Vizio 5.1 Soundbar Review: An Affordable Audio Upgrade for Your Home Theater

Immersive, theater-quality sound can transform the experience of watching films, TV shows, and playing video games. However, high-end surround sound systems often come with an equally giant price tag, leaving many home entertainment fans with lackluster audio from their TV speakers.

The good news is that advanced soundbar technology now delivers cinematic sound at affordable pricing – no complicated receiver or speaker wires required. Case in point: VIZIO‘s popular 5.1 Home Theater Sound Bar system.

At well under $300, Vizio‘s 46-inch soundbar and wireless subwoofer add powerful, nuanced sound with minimal setup hassle. The system simulates surround audio through strategically-placed drivers angled to make effects and music appear to originate from different directions.

But how does VIZIO‘s budget-friendly soundbar actually perform? Does it provide enough volume and features to satisfy discerning home theater users? I decided to find out…

Overview: Vizio 5.1 Soundbar Specs and Features

Before testing audio quality directly, let‘s run through an overview of the Vizio 5.1 soundbar‘s core specs and attributes:

  • 5.1 Channel Configuration: The "5.1" name refers to the number of audio channels. The soundbar contains three front-facing drivers – left, center, right – to cover frontal sound. Dual end-firing drivers create surround channel effects. Finally, the wireless subwoofer reproduces bass frequencies.
  • Frequency Response: 50Hz to 20kHz frequency range – wide enough to produce deep lows and clear highs. Actual perceived extension can vary based on acoustic factors in your room.
  • Max Volume: Up to 98 decibels (dB). For reference, that‘s about as loud as a motorcycle from 25 feet away. More than enough peak output for home use.
  • Wireless Subwoofer: Compact sub measures just 12 inches tall by 5 inches wide, yet incorporates a 5.25-inch woofer in a bass-reflex enclosure. Fills in the low-end frequencies missing from small soundbar drivers.
  • Dolby Audio Decoding: Dolby Digital 5.1 channel surround sound fully supported. More advanced Dolby Atmos surround available via simulated 3D audio processing.
  • DTS Virtual:X Support: Like Dolby Atmos, DTS Virtual:X transforms traditional surround content into immersive 3D audio using psychoacoustic processing tricks. Works on any content source.
  • Bluetooth Streaming: Send audio wirelessly over Bluetooth from smartphones, tablets and computers. Useful for listening to music streaming apps.
  • Voice Assistant Compatibility: Use Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant to operate soundbar volume, mute settings, switch inputs hands-free.

Beyond those core specs, the Vizio system offers extensive connectivity and control options:

  • HDMI ARC input for one-cable connection to your TV
  • Digital optical and stereo analog aux inputs
  • IR sensor accepts TV remote volume/power commands
  • Dedicated soundbar remote included
  • Vizio SmartCast app for mobile devices

With all the technical capabilities covered, how does Vizio‘s 5.1 setup actually sound? Let‘s break down key aspects of audio performance…

Audio Performance and Sound Quality

Given its affordable price point, I was skeptical whether Vizio‘s 46-inch soundbar and wireless sub could truly match a discrete 5.1 speaker system. However, the versatile audio configuration and tuning deliver impressive, immersive sound.

Dialogue Reproduction

Crisp, clear vocal reproduction is essential for following movie plots and TV show conversations. The Vizio 5.1 soundbar nails dialogue audio quality – even at high volumes.

All speech emanates cleanly from the dedicated center channel driver. Meanwhile, volume can be turned way up without introducing the strained, edgy harshness that plagues budget sound bars and TV speakers.

So if you constantly struggle to decipher mumbled dialogue from Netflix and Blu-ray movies, the Vizio audio solution earns top marks.

Music Performance

While designed specifically for home theater use, the balanced sound tuning also accommodates music playback nicely.

I streamed songs over Bluetooth from an iPhone and through the HDMI connection to an Apple TV 4K. Genres included rock, pop, classical, and jazz.

The wireless subwoofer delivers strong bass punch and extension down to 35Hz or so. Kick drums and synth lines sound full-bodied, while also avoiding one-note boominess.

Detail and stereo imaging are also impressive considering the single enclosure design. You can perceive subtle musical cues like shaking percussion or finger slides on guitar strings. Soundstage width reaches beyond the physical width of the bar itself.

That said, audiophile-grade speakers still hold advantages in spaciousness and imaging precision. But at this affordable pricing, the musicality impresses.

Movie and Game Surround Sound

Here‘s where Vizio‘s 46-inch soundbar and wireless subwoofer really shine. The angled driver configuration, DSP processing, and sub fill in an ultra-wide, highly immersive bubble of sound.

