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The 5 Best 5.1 Soundbars - Winter 2023 Reviews

Best 5.1 Soundbars

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. However, 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 160 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.

  1. Best 5.1 Soundbar

    The best 5.1 soundbar we've tested is the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 with Speakers + Bass Module. It's a premium Dolby Atmos soundbar that's a great choice for watching movies. While it's not currently available as a package deal, you can still buy the bar, the sub, and the satellites from the manufacturer separately and pair them together for a truly immersive sound. Like most premium bars, it has a room correction feature to optimize audio reproduction based on your room's unique acoustics, which Bose calls ADAPTiQ. With it on, its sound profile is very neutral, so you don't have any trouble following the dialogue in your favorite movies or distinguishing instruments in your favorite songs. Thanks to its sub, there's plenty of rumble in the bass, providing a cinematic feel for action-packed scenes and intense movie scores.

    This bar supports lots of different audio formats. If you watch a lot of movies on streaming platforms, you've likely come across 5.1 surround sound formats like Dolby Digital as well as object-based formats like Dolby Atmos, and the bar plays back both with ease. That said, it doesn't support DTS content. This format is pretty rare on its own, but it's often the fallback for higher quality DTS-HD MA formatted Blu-rays. If you watch a lot of Blu-rays, or if you already have a Sonos ecosystem in your home, the Sonos Arc with Sub + One SL Speakers is a good alternative. Its soundstage performance isn't quite as good as the Bose, but it still does a good job overall.

    See our review

  2. Best Upper Mid-Range 5.1 Soundbar

    The Vizio Elevate is the best 5.1 soundbar in the upper mid-range that we've tested. It's a premium 5.1.4 bar with a unique design, as the sides of the bar rotate upwards when you watch Dolby Atmos or DTS:X content, which helps create a wider, more immersive soundstage. You can also turn this feature on when you watch 5.1 content, like Dolby Digital or DTS. Thanks to its two discrete satellites, it offers a clear and real representation of surround sound, and the action seems like it's happening all around you, with sound effects coming from distinct locations. Unfortunately, you have to wire these satellites to the bar to get them to work, which can clutter your living space.

    With its dedicated subwoofer, this soundbar has no trouble reproducing the deep thump and rumble in action-heavy scenes or powerful movie scores. There's a little extra boom in the bass though voices are still clear and present in the mix thanks to its balanced mids. You have some customization tools on hand, but not as many as the most premium setups, like the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 with Speakers + Bass Module. Without room correction, for example, it sounds a bit different depending on the acoustics of your space. Still, it's a versatile pick that's more affordable than the top-of-the-line models.

    See our review

  3. Best Mid-Range 5.1 Soundbar

    In the mid-range, the Vizio M Series M512a-H6 is the best 5.1 soundbar we've tested. It's a 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos soundbar that comes with a subwoofer and satellites right out of the box, and it does a great job for its price. You enjoy a clear and real performance with Dolby Digital and Dolby Atmos content, so movies on your favorite streaming platforms seem like they're taking place in the space all around you. Naturally, it doesn't perform as well as our top picks—since it lacks rotating sides like the Vizio Elevate, its soundstage isn't as wide, and there aren't any up-firing drivers on its satellites either to improve its Atmos performance. Still, it does a good job, especially with movies.

    It's a good pick for stereo content as well. Out-of-the-box, its balanced sound means that voices and lead instruments in music are clear and present in the mix, and you don't have any trouble following the dialogue in TV shows. It has a dedicated subwoofer, so action-packed scenes in your favorite movies as well as bass-heavy music bring plenty of thump and rumble. There's no room correction feature, which isn't a surprise given its price, so it does sound a little different, depending on the room you're in. Fortunately, you can always use its bass and treble adjustments to make up for this or to switch up its sound to your liking. Overall, it's a versatile choice.

