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The 5 Best 5.1 Soundbars - Spring 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 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 170 soundbars; below, you'll find the best 5.1 soundbars to buy. 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 surround sound content. 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, the bass has plenty of rumble, providing a cinematic feel for action-packed scenes and intense movie scores.

    This bar supports lots of different audio formats. If you watch many movies on streaming platforms, you've likely come across 5.1 surround sound formats like Dolby Digital and 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 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 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. There are also some options on the market with more than five channels, including the 11.1.4 Samsung HW-Q990C and the 7.1.4 Sonos Ultimate Immersive Set with Arc that offer an even more immersive experience. However, they're a bit more expensive overall. If you're sticking with a 5.1 setup, the Bose is the best of the best.

    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, 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

    The Vizio M Series M512a-H6 is the best 5.1 soundbar we've tested in the mid-range. 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 to be taking place in the space 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 sounds 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

    For a more affordable 5.1 soundbar, consider the Vizio M Series M51ax-J6. This setup is a great choice for everything from movies to music to TV shows, and it especially shines with surround sound. Position its two included satellites anywhere you want to ensure that sound effects are spread throughout your room. As a result, you enjoy a more immersive sound overall, as effects seem like they're coming from accurate locations in the space around you. Dialogue is clear and present in the mix, and its dedicated subwoofer brings out all the thump and rumble in more intense movie scenes. You'll have to wire the satellites to the sub to get them to work, though, which may not be ideal for your room.

    That said, this soundbar offers many of the same customization tools as the manufacturer's more premium options, so you can customize the bar's bass and treble to get the sound you want. Its main difference compared to the Vizio M Series M512a-H6 is evident when you watch Dolby Atmos content. The bar's satellites only have front-firing drivers, unlike the M512a-H6, which also has up-firing drivers on its satellites. As a result, there's a little less height reproduced in the soundstage. 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 best budget 5.1 soundbar we've tested is the Vizio V Series V51-H6. It's one of the few 5.1 soundbars available at this price point and offers a great price-to-performance ratio overall. The included satellite speakers are a real draw compared to similarly-priced models since they greatly improve the surround sound experience. Plug them in to enjoy a more clear and real feel with sound effects so you feel like you're in the middle of the action on screen. You have to wire them into the subwoofer to get them to work, which is inconvenient, depending on your setup, but not a huge deal, given the wallet-friendly price.

    Compared to the Vizio M Series M51ax-J6, this soundbar offers many of the same sound enhancement features. Its bass and treble are adjustable, so you have some control over how the bar sounds. The main difference between these two setups is Dolby Atmos support—while the M Series can playback height content, the V Series can't. Atmos is getting common on both streaming platforms and Blu-rays, so if you want to take advantage of this immersive audio format, you'll want to opt for the M Series. However, if you aren't an Atmos fan, you may find that the V Series is the better value pick overall.

    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-Q800C: The Samsung HW-Q800C is a versatile Dolby Atmos soundbar with many 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; 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. May 29, 2023: Replaced the Samsung HW-Q800B with the next-generation Samsung HW-Q800C in Notable Mentions. Minor text updates.

  2. Mar 31, 2023: Product picks remain accurate and available. Minor text updates for clarity.

  3. 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.

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

  5. 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.

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.