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How Yamaha’s new Dolby Atmos sound bar creates a room-filling ‘dome of sound’

Watching IFA 2015 attendees experience Yamaha’s latest sound projector, the YSP-5600, is its own fantastically fun form of entertainment. They walk into a glass room looking incredulous, walk out with looks of disbelief at what they’d just heard, and are slack-jawed the entire time in between. What this broad black bar accomplishes is truly impressive — so much so that it won our Best Tech of IFA 2015 award in the audio category — and you have to hear it to believe it yourself.

Yamaha’s sound projectors (they aren’t sound bars!) use arrays of small “beam” drivers, aimed in multiple directions, that project sound at various surfaces in a room. The sound bounces off those surfaces around the listener, giving the impression that the sound is coming from behind you, or off to the sides.

Yamaha Atmos soundbar

Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

The YSP-5600 is Yamaha’s most advanced sound projector to date because it folds in Dolby Atmos processing. Dolby Atmos, in case you somehow missed the memo, is Dolby’s latest and most advanced surround sound format that, among other features, adds height speakers to help create a sort of “dome of sound” effect. When airplanes fly over in a movie, its sounds like they are actually flying over you. When it rains, it sounds like raindrops are coming down on you — it’s convincing stuff. You can imagine, then, that pulling such effects off with a single point source would be darn near impossible. Indeed, we thought so too, but having heard the YSP-5600 ourselves, we can attest that Yamaha has figured out how to make it happen in spectacular fashion. Obviously, Dolby agrees, because the company doesn’t license its technology for just any product.

Believe it or not, though, that’s just the beginning of the YSP-5600’s abilities. It has Bluetooth, supports AirPlay and Spotify Connect, can play hi-res audio files, and is part of Yamaha’s excellent new MusicCast multi-room audio system. Of course, such a versatile and advanced piece of electronics must come at a premium, and the sound projector is not cheap — $1700, and that’s without a subwoofer. Still, folks spend more than that on their A/V receivers and 7.1 speaker systems all the time, so perhaps it’s not such a steep price to ask for what is essentially the most advanced (and convincing) home-theater-in-a-box that’s ever been created.

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Polk’s latest Dolby Atmos soundbars make for compelling Sonos Arc alternatives
Polk Audio MagniFi Max AX SR soundbar.

Polk Audio has two new Dolby Atmos soundbars models that are aimed squarely at folks who might be considering the excellent $899 Sonos Arc. The MagniFi Max AX ($799) and MagniFi Max AX SR ($899) are both equipped with wireless subwoofers and 11-speaker arrays, including dedicated up-firing drivers, but the MagniFi Max AX SR provides an extra level of surround sound immersion by including a set of wireless surround speakers. Both models can also work with DTS:X and will be available in October from and select retailers.

Polk Audio says that the key to the MagniFi Max AX's performance, beyond all of those drivers, is the company's Stereo Dimensional Array (SDA) technology. Now in its fourth generation, Polk claims that SDA delivers an ultra-wide soundstage by eliminating interaural crosstalk. My experience with Polk's previous SDA-equipped models like the MagniFi Mini AX suggests that's not just marketing-speak -- they do provide a very convincing wide sound field.
MagniFi Max AX

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Bang & Olufsen’s latest soundbar costs a fortune, but it might be the last one you ever own
Bang & Olufsen Beosound Theatre seen integrated with a TV.

Danish audio icon, Bang & Olufsen (B&O), isn't a company known for its half-measures either in the design of its products, or the prices it asks for them. That couldn't be more true than on the company's latest speaker, the Beosound Theatre, an incredibly ambitious 7.1.4-channel, 12-driver Dolby Atmos soundbar that starts at $6,890 and climbs rapidly from there. B&O says it took its design inspiration for the Theater from sailboats, saying that the Beosound Theatre’s keel-like design makes it "appear as if it is resting on an aluminum blade, floating in the air as one fluid form."

Like the company's first Dolby Atmos soundbar, the Beosound Stage, the Theater will be available in a variety of colors and finishes, including an optional oak-trimmed version that will sell for $7,990. Unlike the Stage, however, the Theater has been designed to grow and morph with your needs over time.

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Sony HT-A3000 Dolby Atmos soundbar.

Sony has launched the HT-A3000, its newest Dolby Atmos/DTS-X soundbar in the A-Series, which currently includes the $1,000 HT-A5000, $1,400 HT-A7000, and $1,800 HT-A9. At just $700, that makes the 3.1-channel HT-A3000 the most affordable option in the range. It's available for pre-sale starting August 30.

The HT-A3000 shares many features with its pricier siblings, including AirPlay, Chromecast, and compatibility with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa smart speakers, plus the ability to connect to Sony's Bravia XR series smart TVs, which can be used as an extended center channel for more immersive sound and more realistic dialogue.

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