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 145 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 we've tested is the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 with Speakers + Bass Module. It's a premium Dolby Atmos soundbar that's a really 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. Thanks to its sub, there's plenty of rumble in the bass, too, 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's, but it still does a good job overall.
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 really unique design, as the sides of the bar actually 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, in fact, 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 really versatile pick that's more affordable than the top-of-the-line models.
The Vizio M Series M512a-H6 is the best 5.1 soundbar in the mid-range that we've tested. This well-built 5.1.2 setup offers an impressive price-to-performance ratio, with two discrete satellite speakers that offer good surround sound. Naturally, the bar doesn't perform as well as our top picks. For example, its soundstage isn't as wide and immersive-sounding, especially since it lacks the Vizio Elevate's rotating sides, and there aren't any up-firing drivers on its satellites like with the Elevate. Still, when listening to 5.1 content, the bar represents a clear and real performance, so the sounds you hear around you mirror the action on your screen for an immersive sound.
Out-of-the-box, this soundbar offers a neutral, balanced sound profile suitable for listening to many different types of audio content, from 5.1 movies to music to dialogue-centric TV shows. With its balanced mids, dialogue in movies is clear and detailed, and its dedicated subwoofer ensures that you feel the rumble in bass-heavy movie scores and action scenes. There are bass and treble adjustments to help you customize its sound, but without a room correction feature, it can sound a bit different depending on the room you're in.
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 M512a-H6, with a solid overall performance for its price point. Since it comes with rear satellites, it does a pretty good job reproducing 5.1 surround sound formats like Dolby Digital and DTS. Its sub packs plenty of thump and rumble in the bass to bring action-packed scenes to life, and you get a fairly clear and real feel, with sound effects localized to pinpoint locations in the soundstage around you. That said, its soundstage doesn't extend quite as wide as our top picks, so you don't get the same immersive sound overall.
That said, you don't have any issues following the dialogue in your favorite films, thanks to its balanced mids right out-of-the-box. The selection of sound enhancement features is quite similar to Vizio's more premium models, with dialogue enhancement as well as bass and treble adjustments. However, like most bars in its price range, there's no Dolby Atmos support available. If you look around, you might be able to find the Vizio M Series M51a-H6 at a similar price. The M Series is similar to the V Series, but with Dolby Atmos support, it's a more versatile pick overall. That said, its price tends to fluctuate above our budget price point, so you'll want to keep an eye on it if you're looking for the best value.
If you're low on space, consider a standalone soundbar like the Bose Smart Soundbar 900. It's technically only a 5.0.2 bar, so it doesn't come with a subwoofer and satellites like the full setup. Still, it offers a lot of the same features, and it can playback 5.1 surround sound content like Dolby Digital with an immersive feel thanks to its wide soundstage. It's a solid alternative for those with smaller living rooms, but it doesn't perform quite as well as the full setup. Without a subwoofer, its bass reproduction isn't as impressive, and without satellites, it doesn't achieve the same immersive feeling with 5.1 content.
With its room correction feature turned on, this soundbar has a neutral sound profile, meaning that dialogue is clearly and accurately reproduced. There's a little extra punch in the high-bass range to help you feel the boom in fast-paced scenes. However, if you want a bar with more thump and rumble in the low-bass, check out the Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar, which has an integrated sub that provides a greater low-frequency extension, though its large, bulky design isn't ideal for everyone. You can also purchase the Sonos Arc as a standalone soundbar if you're looking for something with DTS capabilities, though its soundstage isn't as good as the Bose's.
Aug 05, 2022: Changed category titles to better align with user expectations. No changes in product picks after verifying their accuracy and availability.
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.
Apr 08, 2022: No changes in product picks. Minor updates to the text for clarity.
Feb 08, 2022: Updated the Sonos Arc to 'Alternative With DTS Support'. Minor updates to the text for accuracy. No changes in product picks.
Dec 10, 2021: Replaced the Sonos Arc with Sub + One SL Speakers with the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 with Speakers + Bass Module. Moved the Sonos to the 'Better Surrounds Alternative'. Added the Vizio Elevate as 'Best With Passthrough'. Replaced the Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar with the better value Bose Smart Soundbar 900 as 'Best Standalone'. Moved the Sennheiser to 'Alternative With Integrated Sub'.
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.