Shifting to an upgraded and new TV is nothing but an exciting and happy feeling. Almost everyone; at least people like me, get all thrilled to put it up & start enjoying its service. Sadly, soon after using it, people get to notice that the built-in audio system is of poor quality. Believe me, even the greatest televisions that are currently available in the market or online can have poor audio quality. How will you deal with such a problem?
A soundbar is among the most common and better ways to solve this problem because it is both inexpensive and effective. Beyond that, as a purchaser, you sometimes gotta make a choice. If you are an audiophile you definitely have to make some important decisions, for example, do you want your TV to have the finest sound possible? If yes which audio system you should go for? Which one will suit your device? How is it better than others? and many more.
If you’re looking into audio systems, you might believe that 2.1, 3.1, or 5.1 soundbars would be a decent starting point. Therefore, to give you a little help in making a choice we will be comparing 3 of the most well-known soundbars, that is the 2.1 vs 3.1 vs 5.1 in this article. Moreover, in case you don’t know the important differences between them, you will get to know them from here! So, what is the difference between them?
Soundbar channels 2.1 vs 3.1 vs 5.1: Explained
Let us begin with the basics. So, what is a 2.1 Soundbar?
It is a soundbar that comes with an external sub along with left and right channels. The 2.1 represents the base, also in most cases, lower-end devices on the market.
On the other hand, 3.1 Soundbar comes with left, right, & center channels, along with an external sub. The 3.1 is an upgraded step of the 2.1 soundbars. These have a center channel for improved dialogue and audio effects in the background.
Moving on, soundbars with 5.1 surround sound also have left, right, & center. They use an external subwoofer to surround the left and right channels. Besides, have the potential to entirely replace standard surround sound systems, making them a clear winner in the market. They can successfully provide a typical and traditional surround sound effect with its surround channels. However, due to the combination of two speakers (which must be positioned behind the user’s seating area), the 5.1 soundbars are generally costlier than the 2.1 & 3.1. Soundbars. But with that, you can’t also deny that the 5.1 surround devices are considerably different from the 2.1 or 3.1.
Difference between sound bar 2.1 3.1 and 5.1:
Advantages of having a Soundbar:Before getting into the main discussion, let’s know the reasons you should get a soundbar.
Soundbars can be connected to your Television or even other devices, and most of them will update themselves in order to keep you up to date on all the latest technologies. Also, they’re simple to use, yet they’ll last a long time, isn’t it convincing enough? (!)
Soundbars Are Super Compact
There was a time when the soundbars were thought to be bulky. Actually, they were bulky; many components were required to produce the optimum surround sound experience. Moreover, to hide their massive, chaotic wiring, you might just have to jump through so many hoops of hoops.
But at present, the scenario is totally different. It is now a convenient solution to receive amazing sound without causing a stutter. Besides, even after using a soundbar, you can keep your room neat, because they have a lot of speakers, so no more mess! Further, the external components for soundbars are often compact and wireless, allowing you to keep your space tidy even after they’ve been installed.
Most of the Soundbars come with Modern and Stylish Designs
If you want an audio system for your living room or even bedroom, you’ll want to keep the look and style consistent, and no need to worry because soundbars are both visually appealing and functional.
Besides, mounting your soundbar close to your TV is pretty simple. People won’t be disturbed by its design, especially if it’s mounted properly with the help of our advice. In addition, they’re lovely to look at, plus they will also brighten up any space. You’ll almost certainly receive compliments as well(!).
They Are generally Budget-Friendly
Even if you’re attempting to stay within your budget, a bar will offer you the best bang for your buck. Soundbars & packages are available to meet any budget or requirement. They really aren’t inexpensive, but the quality will not disappoint you.
Initially begin with the 2.1 or the 3.1 soundbars and, if possible, add components afterward.
Not to mention, wireless surround speakers are compatible with some soundbars. The majority, though, will not. Most importantly, you don’t have to spend a lot of money up front to get a great sound system with a soundbar.
Differences Between 2.1 vs 3.1 Soundbars
Soundbars are small speaker systems with a lot of functionality packed into a small and stylish body. Besides, as there may not be sufficient room for a subwoofer, the 2.1 and 3.1 soundbars feature a prominent and larger external speaker.
Moreover, soundbars with a 3.1 surround sound are generally larger than those with a 2.1 surround sound and that’s because of the inclusion of a center channel. However, it is probable that not everyone has that much space to place a 3.1 soundbar. So in that case, a 2.1 bar might suffice if you don’t have the space for a larger soundbar.
Further, both the devices are made to fit firmly against a smooth surface or if you want, they can be wall-mounted as well. Luckily, the placement of both 2.1 & 3.1 soundbars is quite flexible.
