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.

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

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.

Sale
Kicker 46KISLOC K-Series Interconnect, Speaker to RCA W/Line-Out Converter
  • Compatible with OEM radios that have short circuit protection, these units take as much as 55 watts of input and deliver up to 8 volts of output.
  • This sonically neutral converter delivers outstanding sound quality in an incredibly small footprint.
  • KISLOC 2-ch speaker-to-RCA converter, LOC

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 46KISLOC K-Series Interconnect, Speaker to RCA W/Line-Out Converter
  • Compatible with OEM radios that have short circuit protection, these units take as much as 55 watts of input and deliver up to 8 volts of output.
  • This sonically neutral converter delivers outstanding sound quality in an incredibly small footprint.
  • KISLOC 2-ch speaker-to-RCA converter, LOC

Best Seller List Of Sound Bars:

SaleBestseller No. 1
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
SaleBestseller No. 2
Amazon Fire TV Soundbar, 2.0 speaker with DTS Virtual:X and Dolby Audio, Bluetooth connectivity
  • Amp up your audio - Fire TV Soundbar enhances TV audio with dual speakers for fuller sound, clearer dialogue, and deeper bass—all in a compact design.
  • Immersive sound - Enjoy a three-dimensional virtual surround sound experience with DTS Virtual:X and more detail with Dolby Audio.
  • Easy setup - Just plug in the included HDMI cable to the HDMI eARC/ARC port on your TV to instantly enjoy audio that's always in sync.
  • Compact design - With a length of 24“ and a height of just 2.5", Fire TV Soundbar fits most entertainment consoles and TV stands.
  • Stream audio with Bluetooth - Connect your phone or tablet via Bluetooth to fill the room with your favorite music.
SaleBestseller No. 3
Saiyin Sound Bars for TV, 40 Watts Small Soundbar for TV,Surround Sound System TV Sound Bar Speakers...
  • 【Ultra-Compact Design】The 17-inch soundbar is a compact and sleek audio device that great for desktop space especially small to medium-sized living room or bedroom.Our sound bar takes up less space and is effortlessly moveable, making it an ideal TV speakers sound bar!
  • 【Loud and Clear】 This soundbar is built with 2 full-range speakers that provide a more realistic, spatial audio experience to make movies and music truly come to life, allowing you to enjoy all details of music and movies.
  • 【Multiple Input Connections】 Our small sound bar has various connectivity options, including Bluetooth, optical,and auxiliary input, which allows you to connect it to your TV, smartphone, PC ,tablet, or other devices to stream music or watch movies. Besides, the home audio sound bars has a "SUB OUT" port, which supports the connection of an active subwoofer.(Press the M button on soundbar can switch the three connection modes of Optical /AUX/ Bluetooth)
  • 【Optimize Entertainment With Different Sound Modes】The sound bar can be switched to three equalizer modes (Music, Movie, News) with remote. This soundbar not only produces clear and detailed sound regardless of the content you're watching or listening to, but also enhances the dialogues, bass and treble of music, movies, and TV shows,and makes them sound more realistic and engaging.(Remote control is not compatible with universal or TV remotes )
  • 【Set Up In Minutes】You can put the soundbar on desktop or mounted on the wall directly with rovided wall mounting kits. The TV soundbars size is: 17" * 3.5" * 2.5". What’s inside: soundbar, remote control, wall mounting kit, optical cable, 3.5 to 3.5mm audio cable, Power adapter and user manual.
SaleBestseller No. 4
SAMSUNG HW-C450 2.1ch Soundbar w/DTS Virtual X, Subwoofer Included, Bass Boost, Adaptive Sound Lite,...
  • DTS VIRTUAL:X: Expand your listening experience; DTS Virtual: X creates spacious 3D sound putting you at the center of the action for an elevated and immersive home theater experience
  • SUBWOOFER INCLUDED: Get that big boom with our included subwoofer; Bring home intense sound with rich, powerful bass; Elevate the action and take things to the next level
  • BASS BOOST: Bass you can boost with a tap; Feel the depth of distant thunder as your listening experience is taken to another level; Tap the button Feel the power
  • ADAPTIVE SOUND LITE: Enjoy all your favorite video content with dynamically optimized audio and enhanced voice clarity so you can follow along with action packed games and blockbuster films
  • GAME MODE: Optimize your gaming experience with perfectly synced directional audio that moves with the onscreen action; Game Mode eliminates distractions so you can hear better and play harder
Bestseller No. 5
VIZIO V-Series All-in-One 2.1 Home Theater Sound Bar with DTS Virtual:X, Bluetooth, Built-in...
  • America's 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. (* Sound Bar Brand in 1H 2022 Source: The NPD Group/Retail Tracking Service, U.S., based on units, Jan. - June 2022 combined.).Waterproof : No
  • Complete, All-in-One Design - Experience the performance and features of a traditional home theater system in a simple, all-in-one solution designed to blend seamlessly into any home.
  • Striking Performance - Brilliant clarity, startling dynamics, and Dolby Audio and DTS Digital Surround support combine for performance that defies its size.
  • Simple Setup, Streaming and Control -Get setup and listening in minutes with HDMI ARC and Bluetooth connectivity for unparalleled ease of use, control, and access to your content.
