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 125 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. This premium 5.1.2 setup has an ADAPTiQ room correction feature that automatically optimizes audio reproduction based on the unique acoustic characteristics of your room. With this feature on, it has a very neutral sound profile with a little extra punch in the bass range, making it suitable for many different types of audio content.
Thanks to the manufacturer's PhaseGuide technology, this soundbar can beam sound throughout your room, resulting in a very wide and immersive soundstage. Its surround speakers result in a very good surrounds performance that makes audio seem like it's coming from all around you. There are also up-firing drivers in the bar that ricochet sound off your ceiling to create the illusion of height when you watch Dolby Atmos content.
Unfortunately, this soundbar doesn't have a Full HDMI In port, so you can't use it for 4k or HDR passthrough. It also lacks an EQ, which can be disappointing for users who want to customize its sound. That said, its bass and treble adjustments should be sufficient for most users, especially because its sound profile is so balanced out-of-the-box.
If you want a 5.1 soundbar with a better surrounds performance, check out the Sonos Arc with Sub + One SL Speakers. This premium setup doesn't support as many wireless playback options as the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 with Speakers + Bass Module, and its soundstage performance isn't as impressive. However, it's a better choice for watching surround content. Its room correction feature is only available on iOS, but you can still use it to optimize the bar's audio reproduction. With this feature on, it has a bright sound profile that can make voices sharp and piercing. You can use its bass and treble adjustments to create a more neutral sound profile if you prefer, though.
If you want a 5.1 soundbar with Bluetooth support and a better soundstage, check out the Bose. If you want a similar bar with a better surrounds performance, consider the Sonos instead.
The best 5.1 soundbar with passthrough that we've tested is the Vizio Elevate. This 5.1.4 setup comes with a Full HDMI In port that supports high-quality passthrough. If you connect the bar to a source like a gaming console or a PC and then connect it to your TV, it can passthrough 4k and HDR video, and it also supports Dolby Vision Passthrough.
This premium soundbar has a unique design with sides that automatically rotate upwards when you watch Dolby Atmos or DTS:X content, resulting in a wide and immersive-sounding soundstage. Out-of-the-box, it has a bass-heavy sound profile that adds more thump and punch to your audio content, making it ideal for fans of bass-heavy music genres. There are also some bass and treble adjustments as well as EQ presets to help you customize its sound.
Unfortunately, this setup doesn't come with a room correction feature, so it may sound different depending on the room you're listening in. Its surround performance is decent, but it's not quite as impressive as our top picks, either. That said, it's still a versatile setup that can please lots of different types of listeners.
If you're low on space, the best 5.1 soundbar with a standalone design that we've tested is the Bose Smart Soundbar 900. This premium 5.0.2 setup uses the manufacturer's PhaseGuide technology to beam sound throughout your room, creating an immersive listening experience without the need for discrete satellites. As a result, it has an impressive soundstage performance that brings sound to the side walls of your room.
This soundbar has an ADAPTiQ room correction feature that automatically optimizes audio content based on your room's unique acoustics. With this feature on, it has a pretty neutral sound profile suitable for different types of audio content. It even has built-in support for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, so you can control the bar using your voice.
Unfortunately, without a dedicated subwoofer, this soundbar can't reproduce the deep thump and rumble in action-packed movies. Also, without its discrete satellites, its surround performance is only mediocre, and sound just seems like it's coming from speakers placed in front of you. That said, you can always upgrade this setup to the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 with Speakers + Bass Module down the line.
If you want a standalone 5.1 soundbar with an integrated subwoofer, check out the Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar. While its soundstage performance isn't as impressive as the Bose Smart Soundbar 900, it has a subwoofer integrated into the bar that can reproduce more thump and rumble in your audio. That said, this feature may not be worth the value for some users. It also comes with a room correction feature that reproduces a neutral, balanced mid-range, so voices and lead instruments are clear in your audio. However, you need to use its bass and treble adjustments as well as its graphic EQ to add more bass if you want a more neutral sound profile overall.
If you want a more affordable, better-built standalone soundbar with a better soundstage, check out the Bose. If you want a standalone bar with an integrated sub that can reproduce more low-bass, check out the Sennheiser.
The Vizio M Series M512a-H6 is the best 5.1 soundbar under $500. This well-built 5.1.2 setup offers a neutral, balanced sound profile out-of-the-box that's suitable for listening to lots of different types of audio content. There are even some EQ presets as well as bass and treble adjustments to help you customize its sound.
This setup comes with two discrete satellite speakers that offer a good surrounds performance. It also has two up-firing drivers built into the bar, which bounce sound off the ceiling and back down towards you to create the illusion of height. It's also Bluetooth-compatible, so you can wirelessly stream audio to the bar from your mobile devices.
Unfortunately, this soundbar lacks some more premium sound enhancement features like room correction, so it may sound different depending on where you're listening. Also, it doesn't have built-in voice assistant support. That said, the manufacturer says you can plug in a third-party voice assistant device like an Amazon Echo to control the bar with your voice.
The Vizio V Series V51-H6 is the best budget 5.1 soundbar that we've tested. Though the manufacturer recently released the next-generation Vizio V Series V51x-J6, this setup reproduces a more extended low-bass so you can feel more thump and rumble in your audio. Thanks to its discrete satellites, it also offers a fair surrounds performance.
Out-of-the-box, this soundbar has a neutral sound profile suitable for listening to many different types of audio content. There are bass and treble adjustments as well as EQ presets for customization. It gets pretty loud, and there isn't a lot of compression when you push it to max volume.
Unfortunately, this soundbar doesn't support Dolby Atmos content. It also lacks a Full HDMI In port, so you can't use it for high-quality passthrough. That said, if you're on a budget, it's still a pretty versatile choice.
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'.
Oct 12, 2021: Replaced the Vizio M Series M51a-H6 with the next generation Vizio M Series M512a-H6. Minor updates to the text.
Aug 13, 2021: Added the LG SN10YG as 'Best For Bass'. Added the Vizio M Series M51ax-J6 and the Vizio M Series M512a-H6 to Notable Mentions.
Jun 15, 2021: Replaced the LG SN9YG with the LG SP9YA and the Samsung HW-Q850T with the Samsung HW-Q850A in Notable Mentions as these next-generation soundbars offer better overall performances.
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.
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.