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 80 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 JBL Bar 9.1. This 5.1.4 setup comes with two detachable satellite speakers that you can place anywhere in your room and a dedicated subwoofer that adds a thump and punch to your audio content. It's well-built and has a very versatile performance that can please many different listeners.
It has a neutral sound profile that's suited for a variety of audio content, with an extra thump of bass that can please fans of EDM and hip-hop. If you prefer a different sound, there are a few EQ presets available, as well as a room correction feature that analyzes the acoustic characteristics of your room to provide the best possible sound. Also, this bar can get loud, and it supports both Atmos and DTS content.
Unfortunately, unlike some of the other premium models we've tested, this bar doesn't have a graphic EQ for greater sound customization. It also lacks a dialogue enhancement feature, which may be disappointing if you love to watch vocal-heavy content like TV shows. However, this impressive soundbar has lots of physical inputs and wireless playback options, which is great.
If you love watching Dolby Atmos movies, consider the Sonos Arc with Sub + One SL Speakers instead. While it doesn't have as many physical inputs or wireless playback options as the JBL Bar 9.1, this 5.1.2 setup has a better performance on its height channels, so it can really immerse you in your favorite movies. It's well-built, and it also comes with a dedicated subwoofer and two satellite speakers. Its sound profile is quite balanced and neutral, making it suitable for watching movies and TV shows. There are a lot of sound enhancement features, including a room correction feature and a dialogue enhancement mode, but it doesn't have any EQ presets.
If you're looking for a versatile soundbar with lots of connectivity options, check out the JBL, but if you prefer watching Atmos content, consider the Sonos instead.
If you're limited on space, the Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar is the best standalone 5.1 soundbar we've tested. Its unique 13-speaker design is built into its huge body, making this 5.1.4 setup deliver 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, it comes with a room correction microphone that listens to how the sound is delivered in your room and makes adjustments to give you a better sound. It can also get very loud, which is good when you want to be immersed in your movies. Its connectivity options are great as it has Bluetooth and Chromecast built-in, making it easy to stream your favorite music. You can even use it as a hub for all your devices as it has three HDMI In ports.
Unfortunately, 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.
The LG SN9YG is the best customizable 5.1 soundbar that we've tested. This sleek and well-built model offers fantastic sound enhancement features like room correction from its companion app. While it lacks a more comprehensive graphic EQ, it has five EQ presets to help you tweak your audio to your liking.
On its default 'Standard' mode, it has a bass-heavy sound profile that's well-suited for action flicks or thumpy music like EDM. It also has a wide array of physical inputs so you can use the bar as a hub between your TV and other devices. If you prefer a wireless connection, you can stream your favorite audio to the bar using Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Chromecast built-in. Although it struggles to get very loud, it doesn't have too many compression artifacts at max volume, and it also supports Dolby Atmos content.
Unfortunately, it has a poor height performance, which is a let down if you're looking for an immersive audio experience from your favorite movies. Some users may also find the dialogue enhancement feature a little limiting as it only works on DTS-enabled content. Still, this 5.1.2 setup offers a well-rounded performance that can be customized to better suit your needs.
The Vizio V Series V51-H6 is the best budget 5.1 soundbar that we've tested. This versatile option comes with a wireless subwoofer and two satellite speakers. Although it doesn't come with a companion app, it has a good selection of sound enhancement features like dialogue enhancement and auto-volume.
It has a balanced and neutral sound profile that's able to pack extra boom and punch, which is great if you like bass-heavy music like EDM and hip-hop or action-packed films. It can also reproduce vocal-centric content like TV shows clearly. Although it doesn't have a graphic EQ, there are four different EQ presets you can choose from to help customize its sound. It can get loud without too many compression artifacts as well, and you can wirelessly stream your favorite audio to the bar using Bluetooth.
Unfortunately, even though it comes with two satellite speakers, it has a middling surround performance. It also doesn't support Atmos content and lacks a full HDMI In port, so you won't be able to use the bar as a hub between your TV and other devices. That said, if you're on a budget, this soundbar is a step up from TV speakers and is suitable for a variety of audio content.
12/17/2019: Replaced the Samsung HW-Q80R with the LG SN9YG as 'Most Customizable 5.1 Soundbar'. Also replaced the Samsung HW-Q60T with the Vizio V Series V51-H6 as 'Best Budget 5.1 Soundbar'.
10/21/2020: 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.
07/23/2020: Replaced Samsung HW-Q60R with Samsung HW-Q60T for best 'Budget 5.1 Soundbar' pick.
04/24/2020: Minor text and structure changes; added Vizio SB46514-F6 to Notable Mentions.
01/06/2020: Added LG SK10Y to Notable Mentions.
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.