What Is The Difference Between 2.1 and 3.1 Sound Bar? [Complete Guide]

All film lovers would acknowledge the thrill of watching a brand-new film in a theater accompanied by deep sound intensity. The pictures on the screen might be alluring, but nothing beats a badass audio feature.

The audio intensity also applies to house film entertainment. Owning a top-notch television does not guarantee the same exciting sound effects in a theater. With this in mind, it is possible to advance your in-house audio by using a media bar.

However, there are a wide variety of media bars in the market. These options make the purchase stressful for those who are not tech-gurus. While making the decision to get a soundbar is easy, finding the appropriate brand might be complex.

So, what is the difference between the 2.1 and 3.1 soundbars? If you’re wondering, then you have come to the right place. Below is a detailed list that will help you determine which media bar fits your needs best.  

Major Difference Between the 2.1 and 3.1 Soundbars

What is the difference between 2.1 and 3.1 soundbars? Various components comprise the 2.1 and 3.1 media bars. But there is one clear difference that a person can notice from the get-go. 

The 2.1 media bar has two places where the audio can be boosted: one on the right side of the bar and the other on the left. This attribute is suggested in the “2” found in “2.1”. Another way to distinguish the 2.1 media bars is the presence of only one subwoofer.

Meanwhile, the 3.1 media bar has three audio locations on the bar’s right, center, and left sides. But this media bar also has a single subwoofer.

Even if both media bars can be of high quality, their effectiveness varies in different situations. To deliberate which might suit your needs, you must understand their specifications. 

Characteristics of the 2.1 Media Bar

As previously indicated, this media bar consists of one subwoofer and has two outlets. Each channel is present on either side of the speaker. The main reason for this is not just to increase the audio in your television, bringing out more volume and ambiance, but to build an ambient sound venture.

As a plus, a 2.1 subwoofer also contains one exterior speaker system. The speaker unit concentrates on amassing the sound, like the detonation of explosives in action films or a soft reverberation of an impending catastrophe. It elevates your home movie experience in a way that your television is unable to.

The type and version of the 2.1 media bar bought makes connecting it to a television through a cabled network like Optical and HDMI possible. Bluetooth is also a viable method of connection.

Most people prefer using Bluetooth since you don’t need to connect any cables, and it also reduces the chance of damaging the device. It also improves the sight of your TV area since there are no popping wires connected to the woofer.

Even so, some opt for Optical and HDMI attachments since they are as effective. Bluetooth connections at times can be unsteady. 

In summary, a 2.1 media bar can be a remarkable boost to your current television’s audio sound system. It is also cheaper than the 3.1 media bar, so if you want to improve the sound system inside your home on a budget, then 2.1 is your best option. 

Characteristics of a 3.1 Home Theater

As described above, you can tell the total of channels present in a speaker from its description. The second digit in the name represents the number of amplifiers available in the device. So, a 3.1 media bar consists of three sound channels and a single speaker system.

A 3.1 media bar has an additional speaker, which can be found at the center of the bar, unlike the 2.1 brands. The middle speaker on a 3.1 media bar concentrates more on the conversation part of a film.

This speaker can bring more excitement, especially to those who go on movie sprees or keep tabs on the newest smash hits.

The 2.1 and the 3.1 media bars have an external preamplifier in common. The amplifier is connected to the bar, thus elevating the low rumbles that give you a significant sound effect. 

Because the 3. 1 media bar has an extra speaker, it is not shocking that it is more prominent in appearance compared to the 2.1. The reason is that the speaker takes up more area. Due to this, the 3.1 has a better quality brought about by its intense encircling sound.

The middle speaker will bring you clear and audible dialogue while the speakers on the right and left parts give you sound from every direction.

Another feature that the two media bars have in common is connecting to television via Bluetooth, Optical wires, and HDMI. However, the connection type depends on the design of the television and media bar. The various types of connections are discussed as the article continues.

More Factors to Review

While choosing between a 2.1 and 3.1 soundbar, someone will likely examine their significant contrast and choose the well-liked one. But there are additional features that one should assess past that.