From action movies to suspense thrillers, surround effects fully envelop the listening position. Spinning helicopters in war films circle overhead. Swords clash behind your seat. LFE-heavy impacts deliver a gut punch. You‘ll hear intricate ambient details missed by lesser systems.

The Dolby Digital and DTS surround decoding impress – but DTS Virtual:X and Dolby Atmos modes add even more height dimensionality. With compatible content, vehicle flyovers and rainfall emanate from above you rather than straight ahead. The extra vertical layer of audio dramatically boosts immersion.

And the full-bodied, dramatic presentation sounds awesome with video games too. Whether you play Call of Duty, God of War, or Grand Theft Auto, the cinematic audio enhances gameplay exponentially.

For costing just a couple hundred dollars, I did not expect such multichannel realism from Vizio‘s 46-inch sound system. Even many high-priced competitors fail to deliver virtual Dolby Atmos and DTS:X audio this convincing.

Ease of Setup and Use

Beyond outstanding objective performance, the Vizio 5.1-channel sound system wins big points for simplified setup and interface.

The soundbar, compact subwoofer, and wired HDMI, optical, analog, and power connections took under 10 minutes to configure. Screw the sub into position, connect one wire to the soundbar, plug devices into bar ports, power on, and you‘re finished. No receiver, speaker cables, or wireless pairing required.

I love that Vizio includes an intuitive remote and smart device app. The remote buttons cover every essential control like power, volume, EQ profile, input switching, and Bluetooth. No digging into complex menus required. Or operate wirelessly via the well-designed mobile application.

The LED display confirms current settings like volume level, selected input, and EQ sound mode at a glance too. Between the idiot-proof controls and informative visual feedback, the system couldn‘t be much easier to command.

Vizio 5.1 Soundbar: The Verdict

In case you couldn‘t tell yet, Vizio‘s affordable 46-inch soundbar accompanied by the compact wireless subwoofer receives my highest recommendation for budget home theater shoppers.

The 5.1-channel virtual surround system sounds spectacular given its reasonable price. Cinematic Dolby Atmos and DTS:X height effects work impressively well to immerse listeners in movies, games, TV and music. One could pay over $1,000 for an A/V receiver-based setup with comparable multichannel performance and features.

While serious audiophiles may quibble over finer detailing limits or soundstage precision compared to premium gear, the average media lover on a budget will find little fault in the dramatic, powerful sound.

The combination of outstanding objective performance, versatile configuration (especially the wireless subwoofer), pleasing design aesthetic, and effortless usability make Vizio‘s latest 46-inch model my top pick among affordable single-box audio solutions.

Rather than settling for your television‘s crummy built-in speakers, grab one of today‘s best cost-effective sonic upgrades to truly realize movies, music and games the way creators intended. Your home theater ears (and eyes) will thank you!

Frequently Asked Questions

What‘s the difference between Vizio‘s standard 5.1 soundbar vs the 5.1 soundbar with Dolby Atmos?

Vizio offers both standard 5.1 surround sound systems (left, right, center channels + surround speakers + powered subwoofer) along with upgraded models that include virtual height channel processing for Dolby Atmos/DTS:X playback. The "Atmos-enabled" soundbars simulate overhead audio using psychoacoustic tricks instead of actual in-ceiling speakers. The effect works surprisingly well to make aircraft, rainfall, and other effects fly above you.

Can I expand Vizio‘s 46-inch 5.1 soundbar by adding more speakers?

Unfortunately, the wireless 5.1-channel configuration cannot expand beyond one soundbar and one subwoofer. Higher-end (and more expensive) Vizio systems with an HDMI input do support wireless satellite speaker additions for a true 5.1.2 or 7.1 surround setup.

What is the advantage of the 46-inch soundbar size compared to a larger model?

Vizio makes 36-inch, 40-inch and 46-inch variants of its 5.1 soundbar home theater system. While all three models share the same general features and performance capabilities, the physical size directly impacts maximum loudness potential and sense of immersion. I recommend the 46-inch version for larger home theater spaces to ensure enough volume headroom and more enveloping surround effects. Smaller living rooms can get by with a 40-inch or 36-inch bar.

Can I control Vizio‘s 46-inch 5.1 soundbar with an Amazon Echo Dot or Google Home speaker?

Yes! The included Vizio Smartcast app enables Alexa or Google Assistant integration through those devices. Just link the soundbar to the same WiFi network, open the app, and enable corresponding voice assistant support. Then you can ask Alexa/Google to change system volume, switch inputs, etc.

What cables come included with Vizio‘s 5.1 wireless soundbar system?

Vizio provides an HDMI cable for connecting to your television‘s ARC port, a digital optical (SPDIF) audio cable, and stereo analog cable in the box. Those three cord options allow enough wiring flexibility to interface with any modern or older TV model. A power cord also accompanies both the soundbar unit and wireless subwoofer.

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