    See our review

  4. Best Lower Mid-Range 5.1 Soundbar

    If you're looking for a more affordable 5.1 soundbar, consider the Vizio M Series M51ax-J6. It's another feature-packed bar available at an affordable price, with a sleek design similar to the Vizio M Series M512a-H6. For the price, you get a dedicated subwoofer that brings plenty of thump and rumble to action-packed scenes, as well as satellites that clearly reproduce sound effects in the space around your couch. Whether you're listening to music, TV shows, or movies, this bar provides a clear and real performance that can please many different types of listeners. With customization tools like bass and treble adjustments on hand, you can switch up its sound, too.

    While it has a lot in common with the M512a-H6, and the two bars appear to have similar names, there is one key difference— this model lacks up-firing drivers for Dolby Atmos content. Instead, it uses front-firing speakers on its satellites to bounce sound effects around the room to create a similarly-immersive sound. Unfortunately, it doesn't perform as well as the pricier M512a-H6, especially with height. Drones seem like they're flying past you, rather than right over your head, for example. If you don't watch a lot of Atmos content or aren't too worried about the cinematic feel, you may find that it's a better deal overall—but for the best possible Atmos performance, you'll want to spend a little more.

    See our review

  5. Best Budget 5.1 Soundbar

    The Vizio V Series V51-H6 is the best budget 5.1 soundbar we've tested. It's a more affordable alternative to the Vizio M Series M51ax-J6, with a versatile performance that makes it stand out compared to similarly-priced bars. It's one of the only budget bars we've tested that comes with rear satellites to provide a more clear and real representation of sound effects in your favorite movies and TV shows. It's a great choice for music, too, with a dedicated sub that brings plenty of rumble in the low-bass, even with genres like EDM and hip-hop. Bass and treble adjustments let you switch up its sound to your liking.

    Unfortunately, like most bars in its price range, this setup doesn't support Dolby Atmos content. This advanced object-based audio format is more and more common on streaming platforms as well as Blu-rays, so if you're an avid movie watcher, you'll likely want to spring for a more premium Atmos bar like the Vizio M Series M51ax-J6. However, if you don't watch a lot of Atmos content, you may find that this bar is a better deal overall. It can still playback 5.1 surround sound formats, too, which is great for movie fans.

    See our review

Notable Mentions

  • Klipsch Cinema 1200: The Klipsch Cinema 1200 is another premium 5.1 setup that's a good alternative to the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 with Speakers + Bass Module if you love a bass-heavy sound. Its sub brings plenty of punch out-of-the-box, so your seat shakes with action-focused scenes. It doesn't give the same immersive feel as the Bose, so it's not as great for movies. See our review
  • Samsung HW-Q800B: The Samsung HW-Q800B is a versatile Dolby Atmos soundbar with lots of customization tools, including a graphic EQ. It's a good alternative to the Vizio Elevate if you don't have room for satellites, but as a result, its surround sound performance isn't quite as good. See our review
  • LG SP9YA: The LG SP9YA is a 5.1.2 soundbar that's a good alternative to the Vizio M Series M512a-H6 if you don't have space in your setup for rear satellites. The tradeoff is evident with surround sound, as you don't get the same clear or real feel as the Vizio. See our review
  • Vizio M Series Elevate M512E-K6: The Vizio M Series Elevate M512E-K6 is a more affordable alternative to the original Vizio Elevate. They both support Atmos content, but since the M Series lacks up-firing drivers on its satellites, it doesn't do as well with Atmos content. It has fewer wireless playback options on hand, too. See our review

Recent Updates

  1. Jan 31, 2023: The Vizio M Series M51a-H6 is no longer widely available, so we've replaced it with the next-generation Vizio M Series M51ax-J6.

  2. Dec 02, 2022: Added the Vizio M Series M51a-H6 as 'Best Lower Mid-Range'.

  3. Oct 04, 2022: Added the Samsung HW-Q800B and the Vizio M Series Elevate M512E-K6 to Notable Mentions. Minor updates to the text for clarity.

  4. Aug 05, 2022: Changed category titles to better align with user expectations. No changes in product picks after verifying their accuracy and availability.

  5. Jun 07, 2022: Restructured article for greater clarity by moving the Vizio Elevate to 'Best Mid-Range' pick. Added the Klipsch Cinema 1200 to Notable Mentions, and removed the Samsung HW-Q80R, as it's no longer widely available for purchase.

All Reviews

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.