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If you are new to the world of TV-assisted audio, you may look to compare 2.1 soundbars vs 5.1 soundbars. Some of the best speakers, after all, are quality soundbars, and modern iterations often include support for 2.1 or 5.1 systems. So what are the main differences, and which is best for your surround sound setup? Keep reading to find out.
If you’re wondering how to choose a soundbar, here’s a simple way to remember the main difference between them: 2.1 soundbars include two speakers or channels, while 5.1 soundbars feature five speakers or channels. The said holds true for other types, such as when comparing 2.1 vs 3.1 soundbars. The increase in channels with 5.1 soundbars allows for a richer audio experience, which is also true when comparing 3.1 vs 5.1 soundbars.
Modern iterations of both types of soundbars are often available with Bluetooth to eliminate clutter.
Both types offer diverse connection methods if you are comparing HDMI vs Bluetooth for soundbars. Here are more differences between the two so you can move on to other important decisions, such as choosing between a soundbar vs a receiver.
More is not always better, but it is in the case of speakers. The five channels available with a 5.1 system allow for a much more nuanced and rich sound when compared to a 2.1 system. In other words, your TV shows and movies are really going to pop, particularly if your 5.1 soundbar includes a subwoofer or a related component to amp up the bass. To be clear, 2.1 soundbars do not sound bad, as it largely depends on the individual make and model. Some 2.1 soundbars sound better than 5.1 soundbars, though this is rare.
The rise of 5.1 soundbars is a relatively recent occurrence, so they are still considered a new and hot technology. So, yeah, they are more expensive than 2.1 soundbars. You can often snag a 2.1 soundbar for $100 or less, but 5.1 soundbars can be double, triple, or quadruple the price tag. Heck, some brands like Bose charge $500 to $1,000 for a 5.1 surround soundbar. If you are on a strict budget, go for a simple and humble 2.1 soundbar.
STAT: When stereo (aka two-channel stereo or 2.0) sound became available to consumers in the 1950’s it added a more realistic soundstage for music listening where instruments and vocals could be separated and placed to the left and right front sides of the listening room. (source)
Some 5.1 systems allow for Dolby Atmos and Dolby Digital surround sound via detachable surround speakers or by aping the process in-house. On the other hand, 2.1 systems are simply not designed for surround sound.