The best
5.1 Surround Soundbars
compared

The best surround sound with soundbars

It doesn’t always have to be a 9.1 sound system to enjoy a great surround sound. Even with 5.1 channels, a great enveloping sound is possible, where you do not have to make any compromises. But what then distinguishes this category from the Dolby Atmos best side? You don’t necessarily need the 3D sound format for an excellent surround sound, so soundbars are listed here that produce an impressive sound and sometimes even manage without Dolby Atmos. Find out more about the sound of a soundbar in our buying guide.

The soundbars listed here come with different setups – one does have satellite speakers, the other is an all-in-one soundbar. That is to say, surround sound is either physically produced by real speakers or virtually by reflecting the sound off your walls. The resulting sound may even be better than Dolby Atmos, since many soundbars can’t get the most out of the three-dimensional sound format. Therefore, here is our selection of the best 5.1 surround soundbars!

Best 5.1 Surround Soundbar: JBL Bar 9.1

  • 820W total power
  • External subwoofer
  • Wireless battery satellites
  • Impressive surround sound
  • Room correction
  • HDMI eARC, Wi-Fi & Bluetooth
  • Dolby Atmos & DTS:X
  • No Dialogue Enhancement Feature
  • No Equalizer
Room size
above 40 m2
Channels
5.1.4
Connections
HDMI 2.1 InHDMI OutHDMI eARCDigital opticalLAN-Ethernet
Dolby Atmos
Set
Soundbar + Subwoofer + Satellites

Actually, the name JBL Bar 9.1 is a bit misleading, because it is technically a 5.1.4 channel soundbar. So it is a 5.1 soundbar with 4 Dolby Atmos/DTS:X height channels. But that alone isn’t what’s really unique about the sound system. It’s the battery-powered satellite speakers that are detachable from the soundbar and can be placed absolutely wirelessly in the room – and their sound quality is amazingly good.

The rear satellite speakers are equipped with up-firing speakers just like the soundbar, so the sound not only envelops the listener, but also reaches them from above. This creates a quite convincing 3D sound, which cannot be produced much better by most soundbars with even more channels.

In addition, the JBL Bar 9.1 has been equipped with clever features. The excellently implemented room correction feature improves the surround sound by quite a lot, as the soundbar adapts to the acoustics of the room. With Wi-Fi connectivity, Chromecast and Apple Airplay, content can be streamed easily and the traditional Bluetooth interface is also present.

Best 5.1 Standalone Soundbar: Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar

  • Ambeo 3D Mode
  • No external Hardware needed
  • No Satellite Speakers
  • No external Subwoofer
  • Huge dimensions

The Sennheiser AMBEO soundbar doesn’t perform quite as well as the JBL Bar 9.1 in terms of immersion and surround sound, but it’s admittedly quite massive and impressive. But it manages to create an amazing level of immersion and surround sound without additional speakers with the help of the AMBEO 3D mode, which only a few other soundbars can produce.

Of course, the dimensions of the soundbar are quite large, but they are needed to generate the bass on the one hand and to provide enough volume for the numerous tweeters and midrange speakers for a rich, clean sound on the other.

With the Sennheiser Smart Control app, the soundbar can be controlled very conveniently with the smartphone. In addition, all common streaming services can be used via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

5.1 Surround Soundbars in comparison

JBL Bar 9.1
JBL Bar 9.1
Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar
Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar
Channels 5.1.4 5.1.4
Dolby Atmos
DTS DTS HD-Master + DTS:X DTS HD-Master + DTS:X
HDMI 2.1 1x In + 1x Out
eARC
WLAN
Room size above 40 m2 up to 25 m2
Subwoofer External Internal
Satellites
Dimensions Height x Width x Depth 62 x 884 x 120 mm 133 x 1252 x 172 mm

Frequently asked questions about 5.1 Surround Soundbars

Is a 3.1 or 5.1 soundbar better?

A 3.1 and a 5.1 soundbar can both provide clear dialogue due to their separate center speaker. A 5.1 soundbar, however, also features rear speakers and can therefore offer surround sound. This leads to an immersive listening experience.

Is a 5.1 setup or a soundbar better?

A 5.1 setup with distinct speakers is superior to a soundbar when it comes to the surround performance. Thus, if you are looking for a real home cinema experience, you should go for separate speakers. A soundbar can be a good alternative if you do not have that much space in your living room, however.

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