2.1 Channel vs 3.1 Channel Soundbar: What You Need to Know

It brings immense joy to anyone who buys a new television set. Whether you are a movie buff or enjoy quality audio, it is always exciting to set up the TV and start streaming content on it right away! However, this excitement wanes when the realization sinks in that the TV’s sound system (built-in) is subpar and does not really meet your high expectations. In case you do not know already, even the best and highly efficient television sets that you buy from the market can have a very poor sound which although is surprising but is quite true.

Now you might be wondering how to fix this particular problem? A popular way of doing so is by buying a top-quality and reliable soundbar since these are highly effective and do a great job at amplifying sound and dialogue. because they are budget-friendly and effective. When you look into soundbars, you will come across 2 different types- 2.1 channel soundbars and 3.1 channel soundbars. It is important to know the differences between the two so you buy the one that best serves your particular requirements.

So what is the key thing that sets these two types of soundbars apart? A 2.1 soundbar model features a right and left channel, along with a subwoofer. On the other hand, a 3.1 soundbar features 3 channels instead of 2: center, right, and left and a subwoofer as well. The key difference 2.1 and 3.1 soundbar is that a 3.1 channel soundbar provides crisper and clearer dialogue. That is owing to the fact the center channel chiefly focuses on the audio of dialogue.
Now let us dive into detail regarding how the 2.1 and 3.1 channel soundbars stack up against one another.

2.1 vs 3.1

You have to take these important considerations in mind when it comes to the 2.1 channel vs 3.1 channel.

2.1 Soundbar Setup vs 3.1 Soundbar Setup

When you talk about the setup of soundbars, you should know that a 2.1 channel soundbar setup is very basic. You have a right and a left channel that the manufacturer has incorporated in the soundbar, in addition to an extra external subwoofer. There is no denying that soundbars having a 2.1 setup will surely be a significant upgrade from the built-in audio of your television. You will have a strong and clear right and left speaker sound, though the soundbar will not offer a truly immersive surround sound that you can expect from an advanced and contemporary setup. If you are in the market looking for an upgrade to the built-in speakers of your television and do not wish to pay a hefty sum for it, then a 2.1 channel soundbar is an ideal choice for you.

On the other hand, a 3.1 channel soundbar tends to sound slightly different from its 2.1 counterparts. Furthermore, the former is a tad more costly than a 2.1 soundbar. As you are incorporating the middle channel speaker within the device (this is the main difference between a 2.1 and 3.1 soundbar), what it does is contribute towards a more dynamic and immersive sound. Although you will not be including any rear speakers to obtain genuine surround sound but are adding greater dimension and sound (room-filling) with the additional channel. According to several soundbar experts, this gets you quite close to a true surround sound experience.

Compared to a 2.1 channel soundbar, a 3.1 setup will most likely provide you with superior clarity of sound along with dialogue, as dialogue chiefly originates from the middle channel speaker of the device. The dialogue that comes out from a 2.1 channel soundbar device will be mixed with music and sound effects. As a result, the dialogue might sound a trifle less clear and crisp than what you can expect from a 3.1 channel soundbar system.

Price

It is true that both of the 2.1 and 3.1 channel soundbar devices include right and left channels. That said, the addition of dialogue boosting center speakers present in 3.1 soundbars jack up its price tag. Therefore, you can expect to fork out around 1-1.5 times more for a 3.1 device in contrast to a 2.1 one.

Extra capabilities like audio technology, voice control, and sound modes may also contribute to the difference in price between these two types of soundbars.

Design

Soundbar devices happen to be quite compact and compressed speaker systems that include a lot of incredible features into a subtle and slim body. It is likely that this might not leave adequate room for a subwoofer to do justice to deep bass notes. This is precisely why 3.1 and 2.1 soundbars come with a bigger-sized external subwoofer.

Owing to the extra center channel present in the 3.1 channel soundbars, these models are usually larger than the 2.1 soundbar devices. Not every person has the room in their house to easily accommodate a bigger soundbar. Therefore, if you have a small space in your entertainment room, a 2.1 channel soundbar might be sufficient to reach the high standards of a 3.1 model.

