If you want to enjoy your favorite movies, video games, or even music in surround sound but don't have space for a full home theater setup with satellite speakers, a 5.1 soundbar setup may be what you're looking for. You can generally expect a 5.1 soundbar system to come with a fairly wide 5-channel bar and a separate subwoofer, but some models integrate the sub directly into the bar. This kind of setup won't sound as natural as a more traditional home theater speaker system, but it provides a more immersive listening experience than a regular two or three-channel soundbar. Some 5.1 soundbars even have up-firing speakers to give the impression of height with Dolby Atmos content, which some Blu-rays and streaming services support.
We've tested over 100 soundbars, and below you'll find the best 5.1 soundbars to buy. Make sure to check out our recommendations for the best soundbars, the best budget soundbars, and the best Dolby Atmos soundbars.
The best 5.1 soundbar that we've tested is the Sonos Arc with Sub + One SL Speakers. This premium-looking 5.1.2 setup comes with a dedicated subwoofer and two satellite speakers to help immerse you in your audio. It supports Dolby Atmos content and offers an impressive surrounds performance, so it's a good choice for movie fans who want to feel like the action is happening all around them.
This soundbar comes with a room correction feature that automatically optimizes audio reproduction based on the unique acoustic characteristics of the room you're listening in. With this feature turned on, it has a slightly bright sound profile with a balanced mid-range that's suitable for vocal-centric content like podcasts and TV shows. You can also use the bass and treble adjustments to adjust the sound profile more to your liking, which is handy.
Unfortunately, this soundbar lacks a Full HDMI In port, so you can't use it as a hub between different devices, and it can't passthrough the high bandwidth signals. It also lacks a full graphic EQ, which can be disappointing if you want more control over the bar's sound profile. Although the soundbar, the sub, and the satellites can't be purchased as a package deal at the moment, you can still buy the components separately and pair them together.
If you're looking for a 5.1 setup that offers more sound enhancement features, consider the Vizio Elevate instead. While it isn't as well-built as the Sonos Arc with Sub + One SL Speakers and doesn't come with a room correction feature, it offers bass and treble adjustments as well as some EQ presets that make it easy to adjust the bar's sound. This setup has a unique design, with sides that automatically rotate upwards when you watch Dolby Atmos or DTS:X content to help create a wider soundstage. Out-of-the-box, it has a slightly bass-heavy sound profile that adds some extra thump and punch to your audio, so you really feel the rumble in action-packed movie scenes. Thanks to its dedicated satellite speakers, it offers a decent surrounds performance, too. There's even a Full HDMI In port available if you want to use it as a hub between different devices.
If you want a better-built soundbar that comes with a room correction feature, check out the Sonos. However, if you prefer some more sound customization options and want a Full HDMI In port, consider the Vizio instead.
If you're limited on space, the Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar is the best standalone 5.1 soundbar we've tested. This 5.1.4 setup has a unique design with thirteen speakers integrated into a single bar. Its AMBEO 3D Mode is designed to help create a more immersive listening experience by sending audio over and around you, without the need for dedicated wireless speakers.
Out-of-the-box, this soundbar has a pretty neutral sound profile, though it struggles to reproduce some low-bass. Fortunately, there are lots of sound customization features available so you can adjust its sound, including a graphic EQ and presets. It also gets pretty loud, and it offers acceptable surround and Atmos performances.
Unfortunately, this soundbar's large, heavy design may not fit very easily into your existing setup. Also, its soundstage performance isn't as impressive as some of the other 5.1 bars we've tested, which can be a bit disappointing. That said, if you're looking for a standalone bar with versatile performance, it's a solid choice.
The Vizio M Series M51a-H6 is the best 5.1 soundbar under $500 that we've tested. This 5.1 soundbar has a very versatile performance, and its neutral, balanced sound profile makes it suitable for listening to lots of different types of audio content out-of-the-box. It supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X content, too, which is handy for movie lovers.
Thanks to its dedicated satellite speakers, this soundbar offers a good surrounds performance, so surround objects like voices and footsteps are accurately localized in the soundstage. It gets pretty loud, too, so you can use it to listen to audio at parties and in large rooms. It also offers a decent selection of sound enhancement features, including bass and treble adjustments as well as a few EQ presets.
Unfortunately, this soundbar isn't as well-built as some of the other bars we've tested, as the fabric covering the front and the sides seem like it could rip or get dirty easily. Its soundstage performance is decent with a good focus, but it isn't perceived to be very wide, especially compared to other soundbars like the Vizio Elevate. However, if you're on a tighter budget, this versatile soundbar is still a solid choice.
The Vizio V Series V51-H6 is the best budget 5.1 soundbar that we've tested. This 5.1 setup comes with a wireless subwoofer and two discrete satellite speakers that help to more accurately localize sound objects in your surround content. It's also Bluetooth-compatible, making it easy to wirelessly stream audio from your phone to the bar.
Out-of-the-box, this soundbar offers a very neutral, balanced sound profile that's suitable for listening to lots of different types of audio content. Thanks to its dedicated subwoofer, it can reproduce a deep, thumpy low-bass, so you can feel the rumbling sound effects in action-packed movies. It gets pretty loud, and it comes with a decent selection of sound enhancement features.
Unfortunately, while this soundbar has a decent soundstage performance, its soundstage isn't perceived to be much wider than the bar itself. Also, it doesn't support Dolby Atmos content, and the fabric covering the sides of the bar seems like it could rip or get dirty easily. That said, this soundbar still offers a pretty impressive price-to-performance ratio overall.
Jun 15, 2021: Replaced the LG SN9YG with the LG SP9YA and the Samsung HW-Q850T with the Samsung HW-Q850A in Notable Mentions as these next-generation soundbars offer better overall performances.
Apr 16, 2021: Replaced the JBL Bar 9.1 with the Sonos Arc with Sub + One SL Speakers since the JBL isn't widely available. Added the Vizio Elevate as 'More Customizable Alternative'. Added the Vizio M Series M51a-H6 as 'Best Under $500'. Added the Bose Soundbar 700 with Speakers + Bass Module and the Samsung HW-Q850T as Notable Mentions.
Feb 16, 2021: Removed the LG SK10Y and the Samsung HW-Q60R from Notable Mentions as they aren't widely available. Added the Vizio Elevate and the LG SN10YG to Notable Mentions. Minor changes to the text; no changes in product picks after verifying accuracy.
Oct 21, 2020: Replaced Samsung HW-Q80R with JBL Bar 9.1. Added the Sonos Arc with Sub + One SL Speakers as 'More Immersive Alt'. Removed the LG SL10YG as 'Best Decent 5.1 Soundbar' and added the Samsung HW-Q80R as 'Best Customizable 5.1 Soundbar'. Added Vizio SB36512-F6 to Notable Mentions.
Jul 23, 2020: Replaced Samsung HW-Q60R with Samsung HW-Q60T for best 'Budget 5.1 Soundbar' pick.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best 5.1 soundbars for most people to buy. We factor in the price (a cheaper soundbar wins over a pricier one if the difference isn't worth it), feedback from our visitors, and availability (no soundbars that are difficult to find or almost out of stock everywhere).
If you would like to choose for yourself, here's the list of all our reviews of soundbars with 5.1 channels. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. No soundbar is perfect. Personal taste, preference, and listening habits will matter more in your selection.