Vizio 5.1 soundbar reviews: Vizio V Series V51-H6 Review

Опубликовано: August 30, 2022 в 4:36 pm

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Категории: Soundbars

Vizio M-Series 5.1 Sound Bar (M51ax-J6) Review

Vizio’s $349.99 M51a-H6 soundbar impressed us by offering a high-quality 5.1-channel surround sound experience in an affordable package. Its follow-up, the $329.99 M-Series M51ax-J6, costs a bit less and changes very little—it still comes with a subwoofer and dedicated rear satellites with support for the Dolby Atmos and DTS:X standards. We wish it had a better visual control panel, but that doesn’t change the fact that this soundbar products strong cinematic audio for the price, earning it our Editors’ Choice award for affordable surround sound systems.

Basic, But Functional

The main soundbar is a narrow, rectangular black speaker with rounded corners that measures 36.0 by 2.2 by 3.5 inches (HWD). The top, back, and bottom are matte black plastic and square rubber pads sit on the bottom for stability. On the front and sides, black grille cloth covers three front-firing 1.6-by-3.5-inch full-range drivers and three 0. 8-inch tweeters. The top panel of the soundbar has five buttons for power, input, Bluetooth pairing, and volume up and down. 

The back of the soundbar features two recesses for connections. The left recess includes a power cable connector, as well as 3.5mm ports for aux and aux VA (the latter of which is a 3.5mm input specifically for voice assistant devices with a matching output). The right recess houses an HDMI input, an HDMI output for eARC and video pass-through from the input to the TV, an optical audio input, and a USB port.

The rear satellites look like miniature versions of the main soundbar; each measures 5.7 by 2.2 by 3.5 inches. They feature the same black plastic material on the top, bottom, and back, plus the same black grille cloth coverings on the front and sides. The back of each satellite has a square recess with an RCA port for connecting to the wireless subwoofer, along with a screw mount for attaching it to a stand. The satellites don’t have clear labels that indicate which is the left or right, but the colors of the RCA ports (white or blue) match those of the same connections on the subwoofer (blue for left and white for right).

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The subwoofer measures 9.9 by 8.3 by 8.3 inches; it features a 5-inch downward-firing driver and an open, rear-facing bass port. The back also has a power cable connection, RCA ports for the satellites, and a power button.

Vizio bundles a thin black remote in the package. Power, input, and Bluetooth buttons flank the circular navigation pad, while a volume rocker, mute button, and settings buttons are below. A monochrome alphanumeric LCD sits near the top of the remote; it lets you view the active input and navigate different soundbar settings one line at a time.

Unfortunately, the soundbar doesn’t offer an on-screen or other visual interface (despite its ability to connect to a TV over HDMI with eARC), so you need to rely on the remote’s single-line text display to make any adjustments. On the bright side, the soundbar has voice prompts to go with your button presses on the remote, so you can at least know when it registers your commands.

Music and Movie Audio Performance

As mentioned, the Vizio M51ax-J6 supports the Dolby Atmos and DTS:X technologies. Like you might expect from a speaker system with a separate subwoofer, the M51ax-J6 produces an impressive amount of bass. It handled our bass test track, The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” at maximum, ear-ringing volumes without distortion, while the subwoofer provided a good sense of thump. The soundbar itself puts out a surprising chunk of the bass response, which leaves the subwoofer to create the palpable vibrations.

Music with less deep bass, like Yes’ “Roundabout,” reveals the M51ax-J6’s overall audio balance in its Music EQ mode. It strongly favors bass and mids, with a bit of a drop-off in treble response. The opening acoustic guitar plucks get plenty of lower-frequency resonance, but there isn’t quite enough high-end finesse to bring out all the texture in the strings. When the track properly kicks in, the bassline stands out with the guitar strums and hi-hat poking through the mix, leaving the vocals to settle a bit in the background. You can probably massage a more balanced sound by playing with the bass and treble levels of the soundbar, but, out of the box, it leans low.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier sounds full and detailed through the M51ax-J6, and the film’s Dolby Atmos audio comes through properly. Directional imaging is accurate across the soundbar and satellites. That said, the soundbar’s imaging from the front is a bit limited because the three forward-facing driver sit across a space of only 36 inches. Wider soundbars with angled drivers, like the Sonos Arc, project a much bigger sound with wider left-right panning. The Arc costs twice as much, however, and can’t provide the same surround experience because it lacks rear satellites.

