4.1 Vs. 5.1 Channel Soundbar – What Is The Difference?

A soundbar is a compact audio system designed to amplify and deliver surround sound audio. It has minimal fuss or wires. But, when it comes to soundbars, the biggest question that consumers need to be answered is whether they need a 4.1 or 5.1 channel soundbar. 

What exactly are the differences? How many speakers come with each soundbar, and where are these speakers placed? Are there benefits to purchasing one over the other?

In this article, you’ll learn the differences between both channels so you can make an informed choice.

What Are The Differences Between the 4.1 and 5.1 Soundbars?

It works the same way as a 5.1 home theater system. You get surround sound when you put two satellite speakers and a subwoofer in your room. Besides, not all soundbars feature five speakers. Some have three or four, making them 4.1 systems rather than 5.1 systems.

Here are the key differences between them:

  • A soundbar with five speakers has an enveloping surround sound than its counterparts. Four or three speakers won’t be able to do that. 
  • A five-channel soundbar will offer a more intense bass response. It is desirable to listen to music with lots of bass and drums. Also, if you’re using your soundbar to watch films, TV shows, and sports in general, five speakers should give you more flexibility. It is because they have less impact on your room’s acoustics than four or three channels.
  • A five-channel soundbar costs more than four or three channels. That’s in the initial purchase price and running costs.
  • You’ll have to create a path for five speakers (one for each channel, plus a subwoofer) in your room. But, it may be more complicated than creating a path for four or three channels.
  • It’s more difficult to upgrade from a four-channel soundbar to five channels. You’ll have to replace all your speakers, not just add an extra one.

What Does 4.1 Channel Mean on a Soundbar?

A soundbar contains speakers of varying sizes that fire at different angles. It means you get more immersive audio from a smaller system than from your TV’s built-in speakers. 

But what does the 4.1 channel mean on a soundbar? This term refers to different components of a surround-sound setup, divided into groups labeled A through D (hence channel). They’re typically represented by letters in your user manual. Each is designed to deliver audio at different locations within your listening area. 

It means that with three channels alone, you can hear audio coming from 9 different positions surrounding you. With four channels or a 4.1 system as it’s called here, there are 11 different speaker placements around you.

As you can see, that’s a lot of stuff going on in a soundbar! So it’s no surprise that there are models with 4.1 channel sound and then models with 5.1 channel audio systems. It all comes down to where each speaker is placed around you. It allows them to deliver better audio all-round if they’re quality speakers, to begin with.

What Does 5.1 Channel Mean on a Soundbar?

It means that you can connect an additional subwoofer to enhance your movie or game audio experience. For you to achieve full 5.1 surround sound, though, you need two main speakers in addition to two rear speakers (or left/right speaker pairs). 

However, if you only have a 2-channel stereo system right now, adding a soundbar and subwoofer is an upgrade. Yes, in terms of functionality, so if your budget allows it, consider getting one of those as well. 

Of course, all these inputs mean something different depending on whether you opt for a 4.0 channel or 5.1 channel device. So make sure to check product specifications carefully before choosing a specific model. Among other things, some products require that all speakers be wired together. Other products are directly plugged into individual input jacks. That means any new system you purchase has to match what you already own.

How Many Channels Should a Good Soundbar have?

When you’re in your local electronics store, looking at all those soundbars, some questions might run through your mind. Like, how many channels do I need to hear things accurately? Channels are a funny thing with soundbars. So, do they help improve your listening experience if you have more channels on your device?

4.1 channel soundbars are cheaper than their larger siblings. Yet, they also give you more flexibility and better sound quality. Therefore, they are an excellent choice for people who don’t want to spend a lot of money on a device. But, need something while viewing movies or listening to music at home with family or friends. 

If you need your audio experience to be immersive, these devices can make all that happen. However, 4.1 channel models may not give a complete immersion if each object has its place. Instead, 5.1 channel devices are best if that’s what you desire from your system. We recommend checking out both kinds before you buy!

When all of your electronics have stereo outputs, there isn’t any reason why stereo will automatically sound better. Often, it will just mean one less wire running across your room since there are only two speakers rather than four. But, some kinds of content can take advantage of multiple channels. 

But, those who enjoy listening to a lot of music in surround sound may want a 4.1 channel or higher mode. Otherwise, you probably don’t need more than three channels when you go shopping for a soundbar. 

Are 5.1 Soundbars Worth it?

If you enjoy movies and playing video games at home, then a 5.1 channel soundbar is likely to be of interest to you. These surround sound systems create more immersion in your home entertainment system. It also immerses you in cinematic worlds more easily. In addition, they help with pinpointing sounds, like gunshots, that can make gaming experiences more fun.

Below are some reasons why 5.1 soundbars are worth considering:

1. More settings to customize your audio experience: 

A 5.1 channel gives you more control and options to customize your entertainment. For example, you can adjust different EQs to get the right balance of bass and treble. It will work for you in each room of your house. 

2. Rear Surround Sound: 

Rear surround sound is necessary if you want an immersive home theater experience. You might not think about what sounds are coming from behind you when watching TV or a movie until it’s missing from a standard two-speaker system. Your soundbar with a rear surround produces the third dimension of sound space. Thanks to digital audio processors! You get to enjoy your favorite movies, games, and music more than ever before. 

3. Enhanced Music Performance: 

Many people use their TVs as a primary source for music listening. It also makes your favorite music sound better by enveloping you in full audio from all sides. It’s like you’re at a concert or club! 

Yes, though 5.1 soundbars are worth it, the type of soundbar you need in your home all boils down to your budget and needs. 


Yes, there are distinctions between a 4.1 channel and a 5.1 channel soundbar. But, it all depends on your preferences. For example, a 5.1 channel soundbar will provide more clarity and depth in your movies and music. 

However, most people who buy a soundbar go with a 4.1 channel soundbar. That’s because it’s cheaper and is good enough for most home theater setups. Your choice comes down to personal preference. Both are great options for a quality audio experience for your home.

Anita Jones