How We Ranked The 3 Best 5.1 Soundbars

Evan Shephard Avatar

Reviewed By

Evan Shephard

(ISF Certified)

True Score Methodology

v1.5

394,661

Reviews Analyzed

Updated Apr 8, 2024 10:50 AM
best 5.1 soundbar guide that shows the top best soundbar model

Our concise best 5.1 soundbars buying guide cuts through the clutter of fake reviews and insufficient expert analysis by diving deep into data and real-world testing. We scrutinized 130,000+ reviews (customer & expert) from 140+ soundbars, evaluating essential performance aspects like latency, distortion, and frequency response. Our research revealed that 92% of experts fall short in their testing, but we’ve identified the credible few. This meticulous process has allowed us to curate a list of top-performing 3 best 5.1 soundbars, providing you with the confidence to make an informed decision based on reliable test data and genuine insights. In your search for a better audio experience, ensuring you choose the best soundbar is key, as it significantly enhances your home entertainment system.

Below is our list of the 3 best 5.1 soundbars. No matter what movie you watch or game you play, you’ll be immersed and feel the “punch” of the onscreen action.

How Did We Rank the Best 5.1 Soundbars?

We’ve redefined soundbar buying guides, setting us apart from any other site on the planet. Our unique approach leverages a comprehensive dataset from 200+ trusted sites, focusing on key testing metrics (2 required, 2 nice to have) and 2 specification to rank the top-rated 5.1 soundbars and ensure our recommendations meet your specific needs. Our commitment to unbiased reviews is powered by our ‘True Score’ system, targeting low quality and fake reviews. When you shop through our links, you’re backing our mission. Dive deeper to see how.

🛠️ Minimum Specifications

  • Must have 5.1 channel output
  • Must have Dolby Atmos

🧪 Test Criteria

  • Total Harmonic Distortion: A total harmonic distortion (THD) below 1% at 80 decibels to guarantee high-fidelity audio reproduction without unwanted frequencies.
  • Volume Output: The soundbar should be able to deliver a powerful and immersive sound performance, exceeding 85 decibels in volume output.

👍 “Nice To Haves”

  • Latency: With a latency under 100 milliseconds, it ensures minimal delay in data transmission or audio processing.
  • Low-End Roll Off: A low-end roll-off of <45 Hz to ensure there is plenty of thump and rumble in the bass to enhance your music or movie-watching experience.

Latest Updates

  • 04/08/2024: Published the list of best 5.1 soundbars based on our True Score system.

Top 5.1 Soundbars For 2024

Prices accurate at the time of publishing

See how we test the testers

For a 5.1 soundbar to make our list, it must meet standards for audio excellence. If it falls short, it won’t make the cut!

  • Runner Up

    Best Value

    Best Budget

    gr recommended award

    Best Mid-Range

    Samsung HW-Q800C

    The Samsung HW-Q800C excels in home theater setups with immersive Dolby Atmos, deep bass, and low distortion, making it ideal for movies, music, and gaming.

    Samsung HW-Q800C Review →

    True Score

    85
    85
    3

    Experts

    89
    868

    Customers

    $799.00
  • Runner Up

    Best Value

    Best Budget

    gr recommended award

    Best Mid-Range

    Bose Smart Soundbar 900 With Speakers + Bass Module

    The Bose Smart Soundbar 900 offers deep bass, clear highs, and Dolby Atmos support, making it a great choice for audiophiles and cinephiles seeking premium sound.

    Bose Smart Soundbar 900 With Speakers + Bass Module Review →

    True Score

    83
    80
    3

    Experts

    88
    2k

    Customers

    SAVE $50
    $749.99
    $699.99
  • Runner Up

    Best Value

    Best Budget

    gr recommended award

    Best Mid-Range

    LG S90QY

    The LG S90QY is an affordable 5.1 soundbar with clear treble and room-filling sound, making it a great mid-range choice for those who don’t mind some compromises.

    LG S90QY Review →

    True Score

    81
    79
    2

    Experts

    86
    860

    Customers

    $429.95

    Did you know 92% of soundbar reviewers are

    untrustworthy?

