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 5.1 system has 6 speakers including the left and right in front and a center speaker. It also includes rear left and right speakers plus a subwoofer for the surround sound experience. A 2.1 system only has 3 speakers, two in front for the left and right channel, plus 1 speaker in the back to provide a high-quality sound experience.

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.

Unfortunately, A sound system that is 5.1 is not for everyone. If you are going to buy a system, make sure to think about the factors so you can choose the perfect one for your needs.

2.1 Channel Soundbar

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

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

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

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
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
  • ADAPTIVE SOUND LITE - Enhanced audio tracking for your content in real time, with technology that equalizes background music and consistent volume control
  • BLUETOOTH TV CONNECTION - Set up is a breeze. Easily connect your soundbar to your TV by connecting wirelessly
  • GAME MODE - Boost your gaming experience with perfectly synced directional audio that moves with the action on-screen and crosstalk cancellation that minimizes distractions
SaleBestseller No. 2
Majority Bowfell Small Sound Bar for TV with Bluetooth, RCA, USB, Opt, AUX Connection, Mini...
  • COMPATIBLE WITH TV, PHONE AND PC: Using the assortment of connectivity options, the Bowfell can be connected to your phone, computer and most TVs using Bluetooth, Optical Input or RCA input. The Bowfell comes with an easy-to-use remote control.
  • MULTI-CONNECTION: The Bowfell boasts a wide range of connectivity options including Bluetooth, USB input, Optical input, RCA and an AUX port. The Bowfell comes with an RCA cable and 3.5mm AUX cable. Designed for the eager audiophile, you can select which mode you want to listen to: Music, Movies or Dialogue.
  • COMPACT DESIGN: The Bowfell’s slim design is ideal for any desktop space especially student dorm rooms.
  • BUILT-IN SUBWOOFER: Small but mighty, the Bowfell is equipped with a built-in subwoofer delivering outstanding cinematic sound.
  • DIMENSIONS: 38.8cm x5.4cm x7.2cm; 1.5kg
SaleBestseller No. 3
SAMSUNG 3.1.2ch Q700A Q Series Soundbar - Dolby Atmos/DTS: X (HW-Q700A, 2021 Model)
  • DOLBY ATMOS / DTS:X - Theater-quality sound that fires from the front, side and above for true audio immersion.
  • TRUE 3.1.2CH SOUND - The complete audio entertainment experience with 3 channels, 1 subwoofer and 2 up-firing channels.
  • Q-SYMPHONY - Perfectly synchronized, fully immersive QLED TV and soundbar audio.
  • SPACEFIT SOUND - Automatically calibrated sound and enhanced clarity to adapt to your space.
  • WORKS WITH - Enjoy your Soundbar hands-free using voice control through your Alexa-enabled device.
Bestseller No. 4
SaleBestseller No. 5
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.
  • DEEP BASS WITH WIRELESS SUBWOOFER: Experience deep, rich bass to make movies and music truly come to life.
  • 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.
SaleBestseller No. 6
Sound Bar for TV,Bestisan Home Audio TV Soundbars, Wired and Wireless Bluetooth 5.0 TV Speaker,...
  • WIRED AND WIRELESS AUDIO STREAMING- the sound bar system equipped with optical, coaxial, aux, cable and optical supplied. bluetooth 5. 0 also can adjust the sound to the best.
  • 3 EQUALIZER MODES- built-in dsp chip, the sound bar 2.0 channel provides 3 equalizer modes: dialogue, movie, and music, controlled by remote or button.
  • HOME THEATER EXPERIENCE- built-in 2x 3"" full-range drivers and dual bass ports speakers, bestisan sound bar can bring the richer, deeper bass and more immersive home theater experience than your tv."
  • MOVE FREELY& MODERN DESIGN— super bass stereo sound bar, can be placed directly on the tv cabinet or hung on the wall. and compact size, exquisite appearance fits with any home decor.
  • PACKAGED INCLUDED- includes the sound bar, remote control, optical cable, audio cable and the wall mounting kit to make sure that you have what you need to make the most of your bestisan audio experience right out of the box.
Bestseller No. 7
YAMAHA SR-B20A Sound Bar with Built-in Subwoofers and Bluetooth
  • Built-in subwoofers for deep bass in one slim sound bar
  • Clear Voice for enhanced dialogue clarity
  • DTS Virtual: X virtual 3D surround sound
  • Bluetooth streaming that allows easy switching between two devices
  • Simple setup with HDMI or optical
Bestseller No. 8
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.
  • Simple setup: A single connection from this compact soundbar to the TV via an optical audio cable (included) or an HDMI cable (sold separately) has you up and running in minutes.
Bestseller No. 9
Sonos Playbar - The Mountable Sound Bar for TV, Movies, Music, and More - Black
  • The mountable soundbar for TV, movies, music, and more
  • Enjoy crisp dialogue and impressive bass from wall to wall with Playbar. Control it with the Sonos app, your remote, and more
  • Whether you mount it on the wall or place it below your TV on a stand or console, Playbar automatically tunes itself for the best possible sound
  • Playbar was specially tuned by Oscar-winning sound engineers to emphasize the sound of the human voice so you can always follow the story
  • Easily connect Sonos speakers in different rooms over WiFi to create a home sound system that brings every room and everyone together
Bestseller No. 10
Majority K2 Sound Bar and Wireless Subwoofer | 2.1 Surround Sound with Bluetooth | with FM Radio and...
1,655 Reviews
Majority K2 Sound Bar and Wireless Subwoofer | 2.1 Surround Sound with Bluetooth | with FM Radio and...
  • 2.1 SURROUND SOUND: With 2.1 Channel Sound, the K2 offers a superior audio experience for any home entertainment set-up.
  • WIRELESS SUBWOOFER: Delivering high definition sound, the K2’s stereo speakers fill the room with your favourite sounds.
  • MULTI-CONNECTION: The K2 boasts a wide range of connections including Bluetooth, USB input, Optical input, RCA, AUX-input and HDMI ARC. The K2 comes with an RCA cable. Designed for the eager audiophile, you can select which audio mode you want to listen to: Music, Movies or Dialogue.
  • COMPATIBLE WITH PROJECTORS, TV, PHONE AND PC: Using the assortment of connectivity options, the K2 can be connected to your phone, computer and most TVs using Bluetooth, Optical Input and RCA input.
  • DIMENSIONS: 30 x 2 x 3 inches; 7.4lbs

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Last update on 2021-08-24

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