What is the Difference Between a 2.1 and 5.1 Soundbar?

After getting your dream TV now, you will want to have a great sound system that will also match your TV. Sometimes higher-end TVs also come with speakers that do not sound great. Installing a sound system is a common and easiest way to upgrade your entertainment system. But questions can come to your mind that, what kind of speaker will be best for you or what’s the difference between a 2.1 and 5.1 soundbar system?

So let’s see what the difference between a 2.1 and 5.1 soundbar is? A 2.1 soundbar comes with two included speakers, a left and right channel, and a subwoofer, where a 5.1 soundbar comes with five included speakers. Those are front left, front right, front center, surround left, surround right, and a subwoofer.

In a 5.1 soundbar system, all the front channels are generally built-in to the soundbar, and the surround speakers come separated. But one thing you should remember is that adding more speakers doesn’t just add more volume; they also help the system improve the surround sound quality. It also helps you give you a unique entertainment environment.

But unfortunately, a 5.1 soundbar system is not for everyone. It would help if you remembered some factors while you are going to buy a sound system so that you choose the perfect one for you.

2.1 Channel Soundbar

A 2.1 Channel Soundbar is formed on Left and Right Channels in the Soundbar and a Separate Subwoofer.

2.1 Channel Soundbar
2.1 Channel Soundbar = A Separate Subwoofer + Left and Right Channels in the Soundbar

A 2.1 channel soundbar usually comes with at least two speakers (sometimes more). They are separated into two channels, left and right. It also comes with a separated subwoofer. The extra speaker is not only for increasing the volume. More speakers help you to enjoy a more authentic surround sound experience.

With a 2.1 soundbar, you will be able to enjoy the clear sound from the left and right channels of audio. This sound system is pretty standard, but it will not improve your listening experience in a significant way.

With a 2.1 soundbar, you will get a left and a right channel only. These soundbars come with both “stereo” and “surround sound” settings, but unfortunately, in the 2.1 soundbar system, both settings will sound almost the same.

5.1 Channel Soundbar

A 5.1 soundbar system usually comes with three extra speakers or channels than a 2.1 soundbar system. So obviously, it will make a much richer sound and enhance your listening experience. It comes with a front left, front right, front center, surround right, surround left, and a separate subwoofer included.

The front speakers are usually built into the soundbar itself, where the surround speakers and the subwoofer is separated. But sometimes, all five sound speakers or channels are built into the soundbar. After being located into the soundbar itself, the additional two speakers still work as surround speakers.

5.1 Channel Soundbar with Separate Surround Speakers

5.1 Channel Soundbar with Separate Surround Speakers
Universal 5.1 Channel Soundbar = Center, Right, and Left Channels in the Soundbar + Separate Subwoofer + Surround Right Speaker + Surround Left Speaker.

So you can say that the traditional 5.1 surround system has three channels in the front, two surround channels, and a subwoofer.

The separated surround speakers can be placed anywhere to the back left and back right of the room. With a 5.1 soundbar system, you will be able to enjoy a ripe sense of left and right sound with additional depth.

That depth increases the entertainment experience. It can give you the experience that just can’t be matched with a few front speakers. It will make the sound more realistic. You will feel like the explosion in that action movie is happening right behind you. Even you will be able to locate from where the enemies’ footsteps are coming from in the video game.

5.1 Channel Soundbar with Integrated Surround Speakers

5.1 Channel Soundbar with Integrated Surround Speakers
5.1 Channel Soundbar w/Built-in Surround Speakers = Center, Right, Left, “Surround Right,” and “Surround Left” Channels in the Soundbar + Separate Subwoofer

We have talked earlier that some soundbars come with the two surround channels built-in the soundbar itself. But the surround speaker comes angled so that they can output soundwaves in a very particular way.

The integrated surround speakers output the sound so that the soundwaves reflect from the back of your room, and they sound like the speakers are actually situated behind you. When in reality, the surround speakers are actually in front of you.

