2.1 vs 5.1 Soundbar – What’s the difference?

It’s a long night, and you have just got some time off of work to sit and enjoy the latest Batman movie, which you’ve been eager to watch for a very long time. You sit back relaxed in front of your television only to realize that you don’t have the perfect audio system to complement the stunning picture technology that your 4k HDR TV offers. And to help to choose the perfect sound system we are going to talk about 2.1 soundbar vs 5.1 soundbar and provide all details you need to know.

What do you do in times like these? Will justice ever be served?

Soundbars are the solution to your problems. A soundbar is a long rectangular shaped device containing multiple speakers that project audio from a complete enclosure. Although fairly simple to look at, this little magic box is filled with a great deal of technical wizardry.

There are plenty of soundbars available in the market at the moment, and figuring out which one to choose can be difficult. We will be discussing the differences between the 2.1 vs 5.1 soundbars, helping you to decide which one is the greater option to choose.

The Key Difference 2.1 vs 5.1 Soundbar

What sets the two soundbars apart? The main difference between the two competitors is the number of speakers they contain. Before diving straight into the difference, it is essential to know the origin of the confusing prefix attached to the PS4 soundbars.

The first number in the prefix suggests how many speakers or drivers are in the main setup i.e., the number of channels. The second number indicates the number of subwoofers. In some cases, there’s a third number that typically specifies the number of upward-firing speakers. This is essential in the Dolby Atmos soundbars.

The 2.1 soundbar, therefore, includes 2 speakers and 1 subwoofer. Similarly, the 5.1 soundbar has 5 speakers and 1 subwoofer.

5 Best Soundbar

How Soundbars Work: 2.1 vs 5.1 for Music 

Although the soundbar looks like a single speaker at first glance, it is actually an amalgamation of seven speakers. Each of the speakers is fitted in the bar and positioned so that it creates an acoustic effect known as surround sound.

This effect creates an illusion in the minds of listeners. This illusion makes the sound seem like it’s approaching them from all around.

How does this technology work? You’d be surprised to know that it’s relatively simple. The soundbar sends different beams of sound, which then bounce off the wall and reproduce the surround sound effect. Each beam is assigned to an individual channel.

The unique channels include the front right, front left, center, surround right, and surround left channel. This distinctive feature allows them to produce five distinct channels of sound rather than just a virtual sound effect.

The 2.1 Soundbar

The 2.1 soundbar contains two speakers which are composed of the right channel and left channel. A separate subwoofer, which can either be wired or wireless, is also included with the speakers.

Similar to a more traditional stereo system, the 2.1 soundbar is relatively standard, but it doesn’t offer a significant improvement in the sound quality. Since the specialty of soundbars is the surround sound effect, the use of just two speakers won’t be able to offer a distinct and meaningful hearing experience to the listeners.

5 Best 2.1 Soundbar

The 5.1 Soundbar

The 5.1 soundbar comprises five different channels: front left, front right, front center, surround left, and surround right. In addition to the channels, it also includes a subwoofer. Usually, the front three channels are built into the soundbar, but sometimes five channels can also be incorporated.

This means that the surround speakers can either be separate or attached to the soundbar. Hence, the 5.1 soundbar configuration can come in two different forms, which we will discuss in the next section.

5 best 5.1 Soundbar

Separate Surround Speakers

This 5.1 soundbar configuration includes three channels in the front, two surround channels, and a separate woofer. The flexibility of arrangement allows you to experiment with the speakers and place them in different positions until you find the sweet spot.

Since the speakers can be moved without restriction, it adds extra depth to your musical experience. 5.1 soundbar wireless feature makes it easier to place anywhere you want. And 5.1 soundbar setup is easy and you can also set up the 5.1 soundbars manually.

Integrated Surround Speakers

In contrast to the separate surround speaker configuration, the integrated surround speaker include the two surround channels incorporated into the soundbar. In order for this to work, the surround speakers have to be adjusted at an angle so that they can bounce off the sound waves in a specific direction.

