Founded in 2002, Vizio has created one of the most compelling success stories in consumer electronics history. Originally a consulting company to Gateway, Vizio capitalized on the budding tidal wave that was high-definition television by using it to wedge itself into the brutal world of television production and not only compete, but ultimately win in many areas and change the industry in the process. Not surprisingly, Vizio has now begun to branch out into different categories such as soundbars, Blu-ray players, and loudspeaker systems, intended to accessorize its main product offerings.
• Find the perfect HDTV to use with the VHT-210 soundbar.
One of its two 2.1 speaker systems (the other being the $299.00 VSB210WS), the VHT-210 soundbar ($269.99/MSRP) offers a main soundbar containing both the left and right channels, which are each represented with two 2.75-inch midrange drivers and one 0.75-inch tweeter, within an enclosure measuring 31.50 inches wide by four inches high (with its snappy-looking stainless steel feet, which match its side panels) by 3.125 inches deep, and weighing 4.6 pounds (with the stand). The soundbar is 0.75 inches shorter without the feet. The soundbar offers a (too) minimalist input array containing one digital S/PDIF input and one stereo RCA input (no HDMI), and drives itself with a 20 watt stereo Class D amplifier. The soundbar is powered with an AC power brick, and offers control of power, input, and master volume via pushbuttons on the top of the unit, as well as a very nice remote control. The main unit, however, offers no LCD display, instead providing indicator lights for volume and input status. The remote (with a range of approximately 30 degrees horizontal, 20 degrees vertical, and 30 feet) offers power and volume and...that's it? Nope... slide up the cover, and you'll find more commands underneath, for mode and input select. This type of thinking never gets old... good stuff. The system offers three sound processing modes: Dolby Digital, SRS TruSurround (for virtual surround) and SRS TruVolume (for eliminating loud commercials and channel to channel variances). No DTS, no HD audio. The soundbar connects wirelessly to the compact subwoofer (for distances up to 60 feet), which matches the black gloss finish of the main unit. The subwoofer employs one 5.25-inch "long throw (high excursion)" woofer powered by a 25-watt stereo amplifier (class N/A), within an enclosure measuring 11.18 inches wide by 13 inches high by 11.86 inches deep, and weighing 8.2 pounds. The unit comes with a detachable power cord. Fit and finish of the VHT-210 is average. It's a little lightweight, but its shiny surfaces look good. The grill won't come off the soundbar, but that's minor. You're paying for the wireless technology here, essentially, as the unit lacks processing, connectivity, and physical substance. Not necessarily an incredible minus, however, as long as it performs.
The VHT-210 sounded good with music overall. The high end, while slightly rolled off and muted, rendered enough detail to remain passable and listenable. However, the muted quality veered into shallowness when entering the midrange, which gave vocal tracks a nasal, canned quality that failed to strike a musical balance. Rock tracks sounded better in the upper frequencies. Into the bass, the VHT-210 had good thump and pacing, and played deep enough to complete the picture. The low end, overall, had a fluffy quality that rounded out the sound and warm things up a bit, but also failed to engage on many levels.
With movies and games, while the VHT-210 had a hard time capturing the sparkle of intense action material, it performed reasonably well with smaller-scale material. This was ironic given the unit's mediocre performance throughout the midrange on music. The lack of overall power and size likely explains the unit's inability to handle loud, intense material. Never, however, did the VHT-210 sound unlistenable in these areas. Things always stayed on the right side of listenable, certainly, but just never distinguished themselves. The surround processing modes worked perfectly, with the SRS mode offering a useful simulation of surround. DTS would have been, nice, however. It's not like it's a fringe format.
Competition and Comparison
If you are interested in comparing Vizio's VHT-210 against other soundbars, be sure to read our reviews for the Definitive Technology Mythos SSA-50 and the Phillips HTS8100. Or compare it against another Vizio product by reading our Vizio VSB210WS review. You can find more information on more products by visiting our Soundbar section.
• The VHT-210 looks good, is lightweight and easy to install.
• The VHT-210 offers a wireless subwoofer that works well and can be placed out of sight.
• The VHT-210 offers a terrific remote with a sleek, minimalist design.
• The VHT-210 offered average sound quality, with a lightweight character overall that stuck out more with movies and games.
• The VHT-210 doesn't offer HDMI or any video switching, and has limited connectivity otherwise.
• The VHT-210 doesn't decode DTS or HD audio formats.
The VHT-210 offers a good value proposition for a certain segment of users. It's small, looks good, and gets you on the air in minutes. However, it's not remotely connective or feature-rich, and sounds only okay. As its nice minimalist remote indicates, it is clearly not designed to be anything but what it is. And many people don't care about format that much (and, given that it's a 2.1 system, no DTS is not exactly a crisis), nor do they care about lots of inputs or absolute sound quality. Vizio obviously believes that many people care more about wireless subwoofers than these things, and, looking at the market, you can kind of see that. Take it home, hook the DVD and TV up, throw the woofer in a corner, press play, and you're done. Millions of people like that in a big way. And, in the old days, the mid-fi world was built on that type of mindset. That's why it was mid-fi, and that's why those companies grew very large. Maybe one day, you'll get sound and substance as well as wireless and bells and a few whistles for under $300.00. Until then, the Vizio will do just fine for many, and that's all that matters.