But it would be best if you remembered that this thing doesn’t work with all room sizes and shapes. It works great in a more boxed or closed-off room. But if the room is very open, the soundwaves will not bounce perfectly, and the speakers will not work great.  

But after all, the 5.1 soundbars with integrated “surround” speakers still sound really amazing!

What if There’s a 3rd Number?

Some of the 5.1 surround soundbars come with a third number, such as 5.1.4. It means that the soundbar directs some of its sounds upward. So that the sound can bounce in the ceiling and you can enjoy a new dimension of the surround sound.

A famous sound speaker, The Nakamichi Shockwave Pro 7.1.4 (on Amazon), also comes with this technology. This soundbar uses its satellite speakers, and it really sounds extremely well.

Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1.4 Channel 600W Dolby Atmos Soundbar with 8" Wireless Subwoofer, 2 Rear...
  • Transform your living room into a state-of-the-art movie theater with True 360° Dolby Atmos surround flowing around, above and beyond you. Like cinemas with speakers located around you, SHOCKWAFE Pro 7.1.4 SSE duplicates the same experience to your home, courtesy of Two rear surround speakers & Spatial Surround Elevation (SSE) processing technology. Created with same DNA as our flagship Shockwafe Ultra 9.2.4 SSE, Winner of the best Dolby Atmos Soundbar Battle (hosted by Brian Tong, Ex-Cnet host)
  • Experience a whole new level of surround performance with our exclusive SSE Technology. Featuring 3 advanced audio processing engines working in harmony to enhance directionality, enlarge spaciousness & unlock extra details of any audio soundtrack. Envelop your home theater with up to 7.1.4 channels of uncompromising moving audio that flows all around you. Unleash the full dynamics of your audio experience with 105dB of room-filling sound.
  • TWO 2-WAY REAR SPEAKERS (industry's first!) produce spacious and dynamic surround sound. Each of them (connected to sub via RCA wires) is constructed with a tweeter that reproduces high frequencies with captivating clarity, and a full-range driver that delivers surround effects with power and precision. Simply put, the surround sound performance from simulated/virtual 2.1 or other 5.1 channel surround soundbars does not come anywhere close to this.
  • The main soundbar unit features upgraded high-performance speaker drivers. The signature front surround effects tweeters deliver a 35% wider soundstage. Our newly-designed 8" down-firing wireless subwoofer delivers tight, room shaking low frequencies that enhances the impact of your home theater. Bass effects are fired onto the floor surface and distributed equally in all directions across the entire room for maximum immersiveness.
  • All units sold since Aug '19 can receive Dolby Atmos surround via TV’s eARC when streaming with TV’s smart apps like Netflix (Note: not all TVs can output Atmos. Refer to your TV brand’s audio output specs). Enjoy advanced connectivity with Dolby Vision, 4K UHD pass-thru and High Dynamic Range (HDR). Connect up to 6 devices via 1 HDMI ARC, 3 HDMI, 1 Optical and 1 Coaxial inputs. The 52-key backlit remote allows seamless control of sources, DSP modes, individual channel and room size optimization

Conclusion Between 2.1 and 5.1 Soundbars

Adding more speakers does not ensure you give you better sound. 2.1 soundbars also come with high-quality speakers, and they also can please anyone. These high-quality speakers can also be found in 5.1 surround soundbars, but you can also find 5.1 systems with sub-par speakers. It really enhances the quality of the speaker drivers and soundbar enclosure.

Before you buy anything, you have to make sure that what sound aspects are important for you and which one will be best for your budget. Moreover, you should also think, is it really worth it to sacrifice a surround sound system for top-quality speakers or sacrifice top-quality speakers for a surround system? Would you like to enjoy a surround sound experience with a fair speaker quality?

Benefits of Soundbar Systems

You might ask that why you should buy a soundbar at all. For that, you should know that Soundbars are convenient and they can give you a great sound quality also. Just look at a 2.1 soundbar. It can give you a true quality sound with just a single soundbar and a subwoofer.

