Sound bars have always been a bit of the redheaded stepchild of the home theater world for me, a replica of sorts for those unable to accommodate or afford a proper home theater. Of course I jumped to this conclusion before I had actually heard or even experienced a sound bar system and now that I have, I'm prepared to modify my views. I totally get it now. While I'm not about to ditch my reference home theater, I'll be the first to admit I've enjoyed my time with Vizio's new sound bar and wireless subwoofer - so much so, I actually found myself carting Blu-rays up to my bedroom system over my reference rig.
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The Vizio VSB210WS retails for a very attractive $349.99 and is sold direct through Vizio's own site as well as through a bevy of retailers like Costco. Your $349.99 buys you a single speaker that looks a bit like a Bang & Olufsen product (if I'm honest), that houses four three inch mid/bass drivers and two three-quarter inch aluminum dome tweeters. Visually, the main speaker is quite stunning and is wall mountable or table ready via its attached stand. However, upon closer examination - especially to the touch, the materials are a bit "budget" - but then again, how often do we physically interact with our speakers? The grill is technically removable, but I get the feeling Vizio would prefer you didn't. A peek behind the curtain reveals the drivers are situated in stereo configuration with the tweeters resting along the outside edges of the sound bar. While the driver placement is better left a mystery, the inputs offered are not; located dead center on the back of the sound bar. The VSB210WS's sound bar features two stereo RCA inputs and a single optical Toslink input allowing for a total of three sources to be connected to and switched between via the main sound bar's remote. Source as well as input and volume control can also be handled via the VSB210WS's top mounted manual controls, though I doubt many users will rely to heavily on these.
Along with the VSB210WS's main speaker it also comes complete with a wireless powered subwoofer, which features a Class D amplifier driving a six and a half inch long throw driver, giving it a reported frequency response of 35Hz up to 80Hz. Not exactly a barnburner but then again the VSB210WS is built for convenience, stealth and affordability, not earth-rattling bass. The VSB210WS's sub can be placed virtually anywhere within 60 feet of the main sound bar so long as the two share a line of sight and there is a nearby power outlet. The sub itself features no crossover and/or volume controls, those are handled by the VSB210WS's remote, which I'll get to later.
Unlike sound bars from the likes of Yamaha or Polk, the Vizio VSB210WS doesn't decode and/or playback Dolby or DTS formats in a sort of faux surround sound presentation. The VSB210WS uses SRS TruSurround HD to reproduce a virtual surround sound experience from any mono, stereo or matrix encoded content. Along with the SRS TruSurround HD processing, the VSB210WS also has SRS TruBass and SRS Dialog Clarity for enhanced bass and vocal response and SRS Definition for sound enhancement and SRS TruVolume to eliminate the volume spike between program material and louder than thou television commercials. Take that Sham Wow guy.
Aside from the sound bar and subwoofer, the VSB210WS can also support up to three SRS wireless headphones and control them via the remote. Speaking of remote, the VSB210WS's isn't all bad. It's compact and very thin yet feels good in the hand. There is no backlighting or even glow-in-the-dark keys here, but with only nine buttons of control, you quickly memorize the remote's layout. From the remote you can control power, input and volume, as well as activate the various SRS features, as well as turn the sub up or down.
The VSB210WS doesn't have a display screen nor a video out to accommodate an on-screen display, so all of the remote's commands are displayed via a series of small white and red lights that can be a bit difficult to decipher at first but after about a day's use begin to make total sense.
The Vizio VSB210WS arrived right on the heels of the Anthem D2v A/V processor and boy talk about polar opposites. The hardest part about installing the VSB210WS is taking it out of the box. I placed the VSB210WS below my Samsung LCD HDTV which resides in my bedroom and set the wireless subwoofer next to my bedroom rack a few feet to the side of the sound bar and voila. Oh, and I connected a single optical cable (not included) from my Samsung's optical audio out to the VSB210WS's single optical audio in, which automatically muted the Samsung's internal speakers. Okay, that was it.
Once powered up I didn't bother with the manual and pretty much had the VSB210WS figured out in about two minutes. It's that easy. Getting the subwoofer to communicate with the sound bar was a snap. However getting it to blend seamlessly with the sound bar took some time and a wide range of source material for me to find the proper balance. I say balance because the subwoofer level control isn't a picture of precision, as I found a click of the remote plus or minus would result in just a bit more adjustment than I was hoping for. Nevertheless, I found a reasonable setting and once set I never gave it another thought. Vizio would have you believe that you can place the sub virtually anywhere, it is wireless after all, but don't be fooled for the rules of proper subwoofer placement still apply and will pay dividends in the overall sound quality if adhered to.
Since the VSB210WS was hooked up via a single optical cable from my Samsung LCD my sources were limited to what was hooked up to my television, mainly an AppleTV, Sherwood Blu-ray player and AT&T U-Verse HD DVR.
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