Regardless of the surround effect, the explosions of airships crashing get plenty of low-end response, both with rumble from the subwoofer and the slightly higher, punchier bass from the soundbar. Dialogue between Captain America and Bucky sounds clear against the backdrop of action and the swelling soundtrack.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League also sounds loud and theatrical, with a surround sound field that satisfyingly encompasses the listener. Punches sound meaty and impactful, while the slash of swords and shrill whirring effects sharply punctuate the mix. In The Flash’s introductory scene, both Rose Betts’ lovely vocals and the simple piano backing in her cover of “Song of the Siren” come across with balance and fullness. Again, the soundbar isn’t quite capable enough of eliciting the most subtle high-frequency details in her voice, but the sound is still very pleasant.

5.1 Channels on a Budget

Vizio’s M51ax-J6 soundbar is an affordable and worthwhile option for 5.1-channel home theater sound with support for Dolby Atmos. It doesn’t have quite the high-frequency finesse as pricier alternatives, but with its rumbling bass and strong presentation of vocals, it’s ideal for watching movies and TV shows. If you want to spend even less money and don’t need a subwoofer, the Roku Streambar Pro ($179.99) offers strong sound and all of the media streaming functions of a Roku media hub. And if you want to go all out, the JBL Bar 9.1 ($999.95) incorporates upward-firing drivers for more directional dound. For an affordable 5.1 system, however, it’s hard to do better than the M51ax-J6, earning it our Editors’ Choice award.

Vizio M-Series 5.1 Sound Bar (M51ax-J6)

4.0

Editors’ Choice

Pros

  • Well priced for a system with a subwoofer and rear satellites

  • Good surround imaging with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support

  • Powerful bass

Cons

  • Treble isn’t quite as crisp as it could be

  • Small visual control panel on the remote

The Bottom Line

The affordable Vizio M-Series 5. 1 Sound Bar (M51ax-J6) combines a subwoofer and two rear satellites to produce powerful audio for movies and music.

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Good Sound At A Solid Price

Vizio

By Eric Abent/Updated: Feb. 25, 2022 5:17 pm EST

EDITORS’ RATING : 9 / 10

Pros

  • Good sound overall
  • Different layout options if you don’t want surround sound
  • Fairly affordable as surround sound systems go

Cons

  • Wireless connection is prone to interference if placed near a router

I don’t think it’s controversial to say that watching movies at home can be something of a nightmare when it comes to audio. Back when I was using only my TV speakers, it always seemed like the audio balance was very off – scenes that were primarily dialogue would be whisper quiet while action scenes would be blaringly loud. So, I set out to fix that issue by getting myself a soundbar, which did help quite a bit but didn’t solve it entirely. The quest to fix this issue permanently seems to lie with multi-speaker/surround sound setups, so I was hopeful that Vizio’s new M-Series 5.1 Home Theater Soundbar would do the trick.

Before we dive into the review, I should start by saying that I’m what I’d call a practical audio guy, not an obsessive. We’ll chalk that up to my childhood: I’d go over to my aunt and uncle’s house and be under strict instructions not to touch three of the four remotes that controlled my uncle’s home theater setup. Fear of irreversibly screwing up this delicate audio balance in my childhood has led to me to being an adult that values simplicity in their audio devices, and while there were some hiccups in the setup process for the M-Series, getting everything up and running wasn’t quite as arduous as I was worried it would be.

The M-Series Home Theater System, as the name suggests, comes with four different items: a soundbar, a subwoofer, and two surround speakers that are supposed to sit behind where viewers are seated. The subwoofer, meanwhile, is supposed to sit to the side of a chair or couch and it connects wirelessly to the soundbar. The two surround speakers connect via extremely long cables to the back of the subwoofer.

Not only can the M-Series 5.1 be used in a surround sound configuration with all four of its parts, but for smaller spaces it can be used in a front-facing configuration that puts the subwoofer to the side of the TV and has the surround speakers bookending the soundbar. It can also be used in a dual stereo configuration that mirrors the surround arrangement, only in this mode all of the audio gets sent to each speaker, rather than just bits and pieces being sent to the surround speakers. So, you have some options depending on the sound you want and your willingness to run cables.

