Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Review: Vizio S4251 5.1 Soundbar with Wireless Subwoofer and Satellite Speakers

I was setting up a second entertainment system in the bedroom, and wanted something relatively simple, since I already had a full on receiver in the living room. On the other hand, I wanted some nice sound, and it turned out that the Vizio 5.1 Soundbar not only sounded relatively good according to reviews, but also had a subwoofer and satellite speakers giving a real surround experience.

Installation was relatively easy, though I ended up having to buy a soundbar mount just to get it to mount under the TV, since the TV was on an articulating mount. The satellite mounts are very well thought out, and I had no problems driving them into a drywall and then mounting them into the correct places.

The biggest problem with my relatively old LCD TV is that it does not pass through surround audio signal from HDMI to the speakers, so there's no point plugging in any of the digital outputs from the TV to the soundbar. That's no big deal, since the primary video driver to the TV is the PS4, which does have a digital output which does plug into the soundbar just fine.

What's nice is that the subwoofer is wireless, while it does also supply wired power and sound to satellite speakers.

As a result, I ended up with multiple inputs into the soundbar, with the TV driving one, the PS4 driving another, and of course, bluetooth connectivity for music. This works very well, but it does defeat the point of one of the features of the system, which is that you can train it to understand the volume commands from your TV's remote rather than using the remote that comes with the soundbar. It was just easier to train myself to use the soundbar's remote.

One nit-pick is that the increments on the sound is rather large, so you can easily go from too soft to too loud in just a couple of clicks of the remote. This is no big deal since you learn how to work with the system relatively quickly. Another nice thing to have would have been for the soundbar to take a passthrough HDMI input so that it could get full surround output from the PS4 without having to flip back and forth between inputs. But all that's relatively minor. The system works and I didn't have to buy a receiver.

The sound is rich and full, and even with just stereo inputs the system does use the subwoofer and the satellite speakers. It certainly sounds much better than the TV's built-in speakers, and of course, when playing games on the PS4 you get the full surround experience, which is exactly what you want.

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