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 theatre 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 theatre speaker system but will provide 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 25 soundbars so far, and below you'll find the best 5.1 soundbars to buy in 2019. See our recommendations for the best soundbars, the best budget soundbars, and the best Dolby Atmos soundbars.
The best 5.1 soundbar setup we've tested so far is the Samsung HW-Q80R. It comes with a separate wireless subwoofer for more bass and even has up-firing speakers to help give the illusion of height with Dolby Atmos content. It has lots of connectivity options, supports most surround sound formats, and delivers a well-balanced listening experience overall.
This 5.1.2 setup sounds very good, with an impressively well-balanced frequency response that lends itself well to all sorts of media. It has the best low-frequency extension we've measured so far, which means it can deliver the deep thump and rumble essential to a good action movie or hip-hop album. It reproduces dialog very accurately too, so it's also a good choice for your favorite TV shows, podcasts or audiobooks.
Unfortunately, this soundbar doesn't have a regular analog audio input, so you won't be able to plug in an old-school MP3 player. That said, it does support Bluetooth for wireless playback with most modern mobile devices. All things considered, its versatile sound performance and design make it a great option.
The best standalone 5.1 soundbar we've tested so far is the Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar. This soundbar doesn't come with a separate subwoofer — instead, it has a unique 3D mode that takes advantage of its top and side-firing speakers to deliver an impressively immersive experience. It has a full set of physical inputs and supports virtually all surround audio formats, including Dolby Atmos.
Since this standalone Sennheiser bar doesn't deliver a lot of bass, its default sound profile is a bit on the bright side. This won't be too much of a problem if you watch a lot of dialog-heavy movies or TV shows or movies, but will be disappointing during action movies or when listening to music with lots of bass. The 3D mode is rather impressive though, especially with surround content.
While it's convenient to not have to worry about where to place a subwoofer, the Sennheiser AMBEO soundbar is very large and heavy. You'll need to plan carefully where you'll want to place it since it's wider than most 55 inch TVs, so it might not fit between the stand legs. That said, if you have space and don't mind a lack of bass, it's an interesting standalone 5.1.4 soundbar to consider.
The Samsung HW-Q60R is the cheapest 5.1 soundbar setup we've tested so far. It's similarly designed to the Q80R, but doesn't have side-firing speakers. It still sounds alright though and has all the connection options you'll need to set it up with most home theatre systems.
This soundbar is good for TV shows and most movies thanks to its neutral default sound profile. It can get pretty loud without compressing and doesn't distort very much at normal volume levels either. It struggles a bit to reproduce the very deep thump and rumble you find in some movies and bass-heavy music genres, but performs well enough for every day casual use.
While this soundbar supports the most common surround sound formats, Dolby Digital and DTS, it doesn't support any lossless formats, or object-based surround like Dolby Atmos or DTS:X. That said, it's a lot more affordable than some of the more premium models we've tested that can support more surround options. So, if you're fine with basic surround formats and are looking for something less cost-prohibitive, the Q60R is a solid choice.
The LG SL10YG is a decent 5.1 soundbar. Its main competitor is the Samsung HW-Q80R, and it shares a similar design, with a wide soundbar that features side and up-firing speakers as well as a dedicated wireless subwoofer. It doesn't perform as well overall, but it's still a decent choice if you're looking for a 5.1.2 set-up, especially since it's often on sale for a lot less than the Q80R.
This soundbar has a punchy, exciting sound that makes it best for listening to music, especially pop, hip-hop or EDM. It's not the most neutral-sounding setup we've tested but it has a couple of sound customization options you can tweak to better match your preferences. It supports various surround formats, including Dolby Atmos, but its surround sound performance is rather poor compared to the Q80R or the Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar.
While the SL10YG has a ton of connectivity options, like 2 full HDMI-in ports, 1 HDMI ARC, optical-in and even USB for file playback, it doesn't have a regular audio jack. This shouldn't be a big issue, especially since it supports wireless playback via Bluetooth, WiFi and has Chromecast built-in, but if analog audio for you is a must, you'll want to check out the LG SK10Y instead.
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.