From a design standpoint, I really like the look of Vizio’s system. Everything is boring, unassuming shades of gray and black and that’s exactly what it needs to be in order to blend into the environment. Both the sound bar and the subwoofer are smaller than I expected, but they still pump out sound despite their smaller size. Nothing feels overly large or bulky, which is another win for those of us living in small spaces.

The sound bar has a few different connectivity options. Around the back, you’ll find two different 3.5mm AUX IN ports for connecting external devices, though one of these is reserved only for voice assistant devices. The soundbar also has one HDMI In port, one HDMI out (eARC) port, USB In (which only supports WAV and MP3 file playback), and digital optical audio in. The sound bar also supports Bluetooth connections, so if your phone doesn’t have a 3.5mm jack – as so few do these days – you can stream music instead of making a direct connection.

In the box, you’ve got everything you need to connect the soundbar to your TV through all of those different connection methods listed above, and you’ve also got wall mounting hardware as well. No matter how you want to use the M-Series system, Vizio has you covered with the accessories and cables that come in the box, which is always nice to see.

First time setup was a pretty straightforward process, but it wasn’t without a few hitches. To start, the M-Series 5.1 system user manual (which is very detailed and useful, so thumbs up there) prompts you to pick your connection type and hook up the soundbar to the TV; I chose HDMI eARC. From there, you need to plug in the soundbar, then connect the surround speakers to the back of your subwoofer using their color-coded ports, before plugging in the subwoofer itself. Once they’re both plugged in, the soundbar and subwoofer should automatically sync – they did for me – and the soundbar will search for active connections, managing to detect my HDMI eARC connection after a few moments.

This might be the first time in my life where audio hardware setup properly on the first try, but all was not perfect in my new surround sound wonderland. As I started watching the freshly-released Lord of the Rings 4K remasters, I noticed that the sound bar and surround speakers were emitting a popping noise every few seconds.

As Frodo and Sam set out from the Shire and began their adventure, I was trying to figure out how to get rid of this popping noise. I first made sure that all the cables were connected securely, and then, thinking that it was an issue with the wireless connection, I tried moving the subwoofer closer to the soundbar. None of that helped, so I did what every clueless person does at some point during the troubleshooting process and I started randomly changing the soundbar’s settings with no clear idea of how this would help fix the popping issue. Surprise – that didn’t work.

After a few factory resets and subsequent trips through the setup process, nothing was fixing the problem. As it turns out, I was close to the solution when I was changing the distance between the soundbar and the subwoofer, as the issue was indeed with the wireless connection. The subwoofer was placed too close to my wireless router, which is in my living room right next to my TV because I rent and that’s the only place I have a coaxial hookup. Vizio told me that moving the subwoofer at least six feet away from my router – previously the router was right in between the soundbar and subwoofer, about three feet from both – should solve the issue.

About a year ago I made the awesome/silly decision to buy a sectional couch that fills most of my living room, so I was limited on options when it came to getting this subwoofer six feet away from my router. I found a suitable spot, though, and voila – my popping issues were solved. Honestly, wireless interference should have been my first guess, but regardless, it’s important to keep in mind that you need a suitable amount of space between the subwoofer and your WiFi router, or else you’re going to experience popping noises that ruin your experience.

If your router is in another room, then you’re good to go, but if you live in a small space like an apartment or a studio, the placement of your router is something to consider before buying this kit. There’s no option to hardware the two components if wireless isn’t working out. Thankfully, being in a small space without a ton of layout options doesn’t pose more of an issue besides considering your router and subwoofer placement. While Vizio’s setup diagrams show the two surround speakers placed directly behind the seating area, I don’t have any room behind my couch as it’s up against the wall. So, instead of putting the speakers behind my couch, I simply stuck them in the corners of the living room opposite the soundbar and the surround sound effect still worked just fine.

The M-Series 5.1 system uses both Dolby Atmos and DTS X, and I have to say, it sounds pretty incredible. For probably the first time in my life I could hear Ian McKellen clearly as he whispered through Gandalf’s lines, and the battle scenes in Lord of the Rings really had a lot of power behind them.

Another caveat about apartments: this system can obviously get loud, and there were certain points through my Lord of the Rings trilogy watchthrough that the subwoofer was quite literally shaking my walls. You might want to give the system a pass if you live in a complex where you share a wall with someone else, but you can also adjust treble, bass, mids, and even your surround sound and subwoofer balance using the remote that comes packed with this system. The remote comes with a built-in display that tells you what you’re adjusting, and a column of LED lights on the soundbar itself will show you the level of whatever setting you’re changing.

