What is a 2.1 Soundbar?

What is a 2.1 soundbar you ask?

The standard 2.1 soundbar is used to hook up to a contemporary television to boost audio quality.

It features three audio channels: the left and right speakers in the soundbar itself, and a standalone subwoofer that hooks up separately.

This is a slight upgrade to the 2.0 soundbars, which only feature the traditional left and right channels.

The subwoofer adds well-needed bass into the mix.

But it’s not the end of the world if you don’t have one.

What is a 2.1 soundbar?

What is a 2.1 Soundbar Channel?

Don’t be thrown by the word ‘channel’ either!

There’s nothing complicated to understand here. It's just a means of transmitting sound.

Depending on your budget, you can get soundbars with up to nine channels!

The number is also usually indicative of which kind of sound system the soundbar itself is compatible with.

For instance, the 2 here stands for two internal speakers, whilst the .1 indicates the separate subwoofer that can be attached.

Soundbars with 3 channels for instance, aka the 3.0 or 3.1, have three speakers: one left, one right, and a third in the center; 5 channel soundbars go one step further, accommodating additional surround sound speakers as well as having the three channels.

What if the manufacturer does not specifically state how many audio channels their soundbar has?

Then it’s probably not a very good one and you should probably steer clear!

Is a 2.1 channel soundbar good?

That depends on who you’re asking!

A 2.1 soundbar has two clear speakers on its left and right sides, as well as being able to hook up to a subwoofer for recreating those beautifully deep, low bass notes.

As a basic addition to your television, this is a pretty standard, straightforward sound system.

It will certainly sound better than your TV on its own, but there’s only so much that a woofer and a separate speaker bar can add to your experience.

If you're seeking a decent, HD sound to enjoy shows, movies and music on, a 2.1 channel soundbar will do nicely, especially with the addition of those bass notes - it’ll be a welcome upgrade to listening through tinny TV speakers.

However, if you’re looking to recreate a more cinematic, theatrical setup, you’ll probably want to spring for a 5.1 soundbar instead. This allows you to add surround sound speakers wherever you’d like in the room, enhancing the sound.

With a 2.1, it’s probably going to sound the same as it would coming through your TV, only crisper and clearer.

You may consider going for a 3.1 instead, as this then gives you an additional third speaker in the middle of the soundbar itself.

That way, even though you’re only knocking the price up by a fraction, you’re at least going to have more sound channels than you would from just using the TV alone. So upgrading to a soundbar seems more worthwhile than simply gaining a subwoofer.

Are 5.1 soundbars worth it?

That’s a subjective question, so the answer will be different every time!

If you’ve got more money to spend on a fully-fledged, completely immersive listening experience, then you’ll absolutely benefit from opting for a 5.1 channel system.

Not only do you get an additional speaker right there in the soundbar, which has three channels - left, middle and right - as well as a subwoofer to hit those all-important rich bass notes, but there’s also the opportunity for more.

Yes, that’s right, the extra two channels indicated by that number 5 belong to a set of surround sound speakers, which you can position pretty much anywhere you want. It might not be as LOUD as your local movie theater, but it’s certainly up there.

Comparatively, the 5.1 soundbars are usually more technologically advanced, as well. The more money you spend, the higher the chances of features like Bluetooth compatibility for music streaming and built in wifi for smart speaker connections.

If you’re on a budget, you could probably enjoy the upgrade that a 2.1 or even 3.1 channel soundbar provides over the standalone television. You’re not missing out on too much and you can always sell up and get a better sound system in the future.

Those who might want to further upgrade their audio setup in the future should also consider splurging on a 5.1 soundbar right off the bat, as these usually allow for adding further speakers or other tech, whereas a 2 or 3 channel bar does not.

What is the difference between a 2.1 and 3.1 soundbar?

An additional speaker!

A standard 2.1 soundbar is the second most basic bar you can get. It features two speakers to the left and right of the soundbar, as well as a separate subwoofer that usually sits beneath or behind the TV.

With the 3.1 soundbars, however, you get basically the same setup, but as well as the left and right speakers in the soundbar, there is an extra one positioned in the middle, to provide an even wider, more immersive playback experience.

You’ll find that the sound of a 3.1 bar is more elevated, though it still won’t provide the ultimate surround experience that theater fans will be looking for. To achieve that, you’ll need a 5.1 system, with those two additional speakers.

And the difference between a 2.1 and 3.1 soundbar?

The clarity of dialogue is usually much improved, as most of the speaking sound comes through the center channel speaker.

Therefore, for those who are hard of hearing, it’s a worthy upgrade, although you may still need the assistance of subtitles in order to have the best possible watching experience!

Summary: What is a 2.1 Soundbar? 

The numbers are what you need to focus on, as they spell things out for you.

Let’s break it down a little:




Number of channels





3 (plus 2)






Additional surround speakers?





As you can see the 2.1 soundbar has 2 channels with a subwoofer but no additional surround speakers.

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