With a 5.1 soundbar, you can get a few more speakers, and it can enhance your audio experience even more. If you want to skip the hassle of wires, you can buy a Bluetooth surround speaker so that you can easily set it up.

To set up a traditional surround sound system, you have to give effort and connect all the speakers correctly via cables. But with a soundbar, you don’t have to take that much hassle. So you can say that it is the easiest way to elevate your listening experience.

Benefits of a Soundbar’s Easy-Setup Subwoofer

Subwoofers usually come with traditional surround sound setups. In 2.1 and 5.1, the 2 and 5 mean the number of sound channels it has, and the “.1” indicates the subwoofer. They are very important for sound quality. In a traditional surround sound setup, you have to connect the subwoofer via a cable.

But in almost all soundbar systems, you do not have to connect a subwoofer via cables. You will be able to connect them easily with the help of Radio Frequencies via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.

When you use the built-in speaker of your TV, do you ever noticed that the audio is becoming distorted or fuzzy? It is because the built-in speakers are not so powerful. So they can’t handle the extreme pitches (from the high squeals to the super low rumbles).

A subwoofer is actually a dedicated bass speaker, so you can hear the bass more clearly and strongly while using a soundbar setup. Even the floor can rumble from the bass, but the subwoofer will not get damaged, and you will hear a clear sound.

Not Everyone Prefers 5.1 Soundbar Systems

If your priority is convenience, then you should go for a 2.1 soundbar instead of 5.1. Because setting up a 2.1 soundbar is much easier than setting up a 5.1 soundbar because there are fewer speakers.

Though a 2.1 soundbar comes with two speakers, these speakers are built into the soundbar.

There is a subwoofer also. So you just have to set up these two pieces. And enjoy a superb sound. You cannot find a better balance between convenience and quality than a decent 2.1 soundbar system offers easily.

Price Difference

After all, now you can ask, what’s all this going to cost you? More speakers will cost you more, and it is not surprising at all. But the 5.1surround soundbar might not be that much more costly than a 2.1 soundbar system.  

So if you are looking for soundbars, you may find a 5.1 soundbar for less than $200. If you do not have any issues with the budget, you can easily spend hundreds of dollars more on high-quality speakers with a wireless setup.

JBL is a famous speaker manufacturer. You can find their wireless 5.1 soundbars with detachable surround speakers on Amazon. You can also go for the bigger systems, such as the 7.1 soundbars if your budget allows you to do that.

Sale
Kicker KISLOC 2-Channel K-Series Speaker Cable to RCA Adapter with Line Out Converter
  • K-Series Interconnect Cable
  • World's first micro surface mount line-out converter
  • Two channel Speaker to RCA
  • K-Grip dual-mold connectors offer sure grip
  • Split pin RCA with silver tinned OFC wire

Again if your budget is not so more, you can easily find a standard 2.1 soundbar for about $100. If you want to save more cash, you even push down the budget to 70 dollars. But if you want the best quality like this Vizio soundbar (on Amazon), then you have to spend $400 or more.

Sale
Kicker KISLOC 2-Channel K-Series Speaker Cable to RCA Adapter with Line Out Converter
  • K-Series Interconnect Cable
  • World's first micro surface mount line-out converter
  • Two channel Speaker to RCA
  • K-Grip dual-mold connectors offer sure grip
  • Split pin RCA with silver tinned OFC wire

Related Questions

What does 3.1 mean on a soundbar?
The three means that the soundbar has three sound channels. Those are the left, right, and center channel. And the “.1” means the soundbar also comes with a single subwoofer.

Are standard TV speakers really that bad?
If you love high-quality audios, then the answer is YES. But Casual TV viewers may not mind some distorted voices or blown-out bass; usually, they’ll only notice it at high volume. But if you want a clear and strong sound at any volume, then you should install an extra sound system.