Although this kind of works in a small room, it does not provide promising results in a larger and open space. Apart from this drawback, these speakers have excellent audio performance. And this type of 5.1 soundbar price is also under your budget.

Advantages of The 2.1 Soundbar

  • Budget-friendly device for boosting TV audio
  • Great way to save space and get better quality audio at the same time
  • A suitable choice for music lovers
  • Relatively small and easily transportable
  • The subwoofer is easy to set up

Advantages of The 5.1 Soundbar

  • Uses surround sound technology to provide a fuller and immersive audio experience
  • Provides clearer vocals
  • Provides the complete three-dimensional audio experience
  • Relatively small and easily transportable
  • The subwoofer is easy to set up

Things to Look For When Buying a Soundbar

Before you make the decision to choose a soundbar, there are some things that you should keep in mind.


Where the soundbar is going to make its habitat is a question that you should ask yourself before getting one. The installation of soundbars is quite versatile;

you can either let it hang on the wall or sit under the TV. One tip is to plan where you will be placing the soundbar beforehand so that it doesn’t block any part of the TV, such as the IR receiver.


The more connectivity options, the better. Here are some of the options to look out for:


If you have an HDMI cable, you can use it to connect the soundbar to the TV’s audio return channel (ARC).


Bluetooth connectivity can be used to stream music from computers, smartphones, and tablets wirelessly.  Some wireless soundbars come with Wi-Fi allowing you to connect with your internet network and stream from various sites.

Optical port

One of the easiest, most straightforward, and reliable connections is the optical patch cord. Although the optical cord provides a stable connection between the TV and the soundbar, its bandwidth is limited to carry up to 5.1 signals.

USB port

Soundbars today are updated to include the USB port connectivity which is quite simple to set up.

Passive vs Active

Active soundbars are self-amplified, meaning no extra receiver is needed to plug into it. Passive soundbars, on the other hand, require

a receiver or amplifier to work. We would advise you to go for an active soundbar if you simply want to upgrade your TV audio.

Channel Configuration

The number of channels in a soundbar can vary. It is important to know the differences between the channel configuration because the performance of the soundbar relies on the number of channels it contains. There are several channel configurations. These include:

  • 2 channel soundbar
  • 3 channel soundbar
  • 5 channel soundbar
  • 7 channel soundbar
  • Dolby Atmos soundbar

Although it may seem like the more the channels the better the sound, that is not always the case.

Are 5.1 Soundbars Worth It?

It is not a question that the 5.1 soundbars provide a much more excellent audio experience compared to the 2.1 soundbars. But the real deal is, are they worth it?

The 5.1 home theater systems can be a little pricey. If you’re not ready to invest a lot for your audio experience, 2.1 and 3.1 soundbars are preferable.

The main reasons for the high-demand for soundbars are their size, transportability, and convenience in setup. However, with the addition of two extra speakers, things can get a little tight to manage.

Moreover, a 5.1 soundbar may not be the best option if you decide that the installment of the device will be above the TV. The reason for this is you might not get to enjoy the full surround sound experience due to the loss in projection from rear speakers.

Lastly, the set up for 5.1 soundbars would require a bit of time since you’ll have to figure out where to put the rear speakers.

However, don’t be discouraged as a little compromise is required if you want the best three-dimensional audio experience for yourself, which you will enjoy using a 5.1 soundbar without a question.

Are 2.1 Soundbars Better?

Although the 5.1 soundbars may seem superior when the two systems are differentiated, there are several reasons why you should be getting the 2.1 sound systems.

First off, the 2.1 soundbar price is way more affordable than its competitor. If you’re not looking for something extra fancy, the 2.1 soundbar is certainly a great choice.

Although these sound systems lack the true surround sound technology, they have something called virtual surround sound, which in my opinion, can create pretty decent sound.

Another great side about these home entertainment systems is that the 2.1 soundbar manual is reasonably easy to set up, and with a few speakers, there’s less chance of clutter from the wires.

