Are you looking for a Vizio sound bar review because you’re tired of the sound quality your TV speakers offer? Do you want crisp, clean, immersion enhancing audio for the best price?
Navigating the plethora of customer feedback to find what you want is tricky. Companies don’t make it easier for you by only advertising the pros of their products and never the cons.
Before you can make a well-informed purchase, you have to understand what it is you’re looking for.
What Is a Sound Bar System?
Sound bar systems are an affordable and space-efficient way of taking your television audio to the next level. The bars themselves are a center speaker ranging from about 18 inches to 40 inches in length and are only a few inches in height. Therefore they fit easily in front of your tv or can be mounted to the wall if needed.
Many sound bars come with an external subwoofer for added bass, and nowadays most of them connect to the bar wirelessly. That means you can stick the subwoofer wherever there’s space on the floor.
Another feature that is common with soundbars is the inclusion of two or more additional speakers for surround sound. The 2.1 sound bar systems contain left and right front speakers, which can be external or built into the bar itself. And the 5.1 systems have all of this plus 2 back speakers for even more audio immersion.
Finally, sound bar systems are considerably easier to set up and take apart than traditional home theater systems.
Vizio Sound Bar Review
Vizio sound bars are well known for being great bargains. In fact, they were the only company we could find selling a 5.1 system for under $500!
Vizio sound bars also come with a Smartcast app that lets you easily balance every aspect of your audio with your phone.
Have you ever turned up the volume to hear an actor speaking, only to be nearly blasted out of your chair by sound when the action kicks in? Well, you won’t have to worry about that with Vizio’s Smartcast app.
Vizio sound bar review: overall price
You can expect to pay anywhere from $60 to $400 for a Vizio sound bar system. If you don’t mind buying refurbished tech, you’ll easily save $50 to $100 on your purchase.
For this Vizio sound bar review, we stuck to a middle price range of $100 to $250. We believe from our research that this range gives you the most bang for your buck.
How we reviewed
Both Vizio products in our Vizio sound bar review are listed as Amazon’s choice and have considerably more customer ratings than the others.
To give them fair competition, we chose three other famous brands in the same price range for comparison.
With all the products, we examined tech specs, bonus features, and customer ratings to give you the most accurate review possible.
Vizio Sound Bar Review: Your Options
First up in our review are the Vizio 38″ 2.1 and Vizio 36″ 5.1 Sound Bar Systems.
Vizio 38″ 2.1 Sound Bar System
With over 3,000 customer reviews on Amazon, the Vizio 38″ 2.1 Sound Bar System is the most popular sound bar on our list.
The system comes with a soundbar, a wireless subwoofer that you can place up to 60 feet away, and 2 front speakers. The sound pressure is listed at 100 decibels, enough to fill a large living room with sound.
The frequency range on these speakers is 50 Hz to 20 kHz. That is more than you will ever need, with 50 Hz being lower than you can hear, and 20 kHz being piercingly high pitched.
If you’re looking to hang these speakers, you’ll be pleased to know that wall mounts come included.
It also comes with all of the basic features you’d expect from a sound bar system, such as Bluetooth for connecting to devices. And of course, the Vizio Smartcast app that allows full audio balancing control.
All of this is available for a low price of $100 to $160.
Now, the average customer rating on Amazon is 3.8 out of 5 stars. However over half of those ratings are 5 stars, and less than 30 percent are under 4 stars.
Those who rated low did so primarily because of one issue: a crackling sound sometimes comes from the left and right speakers. Most customers did not report experiencing this issue. Some say they were able to fix it by changing the sound to a different setting.
This might be a deal breaker for some people, but we feel that at such a low price it’s worth the risk. You can always return the system if necessary, or upgrade the crackling speakers.
In general, customers were delighted with the sound. Many cite it as being the best quality for the price. The bass gets a lot of praise.
Reviews from customers who did not have this issue were overwhelmingly positive. If not for being a slightly risky purchase, this would be a perfect choice.
Vizio 36″ 5.1 Sound Bar System
The main difference between the Vizio 36″ 5.1 Sound Bar System and the 2.1 is the inclusion of back speakers for a fuller surround sound. Although there are are a few minor differences in the size of the speakers, the tech specs are virtually identical.
As we said, most 5.1 sound bar systems cost over $500, and that’s the low end. You can get yourself a Vizio 36″ 5.1 Sound Bar System for $170 to $200.
Of course, that’s significantly more expensive than the Vizio 2.1. The question becomes, is it worth the extra cost?
The average Amazon customer rating on this system is 4.2 out of 5 stars, which is higher than the Vizio 2.1 system. We searched for the words “popping” and “crackling” in the reviews and found that the same complaints were still there.
Some customers also had issues getting the wireless subwoofer to connect, or getting audio to come out of the back speakers. However, these reviews are relatively uncommon.
Most people praise the sound bar system for its high-quality sound, low cost, and ease of setup.
Ultimately, if the idea of having back speakers excites you, we say go with this system. The price difference between the 2.1 and 5.1 Vizio sound bars is minuscule compared to other brands.
Vizio Sound Bar Review: The Competition
We chose three famous brands at roughly the same price range for an equal comparison.
Yamaha Yas-108 Soundbar
Unlike the systems so far in our Vizio sound bar review, the Yamaha Yas-108 Soundbar does not come with any external speakers. Instead, they built two small subwoofers into the bar itself, along with four other speakers. There is an output for connecting an additional subwoofer if you wish.