2.1 vs 3.1 surround sound: Sound Quality
After completing comparison tests, we found that 3.1 soundbars offer much superior sound quality than the 2.1 soundbars. Also, 3.1 offers more dynamic sound than the other. Besides, because of the center channel, you can feel a general sense of clarity in the dialogue, as well as a detailed sound response. It has a tremendous impact on the 3.1’s overall sound effects.
Moreover, the center channel’s main goal is to enhance dialogue. Because a 2.1 soundbar lacks a central channel, you’ll have to rely on the right and left speakers to hear each side’s voice and audio effects. As a result, the speech and dialogue are not as clear, and the audio details feel missing.
Further, there is a specific port on 3.1. This eliminates the need for the soundbar to use the side channels or nodes to push the vocals. It can also be split up to provide listeners with a clearer audio experience.
A 2.1-channel soundbar, on the other hand, will have a harder time recreating the surround sound if compared with the 3.1 channels. It can even sound better than any 5.1 channel bar with the help of advanced technologies like DTS or Dolby Digital. The LG LAS551H, for example, includes both of these features.
It’s also important to remember that embedded sound decoders are very essential for good audio quality. Having that said, also remember that performance is not always determined nor is dependent on the number of channels.
Irrespective of the number of channels as well as sub they have, both soundbars have the same connectivity.
The HDMI and optional inputs should be favored because they can handle high-quality sound formats. There are a few 2.1 soundbars as well with optical stereo or HDMI ARC, for example, the TCL Alto 6+.
Besides, as the soundbars only need one cable plug-in, both the connections are quite simple to set up and utilize.
Bluetooth, in both 2.1 & 3.1 surround devices can be connected to other soundbars. Another wireless connection that can be found in soundbars is Wi-Fi. They are, however, more pricey.
Users can wirelessly stream videos from their portable devices to the bar using Bluetooth. Also, when it comes to eliminating cable clutter, any Bluetooth-enabled device can help a lot (!).
Beyond that, external sub compatible with 2.1 or 3.1 surround devices, can also pair with a soundbar that supports Bluetooth. For instance, the Sony HT CT180 is an external sub that supports Bluetooth.
On the downside, Wi-Fi isn’t available in these devices for setup. It can be used for voice control along with setting up a home theater system. Wireless connections, on the other hand, are required to utilize a smart soundbar with voice inputs or commands into the user’s smart home system.
Despite the number of channels, the voice control feature can be enabled to the bar. Even though it has zero effect on the device’s appearance, it significantly improves the user experience.
For example, the Vizio M21DH8R is a 2.1 channel device that comes with voice control featuring Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa which makes the entering settings simple and it can be accessed with no need to touch the bar. Moreover, you can also check the news or weather forecast and control your soundbar totally hands-free. Similarly, the 3.1 channel soundbars also come with such voice control facilities.
Subwoofer & Control
In both 2.1 and 3.1 soundbars, a subwoofer is a must. Regardless of whether the subwoofer is built-in or external, each device comes with one.
Not to mention, an exterior subwoofer is more powerful than an interior subwoofer due to its size. Besides, wireless sub with soundbars is portable and it also allows customers to choose the optimal location to place the subwoofer.
That said, a built-in subwoofer has less ability to produce multi-layered sound like an external subwoofer.
Moving on, the number of channels provided by a soundbar has no effect on the control methods. Most of the soundbars include remote or, at the very least, a compatible app or control panel. And the soundbars can be set up to work with the TV remote.
Moreover, you can alter the connectivity, volume, and even the audio equalizers using the remote control or the control panel.
The best soundbar setup is a 2.1 setup. It is also the most basic setup of a soundbar. A right and left channel, as well as an external subwoofer, are included in the soundbar. Your TV’s audio will undoubtedly benefit from a bar with a 2.1 stereo system.
Even though you’ll have the distinct right and left speakers, you won’t get the same dynamic and vibrant surround audio quality as with a more advanced setup. A 2.1 soundbar can significantly improve the sound quality of the user’s TV’s built-in speakers
On the other hand, a 3.1 soundbar is a little more dynamic in comparison to a 2.1 soundbar, and they’re usually a little more pricey as well. Plus, when you add the speaker to the center channel, the sound will become more dynamic.
Furthermore, there is no need to use rear speakers to produce surround sound, because the extra channel will give the sound more dimension, also it will fill the room. This will also get you closer to a true surround sound experience.
Beyond that, as dialogue is typically perceived from the center channel speaker, the 3.1 channel bar will provide higher clarity. Besides, the dialogue will be mixed with audio effects & music on a 2.1 channel. As a result, the dialogues come out to be significantly less sharp and clear than on a 3.1 channel system.
