A good, simple option for $200

Picture of the article titled This Soundbar Proves You Can Set up a Solid Home Theatre

Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmo

If you are not an audiophile, navigating in the world of speakers and home entertainment can be unbearable. Everyone has their own opinions, and it is easy to be influenced by buzzwords such as “simulated height” or “360-degree immersive sound”. What if all you want is a system that works properly, does not look ugly in your home, and does not blow a big hole in your wallet? In short, this is Vizio’s V series V51x-J6.

V51x-J6 is a 5.1 channel system, priced at $200. In addition to the soundbar, you can also get a wireless subwoofer and two satellite speakers. As with most systems, you can choose between various preset sound profiles. Sound bars, satellite speakers, and subwoofers are also quite compact, which is a good choice for apartment residents or anyone who doesn’t want a home theater system to stand out.But to get an affordable price, you will Function must be sacrificed For example, support for eARC, Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and more advanced upgrades Such as automatic room adjustment and built-in voice assistant support.Whether these omissions are important depends entirely on About how you intend to use This system.

Basic soundbar for simple needs

If you have seen a soundbar, you will know the appearance of the V51x-J6. Spoiler alert: This is a long black box with controls on top. The subwoofer is a larger black box, and the satellite is a small black box. They are mainly made of textured plastic and covered with fabric on the front.

The soundbar itself measures 36 by 2.2 by 3.2 inches (WHD), and should easily fit on most TV stands. It’s also not too tall, so you don’t have to worry about it blocking your screen unless you have one of those extremely low-profile TVs. Meanwhile, the subwoofer is much smaller than most others I’ve tested at 7.7 by 8.5 by 7.7 inches (WHD). Unless you have a particularly cramped room, you should easily be able to find a place to stick this thing. Likewise, the satellites are teeny weeny, at just 4.8 by 2.2 by 3.2 inches (WHD). I was able to put them on our nightstands and they were discreet enough that they didn’t stick out like a sore thumb. You do have the option to wall mount, but I can’t say how easy that process is as my landlord would have my head.

The subwoofer is small and compact.

The subwoofer is small and compact.
Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

Setup is ridiculously easy. There aren’t too many ports in the back, so all you have to do is plug it in, and hook it up to one of your TV’s HDMI ports. The subwoofer is wireless, so you don’t have to do anything but plug it in. As for the satellites, they’re color-coded so you just plug the appropriate cable into the matching port on the back of the subwoofer. The most complicated thing about this whole process is hiding the wires.

The lack of fancy features helps keep things simple. You don’t have to wave your iPhone around your room to calibrate sounds like with the Sonos Arc, and your limited port options in the back of the soundbar mean you can’t get too complicated with your setup. All you have is an optical audio in, 3.5mm aux port, HDMI ARC port, and USB-A port—that’s it. There’s no option for ethernet, nor is there a Full HDMI In port. That only really matters if you want to use this as a hub for several devices or for 4K or HDR10 passthrough. You can technically plug in a smart speaker and use the soundbar to amplify, but that’s not quite the same thing as having Alexa or Google Assistant built in. Also, don’t expect to use wifi, AirPlay 2, or Chromecast. This baby is Bluetooth only.

The satellite speakers are also compact and unobtrusive.

The satellite speakers are also compact and unobtrusive.
Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

Another note: You can’t play Dolby Atmos or DTS: X content on the V51x-J6. That may or may not mean much to you! There’s a lot of hullabaloo over Dolby Atmos and spatial sound right now. However, unless you have a device or app that can handle the format or content that’s optimized for it, it doesn’t really matter. This soundbar supports Dolby Digital, which is the most common form of surround sound. Will it be as immersive or impressive? No, and it’s not exactly future-proof either. However, it’ll get the job done and it’s the simplest option for, say, a parent whose eyes glaze over when you try to explain what Dolby Atmos is in the first place.

For $200, It Sounds Pretty Dang Good

This might not be the soundbar you’d trot out to impress your friends, but that doesn’t mean the sound quality is bad. On the contrary—it’s actually decent.