Are soundbar systems the only alternative to standard TV speakers?
No, there are some other alternatives also. It depends on anyone’s personal choice. Such as, Musicians may go for vintage analog speakers to match their vinyl collection, while Tech lovers may choose smart speakers so that the speaker can communicate with smart home systems and give you the output of superb audio quality with voice-activated software like Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home. But after all, we just want to say that soundbars are a great choice for those who are looking for quality sound with a convenient, fairly affordable, and easy installation process.

-our editorial board has reviewed this article and has been approved for publication according to our editorial policy.

Best Seller List Of Sound Bars:

Bestseller No. 1
Soundbar, TaoTronics Three Equalizer Mode Audio Speaker for TV, 32-Inch Wired & Wireless Bluetooth...
  • Room-filling sound: powerful speakers deliver a round, high-end audio experience
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SaleBestseller No. 2
Samsung HW-A450/ZA 2.1ch Soundbar with Dolby Audio (2021) , Black
  • SUBWOOFER INCLUDED - Wireless subwoofer is included so you can enjoy deep bass right out of the box All-in-one
  • BASS BOOST - Give your bass an instant boost with the push of a button on the soundbar
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  • GAME MODE - Boost your gaming experience with perfectly synced directional audio that moves with the action on-screen and crosstalk cancellation that minimizes distractions
Bestseller No. 3
TOPVISION 50W Soundbar, 16-Inch Small Sound Bars for TV, 3 Equalizer Modes, Wireless Bluetooth 5.0,...
  • 🔊[50W Power & 2 Full-range drivers]This small soundbar is equipped with 50W output power. Paired with your TV, the sound bar creates a louder, more immersive listening experience than through your TV speakers alone. Dual powerful full-range speakers provide hifi audio, making comfortable bedrooms and compact spaces full of extensive stereo effects.
  • 🔊[Built-in DSP & 3 EQ modes]Soundbar built-in DSP technology ensured sound output is more stable and accurate. 3 Equalizer modes (Music, Movie, News) to match your favorite voice. Movie Mode: You’ll hear every rip and rumble from your favorite action film, with deeper bass and loud, room-filling sound; Music mode Add clarity and pleasant sound; while it’s News mode pulls out every word and expression from movies or commentary, to ensure that conversations sound crisp and clean.
  • 🔊[Wireless Bluetooth 5.0]Wireless Bluetooth 5.0 can realize fast connection between mobile phone and sound bar, efficient and stable transmission, and strong anti-interference. Pair the sound bar to your phone via Bluetooth to soundtrack your next party, or to set the mood for when you want to relax with a good album in rich, audiophile quality.
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  • 🔊[Stylish appearance & service]This 16-Inch mini soundbar is stylish and compact, and their more compact form makes them easier to travel with or set up wherever you'd like.At the same time we provide lifetime technical support. If you have any problems with your tv soundbar, you can contact us via Amazon, We will offer you a replacement or refund.
SaleBestseller No. 4
Majority Bowfell Small Sound Bar for TV with Bluetooth, RCA, USB, Opt, AUX Connection, Mini...
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  • Connect to your TV or phone: The Bowfell can be connected to most types of TVs and monitors including Smart TVs using the Optical connection (Optical cable included), RCA connection (RCA cable included), or Bluetooth connection. The Bowfell also features Bluetooth so you can also connect wireless Bluetooth devices to the sound bar. The Bowfell can also be connected to your laptop, desktop, or computer monitor.
  • USB and AUX connection & large remote control: Use an AUX cable (3.5mm jack cable included) to connect to older style devices with an AUX port. The Bowfell also includes a USB input, allowing you to insert a USB stick to play audio from. With the easy to use remote, you can select a music mode that heightens music, movies or dialogue to be played at their best.