  • Minimal Modern Design - A clean, angular, low-profile silhouette seamlessly blends into any environment.
SaleBestseller No. 6
TCL Alto R1 Wireless 2.0 Channel Sound Bar for Roku TV, Bluetooth,Wifi TSR1-NA 31.5-inch,...
  • EXCLUSIVELY FOR ROKU TV: Requires a Roku TV. Expandable with Roku Wireless Subwoofer. Does not work with Roku Wireless Speakers.
  • SIMPLE WIRELESS SETUP WITH ANY ROKU TV: The simple wireless setup means no running cables or drilling holes in your wall. Just plug it into power and pair it for clearer, louder TV sound.
  • UNBOXING TO LISTENING IN MINUTES: Inside the box you’ll find a quick start guide, power cable, and sound bar.
  • ONE REMOTE IS ALL YOU NEED: There’s no need to juggle an additional remote every time you want to adjust the volume or sound settings. Just use your existing Roku TV remote.
  • QUICK ACCESS TO SOUND SETTINGS: Press the star button on your Roku TV remote to access your sound bar and Roku TV settings all in one place.
Bestseller No. 7
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
  • 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. Connect up to 3 devices through the inputs (HDMI, Optical in, and AUX in); the first powered on device will automatically connect
  • 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. 8
1,698 Reviews
Saiyin Sound Bars for TV with Subwoofer, 2.1 Deep Bass Small Soundbar Monitor Speaker Home Theater...
  • 【Enjoy Deep Bass from Dedicated Subwoofer】The deep rich bass from our new generation sound bar(20Watts*2 output)and subwoofer(30Watts) will activate every cell in your body.The large cavity space of the subwoofer makes the bass punchy and full of magnetic. The surround sound of soundbar and subwoofer collide with each other in every corner of your room like waves, which allowing you immersed in music, movie and gaming.
  • 【Multifunctional LED Indicator&Soft Light】Unlike other sound bars, The three-color LED lights help you better identify which the connection mode the sound bar is on(Optical-Purple, Bluetooth-Blue, Auxiliary-Green). Not only that, the volume progress bar below soundbar reminds you the volume level of total or bass.The soundbar's hidden LED indicator and soft lighting make it possible for you to watch TV without distractions.
  • 【3 Equalizer Modes】You can adjust soundbar to three different equalizer modes according to different TV shows like news, movie and music. It is an excellent sound bar for your TV. In addition, we provide replace remote control for free. (Remote control is not compatible with universal or TV remotes)
  • 【Wireless&Wired Connection】The Bluetooth chip can help you connect devices such as computers and cell phones to the sound bar. Auxiliary input model and optical input model are also available as an option for you to connect your computer, TV and speakers.(We also provide Auxiliary cable and Optical cable for free)
  • 【What's You Get! 】The package contains the following products:Soundbar*1, subwoofer*1, remote control*1, user manual*1, 3.5mm to 3.5mm auxiliary cable*1, optical cable*1, brackets*2 expanded plastic pipe*2 and screws*2. In addition, you will receive our product quality guarantee for more than one year and professional after-sales service.
SaleBestseller No. 9
Polk Audio Signa S2 Sound Bar & Wireless Subwoofer – Exclusive VoiceAdjust Technology, Ultra-Slim...
  • A PREMIUM ULTRA-SLIM SOUND BAR WITH INCLUDED WIRELESS SUBWOOFER – 5 powerful full-range drivers deliver beautiful rich sound with deep bass. Polk’s exclusive VoiceAdjust technology & Dolby Digital Decoding maximizes sound clarity & reduces voice delays
  • EXCELLENT SOUND AND VALUE on par with any mid- to high-range sound bars available in the market. At just over 2" tall, it fits most spaces — easily wall-mount it or place in front of your TV. It won’t block your TV’s bottom edge or IR remote sensor
  • UPGRADE YOUR HOME THEATER EXPERIENCE – Watch your favorite shows on your 4K HD Smart TV with exceptional picture quality & crystal clear sound. With numerous connection possibilities, plug in any audio source via HDMI ARC, optical input & AUX
  • WIRELESSLY STREAM MUSIC from your favorite streaming apps like Pandora, Spotify, TuneIn, and others directly from your smartphone, tablet or other compatible device through the built-in Bluetooth technology
  • SET UP YOUR SOUND BAR IN MINUTES — With the included subwoofer, HDMI and optical cables quickly connect your TV to the sound bar. Get set up and listening in minutes
Bestseller No. 10
VIZIO 2.0 Home Theater Sound Bar with DTS Virtual:X, Bluetooth, Voice Assistant Compatible, Includes...
  • America's 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. (* Sound Bar Brand in 1H 2022 Source: The NPD Group/Retail Tracking Service, U.S., based on units, Jan. - June 2022 combined.)
  • 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 and 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.

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 2024-05-24

With an impressive 15-year track record in the world of blogging, I have established myself as an expert in this field. The passion for home entertainment and electronics shines through in work, providing readers with valuable information and guidance on creating the ultimate home theater experience.

Leading authority in the field of home theaters and home electronics. With a passion for sharing unique discoveries and personal experiences, I’m dedicated to providing valuable insights to enthusiasts and experts alike.

Through Theater DIY, I continue to be at the forefront of the ever-evolving world of home entertainment, offering expertise that enlightens and inspires.