As far as sound profile goes, the V51x-J6 keeps things neutral with a little extra bass. That makes it suited to handle a variety of content, and there are also several presets to enhance music, dialogue, games, bass—you name it. If all you want is clearer audio for your TV shows, this is a definite step up from the average TV’s native speakers. Voices sound clear, so it’s good if you watch a lot of documentaries or dramas heavy on dialogue. I tend to watch shows with captions on because accents can be hard to parse on my TV’s crappy speakers, but the dialogue EQ made a noticeable difference. I watched several episodes of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown and Ted Lasso, and everything from Bourdain’s mumbling to Ted’s quirky twang sounded much clearer.

The Vizio remote isn’t anything special, but makes controlling presets easy.

The Vizio remote isn’t anything special, but makes controlling presets easy.
Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

It’s not quite as good for more cinematic content, but it still does an alright job. On a normal volume, you won’t get any distortion in explosions and you get a hefty rumble from the subwoofer (though it’s not as impressive as some other systems I’ve tested). You run into some distortion at higher volumes, but that’s not unheard of with speakers. You also won’t need to crank up the volume unless you plan on sticking this in a large room. I had this set up in my bedroom, which is medium-sized, and never needed to go too loud to hear things clearly.

The soundstage is also good. Is it quite as detailed as what you’d get with a 7.1 or Dolby Atmos system? No, but I suspect many budget-minded folks won’t care. I watched several space and lightsaber battles from various Star Wars films and you can tell if laser pew pews are coming from left rear. Lightsabers hum. In the cave scene on Ahch-to in The Last Jedi, you can hear the Rey clones snapping in sequence. Overall, action scenes emphasize the bass a bit too much for me, to the point where it can sound muddled. This is a quibble though, and it’s not so bad as to distract you from what you’re watching.

The top of the soundbar features physical controls.

The top of the soundbar features physical controls.
Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

The V51x-J6 handles music well too, though again, the muddy bass issue sometimes rears its head. It’s not too noticeable on poppier songs—like Exo’s “The Eve”—but it definitely shows up on bassier tracks like Joji’s “Slow Dancing. in the Dark.” The only way to listen to music is via Bluetooth, however, and while it’s easy to pair to your phone I had a few connection issues. Whenever I’d switch to a different app, there’d be a hiccup in the music. Again, not a dealbreaker, but something to note given that many Bluetooth speakers and soundbars now support wifi and protocols like Apple’s AirPlay 2.

Easy, Convenient, and Affordable—but Not Futureproof

This is the soundbar I’d buy my mom, who absolutely does not want a soundbar because it’s “too techy” but complains about not being able to hear any audio on the Samsung TV she’s had for 10 years. It’s also the one I’d recommend to my friend who’d like better sound than her tinny TV, but lives in a tiny, cramped studio apartment. Basically, this is a good option for folks who don’t want to spend a lot, don’t want a lot of fuss, and don’t have a lot of space.

I’d also recommend it to anyone who’s just dabbling in the idea of a home theater, but is intimidated by the outrageous price tags you find on some soundbars these days. You can’t build it out over time, like you can with the equally affordable Roku 5.1 surround sound system, But easy setup and compact subwoofer/satellite are a good trade-off. If you want something cheap to use with your old TV, for whatever reason, you postpone the upgrade, which is also a good choice.

Picture of the article titled This Soundbar Proves You Can Set up a Solid Home Theatre

Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmo

it is no Worth it, but if you want to connect a gaming PC to the TV and play games Halo In Dolby Atmos. (Coughing, my husband, Cough. ) Anyone who wants high-quality pass-through will also be disappointed because it can’t handle it. If you just bought a shiny new TV with an eARC port, this is not the best use for your moolah.

Systems compatible with Dolby Atmos are becoming cheaper and more abundant year by year. Companies are increasingly experimenting with Atmos content. Depending on your needs, there are several other options priced below $1,000 that may meet your needs.For example, there are 300 USD Panasonic SoundSlayer For gamers, 800 USD Sonos Arc For those who may want to build a multi-room system, and Sony’s $600 HT-G700 For those who want to sound great without taking up too much space.But to be honest, the best budget option similar to V51x-J6 may be Vizio’s slightly more expensive M series M51a-H6It is almost identical, but supports Dolby Atmos, has more drivers and a slightly larger subwoofer. Its suggested retail price is $350, but if you look around, you will find it cheaper.

In any case, you have a choice, but the $200 5.1 surround sound is hard to beat. If you really value savings and simplicity, your performance may be much worse than V51x-J6.

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