I really like the remote, but I think part of that is down to what I was using before I hooked up this Vizio system. My daily driver soundbar is a JBL Link Bar that uses Android TV, and I really despise that laggy and cluttered UI. The Vizio system is nice because it allows me to use my TV’s OS, which is simple and responsive, while I manage all of the soundbar’s settings on the remote. It’s kind of like a best of both worlds. So, hey, if you’re in the same boat and you’re sick of Android TV, at least I can say that this Vizio system will give you some relief from that.

All in all, I’m walking away impressed by this system. At $449.99, it seems like it falls in the mid-range in terms of pricing, and I think the sound quality is good for the price you pay. The fact that Vizio seems to regularly discount it to $349.99 makes it even more of a deal: a Sonos Arc, for example, also supports Dolby Atmos but comes in at $799, and that’s without rear speakers or a subwoofer.

Setup was a breeze, which earns the M-Series big points, and if the subwoofer and soundbar ever fall out of sync, re-establishing the connection between them is easy as well. It’s also very easy to balance the levels of the individual components in the package, so even if you can’t match Vizio’s ideal layout, you can still adjust everything to get the right sound for the space you have.

With a relatively small subwoofer and surround speakers, and that fact that you have some options when it comes to the arrangement of your speakers, I think this can also be ideal for small spaces. If you’re only using TV speakers or a soundbar in your audio set up, this could indeed be a good upgrade that won’t necessarily break the bank – at least not as much as other surround sound systems might.


Recommended

Vizio 5.1.4 Atmos

soundbar review

The top model of the Atmos Vizio soundbar range, with serial number SB46514-F6, is a well-designed system with surprisingly powerful sound for little money. Built-in Chromecast and Bluetooth for streaming pairs with Google Assistant and offers a great option for those looking for an all-in-one TV solution.

Surround sound effects in the 5.1.4 Atmos Vizio system are provided by speakers and satellites built into the top of the soundbar. A wireless ported subwoofer with a 10-inch driver is responsible for low frequencies. Unlike some other all-in-one systems, additional speakers will have to be wired to the subwoofer, which can limit subwoofer placement options.

For connectivity, the soundbar has a 4K and HDR10 compatible HDMI-ARC connector, optical and coaxial digital inputs, analog stereo minijack input and USB-A for playing WAV and MP3 files directly from a flash drive. Connection to the network is carried out via Wi-Fi or via an Ethernet connector.

Initial setup can be done using the display that comes with the remote control and LED indicator on the front of the soundbar. A more convenient setup option is through the SmartCast app, which allows you to select the movie, music and Direct (stereo) EQ modes, as well as adjust the center channel, surround system and subwoofer level. Effects control is not yet available, but the company promises to add this feature in the future through an update. The Vizio app can also be used to switch the input signal and adjust the volume, as well as provide volume equalization and night mode options.

In addition to the wires for connecting the Vizio satellite stand, it also includes a wall mount for the soundbar and speakers. The length of the wires allows you to adjust the surround sound according to the size of the room.

Using the tuned system in various operating modes demonstrated the effects of volumetric immersion in dynamic movie scenes. The song’s guitar sound and vocals had a full, warm quality, a rich tone that was detailed but not sharp. The dialogue in the films was also clear and positioned.

In summary, Vizio’s 5.1.4 soundbar is not the most advanced solution for Atmos technology – the sense of immersion provided by its compact surround/vertical satellites doesn’t quite match what you hear from component systems with in-ceiling speakers for effects. But it’s a great solution for simple Atmos immersion in its price range.

Price $999

Pros

  • Powerful sound for the price
  • 5.1.4 Atmos
  • Built-in Chromecast for music streaming

Cons

  • No wireless speaker support
  • No DTS:X

Output

  • Vizio’s 5.1.4 soundbar system delivers powerful, surround sound immersion with built-in Chromecast for moderate price.

VIZIO SB4551-D5 5.1 Channel Soundbar Review

In my opinion, there are two different types of soundbar. The former aims to recreate a high quality home theater experience in a more usable form factor. Whether it’s a passive L/C/R soundbar like GoldenEar’s SuperCinema 3D Array or a powered multi-channel model like Focal’s Dimension, these soundbars are usually more substantial in both size and price. The second is an entry-level soundbar that is sold at your local big box store. This type of soundbar has much more modest goals: to be better than the crappy speakers in a flat-panel TV while taking up as little space as possible.

