What is the difference between a 2.1 and 5.1 Soundbar?

A soundbar is an all-in-one audio system that produces high-quality audio. You don’t require much space to place them. There are several channel types, you can even find a 7.1 soundbar but 2.1 and 5.1 are commonly used in a home. Now you might be wondering what is the difference between the 2.1 soundbars and 5.1 soundbars. 

A 2.1 soundbar consists of two speakers, there are left and right channels, and a subwoofer (built-in/external). 5.1  soundbars commonly have front left, surround left, surround right, front right, front centre, and a subwoofer (built-in/external). 

The soundbar’s front channels are normally integrated, while the surround speakers are separate. However, the solution is a little more nuanced. More speakers improve the surround audio experience and create a more coherent entertainment environment, it’s not just about volumes. 

What is the difference between a 2.1 and 5.1 Soundbar?

There are only two channels in a 2.1 channel soundbar, one on each side. A 5.1 channel soundbar, on the contrary, contains two side channels, a centre channel, and two rear speakers. The back speakers may be built-in or external. As one might expect, the larger a soundbar is, the more channels it has.

What is the 2.1 Soundbar? 

A 2.1 soundbar includes two channels, one on the left and the other on the speaker’s right. Not only does the extra speaker add volume, but it also improves the quality of the overall surround system. With clearer left and right audio, the quality of your sound system increases ten folds. However, a 2.1 soundbar does not add any extra edge to the listening experience. It’s only to get clear audio out of the left and right channels. Though most 2.1 soundbars feature “surround” and “stereo” settings, the difference between the two is not great. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of 2.1 Soundbar


  • · More compact
  • · Comes with subwoofer
  • · Affordable choice
  • · Surround-sound technology enabled
  • · 2.1 soundbars support HDMI
  • · Bluetooth enabled
  • · Easy to install
  • · You can operate it with a remote and particular app


  • · No in-built wifi
  • · Single connection option
  • · No channel for dialogue clarity

What is 5.1 Soundbar?

A 5.1 soundbar features three additional speakers and channels, i.e., one on the left, one on front and the other on the right, and the final one in the centre. The front three speakers are usually in-built within the soundbar, and there are two other surround speakers. There are additional surround speakers at the back as well, along with an additional subwoofer. 

However, at times five channels are built within the soundbar while the additional two channels act as surround channels even when they are already within the unit. The primary benefit of getting a 5.1 soundbar is the experience it offers, which in no way can be paralleled by a 2.1 soundbar. It is the ideal surround sound for a gamer or an action movie buff. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of 5.1 Soundbar 


  • · True surround sound
  • · Built-in wifi
  • · A separate centre channel used for dialogue clarity
  • · An enhanced 3-dimensional audio experience
  • · Voice control enabled
  • · 1 subwoofer easy to install
  • · Multiple connection alternatives
  • · Portable and compact design


  • · Costly
  • · Not meant for everyone

2.1 Soundbar vs 5.1 Soundbar: How to Know Which One is Good for You? 

There are a few considerations to make before deciding on a soundbar.


A thing you should ask yourself before purchasing a soundbar is where it will live. Soundbars can be installed in various ways, including hanging on the wall or sitting under the television. One recommendation is to prepare ahead of time to put the soundbar so that it doesn’t block any of the TV’s components, such as the IR receiver.


A 5.1 soundbar is often substantially more expensive than a 2.1 soundbar, given the possibility for superior surround sound quality and dialogue clarity. They can cost a little under a thousand dollars occasionally, but some soundbars are much more expensive.

If you’re not an audiophile, though, the difference between a 2.1 system with advanced audio technology and a 5.1 system with basic sound capabilities may be negligible. It can also help you save money in the long run.

Sound quality

A single soundbar may not be enough to provide you with a satisfying surround sound experience. You might bring a theatre into your home along with a subwoofer, many channels, and modern technologies.

Simply by looking at the figures, a 5.1 soundbar should provide far more value than a 2.1. The additional centre channel for dialogue clarity and the two rear speakers can deliver a better listening experience with or without added technology.

If you have a 5.1 system with three external speakers (2 satellites and a subwoofer), you can experiment with their placement in the room to provide extra depth.

And that’s all the speaker system has to offer, though, a 2.1 soundbar with great Dolby technology could be likely to impress it.

These technologies will quickly improve the audio quality of a soundbar, regardless of the number of channels.

Both 2.1 and 5.1 soundbars can have sound modes in addition to hardware and software. These are soundbar settings that have been fine-tuned to improve specific content. Movie, news, music, gaming, and sports modes are all common sound modes.


Both 2.1 and 5.1 soundbars can have an HDMI connection to enable high-quality content and high-tech audio decoders. HDMI allows for a 4K passthrough and can carry more power than other lines.

If your soundbar doesn’t have HDMI, like the Sony HTCT180, you’ll have to rely on a digital optical connection. 4K passthrough is also possible with digital optical. In soundbars, it is more common than HDMI.

To connect the devices, make sure both your TV and soundbars have appropriate input and output connectors.


The best 5.1 wireless speakers and even 2.1 soundbars are easier to set up as they have fewer components. If you have a 5.1 soundbar with rear satellite speakers, you only have to sync two more system components.

As a result of their plug-and-play architecture, both HDMI and digital optical cable hookups are rather simple. Furthermore, the box should include everything you need, including the remote, cords, and user instructions. A wall mount kit is sometimes included with the purchase of a soundbar.

Is 5.1 sound worth it? 

If you are in for the surround experience, a 5.1 soundbar’s sound is worth it. While a single soundbar may not be able to provide you with that amazing surround experience, a 5.1 soundbar will take it a notch up, thanks to its additional subwoofer, advanced technology, and multiple channels. 

As per most 5.1 users and myself, the centre channel enhances the dialogue clarity, and the two rear speakers enhance the listening experience.

Overall, it’s possible to create more depth with a 5.1 soundbar with the three external speakers.

Although 5.1 home entertainment systems provide the finest experience, 2.1 soundbars aren’t far behind, and there are various reasons to consider purchasing one.

For example, they are significantly less expensive than their competitors. For $200, you can get a nice 2.1 channel soundbar, and most of them have Bluetooth. Because there are no extra speakers behind you, you might conclude that 2.1 soundbars lack true surround sound.

Pro tip: Remember that virtual surround sound is a software-based technology that may be used with nearly any stereo speaker if the source supports it. To cut a long tale short, 2.1 soundbars may also produce acceptable surround sound, albeit more dependent on illusions.

Another advantage of 2.1 soundbar systems is fewer speakers, resulting in less clutter and cords. They’re also easier to set up, and most of them come with Bluetooth, so you can play music from your mobiles as well.


Both 2.1 and 5.1 soundbars have their pros and cons, and the choice between the two boils down to your preference and space. Though soundbars are sleek and compact, the placement of the sams determines the quality it produces. So make sure you place it well to enjoy the ultimate surrounding experience at home. 

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Yo, I'm Sreekanth Devireddy, a technologist, designer and a passionate writer. Previously worked under tech giants as a Head Of Product Reviews. I love to review products and write buyers guide, that helps people to make the right decision at the right time.

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