    Our research found 10 of 122 soundbar reviewers as of May 2024 can be trusted, and shockingly 1 out of 3 on Google Page 1 were fake reviews showing no proof of test claims. See our Expose and Trust List. This is why Gadget Review is committed to calculating the most accurate product scores on the web.

    To do this, we give every soundbar review site a Trust Score, which measures how trustworthy the site and their testing claims are. We then leverage AI & a machine learning model to combine and calculate the Trust Score with data from experts and consumers to deliver the True Score, the web’s most accurate product quality rating.

    394,661

    Soundbar Reviews Analyzed

    149

    Total Products Analyzed

    Read the Soundbar Testing Methodology

Our Approach to Evaluating 5.1 Soundbars

We’ve revolutionized soundbar guides, standing out globally with our unique methodology. By analyzing trusted data sources, we focus on key metrics like volume, distortion, latency, and bass.

Our approach ensures tailored recommendations, especially for 5.1 soundbars, emphasizing top-tier audio quality for watching movies, TV shows or playing video games. Dive into our data-driven method for precise, reliable soundbar advice.

Which Criteria Matters for Testing Best 5.1 Soundbars?

By focusing on these criteria (2 required, 2 nice to have), anyone can quickly and easily compare these soundbars and how they’ll perform. This helps you make an informed decision and purchase a soundbar that will sound great.

CRITERIARANGEREQUIREDDEFINITION
Total Harmonic Distortion< 1YesThe amount of distortion introduced by the soundbar when it processes an audio signal at a given volume (typically 80, 85 or maximum dB output.)
Max Volume> 85 dBYesThe maximum volume that a soundbar reaches when it’s output it turned up to 100%.
Latency< 100 msNo (nice to have)The time it takes for a soundbar to process audio signal from a source and output it through the speakers.
Low End Roll Off< 45 HzNo (nice to have)The point at which bass begins to sharply fall below the target response point on a frequency response graph, making harder to hear.

Our Trusted Data Sources

(Publication category Score is 80%+)

We looked at 120+ soundbar reviewers and while 10 are trustworthy (60%+ Trust Score), we only use data from the testers that are “very trusted” which means a Trust Score above 70%. The three we have listed below are our most trusted for soundbars.

  1. Becca Fischer – Rtings, MuckRack
  2. Matt Bento- Techgear Lab, MuckRack
  3. Sam Moore – Sound Guys, MuckRack

Interested in a comprehensive analysis of our data sources? We’ve got you covered. Below, you’ll find a detailed list of every soundbar review website we’ve identified, organized by their respective Trust Scores from highest to lowest. But we didn’t stop there. We’ve meticulously reviewed each publication and verified the data by checking whether the authors have bio links to MuckRack or LinkedIn. We’re committed to not only checking the facts but ensuring their veracity.

Soundbars Test Data & Results

1. Low end roll off test result

When it comes to getting the most bass you can out of your soundbar, low-end roll off is a great indicator of just how deep the bass on it can get. If a soundbar doesn’t have a roll off that starts deep enough into the bass part of the audio spectrum, then it’ll result in quiet or even absent bass, which removes most of the punch and impact of not only music, but also movies and video games. the longer it takes bass to roll off, the better.

When it comes to most soundbars for most use cases, we recommend a roll off that doesn’t start until at least 45 Hz, but it only gets better the further you go down. It’s worth noting that the roll off will only get so low, so don’t expect to find soundbars hitting the teens for roll off, but it isn’t uncommon for very bass-forward options to hit 30 Hz before roll off starts. By aiming for at least 45 Hz, you have a much better chance of getting the deep, rumbling bass you’re looking for out of your music, movies or games.

Low end roll off (in Hz; lower is better)

2. max volume test result

Maximum volume is the easiest aspect of a soundbar to understad: it’s just how loud the soundbar itself will actually get. What’s less clear is why a soundbar getting loud is so important. While higher max volumes give you the ability the fill rooms with sound or use a soundbar as makeshift party speakers, they’re also responsible for helping ensure that audio stays clear when listening at normal listening levels.

