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 channels, 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.

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  • 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

Controlling Soundbars with Universal Remotes

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

5.1 and 7.1

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.

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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.

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Best Seller List Of Sound Bars:

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Sony S100F 2.0ch Soundbar with Bass Reflex Speaker, Integrated Tweeter and Bluetooth, (HTS100F),...
  • Straight from the theater to your home: easy set-up, built-in tweeter, 2-ch speaker with simple Bluetooth connection
  • Deep sound with Bass Reflex speaker
  • High power with a slim design that matches any room and is perfect for small living spaces
  • Voice enhancement feature is great for TV content with hushed dialogue, or to make conference call participants easier to hear
  • Easy TV set up with HDMI ARC
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Saiyin Sound Bar for TV with Subwoofer Deep Bass Soundbar 2.1 CH Home Audio Surround Sound Speaker...
  • Sound Bar with Subwoofer Upgrade Your Home Theater Audio Experience: Powerful full-range drivers (total 70-watt output) deliver a more realistic, richer sound from a compact soundbar with deep bass. Sound Bar is a perfect TV speaker that optimizes sound clarity and creates incredible room-filling virtual surround sound.
  • Deep Rich Bass: Feel the action and the beat of the music with the rich bass from a subwoofer. Sound Bar, Ideal Soundbar for TV, PC, Gaming, Computer, Projector, Televisions, Surround Sound Systems, Music Players, Smartphones or Tablets, Monitor, Flat Screen, Smart TVs. Sound Bar works well with all TVs sizes.
  • 3 Sound Modes via Remote Control: This compact TV speaker comes with 3 equalizer modes: Music, Movie, and News modes. Use the remote control to select your favorite specialized mode for providing you with a wide range of stereo effects throughout the room so you can enjoy cinematic surround sound in your home.
  • Wireless or Wired Connection, Easy Setup: Sound bar can be connected to most types of your devices via Wireless Bluetooth 5.0 connection, Optical, AUX(3.5mm), RCA, or Coaxial connection, Easily connect to your home theater, Smart TV, PC, phone, projector, DVDs, laptop, desktop, tablets, pad, and more. If your TV or other source devices only has a 3.5mm headphone socket, use the 3.5mm to RCA audio cable to connect the soundbar to your TV or other source devices.
  • What You Get: TV Sound bar, Subwoofer, Remote Control, Power Adaptor, Optical Cable, RCA Audio Cable, 3.5mm to RCA Cable, User Manual, and Wall Mount Kit. If you have any problems, please feel free to contact us immediately.
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BESTISAN Soundbar, TV Sound Bar with Dual Bass Ports Wired HDMI and Wireless Bluetooth 5.0 Home...
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  • Enhanced bass: 3 inches full range drivers and dual bass ports that bring the richer and deeper bass, boost A loud sound that fills the room without distortion.
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  • 3 different equalizer modes: fine tune your sound bar with 3 distinct equalizer modes (movie, music, dialogue) via the remote control to match your favorite sound.
  • Multiple Setups, multiple options: sits flat below the TV screen or securely mounts on the wall for a sleek, elegant home theater setup
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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
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  • Exclusively Soundbar for TV - 70W maximum output power. Powerful drivers deliver high-end acoustic sound effect with built-in reflex tubes for left and right channels, which greatly enhances the bass effect to bring sound to life for a fantastically dynamic audio experience
  • Multi Connection - Supports optical fiber, HDMI(ARC), AUX, and USB, compatible with TV, projector, computer, blu-ray player, tablet, XBOX, PS5, MP3 player, etc. (The package contains high-quality HDMI(ARC) cable, Optical cable, and AUX cable) Multiple connections to play music freely
  • Bluetooth 5.0 Wireless Connection - Bluetooth 5.0, more stable and faster transmission, and the latest technology greatly increases the transmission range up to 33 feet. Easily connect with most devices, such as iPhone, iPad, tablet, computer, TV, laptop, etc. Powerful anti-interference lossless transmission technology ensures perfect sound quality, enjoy music anytime, anywhere
  • Home Theater System - The exclusive left and right channel independent cavity design improves the separation of the left and right channels compared with the ordinary design, and sound field positioning is more excellent. Spacious and dynamic sound effects give you an immersive 3D surround experience
  • Easy to set Up - Soundbar: 35.4*2.36* 3.54 inch. The slim form factor of this soundbar allows it to subtly tuck under your TV. No matter it is placed flat on the table or mounted on any wall; it will not take up your precious space
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VIZIO 2.0 Home Theater Sound Bar with DTS Virtual:X, Bluetooth, Voice Assistant Compatible, Includes...
  • America's #1 Sound Bar* - VIZIO has been filling homes with truly immersive audio for over 10 years, and our sound bars just keep getting better. We are proud to provide our customers with top-tier audio products that bring movies, shows, podcasts, music, and more to life like never before. (*#1 Sound Bar Brand in 1H 2022 Source: The NPD Group/Retail Tracking Service, U.S., based on units, Jan. - June 2022 combined.).Mounting Type:Sound Bar.Speakers maximum output power:10 watts.Total hdmi ports:1
  • Ultra-Compact 2.0 Design - Experience the performance of larger, more complex home theater systems in a simple, ultra-compact solution designed fit anywhere and blend seamlessly into any environment.
  • Bold Performance - Experience rich, clear sound with up to 91dB of total SPL output for performance that belies its size.
  • Essential Connectivity & Control - Get setup and listening in seconds with the included cables plus Bluetooth connectivity for wireless streaming of your favorite music and podcasts.
  • 2.0-Channel Sound - Experience a powerful room-filling, true stereo experience ideal for movies, music, and gaming.
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Bose TV Speaker - Soundbar for TV 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.
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  • Bluetooth TV speaker: Pair your device to this Bluetooth soundbar to wirelessly stream your favorite music and podcasts.
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SAMSUNG HW-S50B/ZA 3.0ch All-in-One Soundbar w/Dolby 5.1, DTS Virtual:X, Q Symphony, Built in Center...
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  • BUILT-IN CENTER SPEAKER: The built-in center speaker is dedicated to delivering enhanced dialogue, so you won't miss a word, no matter how faint the conversation or how intense the background music or action is
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Bose Solo 5 TV Soundbar Sound System with Universal Remote Control, Black
  • Single sound bar provides better sound quality compared to your TV.The Solo 5 TV sound system is an easy solution, with advanced technologies that deliver the clear audio your TV can’t.
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  • DOLBY DIGITAL 5.1 DTS VIRTUAL:X: Multi directional sound draws you into the action with Dolby Digital 5.1 capable and DTS Virtual X.
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Related Questions

Question

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 audio, 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.

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Last update on 2022-11-17

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