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 70 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 soundbars 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 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 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 this soundbar 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 best 5.1 soundbar for sound customization that we've tested is the Samsung HW-Q80R. This well-built 5.1.2 setup comes with a dedicated subwoofer that reproduces a deep and extended bass, and it offers a lot of control over its sound. It also supports Dolby Atmos content, and it has a very versatile overall performance that's great for music, movies, or watching TV.
Overall, this soundbar has a neutral, well-balanced sound profile that's suitable for listening to a variety of audio content. If you prefer a different sound, there's a graphic EQ available in the Samsung SmartThings app, so you can adjust the frequencies to your liking. It also has a dialogue enhancement feature and a lot of physical inputs so you can use the bar as a hub between your devices.
Unfortunately, this soundbar lacks some more premium sound enhancement features like a room correction or an auto-volume mode. Unlike our top picks, it also lacks dedicated satellite speakers, so surround content doesn't sound quite as immersive. However, if you're looking for a 5.1 soundbar with a customizable sound, this bar is a great choice.
If you're looking to save money here or there, the Samsung HW-Q60T is the best budget 5.1 soundbar that we've tested. Although it looks similar in design to the Samsung HW-Q80R, it doesn't use side-firing speakers. Instead, it uses Samsung's Acoustic Beam technology to simulate up-firing speakers, creating a more immersive sound.
Right out-of-the-box, it has a punchy but dark sound profile. However, if you're not a fan of its sound, it also has a graphic EQ that you can better tweak to your liking. There's even several EQ presets that are better designed for particular audio content like 'Pro Game' mode, which is handy if you don't have the time to play around with the graphic EQ. It can reproduce voices fairly clearly, and there's an auto-night feature to further improve dialogue clarity. It can also get loud enough to fill a large room or crowded environment, but there are a few compression artifacts and thumping present at max volume.
Although it's the newer model of the Samsung HW-Q60R, its center and surround performances aren't as good when compared to its predecessor's, especially as its surround performance sounds dark and bass-heavy. It also doesn't have a companion app, and it doesn't support eARC. It can't play Atmos content either, but it can still play DTS, which is good if you watch a lot of Blu-rays. That said, if you're on a budget, this is a wallet-friendly choice that doesn't sacrifice too much on performance.
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'.
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.