The new $500 VIZIO SB4551-D5 soundbar falls into the second category. As the top model of the new Slim Series, it takes great care to remain discreet. The powerful 3-channel L/C/R soundbar measures just two inches high and two inches deep and is 45 inches long (designed to pair with TVs 47 inches and larger). It comes with a wireless 8″ subwoofer that’s only three inches deep, so you can hide it against a wall or even lay it flat and tuck it under your sofa.

This is a true 5.1-channel soundbar system as it features two dedicated surround speakers measuring just under 2.5 inches wide, 2.5 inches deep, and 5.5 inches tall. Surround sources are powered by an amplifier inside the subwoofer, which means you must connect them to the subwoofer using the supplied speaker cables. Luckily, VIZIO offers extra long cables, giving you some flexibility in placement for both surround and subwoofer. The SB4551 comes with an IR remote control that has 11 buttons (power, source, menu, volume, mute, etc.) in an intuitive layout and a one-line LCD display that allows you to set various functions .

SB4551-D5 has excellent connectivity. Divided between two recessed panels on the back of the soundbar, you’ll find one auxiliary analog input, one coaxial digital input, and one optical digital input on the right, and one USB port and one HDMI 1.4 input on the left. There is also one HDMI output for sending video to your TV, and it supports an audio return channel for receiving audio return from the TV’s internal sources such as Netflix, HDTV terrestrial, etc.

SB4551 supports Bluetooth wireless audio sources and network audio streaming. There’s an Ethernet port on the back, and Wi-Fi 802.11ac on the panel. Many 2016 VIZIO soundbars support SmartCast, which means they can be controlled using the SmartCast app for iOS and Android. The SmartCast app not only offers control options, but also allows you to link multiple SmartCast audio devices (including VIZIO soundbars and desktop speakers) together for multi-room listening, and you can stream audio content such as iHeartRadio directly from the app to the soundbar.

Yes, and if all that’s not enough, the SB4551 supports Google Cast. Thus, from any iOS/Android mobile device or Chrome browser, you can wirelessly stream audio directly from any popular Google Cast-enabled app such as Pandora, Spotify, Google Play, iHeartRadio, AOL Music, TuneIn Radio, and Plex.

So yes, it’s fair to describe the SB4551 as “feature-laden” for a sub-$500 soundbar. I tested a bit of everything, connecting my Oppo BDP-103 Blu-ray player via HDMI, Hopper DVR via optical digital, Bluetooth streaming from my iPhone 6 and Macbook Pro, and a bit of Pandora’s Google Casting. I connected the SB4551’s ARC-enabled HDMI output to an LG smart TV and had no issues getting audio back from LG’s internal Netflix app.

With the remote control or the SmartCast app, you can adjust many audio settings on the fly. Bass, treble, and level adjustments for center, surround, and subwoofer are available. There’s even a Speaker Level tool that plays audio tones to help match levels between all speakers and the subwoofer if you have an SPL meter. You can enable or disable surround mode and enable DTS TruVolume to reduce volume mismatch between sources. It’s much more intuitive to make these settings in the SmartCast app, where you can see them all on the big screen at once… but the remote does the job, too.

Now let’s talk about sound performance. First, what the SB4551 does well. On their website, VIZIO advertises two main performance metrics: dynamic performance and bass response. VIZIO claims the system can reproduce up to 104 dB. I have not verified this claim, but I can attest that the system has excellent dynamics, which exceeds all expectations from speakers of such a small size. Whether I used it in my closed family room or in a large, wide open living room with movies or music, the SB4551 filled the room with sound.

It also filled the room with deep enough bass for an eight-inch woofer. Many soundbars in this price range use a seven- or even 6.5-inch woofer. In everyone’s favorite subwoofer demo test, the depth charge sequence in the U-571, I heard some of the deeper rumbles. They weren’t super loud and didn’t shake the room like a good 12″ or 15″ subwoofer would, but they did have a distinct bass presence. It’s the same in scenes from Iron Man and The Matrix. I tried the subwoofer in different places, both in the back and front of the room against the wall, and also under the sofa. I felt that the placement under the sofa drew too much attention to itself; but, if you like the whole “tactile transducer” thing, then you might like this placement. Ultimately, I opted for the subwoofer up front, closer to the soundbar, to get the most cohesive experience.