Despite the fact that both the soundbars feature left and right channels, the price of the 3.1 bars is higher. But there is a reason and that is the presence of center speakers, which nicely improve dialogue. That is why a 3.1 soundbar costs around 1 to 1.5 times the price of a 2.1 soundbar.
No to mention, additional voice control, sound technologies, as well as audio modes can be added to make up for the price difference.
2.1 vs 5.1 Soundbar
There are only two channels in a 2.1 channel soundbar, on either side. A 5.1 channel bar, on the other hand, contains two side channels, a center channel, and two rear speakers the rear speakers can either be external or built-in.
The rear speakers can either be external or built-in.
As one might expect, the larger a bar is, the more the number of channels it has. The 2.1 audio setup is a suitable option for individuals who desire a visible improvement over their normal TV speakers but don’t require true surround sound.
Due to their reduced profile, 2.1 sound systems are also a better alternative for smaller settings. They are significantly easier to wall-mount in comparison to the alternative because they are lighter. Plus, subwoofers that come along with the 2.1 soundbars are also quite small and slim. The 2.1 option’s tiny size and light weight provide it additional freedom in terms of positioning and movement.
A 5.1 soundbar, on the other hand, could have a lot of pieces, necessitating a wider surface. As a result, 5.1 soundbars are considered suitable for larger rooms & televisions. Moreover, 5.1 soundbars may also be the more appealing alternative for those with higher sound requirements.
Besides, users can customize their home entertainment system with a soundbar of 5.1 channel, which comes with an external rear satellite speaker as well as an external subwoofer. You can also experiment with the arrangement to see what works best with the setup of your room.
In terms of the outside design, some audio devices may include a control panel or an LCD display screen to make the input settings easier to see. While this isn’t strictly necessary, I have observed that this really makes setup go even more smoothly.
A 5.1 bar is generally more expensive in comparison to a 2.1 soundbar due to the possibility of superior surround audio quality as well as dialogue clarity. They sometimes can cost a little less than a thousand dollars on occasion, but there are also soundbars that are much more expensive.
If you’re not an audiophile, though, the difference between a 2.1 surround system with excellent sound capabilities and a 5.1 sound system with basic audio features may be negligible. This can also help you save some money in the long run.
A single bar might not be enough to deliver you a satisfying surround sound environment. So, if you want to recreate a theater into your home with an additional subwoofer, modern technologies and multiple channels will help you to do that.
Moreover, a 5.1 soundbar maximum time provides far more value than the 2.1 systems. Besides, both with and without added technology, the additional center channel enhanced dialogue clarity as well as the 2 rear speakers can deliver better sound quality and upgrade the overall experience.
Moving on, if you have a 5.1 system with three external speakers (that is, it includes a subwoofer and 2 satellites), you can easily experiment with its placement in your room to provide extra depth.
However, if that’s all the 5.1 surround system can offer, then the 2.1 soundbars with great sound quality could be hard to beat, especially, if it has Dolby technology.
In the entertainment sector, Dolby Audio is known for being the leader in sound perfection. Soundbars can include various versions of DTS technology, Dolby Atmos, and also other brand-specific software. The Dolby Atmos devices with the lowest price tags indicate that they don’t always have to be pricey.
Further, all these technologies in your sound system will quickly improve the audio quality of a soundbar, no matter how many the number of channels it has.
These soundbars also have pre-tuned settings that have been fine-tuned to improve specific content. Besides, movie, music, news, sports, and gaming modes use the common sound modes.
Moving on to the connectivity, the 2.1 as well as 5.1 sound systems can have an HDMI connection to enable high-tech sound decoders and high-quality content. Besides, HDMI allows a 4K passthrough, and also it can carry more power than other lines.
HDMI allows a 4K passthrough and also it can carry more power than other lines.
Not to mention, if the user’s audio device doesn’t have HDMI, like some devices (for example, Sony HTCT180) he/she will have to rely on the digital optical connection. Plus, the 4K passthrough is also possible with digital optical. n soundbars, it is much more common than HDMI.
To connect the devices, make absolutely sure that your TV plus soundbars have appropriate input & output connectors.
Most soundbars support Bluetooth as it is the most common wireless connection offered by audio systems. It’s even found in high-end 2.1 soundbars and wireless speakers. Bluetooth allows consumers to stream video, movies, etc, from their smartphones to unlock the previously inaudible frequencies, whether it’s set in a 2.1 audio device or 5.1 soundbars.
Voice assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are nice to have, which won’t hamper your soundbar’s performance. These, on the other hand, enable simple hands-free management of the soundbar, plus they can provide quick information including weather, sports, and news reports.
The majority of 2.1 & 5.1 soundbars feature remote controllers of their own, however, some devices can be set up to operate with universal remotes. Basic controls are available on audio systems with a control panel that is built into the interface. That said, whether it be a 2.1 system or 5.1, it lets you use your TV remote to control the soundbar.
