Monoprice SB-600 Dolby Atmos 5.1.2 soundbar review: capable quality at an affordable price

This surround sound system won't change your life, but it won't break the bank either

Monoprice SB-600 Dolby Atmos 5.1.2 soundbar
(Image credit: Future)
Reasons to buy
  • +

    Good value

  • +

    Simple setup and operation

  • +

    Reasonable audio quality for movies and TV

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Surround sound lacks a little power

  • -

    Unclear instructions

As any true home cinema aficionado knows, picking the perfect TV for your entertainment center is only half the battle. No setup is complete without a robust sound system to create a memorable and immersive viewing experience. Typically, a proper set of surround sound speakers will set you back by at least $500, but budget-conscious retailer Monoprice aims to buck this trend with a full surround sound system that retails for just $350. 

Monoprice SB-600: Set-up

The SB-600 is a 5.1.2 system; in this case, that means one central soundbar featuring five drivers, a standalone downward-firing subwoofer, and a pair of rear surround-sound speakers. It may be on the affordable end of the market, but thankfully it doesn't feel like a budget system when you get it out of the box. 

The main gripe we have with their design is that despite the SB-600 ostensibly being a wireless system, the two units have to be physically cabelled together via a bundled 3.5mm audio lead. This could be handy if you're short on power sockets, but it's probably less of a hassle to buy an extension lead than to feed an audio cable around the back of your sofa. 

It took us a while to work out how to connect the surround sound speakers, as the instructions are somewhat unclear. That's a shame, as the setup was otherwise very straightforward, and the soundbar seamlessly paired with the rest of the system. We're particularly big fans of the fact that all the individual boxes containing the system's constituent elements were clearly labeled, which is a small but convenient touch.

The surround sound units also come with mounting brackets to attach them to the wall - an addition that would be more convenient if it weren't for the fact that they need to remain physically connected to one another. With that in mind, we'd recommend keeping them on shelves or tables on either side of your seating area.

In terms of connectivity, the SB-600 is a decidedly bare-bones example. It includes optical, coaxial, and 3.5mm inputs for connecting your TV's audio (or external devices like a vinyl player) and an HDMI output that goes into the TV. There's also Bluetooth support and a USB port for removable media. Unfortunately, there are only two HDMI inputs for connecting media devices like set-top boxes and game consoles. Of course, you could invest in an additional HDMI splitter, but this isn't a great system for avid gamers or die-hard DVD enthusiasts.

Monoprice SB-600 Dolby Atmos 5.1.2 soundbar

(Image credit: Future)

Monoprice SB-600: Design

The units themselves feature an understated but attractive design, accentuated with pleasingly rounded lines, and while the materials aren't the highest quality we've seen, it certainly doesn't feel flimsy.

The soundbar is particularly attractive, effortlessly blending in underneath or in front of the TV without interfering with the aesthetic of your living room. It also features physical buttons to select volume and input source, a power switch, and a dot-matrix display to display key information, which (although a touch cramped) isn't too off-putting. Unfortunately, the same isn't entirely true of the subwoofer, which is a large, squat affair that looks like it would be more at home as Darth Vader's bedside table. It's not necessarily a problem, as you'll likely tuck it away beside the couch or your entertainment center, but at more than 16in tall, you might need to think carefully about where you put it. 

That also applies to the surround sound units - although not thanks to their size, as they're fairly small and unassuming.

Monoprice SB-600 Dolby Atmos 5.1.2 soundbar

(Image credit: Future)

Monoprice SB-600: Performance

The no-frills approach has its advantages. As mentioned, it makes setup relatively speedy, and once connected, the controls are pleasingly simple. In contrast to other home cinema systems, with complicated front ends and more buttons than the bridge of a submarine, the SB-600's pocket-sized remote is exceptionally user-friendly. On the other hand, the plastic construction feels a little cheap, and the lack of backlighting on the buttons can be a little irritating when using it with the lights off. Still, we like that it features only a handful of buttons for controlling key functions, like selecting the input source, controlling media playback, and adjusting volume. 

There are a couple of slightly more obtuse functions, including bass and treble adjustment, a button to cycle through the four EQ modes - voice, sport, music, and movie - and control to turn off the surround sound. Why you'd buy a surround system only to turn the surround sound off is a bit of a mystery. Still, the ability to individually adjust the volume of the surround sound audio is definitely one that we appreciated, as they're not very powerful and felt a little weedy at their default setting. In some cases, we could hardly detect that they were there, and at other times, we heard intermittent static pops from them, which may be a result of interference from the wired connection.

It's a shame; otherwise, the sound quality is pretty reasonable. The bass from the subwoofer is appropriately deep and punchy, and the soundbar itself offers a decent amount of volume and clarity, particularly in the mid-tones and with voices, which makes watching movies an absolute treat - as does the Dolby Atmos support that provides a more immersive experience with compatible media. The treble can sometimes be a little muddy, but it's easy to forgive. Music is reasonably well served too, and this sound system will cope well with parties where you want room-filling sound and provide the soundtrack for gentler, more intimate evenings like dinner parties.

Monoprice SB-600 Dolby Atmos 5.1.2 soundbar

(Image credit: Future)

Monoprice SB-600: Our verdict

The Monoprice SB-600 is admittedly a little basic as home cinema audio systems go - the range of inputs is a little lacking, and we wish the surround sound units had a little more heft - but it's an effective and uncomplicated setup that delivers capable (if not unrivaled) performance for a reasonable price. You can certainly get better soundbars for this price, but if you've got your heart set on proper surround sound, rather than just a soundbar and a subwoofer, this kit represents solid value. 

Adam Shepherd
Freelance contributor

Adam is a technology journalist with a passion for devices, networking and gadgets of all kinds. Over the course of his career, he’s seen the spread of 5G, the growing ubiquity of wireless devices, and the start of the connected revolution. He’s also been to more trade shows and technology conferences than he cares to count.  When not serving as reviews editor for one of the UK’s leading business technology publications, he is on a never-ending quest to make his home as smart as possible, and to build the ultimate home cinema system, along with spending far too much time on Twitter and obsessing about his broadband speed.