2.1 vs 5.1 Soundbar: What’s The Difference?

This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase using one of these links it means we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Learn More

Perhaps you want to get a soundbar instead of an entire home theater system. Don’t worry, I’m not here to tell you that you made the wrong choice. You actually made a good decision.

A soundbar is a compact but effective solution to your audio dilemma.

The soundbar won’t draw attention away from the TV, but it will surely improve the audio quality drastically and it will pretty much offer you virtual surround sound, as a home theater would.

As soon as you started searching for a soundbar, you came across terms like “2.1 soundbars” and “5.1 soundbars.” You have no clue what they are or which option is the best.

What exactly is a 2.1 soundbar? What exactly is a 5.1 soundbar? and, most importantly, which one is better and why.

Don’t worry, because, in today’s article, I’ll answer all your questions and concerns.

Without wasting time, let us define what a soundbar is.

What is a Soundbar?

Smartphones and modern televisions are very similar. They’re both slim, and not only that, well-known companies are desperately trying to keep them that way or make them even thinner.

You might wonder why? What’s the problem with that? They are more appealing to the eye.

Yes, but they did so at the expense of space, which means there isn’t much room for audio components, hence their bad sound quality.

Audio techs then came up with different solutions to make your TV look and sound good by providing different equipment, and one of them is a Sound bar or Soundbar, it goes both ways.

It is, as the name implies, a sound-producing device in the form of a bar, basically a speaker.

The Soundbarbar is designed in this manner for hearing reasons and to make it easier to install beneath the TV.

Sound Bars are a low-cost alternative to stereo sound systems that can significantly increase the audio quality in your living room, home cinema, or meeting room.

Why Do You Need A Sound Bar?

A soundbar will allow you to enjoy high-quality TV sound without the need for a home theater receiver or surround sound speakers.

A soundbar can house two or more speakers and can play stereo or surround sound. Some soundbars come with a separate subwoofer that boosts the bass for a better movie experience and bass-related music.

Overall, it is a great device that I would recommend getting if you want a home cinema on a budget and in a less messy manner.

Now, let’s get back to the topic and define 2.1 and 5.1 soundbars.

Defining 2.1 Soundbar

The 2.1 Soundbar features the most basic, yet most popular system on the market right now.

Technology is aiming to kick the 2.1 out of the game by making it history with the entrance of different systems that are more improved.

However, as far as I can tell, that will not be possible because 2.1 is inexpensive, simple to use, and effective.

2.1, as the name suggests, contains two rear speakers, left and right speakers.

There are times when 2.1 soundbars come with 4 dedicated speakers (instead of simply 2) that serve as the center channel. The audio quality is significantly improved even if it isn’t a genuine center channel, which would be considered 3.1.

A woofer is also included with the 2.1 soundbars, which is designed primarily for low-frequency audio and provides clearer and crisper sound, of course, BASS is not left behind.

Defining 5.1 Soundbar

Yes, as you might expect, a 5.1 soundbar system has more speakers.

The soundbar contains at least three speakers, with the remaining two being independent side/rear speakers.

They have a separate subwoofer and produce a much more realistic sound. You get a surround sound experience thanks to the 5.1 soundbar audio channel’s arrangement, especially due to the two separate surround speakers that it comes with.

However, we must not overlook the fact that they come at a price that is hard to swallow.

We pretty much grasped the concepts 2.1 and 5.1 soundbar, let me explain in a few words what the additional Subwoofer is.

What is a Subwoofer?

A subwoofer is a loudspeaker that reproduces low-pitched audio frequencies known as bass and sub-bass, which are lower in frequency than those produced by a standard woofer of a speaker.

Simply put, the bass that can’t be heard solely by your speaker will be heard in a much more detailed and better manner through the subwoofer. If you have a subwoofer, you’ll get a better listening experience and of course a better virtual surround sound.

Two soundbars, one 2.1 and the other 5.1 are shown below, both from well-known brands, but I compared them based on their system virtues.

2.1 System Soundbar
Klipsch Cinema 400
5.1 System Soundbar
JBL Bar 5.1
Because it has fewer speakers, it is far more compact than its counterpart.
It comes with more speakers, meaning that you will be limited on space
Simple and straightforward to set up, with no cable clustering or other issues.
Because there will be more wires and limited space, it will be more difficult to set up.
Additional Features
Additional Features
It varies by manufacturer and price, but most include features such as Dolby Atmos, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi.
It largely depends on the company and what they have to offer, but you may expect things like multiple connections, dialogue clarity, Bluetooth, wifi, and so on.
Sound Quality
Sound Quality
It sound decently and more than enough for an average joe
Due to the additional speakers, it provides a more articulated sound quality and allows you to experience surround sound.

Conclusion: Which One Should You Get?

Prior to buying a soundbar, consider the size of your living room. As you can see, both systems are rather different in terms of size. Yeah without a doubt that the size of your room also plays a significant role in true surround sound.

You don’t want to force the soundbar under or close to your TV, as this may destroy the look of your living room, or worse, ruin the setup, resulting in a poor sounding system.

The next thing to think about is your budget. We noticed that a 2.1 soundbar is less expensive than a 5.1 soundbar and had more speakers and features.

If you merely want a soundbar and don’t want to break the bank, the 2.1 is your friend. If you can bypass the painful price of the 5.1 soundbar one, feel free to. Also, take into account the lack of true surround sound experience, a 5.1 soundbar will always offer superior surround sound.

Your next concern should be sound quality. Again, if you are just a guy who likes a soundbar and wants better sound quality than what its TV has to offer, you don’t have to invest in a 5.1 soundbar since the 2.1 will provide more than enough.

I know that you might want that surround sound experience, but there’s the Dolby Atmos technology that pretty much tricks your brain into thinking that you hear the sounds in a 3 Dimensional way.

On the other hand, if you are an audiophile who is fascinated with sound, 5.1 is unquestionably the way to go. I don’t think 2.1 will satisfy you enough.

Nevertheless, at the end of the day, it all boils down to preferences.

This information should have cleared up any questions you had about soundbars and the 2.1 and 5.1 systems.

Until next time, enjoy!

Further Reading

Now it’s the time for headphone information, I assume you’re fed up with the soundbar topic. Shout out to the new gen feeling “anxiety”, and find out if headphones can reduce the level of anxiety

Dropped your AirPods in the water, go ahead and read the article on what to do with them. For superior quality, planar magnetic headphones are to-go audio technology.

Where are my shower singers? Oh, here you are, immediately check out these headphones for the shower that can highly withstand water. 

Whether you’re looking for information on audio equipment, looking to learn more about how things work in the music field, or looking for reviews of products, we got you covered!



647 Glen Creek St.
Westland, MI 48185