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 135 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 is a great choice for watching movies. It offers a truly immersive sound, especially with surround sound formats like Dolby Digital and height content like Dolby Atmos, which are found on many streaming platforms and Blu-rays. 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 dialogue in your favorite movies is clear and accurate in the mix, and you feel the thump and rumble in the bass. There are bass and treble adjustments so you can customize its sound, but unfortunately, it doesn't have a full graphic EQ to let you adjust its performance across the range.
While this soundbar has excellent audio format support, unfortunately, 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. You can also check out the Sonos Arc with Sub + One SL Speakers, another 5.1 Dolby Atmos soundbar with an immersive sound that offers DTS support, though its soundstage performance isn't quite as good as the Bose's overall.
The Vizio Elevate is the best 5.1 soundbar under $1000 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. 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 under $500 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, and it doesn't come with as many enhancement features. 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. The manufacturer recently released the next-generation Vizio V Series V51x-J6, but this setup remains the best choice between the two models. There aren't a lot of differences in features or performance, aside from the fact that the V51-H6 reproduces a more extended low-bass than the newer version, meaning you can feel more thump and rumble in your audio. Compared to other products in its price range, it has a pretty versatile performance, and it even comes with discrete satellites to improve its surround sound. These satellites ensure a clear and real representation of surround objects in 5.1 content, like gunshots that seem to come from the exact location of the shooter in the scene.
Additionally, dialogue is clear, thanks to its balanced mids, and there's plenty of rumble in the bass to bring action scenes to life. However, you won't find as many enhancement features as the more premium models. Also, like most setups in this price range, there's no Dolby Atmos support, so you can't get the full immersive sound with height content found on a lot of different streaming platforms.
If you're low on space and want a bar that comes without a subwoofer and satellites, consider a standalone soundbar like the Bose Smart Soundbar 900. It's the same bar that comes with the full setup, and it offers a lot of the same features as the full setup, including the ADAPTiQ room correction feature. Of course, 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 like Dolby Digital. Still, it offers a wide and immersive-sounding soundstage that rivals the performance of some full setups on the market.
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.
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'.
Oct 12, 2021: Replaced the Vizio M Series M51a-H6 with the next generation Vizio M Series M512a-H6. Minor updates to the text.
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.