Soundbars are not only a popular option for improving sound for TV and movie viewing, but there is a steady increase in the number of soundbars that offer Dolby Atmos. However, the results aren’t always consistent, and it usually adds more to the price tag
However, Monoprice is saying forget that and is offering a Dolby Atmos-enabled soundbar for less than $200, but is it any good? Let’s find out.
The Monoprice SB-300 Soundbar is 39-inches wide making it a good match for just about any TV screen size. It can be stand/shelf or wall-mounted.
The soundbar has a basic two-channel speaker configuration and is rated at 50-watts per channel (no rating info provided). No external subwoofer or connections for one are provided.
The SB-300 provides connectivity for a variety of sources as well as easy connection options for getting sound from your TV. Several sound modes are included but the big bonus is Dolby Atmos compatibility.
The soundbar also has an LED status display that is easy to see in the dark from just about any seating position.
The connections provided by the SB-300 Soundbar include:
- 1 Power receptacle
- 1 Digital Coaxial audio input
- 1 Digital Optical audio input
- 1 USB port (accepts max 32GB flash drive and only supports MP3 audio playback).
- 1 3.5mm Analog audio Input
- 1 HDMI output with ARC/eARC
- 2 HDMI inputs (Dolby Atmos, 4K/60Hz video, and HDR10 pass-through)
- Bluetooth (A2DP, AVRCP) wireless connectivity
The SB-300 comes with a remote control that is divided into three sections. Starting at the top are the power and input select buttons. Next are the playback controls when playing Bluetooth or USB content. In the center are the volume and tone controls. Last, but not least, the bottom section provides access to the Vertical Surround and preset EQ sound modes, as well as dimming control for the soundbars LED display.
The SB-300 also has limited controls on the top center of the soundbar (Power, Input Select, Bluetooth Pairing, Mute, Volume). The soundbar is also compatible with many universal remotes and some TV remotes for access to basic functions (Volume, Mute, and Power).
Here are all the additional things the SB-300 comes with to get you started:
- Detachable Power Cord
- Information Card
- HDMI Cable
- 3.5mm stereo audio cable.
- Instruction Manual
- Remote control with AAA batteries
- Wall mount brackets
- Wall mount screws kit
After unboxing the soundbar and accessories, setting up the SB-300 is easy.
- Place the soundbar in front of your TV (or just below if the TV and soundbar are wall-mounted).
- Connect the provided HDMI cable from the soundbar’s HDMI output to the HDMI-ARC/eARC port on your TV.
- (Optional) Connect a digital optical cable (not included) from the TV to the soundbar. This is handy if your TV doesn’t have HDMI-ARC/eARC compatibility.
- (Optional) Connect a digital coaxial cable (not included) from another device to the soundbar.
- (Optional) Connect one or two source devices to the soundbar’s HDMI inputs, if you run out of HDMI connections on your TV.
- Plug the soundbar into power using the provided cord.
- Put batteries in the remote and use it to turn on the soundbar and use its features.
If you are not familiar with HDMI-ARC/eARC, here is a quick rundown.
HDMI-ARC and eARC transfer audio from your TV (including the audio from devices connected to your TV) to the soundbar. If using this connection you don’t need a separate digital optical or analog audio connection from the TV to the soundbar.
ARC will pass stereo and Dolby Digital audio. eARC additionally passes Dolby Atmos.
For added convenience, the SB-300 provides two HDMI inputs for connecting external devices. The inputs provide 4K/HDR video pass-through and access to Dolby Atmos as mentioned above.
To use HDMI-ARC/eARC:
- TV has to support HDMI-CEC and ARC or eARC
- HDMI-CEC and ARC or eARC have to be enabled on your TV.
- The TV’s digital audio output or S/PDIF mode must be set to PCM.
The SB-300 easily outdoes the performance of a TV’s internal speakers, filling a 13×12 size room without showing signs of strain.
Although the SB-300 has Dolby Atmos support, it relies on Dolby Height Virtualization (aka Vertical Surround) to execute the height channel effects. This means that since the SB-300 doesn’t actually have built-in height speakers that would send sound vertically to bounce off the ceiling, it employs sound processing algorithms to “guess” how the decoded Dolby Atmos height channels should be placed in the room listening environment.
If the vertical surround is activated, there is a definite expansion of the soundfield up and out into the space between the soundbar and the listening position as well as a significant widening of the soundfield.
While this provides a more immersive listening experience, especially for a soundbar, it isn’t the same as having separate speakers to direct the sound more precisely to specific spatial locations. It is also important to note that since the SB-300 does not come with or support the addition of external surround speakers, there is no side or rear surround support.
Height virtualization engages automatically when Dolby Atmos signal is detected, but can be turned off using the Vertical Surround button on the remote control according to your preference.
NOTE: Dolby Atmos is only supported via HDMI and HDMI-eARC.
One connection disappointment was the lack of a subwoofer output on the soundbar. This means you can’t add a monoprice or another branded compatible powered subwoofer to complement the soundbar to provide more kick in the low bass frequencies. That being said, the SB-300 does have a good lower frequency response down to 50Hz, dropping off to inaudibility below 40Hz. Considering there is no separate subwoofer, that is pretty acceptable at this price.
In addition to Dolby Atmos decoding and virtual height processing, the SB-300 provides several audio settings that allow you to tailor the sound further. There are three preset DSP (Digital Sound Processing) EQ modes: Voice, Sports, Movie, Music.
Other settings include Bass, Treble, Vertical Surround (on/off).
You can use Bluetooth to play music wirelessly from compatible devices, such as smartphones. This means you can listen to your favorite music streaming services that are installed on your phone.
The low physical profile of the 39-inch wide soundbar fits under most TVs without blocking the bottom of the screen. If you have a wall-mounted TV, you can also wall-mount the soundbar (hardware is provided). If you already have a home theater system for your main TV, the SB-300 is a great option for a bedroom or second room environment.
The SB-300 works with any TV that has an analog stereo output, digital optical output, or HDMI-ARC/eARC connection.
The Monoprice SB-300 Soundbar provides surprisingly good performance, and better than expected Dolby Atmos support for a very low price.
- Great sound for the price.
- Easy Setup
- Two HDMI inputs
- Automatic Standby mode after 15 minutes of inactivity.
- No subwoofer output
- USB audio file playback limited to MP3
- The maximum supported USB capacity is 32GB
- Digital optical/coaxial cables not included.
- No ethernet or Wi-Fi
- Remote control has small buttons that may be hard to read for some users.
Price & Availability
The Monoprice SB-300 Soundbar is available for
$179.99, now $129.99 direct from Monoprice.