5.1 soundbars are guaranteed to give you surround sound, or are they? Despite being the industry standard for producing immersive sound, we have come across models that just don’t cut it. To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, we have compiled the best 5.1 soundbars for you to choose from below.
Reviews of the Best 5.1 Soundbars
1. JBL Bar 5.1 Soundbar
This JBL soundbar is unique in its versatile design. The detachable wireless speakers can be placed around the room and instantly turn your 3.1 soundbar into a 5.1 surround sound system.
It is built together with Dolby Digital, Dolby Pro Logic II and DTS, so your movies can come to life like never before. The JBL Bar also fully supports 4K and Ultra HD TVs and can relay content through multiple connections including HDMI.
Moreover, it comes with a wireless subwoofer that adds deep and thrilling bass into the mix. You shouldn’t worry—lower tones are equally emphasized.
2. Polk Audio MagniFi Max SR
Are you looking for bigger sound than before? The Polk Audio MagniFi Max SR will not disappoint. Featuring Polk’s patented SDA technology for a more multi-dimensional soundstage, the Max SR also has Voice Adjust Technology that allows you to control voice levels.
For even more clarity, the 5.1 soundbar has different sound modes to optimize your content and to deliver the surround cinematic sound you are looking for.
With multiple connection options to integrate the sound bar into your system, the Polk soundbar, satellite speakers and subwoofer offer flexible placement. You can connect via 3 HDMI inputs, 1 HDMI Arc output and multiple other digital connections
To setup your Polk Audio easily, read this guide on setting up 5.1 home theater speaker in a small room, too.
3. VIZIO SB36512-F6 5.1 Soundbar
The Vizio SB36512-F6 is one of the most impressive surround sound soundbars featuring Dolby Atmos we have come across. It brings the theater right into your home through Dolby Atmos technology and multi-directional speakers.
You can enjoy your favorite content from every room in the house if you set up your system with Vizio SmartCast and connect all the components via Wi-Fi. Setting up the SB36512-F6 soundbar is very easy, as you can go from unboxing to enjoying cinematic sound in just a few minutes.
The added wireless subwoofer and satellite speakers also raise the bar for all soundbars that produce 3D surround sound.
5.1 Soundbar Buyer’s Guide
How do you ensure that you are truly getting the best 5.1 soundbar? Let’s take a look at some important features to look for.
Alternatively, you can also read all about our roundup of the best soundbars regardless of the number of channels.
Decide where you would like to place your soundbar. As a rule of thumb, the soundbar should be close to your TV and have no obstructions. Mounting the soundbar and satellites on your wall can save a lot of space.
Having the freedom to place the components around the room to accommodate your setup also increases the chances of producing exceptional sound.
A 5.1 channel soundbar cannot solely produce cinematic sound without advanced audio capabilities. These will aid the soundbar in fully utilizing the acoustics and objects in the room to propel sound.
When shopping around, you should look for audio technologies such as Dolby and DTS. You may also find brand-specific technologies such as S-Force and Harman Kardon.
Soundbars don’t necessarily need 5.1 channels to decode such technologies. The LG NB4543 that can decode both Dolby Digital and DTS is a soundbar with 4.1 channels.
A 5.1 channel soundbar will most likely come with rear satellite speakers. This is to make sure the sound is fired from all directions.
Wireless rear speakers offer more potential to achieve layered sound and placement flexibility. With contrasting placement, your home soundbar system will be able to simulate surround sound with the help of these satellite speakers.
A subwoofer is part of a 5.1 system, but it can be wireless or built into the soundbar.
For full and rich bass tones, we suggest going for an external subwoofer. Embedded subs can make a difference in bass, but they are nowhere near as powerful as separate ones.
Wireless connectivity in sterling soundbars can come in two forms: Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Bluetooth connection is more of a basic feature which allows you to stream content from your mobile devices effortlessly. With a compatible TV, the Bluetooth can also facilitate a wireless setup and reduce the need for wires.
Wi-Fi is capable of streaming content but it takes convenience to the next level by allowing users to build upon their soundbar system. It also allows you to take control of the system through your phone when you use compatible apps.
Need help with devices from a specific brand? We wrote a guide on how to set up Polk soundbars here.
HDMI is a necessary connection for 5.1 soundbar systems because it is capable of high quality 4K and HD passthrough. Only HDMI can relay higher definition audio for content such as Blu-Ray with crystal clear audio and no delays. Most 5.1 soundbars like JBL Bar 5.1 include HDMI cable and digital optical in the package which makes the setup easy.
The best 5.1 soundbars should last for many years. To guarantee this, it should be securely built. Check the seams of the product to make sure everything is sealed tightly. Soundbars made from tough aluminum can handle the heat and dissipate heat buildup through the grille.
Can you settle for soundbars with fewer channels or are 5.1 models what you really need? See how our recommedations fare against soundbars with 2.1 channels.
Are 5.1 soundbars worth it?
Yes, 5.1 soundbars are worth it, especially if you are looking for true cinematic surround sound. Keep in mind that the incorporated technology contributes just as much as the channels a soundbar has to expansive sound.
Is 5.1 surround sound good enough?
Yes, 5.1 surround sound is good enough for expansive sound that can fill the room. A 5.1 system comes with 2 rear speakers, a subwoofer and drivers in the soundbar to channel audio from different directions for immersive acoustics.
Does Netflix have 5.1 surround sound?
Yes, Netflix has 5.1 surround sound as well as Dolby Atmos which allows subscribers to enjoy high definition audio.
How do I get 5.1 surround sound on my TV?
You can get 5.1 surround sound on your TV by syncing it to a 5.1 surround sound soundbar. You should also stream content from programs that support 5.1 surround sound such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Our Top Pick: JBL Bar 5.1 Soundbar
The JBL Bar takes the top spot on our best 5.1 soundbar list. With the flexibility of a 3.1 or 5.1 system plus Dolby Digital, Dolby Pro Logic II and DTS technologies, you can customize the system to your own sound preferences.
Enjoying rich and thundering bass with the wireless subwoofer is a breeze as the JBL Bar comes with everything you need and is easy to set up. It also supports 4K and HD TV passthrough with HDMI to recreate a theater experience.