  • Slim profile ** AUX ** USB ** Optical ** Bluetooth ** RCA & Optical cables included ** Remote control ** adjustable treble & bass settings ** Measurements 15.28 x 2.13 x 2.83 inches ** Built-in subwoofer ** 50 watt output ** weighs 53oz ** New & improved sound drivers **
  • In the Box: Majority Bowfell Soundbar, Remote control, Power adaptor, 3.5mm to 3.5mm Audio cable, 3.5mm to RCA Audio cable, Optical cable, Instructions manual
SaleBestseller No. 5
VIZIO Sound Bar for TV, 29” Surround Sound System for TV, Home Audio Sound Bar, 2.0 Channel Home...
8,222 Reviews
VIZIO Sound Bar for TV, 29” Surround Sound System for TV, Home Audio Sound Bar, 2.0 Channel Home...
  • 2.0 Premium Audio The VIZIO 2.0 Sound Bar is an easy way to enhance your audio experience when watching your favorite content on the TV. The full-range stereo speakers boost your audio, while DTS technologies simulate incredible surround sound
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  • Features DTS Studio Sound, DTS TruVolume and DTS TruSurround
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Bestseller No. 6
TCL Alto 6+ 2.1 Channel Dolby Audio Sound Bar with Wireless Subwoofer, Bluetooth – TS6110, 240W,...
  • DOLBY DIGITAL: Dolby Digital decoding maximizes sound clarity and creates incredible room-filling virtual surround sound.
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  • STREAM MUSIC WIRELESSLY: You can use your Bluetooth-enabled device to wirelessly stream music on your sound bar.
  • SPECIALIZED SOUND MODES: Specialized sound modes bring Movies, Music, and News to life.
  • QUICK AND HASSLE-FREE SETUP: With HDMI, optical, or Bluetooth connections, you can go from unboxing to listening in minutes.
Bestseller No. 7
Bose TV Speaker- Small Soundbar with Bluetooth and HDMI-ARC Connectivity, Black, Includes Remote...
  • Hear your TV better: Designed with simplicity in mind, the Bose TV Speaker is a small soundbar that clarifies speech and is a simple fix for better TV sound.
  • Wide, natural sound: 2 angled full-range drivers deliver a more realistic, spatial audio experience for overall better TV sound from a small soundbar.
  • Enhanced dialogue: This TV speaker is designed to specifically focus on clarifying and elevating vocals and pronunciation.
  • Bluetooth TV speaker: Pair your device to this Bluetooth soundbar to wirelessly stream your favorite music and podcasts.
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SaleBestseller No. 8
JBL Bar 2.1 - Channel Soundbar with Wireless Subwoofer
  • Designed with a slimmer profile, the full–featured, easy–to–use JBL bar 2. 1 features Dolby digital, JBL Surround sound, 300W system power and a wireless 6. 5” subwoofer to provide balanced sound and deep bass for your movies, music and even video games
  • Full featured in every sense of the word, it has an HDMI input as well as aux and USB wired connections that enable you to round out your home entertainment options even more
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  • The 300W of power output ensures great audio performance for your movies and music
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Bestseller No. 9
Vizio V51-H6 36" 5.1 Channel Home Theater Soundbar System (Renewed)
  • Low-Profile Design and Brilliant Clarity with 6 Full-range Speakers
  • Powerful 5" Wireless Subwoofer and Bluetooth Music Streaming
  • Complete Immersion with Discreet Volume Adjustable Surround Speakers
  • Optimized for 4K TVs with Dolby Audio 5.1 and HDMI (Cable Included)
  • Control with TV Remote using HDMI, Audio Cables Included for Easy Setup
SaleBestseller No. 10
VIZIO SB2021N-H6 2.1 Sound Bar Speaker System (Renewed)
  • Minimum Frequency Response: 50 Hz
  • Maximum Frequency Response: 20 kHz
  • Features: Multiroom Capability
  • Features: FullRoom
  • Features: Wireless Subwoofer Connectivity

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Last update on 2021-06-11

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