced well below the company’s still relatively affordable flagship bar.

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