To begin with, since the 2.1 soundbars have a simpler structure and fewer components, the best and most popular 2.1 wireless speakers and even the 2.1 soundbars are simple to install. On the other hand, if you are the owner of a 5.1 soundbar featuring rear satellite speakers, you only have to sync two more components of the system.
Moreover, because of the plug-and-play architecture, both the digital optical code and HDMI hookups are rather simple. Furthermore, everything one might need for set-up comes with the box, including the remote, cords, and user instructions. Beyond that, a wall mount kit is sometimes included with the purchase of a soundbar.
2.1 vs 3.1 vs 5.1 Soundbar Recommendation:
Why choose 2.1 soundbars?
To begin with, 2.1 soundbars are typically less costly than 3.1 soundbars.
The 2.1 is smaller and easier to move about to allow different settings.
For enhanced hearing, this soundbar comes with HDMI connectivity as well.
Moreover, some of the 2.1 audio devices offer Bluetooth connectivity for flexible use. You can also use the built-in or external subwoofers with a 2.1 -channel soundbar.
Why choose the 3.1 soundbars?
There are quite a good number of advantages of a 3.1 channel bar. Firstly, there is a center channel in the 3.1 soundbar which improves its dialogue clarity.
Most importantly, the 3.1 channel soundbar outperforms the 2.1 soundbars in terms of overall sound quality.
Further, the 3.1 channel soundbars can also include a built-in or external subwoofer for improved bass response.
Beyond that, they have HDMI support for greater audio quality; plus Bluetooth communication is possible with these bars.
They sound incredible and also they have gained a lot of popularity in recent years. They are simple to set up as well as operate. Lastly, they’re compact, attractive, and reasonably priced.
Why choose the 5.1 soundbars?
It is great for medium- to big rooms to use as a home entertainment system with your friends and family. Also, it gives you a theater experience with high-quality soundscapes.
Most importantly, this system takes care of both the video as well as the audio quality, and how can I not mention that the 5.1 systems are great for video games as well!
How to choose a perfect Soundbar?
Firstly, you need to be certain that the soundbars you purchase are of high quality. For that, you better choose devices made by leading manufacturers as almost all industry experts trust them. Also, industry-leading brands produce some wonderful soundbars that deliver excellent audio quality.
Although it’s quite difficult to replicate a classic audio system in order to receive great multi-dimensional as well as room-filling sound, the good quality soundbars help quite a lot.
Beyond that, most people are finding it increasingly difficult to put together a complicated surround sound system. So, why invest extra money on a complex system if you ain’t really flexible with it?
Then you sound to focus on the soundbars that will help you to improve the sound quality of your television and for that do some research work on your Tv, like what features your TV might need to enhance its performance and buy a soundbar accordingly. In order to help you, I have shortlisted some great 2.1, 3.1, and 5.1 devices in the table below:
All the soundbars; that is 2.1, 3.1, and 5.1 are fantastic for those searching for the ultimate home theater and cinematic experience with no need to invest in a huge, dedicated TV.
The design of these soundbars, however, is the most notable variation between them. The 5.1 is the big favorite if you want an attractive soundbar with design. On the other hand, the 2.1 and 3.1 systems are more budget-friendly. Besides, the sound quality of these soundbars is quite similar, however, there are some obvious changes in bass quality.
Bottom line is that there isn’t any hard-and-fast rule when it comes to deciding whether a soundbar is good for you or not. However, I’ve emphasized some of each system’s benefits and drawbacks. And hope, this Soundbar 2.1 vs 3.1 vs 5.1 write-up and all the information here will assist you in reaching your final choice.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What does a 2.1 soundbar mean?
It is a soundbar that comes with an external sub along with left and right channels.
What makes a soundbar different from a sound system?
A soundbar is a device that is designed to improve the sound quality of Televisions up to 45 inches in size. It typically consists of two or four speakers connected to a base device that connects your TV through the wall. The base device includes each speaker’s volume controls as well as a remote, and it connects to your Television through HDMI or via the optical audio connectors.
Do soundbars outperform traditional speakers?
Of course. Traditional speakers can only play music or watch DVDs or Blu-rays. But you can watch videos, movies, play games, listen to music, etc with a soundbar.
Will my soundbar work with my android phone?
Yes, it will.
Which soundbar can I get on a medium budget with the great sound quality?
Klipsch Cinema 600 3.1 Bluetooth Sound Bar, TCL Alto 9+ 3.1 Channel Sound Bar, Samsung MM55, and other 3.1 ch soundbar you can get between $200 to $500 with a center channel. This results in improved sound quality and transparency.
Among 5.1 soundbars vs 3.1 which one is budget-friendly?
The 3.1 channel soundbars.
Student and Tech journalist.