The soundbar comes with five listening modes (music, movie, tv program, sports, and game), and it also has its own remote and app for extra sound customization. For example, a 3D sound option attempts to emulate surround sound without external left and right speakers.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any information about the sound pressure or frequency range for this system.
The coolest feature in our opinion is the HDMI Arc support. This automatically pulls audio from other devices connected to your TV and sends it to the soundbar. Therefore, you won’t have to plug your many game consoles and blue-ray player directly into it. Nifty!
This system costs $200 to $265.
In general, reviews are positive with an average Amazon rating of 4.1 out of 5 stars. Customers are generally delighted with the sound quality for high to mid frequencies and pleased with the 3D sound feature.
Unsurprisingly, opinions about the built-in subwoofers are mixed. But we’ve found that the more a customer cares about the bass, the less they tend to like it on this system.
Other complaints are more varied. Some wish the app had a better interface, while others say the cable inputs are poorly placed for mounting on the wall. Setting up the Arc support can be tricky depending on your television.
The fact that there were no instances of crackling reported on this system is a huge plus. The Arc support feature will make managing your cords a whole lot easier.
Additionally, preset listening modes are helpful if you don’t want to spend a lot of time tinkering with audio levels.
If you don’t mind the built-in subwoofers, then this system is a great space saver since the bar itself is the only component. If you live in an apartment, then more bass could be excessive. However, we guarantee you’ll get better bass from an external subwoofer.
It’s possible that Yamaha didn’t include sound pressure or frequency in their tech specs because they aren’t proud of them. Overall we feel there’s no evidence that the sound quality is better than Vizio’s, and this system is considerably more expensive.
Bose Solo 5 TV Sound System
The Bose Solo 5 TV Sound System is a compact sound bar that saves big on space. Like the Yamaha system, it does not include external speakers. It also lacks any outputs for adding additional speakers.
However, it does come with a universal remote that will work with your television, cable box, blue-ray player and more. Its only other defining feature is a dialogue mode that makes speech easier to hear and understand.
This unit costs $200 to $250.
People rated this system 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon. Customers love the dialogue mode and say it makes speech much more audible. Unfortunately, the bass is weaker in this mode.
The sound bar is also straightforward to set up and won’t get in the way of your other devices.
Opinions about the sound quality vary, but overall the reviews are positive. Our concern with this system was that the bass probably isn’t up to par. With no external subwoofer or any information on Bose’s website, it’s likely to be okay at best.
After scanning through the reviews, they confirmed our suspicions. Several customers state that they expected better from a Bose product, and we agree.
If you severely lack in space or you find this product on sale, go ahead and buy it. Otherwise, it simply isn’t worth the money. There are much better options out there.
The apparent absence of special features is hugely disappointing. There’s no HDMI Arc support, no app for controlling audio, and no option to enhance the system with external speakers. We have a bias towards speakers with great bass, but we’re not the only ones!
We love you, Bose, just not this sound bar.
Sony S200F 2.1 Sound Bar
The final option in our Vizio sound bar review is the Sony S200F 2.1 Sound Bar, which is another extremely compact system. With a built-in subwoofer, no external speakers and no options for expanding, you can expect it to have a sound quality that is similar to the Bose.
This one does include HDMI Arc support, however. That means that all your devices can connect to the speaker with just one HDMI cord.
This sound bar is an affordable $80 to $100.
Amazon customers rated this system 3.3 out of 5 stars on average.
Opinions about the sound quality vary, but we believe it’s good for how tiny the speaker is. The bass is underwhelming to most people.
However, Bose’s sound bar puts itself a notch above this one with its dialogue mode. This is the primary reason the Sony system is rated so much lower.
Customers who rated high enjoy how clean and minimalist the system looks, and how the Arc support helps keep cords out of sight and mind.
We are huge fans of the Arc support. But, when given the option between crisper dialogue and enhanced cord management, customers are more excited about being able to hear what people say.
Still, this system is very inexpensive. To that end, we would recommend it over the Bose.
Vizio Sound Bar Review: The Best Choice for You
For the best sound quality in our Vizio sound bar review, we have to recommend the Vizio 36″ 5.1 Sound Bar System. It’s the only system with back speakers, and it’s not even the most expensive on the list!
If the back speakers seem excessive to you, the next best option is Vizio 36″ 2.1 Sound Bar System. Customers repeatedly stated that it had the best sound quality for the cost, comparing it to systems that were hundreds of dollars more.
Remember that if you’re not happy with the external speakers you can always upgrade them at your convenience. This is something that most of the competition did not have, and it’s important.
And let’s not forget the Smartcast app, which offered more sound customization than any of the other companies.
While the crackling sound may be an issue, you should be able to fix it by adjusting your sound settings. If not, you can return the product or the upgrade the speakers.
The Best Competition
It’s possible the crackling sound is a deal breaker for you, or you’d rather have a sound bar with no external speakers. If that’s the case, then please go with the Yamaha Yas-108 Soundbar.
The Yamaha is the only system with six built-in speakers, a subwoofer output for expanding the bass, and HDMI Arc support all in the same unit. This is the best non-Vizio system in our Vizio sound bar review.
Have you tried any of the sound bars we reviewed? Share your experience in the comments!