Can't afford the Sonos Arc? This cheap Dolby Atmos soundbar may be the next-best thing

the denon dht-s217 soundbar beneath a TV
(Image credit: Denon)

The Sonos Arc is our pick for the best Dolby Atmos soundbar on the planet, but it's high price can be off-putting – and that means Denon's latest budget-friendly soundbar could make a fantastic alternative. 

The new Denon DHT-S217 soundbar will be available to buy in May for £249 - global pricing is yet to be announced, but that works out at around $320 / AU$440. That's a lot cheaper than the Sonos Arc, which will set you back an eye-watering $899 / £899 / AU$1,499.

To keep costs down, Denon's latest soundbar is designed to be used alone, without the need for an external subwoofer to boost the bass frequencies. Alongside midrange drivers and tweeters, it comes with two built-in downwards-firing subwoofers for a powerful bass response, that should make the rumble of explosive blockbuster movies sound engaging and immersive. 

Virtual Atmos

the denon dht-s217 soundbar beneath a tv

(Image credit: Denon)

It also comes with Dolby Atmos support. Unlike the Sonos Arc, there are no upward-firing drivers to bounce sound of your ceiling, with the DHT-S217 relying on signal processing to make it feels as though the different elements of a film soundtrack are coming at you from every angle.

While there aren't any of the 'true' height channels you need for authentic Atmos, virtual height channels can still sound very immersive – and presumably, this has allowed Denon to keep the price relatively low. If the DHT-S217 is anything like the Denon Home Sound Bar 550, we're expecting that it won't generate a sensation of overhead sound, but it will have appreciable height to its presentation, as well as deep, textured low frequencies.

Anyone who has struggled to decipher mumbling actors will be pleased to know that the DHT-S217 also comes with Denon's Dialogue Enhancer technology, which allows you to adjust the volume level of onscreen voices without affecting the overall volume of what you're watching. You'll also be able to choose from a range of sound presets (Movie, Music, Night, and Pure) to suit the content you're listening to, with the Pure preset designed to deliver a naturalistic audiophile experience by removing all sound processing. 

You can hook the DHT-S217 to your TV via the supplied HDMI or optical cables, with the option to use HDMI eARC for enhanced audio quality. There;s also Bluetooth connectivity so you can stream music from your smartphone to the soundbar. 

All those specs sound very promising, especially combined with the price - we wouldn't necessarily expect a soundbar of this price to come with virtual Atmos, downfiring subwoofers, or HDMI eARC connectivity, so the DHT-S217 could be a great solution for anyone that wants the latest in home theater technology without breaking the bank.

Olivia Tambini

Olivia was previously TechRadar's Senior Editor - Home Entertainment, covering everything from headphones to TVs. Based in London, she's a popular music graduate who worked in the music industry before finding her calling in journalism. She's previously been interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live on the subject of multi-room audio, chaired panel discussions on diversity in music festival lineups, and her bylines include T3, Stereoboard, What to Watch, Top Ten Reviews, Creative Bloq, and Croco Magazine. Olivia now has a career in PR.