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 90 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 Sonos Arc with Sub + One SL Speakers. This premium-looking 5.1.2 setup comes with a dedicated subwoofer and two satellite speakers to help immerse you in your audio. It supports Dolby Atmos content and offers an impressive surrounds performance, so it's a good choice for movie fans who want to feel like the action is happening all around them.
This soundbar comes with a room correction feature that automatically optimizes audio reproduction based on the unique acoustic characteristics of the room you're listening in. With this feature turned on, it has a slightly bright sound profile with a balanced mid-range that's suitable for vocal-centric content like podcasts and TV shows. You can also use the bass and treble adjustments to adjust the sound profile more to your liking, which is handy.
Unfortunately, this soundbar lacks a Full HDMI In port, so you can't use it as a hub between different devices, and it can't passthrough the high bandwidth signals. It also lacks a full graphic EQ, which can be disappointing if you want more control over the bar's sound profile. Although the soundbar, the sub, and the satellites can't be purchased as a package deal at the moment, you can still buy the components separately and pair them together.
If you're looking for a 5.1 setup that offers more sound enhancement features, consider the Vizio Elevate instead. While it isn't as well-built as the Sonos Arc with Sub + One SL Speakers and doesn't come with a room correction feature, it offers bass and treble adjustments as well as some EQ presets that make it easy to adjust the bar's sound. This setup has a unique design, with sides that automatically rotate upwards when you watch Dolby Atmos or DTS:X content to help create a wider soundstage. Out-of-the-box, it has a slightly bass-heavy sound profile that adds some extra thump and punch to your audio, so you really feel the rumble in action-packed movie scenes. Thanks to its dedicated satellite speakers, it offers a decent surrounds performance, too. There's even a Full HDMI In port available if you want to use it as a hub between different devices.
If you want a better-built soundbar that comes with a room correction feature, check out the Sonos. However, if you prefer some more sound customization options and want a Full HDMI In port, consider the Vizio 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 Vizio M Series M51a-H6 is the best 5.1 soundbar under $500 that we've tested. This 5.1 soundbar has a very versatile performance, and its neutral, balanced sound profile makes it suitable for listening to lots of different types of audio content out-of-the-box. It supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X content, too, which is handy for movie lovers.
Thanks to its dedicated satellite speakers, this soundbar offers a good surrounds performance, so surround objects like voices and footsteps are accurately localized in the soundstage. It gets pretty loud, too, so you can use it to listen to audio at parties and in large rooms. It also offers a decent selection of sound enhancement features, including bass and treble adjustments as well as a few EQ presets.
Unfortunately, this soundbar isn't as well-built as some of the other bars we've tested, as the fabric covering on the front and the sides seems like it could rip or get dirty easily. Its soundstage performance is decent with a good focus, but it isn't perceived to be very wide, especially compared to other soundbars like the Vizio Elevate. However, if you're on a tighter budget, this versatile soundbar is still a solid choice.
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 can 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 can't 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.
Apr 16, 2021: Replaced the JBL Bar 9.1 with the Sonos Arc with Sub + One SL Speakers since the JBL isn't widely available. Added the Vizio Elevate as 'More Customizable Alternative'. Added the Vizio M Series M51a-H6 as 'Best Under $500'. Added the Bose Soundbar 700 with Speakers + Bass Module and the Samsung HW-Q850T as Notable Mentions.
Feb 16, 2021: Removed the LG SK10Y and the Samsung HW-Q60R from Notable Mentions as they aren't widely available. Added the Vizio Elevate and the LG SN10YG to Notable Mentions. Minor changes to the text; no changes in product picks after verifying accuracy.
Oct 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.
Jul 23, 2020: Replaced Samsung HW-Q60R with Samsung HW-Q60T for best 'Budget 5.1 Soundbar' pick.
Apr 24, 2020: Minor text and structure changes; added Vizio SB46514-F6 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.