This is commonly referred to as “headroom”, and having enough headroom on a soundbar means that the soundbar is able to play back sounds at a high enough level (and with good enough clarity) that the volume level you’ll normally listen to music, movies or games with will sound perfectly clear and distortion free. We recommend your soundbar have no less than 85 dB of maximum volume, but getting past 91 dB is ideal, and the higher you go, the better your soundbar is at filling larger and larger rooms.

Max Volume (in dB; higher is better)

3. latency test result

Large amounts of latency create problems when trying to sync up audio and video. While you’ve got a bit of wiggle room with how much of a delay can exist between the audio that comes out of your soundbar and the images on your TV, it’s not a ton. If there’s too much latency the mismatch starts to become obvious, and people start looking like they stopped talking while dialogue is still playing. This is especially concerning for gamers, who rely on audio and video to sync up well enough that the footprints you hear around the corner are accurately getting closer.

It’s for these reasons we recommend a latency less than 100 ms. For most content, this is a low enough delay that any mismatch is going to be largely unnoticed. If you’re a highly competitive gamer and don’t want to do calibration out of the box to line up the A/V, the lowest latency you can find is going to work best. For music and moves, though, 100 ms or less will work great.

Latency (in milliseconds; lower is better)

4. total harmonic distortion test result

Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) measures the fidelity of soundbars by indicating the percentage of unwanted harmonics added to the original audio. A THD under 1 ensures minimal distortion, critical for preserving audio quality across music, movies and games. This low distortion level enhances clarity, maintains detail, and ensures a high-fidelity listening experience, crucial for understanding dialogues, appreciating music nuances, and immersing in game sounds.

We believe soundbars should have less than 1% THD because this helps confirm their ability to accurately reproduce a wide range of audio without perceptible distortion. We say “perceptible” because it’s impossible to remove all distortion, but you can reduce it to the point it’s impossible to notice. Low THD also helps improve your comfort by preventing fatigue during extended use, making it an essential for anyone that marathons movies, games or music.

Total Harmonic Distortion (lower is better)

Best 5.1 Soundbars: Mistakes To Avoid

  1. Disregarding Room Size: Avoid selecting a 5.1 soundbar without considering your room’s dimensions, as mismatched sizing can impact audio distribution and overall performance. For smaller spaces, the best small soundbar can provide a balanced and immersive audio experience without overwhelming the room, ensuring that you don’t compromise on sound quality or spatial harmony.

  2. Neglecting Connectivity: Don’t overlook connectivity options, as lacking features like Bluetooth or HDMI ARC can limit compatibility with your devices and reduce flexibility in usage. For gamers, the best gaming soundbar with low-latency Bluetooth and HDMI ARC ensures seamless audio sync and versatile connections to consoles and PCs, enhancing the gaming experience with crisp, timely sound.

  3. Ignoring Subwoofer Placement: Ensure you don’t place the subwoofer in an inconvenient location or overlook its placement altogether, as proper positioning is crucial for balanced bass distribution and optimal sound quality. Soundbar placement is equally important; it should complement the subwoofer’s position to create a cohesive audio environment. Choosing the best soundbar with a subwoofer involves considering how both components will integrate into your space to deliver superior sound.

  4. Sacrificing Audio Quality for Features: Avoid prioritizing fancy features over audio quality, as some models may offer a multitude of functionalities but compromise on sound performance, resulting in a less satisfying listening experience. For audiophiles and music enthusiasts, the best soundbar for music should deliver rich, detailed sound with balanced bass, clear mids, and crisp highs, ensuring every note and lyric is heard in full clarity.

The Best 5.1 Soundbars Tests Compared

Product
True Score
Low End Roll Off
High End Roll Off
Max Volume Test
Latency
THD @ 80dB

Samsung HW-Q800C

  • Best for 5.1

85
  • 35.13 Hz

  • 16,974.66 Hz

  • 97.2 db

  • 49 ms

  • 0.23 dB

$799.00
83
  • 29.54 Hz

  • 17,221.56 Hz

  • 96.1 db

  • 56 ms

  • 0.43 dB

$699.99
$750
$50

LG S90QY

  • Best for LG

81
  • 54.17 Hz

  • 15,342.66 Hz

  • 92.3 db

  • 85 ms

  • 0.64 dB

$429.95

5.1 Soundbar Questions (FAQ)

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