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What’s the Difference Between a 2.0 and 2.1 Soundbar?

So you finally splurged and bought yourself a brand new television and boy did you go for the gusto. You dropped extra cash on the OLED screen and upgraded the smart interface features. You even got yourself a firestick to go with it. But a problem arises. After mounting your new TV you find that the sound is subpar at best. You my friend, need a sound bar. Standard 2.0 and 2.1 soundbars can do the trick, but what’s the difference between the two?

So, what’s the difference between a 2.0 and 2.1 soundbar? A 2.0 soundbar has two channels (left and right), and a 2.1 soundbar includes a total of three channels, two channels (left and right) in the soundbar and a separate subwoofer. While this may seem like a small difference, not having a subwoofer can be the difference between okay sound and great sound.

This doesn’t mean that a 2.0 soundbar is subpar to a 2.1 soundbar. Besides a subwoofer, there are many other factors to take into account when buying soundbars to enhance your sound system.

Difference Between a 2.0 and 2.1 Soundbar

Difference Between a 2.0 and 2.1 Soundbar

As previously mentioned, the main difference lies in the presence of a subwoofer. 2.1 soundbars come with a subwoofer built inside of the soundbar or sometimes an external subwoofer while 2.0 soundbars do not.

As a rule of thumb, when approaching speakers and soundbars, usually the first number represents how many speakers there are and the “.1” represents the presence of a subwoofer.

While there are some differences, there are many similarities as well. Both of these types of soundbars are within the same price range proportionally.

In fact, it is possible to get a higher quality 2.0 soundbar than a 2.1 soundbar depending on the price. Both of these soundbars often come with wireless setup via Bluetooth or Wi-fi.

If you’re interested in learning more about the other soundbar channel configurations (and inputs – our guide), check out our YouTube video we made that explains what the different soundbar channels mean:

Is a Soundbar Subwoofer Necessary?

Is a Soundbar Subwoofer Necessary?

Well, yes and no. It all depends on what you want for your home entertainment system. Both of these types of speakers provide better sound quality than a standard flat-screen TV. With a 2.0 soundbar, you will likely be able to detect the difference as you will get clear left and right channels of audio.

You will also get a more amplified sound as standard 2.0 soundbars come with an amplifier. This can cut down on rewinds to catch the dialogue between the actors. Depending on how much dough you want to shell out, a 2.0 soundbar can come with incredible dynamic depth and amplification.

A 2.1 soundbar comes equipped with a subwoofer. Subwoofers are speakers that specifically augment low-end and bass sounds. They are perfect for those who love good bass in their sound.

Think of the patented whumff whumff whumff of a helicopter’s propellers turning as James Bond jumps over them or the deep rumbling that comes with an explosion in Die Hard; 2.1 soundbars make sure that this detail is picked up.

It is also necessary to mention that you can get speakers that are just subwoofers. These speakers are designed only to augment bass. Due to the fact that they are specialty speakers, they enhance low frequencies extremely well and sometimes even better than soundbars with built-in subwoofers (our top ten list).

This is because some soundbars have trouble capturing all the frequencies (high ends and low ends) in a comprehensive way. Unfortunately, this means that most of the time with speakers the low end is neglected. Subwoofers make sure that this is not the case.

Do I Really Need a Soundbar for My New TV?

woman sitting in her living room watching tv with a soundbar

If you are looking to create the ultimate home entertainment system then external speakers or a powerful soundbar are a must. Flat-screen TV speakers just don’t cut it anymore. Most flat-screen TVs have speakers that face back towards the wall or down towards the floor.

Standard TV speakers just don’t come equipped with great speakers in general. Normally, these speakers are cheap and do not possess the ability to capture a wide range of frequencies. It’s no wonder that you may find yourself constantly rewinding your show or even watching with subtitles to catch all of the action and dialogue.

This being stated, if rewinding or watching with subtitles is your thing, or even if you don’t have anything against the speakers that come with your television, then there is no need to invest in external speakers or soundbars.

Should I Get a Soundbar or Speakers?

Should I Get a Soundbar or Speakers?

Again, this is up to you. If you are more into a true surround sound experience, speakers can help you achieve that as they can be spread out wider. However, this is generally way more expensive than a simple soundbar because they usually come in an all-in-one package.

You also need to take into consideration the size of the room. Most standard living rooms and bedrooms can benefit greatly from a simple 2.0 or 2.1 soundbar with a subwoofer.

This can cost as low as $150 for the perfect sound system for your needs. However, for larger entertainment rooms, speaker kits or a high-end soundbar with wireless satellite speakers may be more beneficial to better fill up the room with sound. For a much larger room, I suggest the Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1Ch with DTS:X (on Amazon).

Additionally, you will want to take into consideration how open the room is. Open rooms need more sound to fill up for a true surround sound system experience. On the other hand, closed-off rooms will need less sound to fill up. Soundbars positioned directly under the television will be enough for these types of rooms to fill with sound.

Price Difference

With all of the above being stated…it always comes down to price. Like anything in life, you don’t want to overpay for something you could’ve gotten for cheaper and better.

There is not much difference in price between the two. Depending on what you are looking for, it is possible that a 2.0 soundbar will cost more than a 2.1 soundbar due to quality. If you are looking for mere sound amplification and better quality, a standard 2.0 soundbar will do.

On the medium end, 2.0 soundbars can be around $150. They can go as low as about $50 like the Majority TV soundbar (on Amazon). On the upper end, Bose offers the Bose Solo 5 (on Amazon).

2.1 soundbars are about equal in price. A lot of these types of soundbars also come with separate subwoofers. Vizio offers a standard priced 2.1 soundbar with a wireless subwoofer (on Amazon).

Amazon also offers cheaper 2.1 soundbars (on Amazon); some even as cheap as $50. Like the 2.0 soundbars, it’s easy to find high-quality 2.1 soundbars that are upwards of $250.  

For more soundbar recommendations, check out our complete buyer’s guide for soundbars!

What If I Want More Power?

If you’re looking to create an intense entertainment system, or you have a very large room you want to fill with sound, you may want to splurge on a 5.1 soundbar or stereo system.

These soundbars come equipped with 3 channels (left, right, and center) as well as 2 additional surround sound speakers located on the back (back right and left). Some of these 5.1 soundbars also come equipped with a third number that indicates speakers that are directed upward.

These soundbars – and the ones we’ve compiled in our comprehensive list – fill the room with crisp sound and add clearer distinction between left and right channels. 5.1 soundbars are sure to appease even the pickiest of audiophiles.

For more information about 5.1 soundbars, check out our blog all about the differences between 5.1 and 2.1 soundbars.