If you put more effort into researching the two models, then you will get more information that will guide you when choosing the best type for your use. Some additional factors you might want to look into to help answer the question “what is the difference between 2.1 and 3.1 soundbars” include:

1. Wired Versus Bluetooth

In the current world of rapid technological advancements, wireless connections are the way to go. A vast majority of tech products such as phones, speakers, and earphones utilize Bluetooth to connect to their devices.

And there are certain perks to using wireless connections with your soundbar. For instance, there are no limitations as to what position you can place the speaker in. You could choose to move it to the end of the room without any restrictions that come with soundbar codes.

Besides, the setup processes of a wireless soundbar system are pretty simple. The only thing you’ll have to do is turn on the device. After clicking a few buttons, a connection is established, and you can enjoy a movie or music on the audio system.

We all have had to deal with misbehaving Bluetooth devices, especially when other devices fail to show up or connect. Or when you want to connect your speaker to a TV but it doesn’t have Bluetooth capabilities. During such times, wired speakers with HDMI cables could come in handy. But some people prefer wired soundbar connections mainly because of their reliability.

So, consider all these factors when selecting your soundbar. It is advisable to go with a version that suits your needs without inconvenience.  

2. Size

Size is another essential factor to look at when contrasting between 2.1 and 3.1 soundbars. Typically, 3.1 speakers are bigger than 2.1 soundbar speakers. The latter comes with smaller external speakers, which makes it ideal for smaller spaces.

Therefore, it is essential to consider space availability when choosing between the two speaker models. For instance, if you want to use the soundbar with your TV set, take a minute to determine where you intend to mount the soundbar. Can it be mounted on the wall above the TV? Or is there space next to the screen? If you answer such questions truthfully, you will be able to determine what soundbar version works best for your room. 

3. Uses

When purchasing a soundbar unit, take a moment to analyze the intended use of the audio system. Do you want to use it with one source only (such as your TV set)? Or will you keep switching it between various input devices? With your needs drawn out, you can determine what soundbar version works best for you.

An ideal soundbar system should come with not less than two HDMI ports and an Optical input slot. These allocations allow you to connect the audio system with other devices such as a computer, gaming set, other speakers, or the TV.

It could also have Bluetooth connection capabilities that make it easy to connect with other devices such as a stereo, phone, or tablet. 

4. Sound Quality

3.1 soundbars have a better sound quality than 2.1 soundbars. This difference can be attributed to several factors like speaker size, a center channel, and better sound emission points. So, you will notice that 3.1 soundbars produce better vocals than the latter.

The center channel in the 3.1 version plays an essential role in sound quality improvement. It separates different tones in audio, which allows better clarity. This feature helps better dialogues making it easier to watch movies or listen to songs using this audio device.

On the other hand, 2.1 soundbars heavily rely on the side speakers to deliver dialogue and sound effects – the result is poorer sound quality when listening to audio material. 

5. Set-Up

Soundbar systems have simple setup steps that allow users to get started right away. The setup might differ depending on the type of connection – wireless or wired. But generally, it is often a straightforward process.

However, 2.1 soundbars are much easier to set up than 3.1 soundbars. This difference can be attributed to the fact that the 2.1 version doesn’t have a center channel. So, you only have to set up the right and left tracks and the external subwoofer.

On the other hand, the 3.1 soundbar system has an additional setup point: the center channel. So, you will have to configure the right and left channels, the center channel, and the external soundbar. But the extra effort is worth it because this version emits better sound due to the additional channel.


You might have come across the question, “what is the difference between 2.1 and 3.1 soundbar?” Well, the differences are pretty small. Generally, the 3.1 version is slightly better and produces a better sound quality than the 2.1 version. The former is better for serious gamers, live streamers, or TV bingers.

The 2.1 soundbar is ideal for anyone trying to step up their TV audio quality. This version allows such users to upgrade their audio experience without spending a lot of money. So, when purchasing a soundbar, take a moment to access your needs.

Anita Jones