Which Soundbar is The Best in The Market?

Now that you know the differences between the two competitors, here’s a detailed list of a few models that we have picked out to make your purchasing decision easier.

Sony HTS 350 Review and Specs


  • 1 channel configuration
  • 4 X 2.5 X 3.5 inch dimensions
  • 4 kg
  • 1 X 6.3-inch driver
  • Class D amplification
  • Inputs: 1 X HDMI – ARC/Audio and 1 X Optical TOSLINK – Audio
  • Both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity
Reasons to buyReasons to avoid
Powerful and quality sound
Supports HDMI ARC
Wireless subwoofer
Always on surround sound mode

TCL Alto 7+ Review and Specs


  • 2 X 2.5 X 3.8″ inch dimensions
  • 1 channel configuration
  • 2 X 4.5-inch full-range drivers
  • 2 X 1.5-inch Tweeter
  • 80 W amplifier output
  • Inputs: 1 X HDMI – ARC, 1 X Optical TOSLINK – Audio and 1 X 1/8″ – Audio
  • Bluetooth connectivity
Reasons to buyReasons to avoid
Powerful and quality sound
Supports HDMI ARC
Wireless subwoofer
Always on surround sound mode

JBL Bar 5.1 Surround Review and Specs


  • 1 channel configuration
  • 1 X 2.3 X 3.9 inch dimensions
  • 9 kg
  • ] 2 X 1.25- inch Tweeter
  • 5 XElliptical Cone full-range driver
  • 250 W amplifier output
  • 40 Hz to 20 kHz of frequency response
  • Inputs: 1 X HDMI – Audio/Video and 1 X Optical TOSLINK – Audio
  • Outputs: 1 X HDMI – ARC/Audio/Video
  • Both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity
Reasons to buyReasons to avoid
Powerful bass depth
Adjustable bass EQ
Wireless subwoofer
Limited EQ control

Samsung 5.1 Wireless Soundbar Review and Specs

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  • 5.1 channel configuration
  • 38.6 x 2.3 x 4.1 inches dimensions
  • 21.2 pounds
  • 8.1 x 13.9 x 11.9 inches subwoofer
  • 360 W amplifier output
  • 50 Hz to 60 kHz of frequency response
  • Inputs: 2 X HDMI 2.0a, 1 X Optical TOSLINK, 1 X Stereo RCA and 1 X 2.5 mm – Calibration Mic
  • Outputs: 1 X HDMI – ARC/Audio/Video
  • Both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity
Reasons to buyReasons to avoid
Suitable for both movie and game play
Remote control
3D surround sound
Quite large

Final Recommendations

Even though the 5.1 soundbar is excellent in audio performance, it may not be a suitable choice for everyone. There are many factors associated with its setup and one of them is whether to get separate or integrated surround speakers. While many audiophiles look forward to a more three-dimensional sound experience, it can be quite a hassle setting up the speakers.

In contrast, the 2.1 soundbar is a prime example of “less is more.” Not only is it cheaper than its competitor, but it is also easier to set up. However, it uses virtual surround sound rather than true surround sound.

That being said, if you’re an audiophile who wants to enjoy the authentic surround sound experience, you should definitely go for the 5.1 soundbars. However, if you’re on a budget, the 2.1 soundbars should be a wiser option.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

This FAQ section is here to talk about some of your problems. We are almost at the end of the article, and still trying to help you with some of your queries. Let’s find out more!

When do I need to use 5.1 audio?

For a home theater audio experience, the most frequent choice is 5.1. Although you can utilize 5.1 configurations for music, adding a dedicated center channel for dialog and surround channels for sound effects and atmosphere makes viewing movies and TV programs a lot more enjoyable.

On a soundbar, what does 5.1 mean?

Five speakers, generally front left, front right, front center, surround left, surround right, and a subwoofer, make up a 5.1 soundbar. What exactly is this? Advertisement should be reported. The soundbar’s front channels are normally built-in, while the surround speakers are usually separate speakers.