Another positive feature is voice clarity, which is perhaps the most important feature of these inexpensive soundbars designed to replace TV speakers. The SB4551’s dedicated center channel reproduces clear, intelligible dialogue with both male and female voices, and the ability to adjust the center channel level on the fly is a welcome bonus. For the most part, the various high-frequency effects in action movies sounded crisp and accurate without being overly harsh or metallic.

Where does SB4551 compete? Well, its driver and case size should give you a hint. We’re talking about a soundbar and two surround speakers that use two-by-four-inch full-range speakers in a two-inch-deep enclosure, so they can only play very deep and process so much. There just isn’t much meat in the lower-mid range, and the soundbar struggles to reproduce all the complex, bombastic effects in tight action sequences. In scenes from The Matrix and Iron Man, I barely heard a lot of music and background effects, which I know should be more noticeable, and the soundbar itself sounded compressed during the big explosions.

In many of these miniature systems, the crossover is set high enough for the subwoofer to process lower midrange information; but then you run into problems when you ask the subwoofer to handle vocals and other specific effects it wasn’t designed for. Nobody wants to hear voices coming from a subwoofer, especially if you put the subwoofer at the far end of the room. I consider it a plus that I did not hear any vocals coming from the SB4551 sub, so I assume that VIZIO chose a lower crossover point (the company does not specify a crossover frequency) – but as a result, the speakers are asked to go lower than they can actually do.

Obviously, music playback is not a soundbar’s first priority, and when I fed the SB4551 my usual set of AIFF test tunes in official evaluation capacity, it was easy to hear the flaws: lack of openness and air in the high frequencies, lack of meat in the middle and bass notes, which were not particularly distinct or defined. But let me add this: when I stepped away from critical listening and just casually streamed compressed music over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, I found the SB4551’s performance to be quite acceptable. Good dynamics, clean treble and solid bass paired well together for everyday music streaming, and that’s what this soundbar is likely to be used for. And you can’t discount the convenience of being able to stream music to the SB4551 from virtually any source.

Advantages • SB4551
has good dynamic performance, voice clarity and low frequencies.
• The system has a very low profile form factor with a flat subwoofer that is easy to hide.
• The SB4551 offers a variety of connectivity options, including HDMI and ARC pass-through for receiving audio from the TV’s internal sources, which is rare at this price point.
• Enabling Bluetooth, SmartCast and Google Cast gives you many wireless streaming options.

Weaknesses
• The system sounds poor in the mids and cannot reproduce all the intricate details in the tightest action scenes.
• The USB port only supports playback of WAV files, which seems like an odd choice.
• The surround speakers must be connected to the subwoofer, which means you may still need to run the speaker wire around the room if you want to place the subwoofer closer to the soundbar (where it sounded best in my case). All in all, the environment is so tiny and contributes so little to the overall experience that you might be better off saving $50 and getting the SB4531 3.1 channel system that doesn’t have them.
• Because the inputs are split between two connection panels at each end of the soundbar, it’s a little more difficult to route the cords. Plus, the soundbar is so light that it’s easy to accidentally pull it off or off the stand if you don’t secure the cables properly.

Comparison and competition
While $500 is certainly a lower price than the dedicated home theater soundbar systems we often review, it still sits at the top end of the “entry level” category. Obviously, there are plenty of soundbar/subwoofer options priced around $500 from companies like Bose, Yamaha, Polk, Zvox, Samsung, LG, and more. However, many of these options are two-channel soundbars that lack the dedicated center channel and separate surround speakers you get with the VIZIO SB4551. Most of them have Bluetooth, but lack HDMI inputs and video pass-through.

The $500 Yamaha YSP-1600 is a 5.1-channel soundbar, but all five channels are housed in the soundbar, and the bar uses Yamaha’s digital sound projector technology to simulate a surround sound field. The $500 ZVOX SoundBar SB400 is a three-channel soundbar with three two-inch drivers and a four-inch woofer. Polk offers the $500 MagniFi 3.1-channel soundbar, or you can upgrade to $700 Omni SB1 Plus 3.1-channel system with DTS Play-Fi technology. You can add a wireless environment via Play-Fi, but you will need to purchase it separately.

Another option worth considering at this price point is a pair of active bookshelf speakers or a 2.1-channel desktop system from companies like Klipsch, Polk or Audioengine.