However, all soundbar devices conform to a slim standard design and can be easily mounted on your wall or placed on a flat surface. Hence, both the 3.1 and 2.1 channel soundbars offer a considerable amount of freedom in placement.

Bluetooth/Wifi

A common denominator between both 3.1 and 2.1 soundbar devices is that they come with built-in Bluetooth. Wi-Fi happens to another wireless connection that you can find in both of these soundbar types, though only the more expensive ones.

Bluetooth technology enables users to easily stream any kind of content (movies, songs, etc) from their smart phones or tablets to the soundbar to completely decode audio formats. There is no doubt that when you get a Bluetooth supported soundbar device, it can do truly wonders in cleaning up any cable mess which is unsightly to look at!

In addition, External subwoofers that you get with 3.1 and 2.1 soundbars can work seamlessly on Bluetooth technology as well.

2.1 vs 3.1 soundbars: Comparison of Overall Benefits

These are the key advantages of a 2.1 soundbar and 3.1 soundbar device.

2.1 Soundbar

  • These are often more economical than 3.1 soundbars and will not put a dent in your wallet!
  • 2.1 soundbars are more compact and smaller in size so you can fit them just about anywhere
  • Feature either external or built-in subwoofers
  • Support Bluetooth technology and HDMI connectivity
  • All 3.1 channel soundbar devices feature separate center channels for better and clearer dialogue
  • Have external or built-in subwoofers
  • 3.1 channel soundbar devices can fully support HDMI and Bluetooth capabilities are very common as well
  • Generate a far more dynamic and immersive sound compared to 2.1 soundbar models
  • Placement of the device will not impact the sound quality too much
  • The bigger size of the 3.1 channel soundbar optimizes the sound that comes out from large-sized televisions.

Best 2.1 Soundbars: Our Recommendations

As mentioned above, if you desire to take the sound of your television set up several notches and keep your spending to a minimum, a 2.1 channel soundbar is probably your best bet. It will be quite easy for you to nab a quality 2.1 setup for just 100- 200 dollars. How affordable is that! Read on for some of the best 2. 1 soundbar system recommendations that will deliver great sound and dialogue.

Wohome 2.1 Channel Soundbar S28:

Any soundbar specialist will tell you that the Wohome 2.1 Channel Soundbar S28 is one of the leading 2.1 soundbar setups in the market owing to its fine features. It boasts six different drivers which include dual subwoofers (built-in), two tweeter speakers, two full-range speakers, and 105 decibels of quality sound to completely fill up your room. Moreover, the Wohome 2.1 Channel Soundbar S28 features an inherent DSP chip and is 100 percent compatible will all common devices people use these days such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, and so forth. This soundbar also supports wireless Bluetooth which is very convenient.

Pros
  • The generated sound is very powerful and dynamic
  • Elegant design
  • Portable and easy to move around
Cons
  • The audio might be slightly distorted at maximum volume

VIZIO SB3821:

This particular 2.1 channel soundbar model comes with a hundred decibels of sound that serves to fill up the entire entertainment room in your home with lower than one percent of complete harmonic distortion. In addition, the VIZIO SB3821 also has a wireless subwoofer with a pretty impressive 60 feet range. It also has cutting-edge Bluetooth technology incorporated for simple and effortless controls. What’s more, when you buy this 2.1 soundbar system, you can also enjoy prominent features such as DTS TruVolume, Dolby Digital decoding, and DTS audio post-processing. All of these combined make your audio experience all the more amazing!

Pros
  • Amazing sound quality that will surpass all your expectations
  • Dolby digital decoding is a very useful feature
  • Wireless subwoofer is excellent
Cons
  • Slightly bulky compared to other similar models

BYL 2.1 Channel Soundbar:

This one is another top-quality 2.1 channel soundbar. It brings to the proverbial table 110 decibel and 140 Watts of sound to immerse the entertainment room in your house. What you should also know is that the BYL 2.1 Channel Soundbar comes with a 6.5-inch wireless subwoofer that has a 60 feet range. That enables you to enjoy quality sound and dialogue from some distance away from your television set!

An additional appealing thing about this device is its DSP and Bluetooth technology to support 3 distinct modes: movies, music and dialogue.

Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Cheaper than most of the other 2.1 soundbars
  • Aesthetic appeal is very good
Cons
  • A few users have complained that the subwoofer lacks important features

Best 3.1 Soundbars: Our Recommendations

You need to keep in mind that 3.1 channel soundbars are most costly than 2.1 ones and you can expect to fork out anywhere between 200-500 dollars for a 3.1 setup. This soundbar features a center channel and plays a pivotal role in providing a better and clearer sound quality right from the onset! If you have deep pockets and are willing to spend extra for a quality soundbar device, then the following are the best 3.1 channel soundbar systems.

Samsung MM55:

The Samsung MM55 3.1 channel soundbar is a top-quality device for you if you crave superior dialogue and rich sound when you are watching something on your television. It features 3 built-in speakers, along with a powerful wireless subwoofer that adds to your audio experience. You also have the flexibility to connect to your soundbar device wirelessly courtesy of Bluetooth technology and play all kinds of movies, music, or any other kind of entertainment. You can connect the device to your media via a single HDMI cord and enjoy a truly spectacular surround sound experience.

Pros
  • The built-in speakers are very powerful
  • Unique design
  • Easy to mount and assemble
Cons
  • Quite pricey

LG SL6Y 3.1:

Any list mentioning the best 3.1 soundbar systems would be incomplete without mentioning the LG SL6Y 3.1 system. This impressive soundbar comes with a subwoofer (wireless model) and 3 channels to boot (the right, center and left channels). Furthermore, the LG SL6Y 3.1 has some great features like the DTS Virtual:X which assists in creating 3-dimensional surround sound without the need for any additional speakers. The subwoofer provides amazing bass which is sure to amplify your movie-watching experience. What’s more, the design of the model looks very elegant and stylish as well. Overall, this is one of the top-rated soundbar devices and just what you need to take your audio experience to new heights.

Pros
  • Surround sound is pretty impressive
  • Stylish design
Cons
  • Occupies a lot of space

JBL Bar 3.1:

The majority of the users consider the JBL Bar 3.1 soundbar to be an incredible device and although it is quite pricey, there is no doubt that it offers considerable bang for your buck. It comes with a staggering 450 watts of power and powerful bass from an 11-inch subwoofer, apart from the 3 front speakers that are built in the model. You can also use any of the connectivity options available and may stream anything you want wirelessly with the help of Bluetooth technology. The JBL Bar 3.1 is ideal for you if you often watch action-filled movies with a lot of explosive scenes.

Pros
  • Several connectivity options available
  • Bluetooth technology is fantastic
  • Bass is very powerful
Cons
  • Very expensive

What is the difference between the 2.1 and 3.1 soundbars?

The primary difference between a 2.1 and 3.1 soundbar that you should know of is that a 2.1 channel soundbar device features 2 distinct channels (left and right) along with an external subwoofer. These soundbars are often considered the baseline and are often the most economical and lower-end devices that you will come across in the market. On the other hand, a 3.1 soundbar has 3 distinct channels (center, right and left). These soundbars are a step up from the 2.1 models and include the center channel for better audio effects and dialogue.

What does 3.1 channel soundbar mean?

To put it simply, a 3.1 channel soundbar means that the device has a center channel – a distinct speaker situated in the middle of the device. This speaker is in addition to the right and left end speakers. All these 3 speakers combined help you experience the closest thing to surround sound. Therefore, when it comes to the discussion of the 3.1 vs 2.1 soundbar, the 3.1 channel model provides better sound.

What is 3.1 surround sound?

3.1 surround sound system is the sound that emerges from a 3.1 channel soundbar having 3 different speakers (left, right and center). 3.1 surround sound is very immersive and provides a great audio or movie watching experience.

Conclusion

To summarize, when you have to choose between buying a 2.1 vs 3.1 channel soundbar device, the differences between these two are not very significant. If you are a prime watcher of movies, television shows or are serious about video gaming, then probably the 3 channel soundbar is the perfect choice for your particular needs. On the flip side, if you are just on the hunt for something to upgrade the sound of your television and enhance the quality of audio slightly, a less costly 2.1 channel soundbar will do the job just fine for you! Regardless of which soundbar you select, just make sure you research your end to ensure you select the ideal device for your needs.

You may also like this: The Best Soundbar for Samsung TV you can Buy in 2021

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