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 2 or 3-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 30 soundbars so far, and below you'll find the best 5.1 soundbars to buy. See 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 to date is the Samsung HW-Q80R. Its 5.1.2 setup with a dedicated wireless subwoofer as well as a soundbar with integrated side and upwards-firing speakers help to create an immersive listening experience. The bar is compatible with Samsung's optional satellite speakers, so you can upgrade this soundbar to a full 7.1.4 setup if your needs change.
Both the subwoofer and the bar itself feel quite well-made as the bar is made of dense plastic with a metal grill, though unfortunately, the subwoofer is covered in fabric which could get dirty or rip. The sound reproduction is quite well-balanced and has a low LFE, ensuring good, thumping bass. The dedicated center channel makes dialogue is clear and easy to hear, while its up-firing speakers do a decent job at creating a fairly immersive Atmos experience. As this bar can get loud, you can also turn up the volume to hear it in crowded or large rooms.
Without dedicated satellite speakers, its surround performance is sub-par, even though it has side-firing speakers. Its wide size can also be difficult to fit between a 55" TV's stand legs. The soundbar doesn't support Apple AirPlay or Chromecast either, although you can transmit your music via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or through the Samsung app. Overall, if you want a versatile soundbar that provides a decent surround sound experience that can be upgraded later, this is a great choice.
If you want something more affordable than the Samsung HW-Q80R, go for the Vizio SB36512-F6. It might not be as well-built and doesn't get as loud, but the Vizio has dedicated rear speakers, which results in a slightly more immersive experience. While you can buy separate satellite speakers for the Samsung, the Vizio offers one of the best performance-to-price ratios from all soundbars we've tested. There's also the bigger 46 inch Vizio SB46514-F6, which has two additional up-firing speakers for Atmos content. It's noticeably more expensive than the 36 inch model, but it can also be a good alternative if you enjoy watching movies.
If your budget allows, the Samsung is still a better choice, but for an affordable option without compromising too much on sound quality, the Vizio can hold its own.
If you're limited on space, the Sennheiser AMBEO is the best standalone 5.1 soundbar we've tested to date. Its unique 13 speaker design is built into its huge body, making this 5.1.4 setup a soundbar that delivers on the sound while taking up less space.
Its integrated design uses a 3D audio mode to create an immersive listening experience without down-facing satellite speakers. To further enhance your audio, this soundbar comes with a room correction microphone that listens to how the sound is delivered in your room and make adjustments to give you a better sound. The AMBEO can also get very loud, which is good when you want to be immersed in your movies. Its connectivity options are great too as it has Bluetooth and Chromecast built-in, making it easy to stream your favorite music. You can even use this soundbar as a hub for all your devices as it has three HDMI In ports.
On the downside, this bar is big and heavy. It can be hard to position as it can cover the bottom part of your screen. It also lacks bass, although with AMBEO mode activated or when using the EQ in the companion app, it shouldn't be too much of an issue. All in all, this soundbar is a great choice for those who want a unique but simplified setup.
If you're looking for something more affordable, the Samsung HW-Q60R is the best budget 5.1 soundbar setup we've tested so far. While it's similar in design to the Samsung HW-Q80R, it doesn't have side-firing speakers. Instead, it uses what Samsung calls an Acoustic Beam to simulate up-firing speakers and create a more immersive feel.
This soundbar is well-built and has a premium feel to it. Its fairly neutral and well-balanced sound profile is suited for a variety of different content such as music and TV shows. It can also reproduce voices and dialogue impressively, so your favorite audiobooks and podcasts sound clear and accurate. If you want to crank up the volume, it can get loud, although there's some distortion at max volume. Similar to other soundbars in the Q series, it has an auto-off after five minutes of inactivity.
On the downside, the subwoofer struggles to produce a deep rumble and thump, which isn't great for action movies or bass-heavy genres like EDM. Luckily, it has a graphic EQ so you'll be able to fine-tune the bass to your liking. This soundbar also doesn't support any lossless formats or object-based surround such as Dolby Atmos. However, if you're looking for a soundbar that supports most common surround sound formats at a more affordable price point, this soundbar is a good choice.
The LG SL10YG is a decent 5.1 soundbar. Its dedicated wireless subwoofer and wide design is similar to the Samsung HW-Q80R. While it can deliver surround Atmos content, it doesn't perform as well as the Samsung it but can be more affordable overall.
Thanks to its exciting, V-shaped sound profile, its over-emphasized bass and treble make it a good choice for music like EDM or pop. If you want a little more customizability over your sound, there are EQ presets available, as well as bass and treble adjustments to fine-tune the sound to match your personal preferences. This soundbar can get pretty loud and is good for crowded or spacious rooms. If you prefer to use your soundbar for more dialogue-centric content, the dedicated center channel produces clear and easy-to-understand dialogue, which is well suited for TV shows and podcasts.
On the downside, while it supports Dolby Atmos content, its surround and height performance is disappointing. It also lacks a 3.5mm aux-in port but it still has a ton of connectivity options, such as two HDMI-in ports, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Chromecast built-in, making it easy to share your music with the room. Overall, if you want a decent 5.1 setup that's great for music and offers good overall value, especially when on sale, this is a good choice.
04/24/2020: Minor text and structure changes; added Vizio SB46514-F6 to 'Notable Mentions'.
01/06/2020: Added LG SK10Y to 'Notable Mentions'.
11/01/2019: Added the Vizio SB36512-F6 as a 'More Affordable Alternative' to the Samsung HW-Q80R.
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.