Monoprice SB-300 Is Probably The Most Affordable Dolby Atmos Soundbar Ever
Earlier this year, I agreed to look at a full home theater system. Let me tell you, if you have a large enough room to accommodate the front and center speakers, the rear speakers, plus a large subwoofer and you’re prepared to take the time to set everything up and hide away all the wires, it’s the very best way to watch movies.
Unfortunately, getting into home theater will soon have you considering buying a larger TV and deciding you need a more powerful AV receiver. Before long, you’re soon spending big money. For many of us, the sheer cost and hassle of having a home theater system is out of reach and simply not practical, especially in smaller homes. The alternative is to get a good quality soundbar instead.
I recently tried out a new budget soundbar from Monoprice, an audio retailer from North America that sells some excellent own-branded audio products that offer incredible value for money. The soundbar I tested was the Monoprice SB-300 Virtual Dolby Atmos 2.0Ch Soundbar, 2 HDMI Inputs, 4K HDR/DV Passthrough, eARC, Bluetooth, Optical, Coax, Remote2.0 Ch Soundbar, the most affordable Dolby Atmos soundbar I’ve come across to date.
The Monoprice SB-300 is a compact 2.1 soundbar with Virtual Dolby Atmos and sells for an astonishingly low $130. That’s an amazingly price, even for a regular soundbar, but the SB300 is packed with handy features like two HDMI inputs, an HDMI eARC output, coaxial and optical digital audio inputs, plus a 3.5mm analog audio input that enables the connection of almost any analog audio device. As if all that weren’t enough, the SB300 also has wireless Bluetooth streaming and a USB port for connecting to a USB drive (up to 32GB), as well as a smartphone or PC.
The soundbar measures a meter long and comes with a comprehensive IR remote control that can be used to adjust all the settings from the comfort of your armchair. The essential commands like volume and mute can also be adjusted using the TV’s remote thanks to support for eARC and CEC. The soundbar remote also features controls for switching the input source, selecting DSP modes, skipping tracks while streaming with Bluetooth, plus a balance adjustment between left and right channels.
Setting up the SB-300 was probably one of the easiest I’ve ever tested. Getting many soundbars to work with a TV using CEC is something of a dark art. This wasn’t the case with the SB-300 which was instantly recognised by my Panasonic TV. The soundbar instantly delivered a loud and wide soundstage and that was before I went on to use the remote to fine-tune the bass and treble. Also included in the box were a high-speed HDMI cable and brackets enabling the SB-300 to be mounted on a wall beneath a TV.
The SB-300 supports Virtual Dolby Atmos by utilizing sophisticated digital signal processing and psycho acoustics. Virtual Dolby Atmos widens and expands the sound field so that music and movie soundtracks almost float around the listener giving the impression of height and space. You do need to be streaming a Dolby Atmos source to get the effect but increasingly, streaming services have movies with Atmos encoding. I wouldn’t say the Virtual Dolby Atmos is as in your face as a physical Atmos setup with special upward firing speakers but it’s really very good.
As well as supporting Virtual Dolby Atmos, the soundbar has special DSP presents for Movie, Music, and News modes which provide an extended listening experience. The Music mode enhances the sound field for music playback, while the Movie mode attempts to focus on the dialog and sound effects for a more dramatic effect. The News mode focuses solely on dialog clarity and is the best choice for most spoken word programming.
Verdict: I liked the SB-300 – very much. It offers staggeringly good value for money and has a surprisingly loud and robust sound. It can even handle Dolby Atmos while offering most of the inputs you could want, including a coaxial digital connection. The build quality is excellent and the front LED display shows source and other essential info, plus it the display has three dimming levels, including turning it off completely so you don’t have an annoying display spoiling your movie when watching in the dark. I doubt whether Virtual Dolby Atmos will please the home theater purists but at this price it’s a welcome bonus and it works. The Monoprice SB-300 with Virtual Dolby Atmos is my favorite budget soundbar on the market right now and certainly offers unbeatable value for money. If it has one drawback, it’s the lack of a subwoofer output – either wired or wireless – but don’t be fooled, this 100W soundbar can kick out some hefty bass and it’s no slouch in the power department.
Pricing and Availability: The Monoprice SB-300 Virtual Dolby Atmos 2.0Ch Soundbar is available now and costs just $129.99.
More info: www.monoprice.com
- Video inputs: 2x HDMI 4K
- Video output: HDMI with eARC
- Audio inputs: Digital Coaxial, Digital Optical, 3.5mm Analog
- Audio input Sensitivity: 500mV
- Nominal impedance: 2x 4Ω
- Frequency response: 40Hz – 20kHz
- Bluetooth version: 4.2
- Amplifier Power: 2x 50 watts
- Supported Bluetooth profiles: A2DP, AVRCP
- USB version: 2.0
- Supported USB formatting: FAT32, FAT16
- Maximum Supported USB: capacity: 32GB
- Supported USB File Format: MP3
- Remote control range: up to 19.6 feet (6 meters)
- Remote batteries: 2x AAA batteries (included)
- Input power: 100 – 240 VAC, 50/60 Hz
- Maximum power consumption: 30 watts
- Standby Power Consumption ≤ 0.5 watts
- Dimensions: 39.4" x 2.9" x 4.2" (1,000 x 74 x 106 mm)
- Weight : 6.0 lbs. (2.7 kg)